Essential Rules of Engagement

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Now that you've laid down a plan for the next ten days, let's talk about the rules of the game. The first thing to be very conscious of, is what kind of practice routine you are preparing for. It's important to distinguish between these two kinds of practice:

1. Technique
2. Integration

Practicing technique

Improving your technical skills requires repeating a certain pattern of movement until it's embedded in the brain. When you engage in this type of practice, you are very aware of how you move your hands and fingers, down to the most minute detail. This kind of practice has really very little to do with music as such. It's exactly the same process that you would have to go through if you wanted to learn how to juggle seven balls in the air above you: You make the challenge as small as possible in the beginning, and then you take on more and more as you repeat each pattern of movement until it's mastered. - And you make sure that you're not practicing any patterns that wont allow you to speed things up later. If your main focus is on improving your skills, this is the kind of practice you want to do for the ten days. But if this is the only way you practice ever, you'll never fully utilize what you have learned.


The process of Integration is improvising freely while you use the techniques or licks that you have just learned. In other words; you integrate the new with the old. This is a very enjoyable process and most people are quite good at it. Every new lick must be integrated to the point where you can play it completely effortlessly, because if you don't, you wont use it in front of an audience. This way of practicing is creative and not very disciplined - but it's essential! I used to neglect this kind of practice and it completely crippled my ability to improvise and have fun. That's why the ten days should be followed by a period of totally undisciplined guitar shredding fun with a focus on integration!

The reason why I'm telling you this is of course to stress one thing: The time you schedule is for practicing technique! It's important to be very clear about what's going to happen when you sit down and practice - and here's my recommendation:

Though shalt follow the rules or be forever damned

Practice in sessions of 30 minutes and during that time, play the metronome game all the time. Practice as many of the 3 licks as you want during those 30 minutes, but be diligent about playing the metronome game and measuring everything you do. Always leave the session with an exact record of where you left off, so you know where to start when you get back. If you have several sessions in a row, take a 5 to 10 minute break in between them. Leave the instrument and do something entirely different during your break. Also, if you have a lot of consecutive practice sessions, be sure to take a longer break when you start having trouble focusing properly.

Chill or Choke

Be sure to relax your muscles when you play. If you tense up, you'll not only destroy your chances of ever playing relaxed at high speed (because what you do when you play slow is what you tell your brain to do when you play fast) but you'll also limit the amount of time you can practice. Fatigue will set in at a very early stage and your body will have to stop long before your brain does.

Focus on optimizing results

Another thing to be aware of is this: If you go to a gym on a regular basis you'll see two different kinds of people working the weights: Those who's outcome is to get out of there as quickly as possible. And those who's outcome it is to work their muscles and get optimal results out of their efforts. The ones who's just "doing time" in the gym, pull the cables casually and with no focus (this is very often how I do it!) Those who are there to achieve a specific result move their arms and legs with a very high degree of awareness about what's going on in their muscles while they do it. I don't know how you work out, or if you even do work out - but I do know that if you practice technique while focusing on just getting through the exercises, you'll most certainly fail. The harder it is for you to play what you are playing, the more focus you must have on the details of what you are doing.

Massive rewards

I promise you this: If you play the metronome game with this kind of focus and you do it as much as you possbily can for ten days in a row, and you schedule that time in advance - you will make progress beyond what you or anyone else had imagined. This kind of work pays of 1000 percent. This way of practicing is the army that you show up with when you meet your challenges. Instead of thinking "I can learn to play this if I practice a lot" you decide to learn to play it now! now! now! You go for it full tilt and lay out a radical plan that you follow down to every detail and you ring the bell and get the reward, faster than anyone else around you. And! the precision you develop will be superhuman. Very few people commit to a practice regimen like this. It'll be like you're in a race, but you're the only one running!

3 notes per string blues run

Stretching your fingers to play this scale pattern can be quite a challenge. But the rewards are far greater than the effort you have to put in.

A key thing to remember:

As you know by now, It's important to remember that learning to play super fast doesn't require practicing fast. But It does require practicing slow. You should only practice near your max speed less than 1 % of the time. The rest of the time is spend playing the lick much slower than you're capable of. Playing fast and pushing against your upper speed limit all the time, is a recipe for failure. Why? Because to teach the brain to fail. It will try to give you what you want before it can. It will contract muscles that you wouldn't normally use - it will tense up your right arm to create more picking speed and it will try to fake it's way to the top. This it not what you want to program into your super computer. Make sure that you repeat the pattern enough times before you speed up the metronome. And be sure to go back enough clicks every time you hit the roof. Take it easy.

Tomorrow's all about how to practice when you are not! I'll give you a strategy that you can use to improve  your skills, even when you are away from the instrument.