The 10 day breakthrough strategy
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I'm very excited about this particular subject. This ten day strategy has meant more to the development of my skills than any other single thing. You will not believe what will happen to your skills when you use this strategy on a regular basis. This is the way to crush your challenges in the fastest way possible.
Here's the basic mistake that we all tend to make:
When ever we are confronted with a challenge of any kind, we estimate the amount of effort it will take to overcome that challenge. Then we make a quick plan and go ahead. This works fine if the challenge is to cross the road or to get up in the morning. But when it comes to developing super human guitar skills, we need something entirely different.
If the force with which we strike isn't sufficient, we will loose the battle, and the loss will make it less likely that we'll have the courage and persistence to win the next time. So we enter into a downward spiral where we gradually get more and more used to the supposed "fact" that amazing guitar skills is not for us. Our fingers aren't long enough, we are too busy doing other things - we can't find the time to practice enough, we should have started earlier in life, we don't have the talent and music isn't about speed anyway. Did I forget an excuse? The fact is that, all of these excuses are just that, excuses. There's very seldom any reality to them.
Can you teach me that?
Some years ago, a 61 year old student, who had never touched a guitar in his life walked into the class declaring that, "I'm here to learn to play Gary Moore's "I still got the blues-solo", can you teach me that?" I said "yes" and then I explained him about every single principle I knew about how to practice and how fast he could develop and so on. A year later he recorded the solo in my home studio, including the fast parts, and his friends and family where completely blown away and they still are. For a full year he didn't play or study anything but this particular solo. We broke it down and he smashed through every little challenge systematically with the strategy I'm going to tell you about here.
Building extra-terrestrial skills
The trick is to strike with a force so great that you are guaranteed to win! If you are not 100 % sure that you will get the job done, then don't move a muscle, don't even begin. You will risk taking one step down the spiral instead of up. Don't show up with a couple of guys from the neighbourhood, show up with an entire army! Trying to achieve something using just the right amount of effort is a recipe for failure when it comes to building extra-terrestrial skills. This article and the next ones to come, will show you how to summon your resources and concentrate them like sunbeams, into one single spot that will burn through steel.
Here's the 10 day breakthrough strategy in all it's simplicity:
1. Select three challenges (Lick, runs or sequences) that has the following features:
A. They all require the same type of skill
B. They are all variations on the same basic challenge
C. You really, really, reaaaally want to master them
2. Find as much time to practice as you possibly can during the next ten days
A. Schedule blocks of 30 minutes as often as possible during the ten days
B. Keep every single commitment you have made
B. Tell people around you what is going on and when you wont be available
C. Play the metronome game diligently through the entire 30 minute block
D. Record and measure everything
3. Use every opportunity you can to practice "virtually"
A. Program your mind when you are away from the instrument
B. Use visualisation when you mind is idle.
C. Practice muscle contractions without your guitar
Please hold back any judgements of "I don't have enough time" or "that stuff wont work on me" until you have read the next couple of articles. This stuff works. And here's why:
We can do almost everything for ten days
If I ask my brain if it's willing to go for a run everyday for the rest of my life, it's going to come up with quite a bit of resistance. But if I suggest that I do it for the next ten days only - as a challenge. Then it wants to play ball right away. Well, I would like to invite you to act like a speed picking guitar practice maniac for just ten days. And don't say you already act like that, I know you have more in you! I know you can be at least twice as crazy in your approach to guitar playing, if your life depended upon it - wouldn't you agree?
Playing runs that consist of uneven numbers, forces you to leave the time signature of the music. You have to take off in the middle of your solo and find your way back into the beat when the run ends.
Be a sprinter
The ten days is not a joke. Most people think it requires the mind of a marathon runner to build killer skills, when it's really more a matter of thinking and acting like a sprinter. You need to expend a lot of effort for a short period of time and then take a break to rest and get back to your normal energy level again. This goes for the daily practice routines, as well as the weekly and monthly ones. In fact, it can be very destructive to think that "you should practice at least 4 hours a day if you want to become one of the best" because this belief will cause you to feel like a failure. You'll be running besides a moving train, trying to jump on but you'll never quite make it - all the while you get more and more discouraged.
Fooled by our memory
When highly skilled guitarists say that "I used to practice 7 to 8 hours a day for three years" they really don't remember correctly (I'm sorry if I offend anyone with that statement) they might have been in contact with their instrument for that many hours, but they didn't really practice that much. More likely they remember these short bursts of intense practice so well (because it was so much fun) and those experiences color their memory of those years - so it seems like it was "always". But they too practiced this break through strategy, whether they are aware of it or not. Just like my high School years: In my mind they mainly consisted of parties and fun and not so much school - Though in reality, it was the other way around.
Victory will be yours
This ten day break through strategy is a tool that you can use to take a huge leap in your level of skill, whenever you feel that you are up to it. I'm going to describe how to prepare for this challenge in every detail so that your chances of making it through the ten days is as high as possible. Preparation is crucial here: You must gather your forces before you go into battle (...young Skywalker) - You must have a plan and a backup plan in order to ensure success. When these things are in place, you take action and return on the other side of the battle victorious! Then it's time for a period of rest and recuperation. After that experince, the urge to take on the next challenge will follow naturally. Why? Because you succeeded the last time and you feel certain that you will again! You are on the upward spiral and all excuses are replaced with results.
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