Long post. check end for summary version lol
How to practice? That is THE question. The main thing you will learn with the Cracking the Code stuff is the mechanical motions involved in string crossing etc. This is HUGE info. BUT, you still have to figure out how to work it into your actual skill set. Thats where practice methods come into play
I can tell you my experience. I have played for 31 years. During that time I never had a “routine” but I always wanted one. I was always too lazy or undisciplined to set one up or stick to it
So I came to this forum in Dec 18 and one of my first questions was this same question. Its a very common question
I think its sort of common sense in an adult to want to set up a very logical, adult style routine. In other words something sensible that touches on several areas just a little bit. I think in the end we find this is the WORST way to go about it.
Its the worse way because you would sort of get “good” at a lot of different areas but never reach GREATNESS in any one of these areas.
So then I ran across Claus Levins videos where he talks about focusing on ONE thing and getting really great at it. So I have been using that idea for about the last 6 weeks or so and the results have been great.
IMO the HUGE challenge of all challenges is fast and clean picking while changing strings. So in the end your whole approach should be set up to master that one thing. Then you can add to it later
So it depends on your current level etc, but a great place to start is on one string. if you cant pick fast and clean on one string, how can you expect to pick a fast scale or lick on several strings?
for instance do you know the ‘Yngwie 6 note lick’? This is a great lick to spend at least a couple weeks or maybe a month on. I’ll put up an example in the key of A minor
Yngwie triplets or sextuplets:
Joe Stump version
either of those is great to start with. if you start on a downstroke then it helps the hands stay coordinated as long as you hit that downstroke every 6th note etc
Then when you start to feel strong on that lick you can start to move it around. for example an easy way to start would be to repeat the lick twice then just move it up diatonically
E----8–5--7–8--7–5 (2x)–10–7--9–10–9--7 (2x) etc
after a while you can start to move it up and down one string fast and with confidence etc
Then you are ready to start moving it to other strings
B--------------------------------8–5--6–8--6–5 (2x) then start again on E string etc
That way you are getting plenty of fast notes in with only a couple string changes and you have plenty of time between the string changes
Thats sort of a systematic way to really master alternate picking. I WISH someone had put a gun to my head in 1988 and made me start this way.
In any case you can start from there and start to focus more on more intense string crossing stuff. of course the famous example is the “Paul Gilbert lick” (triplets)
This is what Paul starts his Intense Rock instructional video with BUT ITS WAY TOO HARD!!! This is actually a huge challenge to play fast and clean. This should be more of a goal to work toward more than a starting point. Paul himself later stated that it was sort of a mistake to start with that lick. Claus Levin has also started that he himself worked on that exact lick for months but he sort of got nowhere because it was simply too hard.
A better starting point would be some easier version that changes strings way less often. for example this is a version that Claus Levin said he finally had great success with:
or this one is sort of “6 up and 6 down” so its still lots of notes for only a few string changes
B—5–6--8-----------------------10–8--7 start over etc
all of the above are triplet or sextuplet licks. here are a few 16th note versions. this is off the Paul Gilbert video:
B—5–6--8------------------ repeat etc If you look at this lick you see the importance of mastering the one string stuff first. That whole line on the e string is almost identical to the Yngwie 6 note pattern etc
and then one that I came up with which I really like because it gives you just that little bit of extra time for the string change:
B—5–6--8-----------8–6 repeat in 4th or 16th notes. Even adding that one extra note makes it way more manageable than the ‘Paul Gilbert lick’
so for me, even though I have played forever now. I took Claus Levins advice and went back and spent a few weeks on single string stuff. He recommends you spend 80% of your practice time on some very simple lick. MASTER it even if it takes months etc
I spent a few weeks on lots of single string stuff. I focused on it but also of course added in string crossing and licks etc. I did that for 3 weeks then took a more relaxed week and played less. Just that one month has done WONDERS for my playing
So now this month I will do the same but I am now focusing on outside string changes, which has always been my weak point. So I am doing some of the licks I showed above. The challenge of course is to find a few licks to laser focus on.
Believe it or not I am actually doing a HARDER version of the Paul Gilbert lick. all of the single string stuff and just many hours of practice has gotten my accuracy and confidence up quite a bit. Here is one lick I am spending some time on. as you see it repeats the hard part of the Paul G lick: (triplets)
Btw this is also similar to what Troy shows in the Cracking the Code stuff. for example in the Volcano (Yngwie style) seminar he starts you off on one string licks then it expands from there and starts to get into string crossing with infrequent string changes first and then more intense quicker occurring changes
summary. How long to spend on each step depends on where you currently are etc. Step 1 might take months or only weeks
pick a couple single string licks. spend 80% of your time on them. Take your time and MASTER these licks or at least see huge improvements in them and your overall picking motion. spend the other 20% on whatever you like
start working on string crossing licks. Whats your weakness…inside or outside? start focusing on it with some manageable licks. gradually work your way into harder licks. MASTER these string crosses. same 80/20 rule
if you back up and look at the larger picture. forget arpeggios and other ides for now. if it took you one or two years to become an alternate picking monster. so what? The year or two will pass anyway. if you dabble in 50 different things you simply will NOT master any of them lol
As I said, I wish someone had put a gun to my head with this info 30 years ago!
This is a cool little vid summarizing the ideas. The key line that jumps out at the end is something like this “you have to change for focus from becoming good at PLAYING guitar to becoming good at PRACTICING guitar”