How do you guys focus your development?


I’ve been playing the YJM stuff for little over a year now.

I’m finding it hard to focus on one thing at the moment, I started on a couple of his tracks but never finished any all the way. One of the reasons is that when I found I needed a new skill entirely to get past a particular bar or something, I’d deviate for weeks working on that one aspect often starting a new track.

Lately, I’ve been transcribing bach 1001 presto and Paganini’s caprice 5, which takes me even further away from finishing a YJM track for real.

Within the last year, I’ve taught myself to read music notation at a decent rate, not fast enough to sight read but I suppose as I progress through the Paganini transcribing process I’ll get better and even start to see groups of notes for what they are logically and mapped.

I practice for about 3 to 4 hours most days. Lately, it’s been the big three octave arpeggios at the start of caprice 5, and boy do I want a 29 fretter. I can hit the High E on my 21 fret YJM, but the high A is a bit off limits unless I try a ring slide or something!

This is a short clip from about two months ago, just wondering if the progress is reasonable for the time I’ve been putting in. I’m still not consistent; this iirc is one take. Lots of mistakes obviously, you’ve been warned :smiley:

How do you guys keep your focus on the ball, I think I wonder every day sometimes if I’m trying to do something I’ll never finish. Like our friend the other day, feel like quitting quite often, good days and bad days I guess.

Does everybody have a rocky road to get this stuff down? Sometimes I feel I need therapy and have my head examined :slight_smile:


nice tone (my weakest point lol)

Well I have never HAD any focus lol. 31 years of playing and its been all over the place. Unfortunately I was always one to try something a few times then move on etc. So i developed a style, or so people told me, but to me there were always a lot of holes.

I got the Intense Rock vhs when it came out but I simply couldnt get the PG lick down. pretty sure I was dwps without realizing the implications etc

So fast forward to late 2014 when I started seeing the CTC Yngwie stuff and the 2wps stuff and I realized where i was going wrong

so that was 4-5 years ago and I made some nice improvements but still nothing really shocking. i still basically sounded like my same old self with maybe a few new licks thrown in

even when i joined here (Dec '18?) i started perusing the vids and I started thinking “man ive got to buckle down and learn SOMETHING concrete” so I started looking at this and that lol. no focus still.

The thing that has helped me recently was digging into Claus Levins videos about focus etc. That sort of made a light click. I had the mental know how from CTC but it simply wasnt getting into my fingers

So maybe 6 weeks ago I started paring down everything and timing my practice sessions to at least know how many hours i was doing per week.

I started with the Yngwie and Joe Stump (middle note first instead of 3rd note etc) 6 note patterns. Just doing that with some focus and some metronoming started to pay dividends

I decided on a “3 hard weeks, 1 easy week” overall practice setup where that 4th week will be significantly less hours etc to give the mind/body a break and come back recharged for another hard 3 week focus.

So near the end of the first 4 week block I started working on the dreaded outside string changes. The infamous Paul Gilbert lick that had essentially broken me years earlier.

Long story short…I got it rockin’ pretty good now lol

So I am sort of at a point where all of a sudden a lot of the work has paid off and i feel in a way im better than I ever thought id actually be…but I feel im JUST GETTING STARTED!

So I need to sort of focus and plot out a roadmap going forward. I feel I have a pretty good set of practice tactics to learn stuff so now its more of planning out the next several months

Im thinking a good logical sequence would be along these lines:

single string
outside changes (my previous weak point)
inside changes
economy picking

thats logical for me in the way each thing leads to the next. I was already decent at inside changes so bringing up my outside changes was HUGE

I gotta hand it to Claus Levin. Its like he read my mail. Its no good getting “pretty good” at something and then going on to a million other things. Stay on that one thing until you MASTER it…or (my view) at least until it is all of a sudden really really good and makes other parts look weak by comparison

Looking back at the technique vids I posted less than 4 weeks ago. I feel i have made big strides since then. Its a blessing in disguise that none of my technique vids have had any compliments (moreso the opposite actually). not one. Good. More motivation. Ill just redouble efforts and continue the journey

I think this was the video that made the light turn on. The quote near the end about “change your focus from being good at guitar to being good at practicing” really hit home. As he says, learning to focus might takes months in itself. If you lose focus, start over and plan out the next week or few weeks etc

its not all about guitar techniques. Practicing is a skill. Focusing is a skill.


Thanks bro, think that was my BEOD on that clip.

This is exactly how I feel, one day I feel I’ve nailed something and all happy, next morning I’m like down since it was just a small step, and there’s another million to go where that came from. The ups and downs for it I guess.

There was that thread about 18-minute practice routines that boosted my progress from what I was doing earlier. It’s still my cornerstone to keep making substantial improvement.

This is something I try to remember; I’m a self-taught everything. I need to look into Claus Levins.

Thanks for sharing your story JonJon, I’ve been playing for roughly the same amount of time. Did spend a lot of time before this on country till the higain bug caught me by storm after all these years.

I short clip from my country days, was totally in to Doug Seven at the time, aint done whith country yet :slight_smile:

I hope more folks can post about their stuggles here and possibly help each other out to keep going.


nice lol. You probably dug Michael lee Firkins back in the day. and didnt early Zakk W do more countryish style?


OMG yeah Firkins chapter 11, loved it.
Farm Fiddlin… blew my mind, though it was the perfect track, then I heard Brad Paisley! Was crazy about SRV way before the country stuff.

short clip noodling scuttle on a guitar so wrong for it; though was trying to play it with a thumb pick which is what I was using at the time.

Was even into Tommy Emanuel at one point :slight_smile: Here’s a weird version with horrible timing, kemper did a pretty good fake acoustic guitar, heavily compressed though!

Sorry about the cheesy smile there :smiley:


yeah, some pretty rounded interests there. no nylon string classical pieces? lol

hehe, locking whammy, dual humbuckers, thumbpick…dont see that every day lol


hahaha so wrong I know, that was a vigier!

I started on a nylon; first thing I learned was Dee :smiley:


I train the same core skill over and over and over with different exercises until I’ve mastered it - as in, gotten it to a speed where no musical context except the most technically extreme ones are a challenge for that skill. So far I’ve done that only for tremolo picking and as a result I never practice it anymore. Now I am doing alternate picking.


I think most of us hear have decent practice regimes by now, especially here on CTC. The thing that prompts posts like mine is fogetting to keep a firm grasp on patience. Gotta keep reminding oneself.


Zakk’s two big influences as a teenager were Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who bridged the gap between country and hard rock. I had friends in high school who mostly listened to country, like Willie Nelson, but loved Skynyrd, The Outlaws and Molly Hatchet. So it makes sense Zakk has more of a country sound than most. Those two bands as main influences also explain his heavy use of pentatonic.

With the popularity of country being what it is today, I think more bands in the style of Lynyrd Skynyrd will be coming along. I don’t think anyone will match them though; their talent was one of a kind.


I’m hitting the wall. I’m new here but I got to the YJM picking lessons and I had my metronome up to 180bpm and still was Noooooo where near 100% speed that Troy plays it at. So I have like 5 licks I’ve been building speed slowly but surely for 2-3 weeks and now the past few days I can barely get up to the speed I was at. Maybe I need to change my strings or something? Just sounds sloppy all of a sudden.


It might help to take a break for a few days. Several members of the forum have said that sometimes helps them.


I agree with the idea of focus as in: have a precise objective, play stuff very consciously, perhaps even record it/film it, listen/look back critically and correct, and so on. (That’s the ideal case, not saying I do it all the time).

I think however Claus Levin gets it plainly wrong at around 8:10 when he - pretty much - advocates millions of mindless repetitions of the same thing. That’s about the opposite of having focus in my book. Also, notice how he is playing that particular exercise not very well (e.g. extra string noise), because the talking is distracting him perhaps. The first thing to do there would be to consciously try to get 10 clean repetitions, rather than 1000 sloppy ones.


Millions of repetitions are great as long as you are playing it correctly, which is where the problem lies. We often do too many reps when we are in the trial and error phase. What CTC gives us is the knowledge to recognize what is right for ourselves and then hit the reps until it is second nature… but I agree with you that million reps alone is not the key and could slow your progress


everyone believes what they want to believe. 2 guys could both achieve greatness with totally opposite methods…and then they’d both swear the other guys system wont work. Yet it already did.

My 2 cents. In my experience there is a continuum of sorts as far as practice goes. Improvements can be had at all points of the continuum, depending on the experience of the player and what the exact goal may be.

If you look at the continuum like a speedometer going from 0-100%. Anything under, say, 50% of your top speed is pretty slow. Then we can arbitrarily divide the upper 50%. Maybe 50-65% is a zone. Then 65-75%. Maybe 75-90%. Above 90% (most any field, most any endeavor) is starting to push the redline. At the top, even 90% is mild compared to 95% and above.

These also happen to be close to the percentages used in Olympic weightlifting and probably hundreds of other sports etc.

Each of those zones has a specific quality and characteristic to it. Improvement can be had in any of those zones. Does it take a rocket scientist to see that properly combining them might be ideal??

Claus advocates various practice methods. ONE of them he calls “TV Practice”…which is about what you’d expect it to be. You come up with a short loopable exercise. You practice it with a metronome until you have the timing and accents perfect and until you can do it without thinking. Then you do it without metronome while you watch TV. Wouldnt work too well for me since I dont watch TV nor do I have cable. He is going by the fact that the avg American watches 3-4 (or whatever) hrs per night.

Now what speed zone do you think that would fall into?? Well he advocates it to be MISTAKE FREE…so its going to be pretty dang slow. I understand that in general people on this forum seem to think this is a waste of time and we can all parrot our mantra “but the form going slow wont be the same as the fast form so you are wasting time”. Maybe, maybe not. Id imagine it would work wonders for learning new left hand fingerings etc.

anyway, people can judge for themselves. We r all adults here.

Next up is 50-65 zone. Ahhh. that little bit faster. Maybe have to turn the TV off now. Maybe have to concentrate a bit. Maybe have to be somewhere where u wont be distracted. The form will be that much closer to “real” form, or whatever this forum calls bleeding edge form.

65-75%. faster still. more demanding too. Maybe cant do this for hours at a time huh? Lets see, if one can do sextuplets@130. thats 13 notes per second. so 65% of that is almost 10nps. Still not too shabby. IMO this is a great zone to spend some time in. Its not going to be hugely taxing but you can still get in some quality work. Is the form going to be THAT different than bleeding edge?

75-90%. sort of pushing the envelope now. In the gym you would have to warm up before you hit these zones. if you bench 315 max are you going to be hitting 285 (thats 90%) THAT often?? Powerlifters might do a 12 week program and not hit 90% until way near the end

who knows, 90% of your max speed might be ideal for PERFECT form. But again, how long can u sit there and loop licks at 90% of your top speed? How long before it starts to break down?

once it breaks down, how is it any different than the evil “omg, slow licks r useless because the form is different than at top speed”? Is broken down fast form somehow better than slow form? Its deffo gonna be more taxing. Nothing is free

How about 90% to 100%. yep, wide open pushing the envelope now. Trying to go where we’ve never been perhaps. Requires massive concentration etc. Definitely going to cause some sort of adaptation response. But how much of this can we do?? Do sprinters ONLY sprint wide open in practice. Do lifters only max out while lifting?

In most sports, 90% and above attempts are closely monitored since they are so taxing etc.

We have the same brain and central nervous system as lifters and sprinters.

So IMO all of these zones have their uses.

Another thing to look at is accuracy vs intensity levels. Claus ‘tv practice’ is meant to be slow because its meant to be PERFECT and mistake free. Well as we crank up the speed, at some point we start to miss a % of our reps. We start to make mistakes. How much is acceptable? if I take a lick I dont really know and try to play it as fast as I can, guess what…gonna be about 90% failure rate lol. Do we really advocate a speed where we only get it right 1 out of 10 times? hows that gonna work at the gig?

if we WANTED to train to be sloppy and make mistakes, how would we best go about it??

So somewhere between perfect/slow and sloppy/maxed out, we have other speeds where we are pushing ourselves hard and maybe having 75-80% good reps. there are those who advocate this method. I think this is the general idea of books like “The Talent Code”. Stretch yourself but dont stretch so hard that u snap.

btw, Claus recommends SEVERAL different methods. The slower “TV practice” is only one. he also has methods such as “double time” where u set the metronome at a little more than half of your current top speed. Then u do comfy reps at that 52-55ish% but like once every 4 reps you attempt to double time it. So you are attempting to push past your current speed level.

Then he has something he calls “pause and evaluate”. this is where u get the metronome cranking near your top speed and you do a rep then u pause and mentally evaluate that rep. After a while u get good at feeling where u r struggling etc. “oh ok, im still a bit weak on that upstroke, lemme fix it this rep” etc. Great method IMO.

So, im no spokesperson for Claus or anything, never met or conversed with him, but his methods have helped me a lot as far as learning how to practice. As I have stated in several threads now…this IS the crux of the matter once u have the mental understanding of proper mechanics etc.


its always nice when you throw out an opinion and then a few hours later someone posts a top pro saying the same thing

cliff notes:

Q: Im doing 16ths at 168, how do I get to 184bpm?


  1. PLAY VERY SLOWLY. around 90-100 bpm. (54-60% of 168) That way you can feel and fix any problems and improve “muscle memory”. Do this for 5 or 10 or 20 minutes.

  2. Play at a COMFORTABLE speed, related to endurance, say, 120-130 (71-77% of 168) Do this continuously for 3,4, or 5 minutes. (Joe Stump advocates this “endurance” or “aerobic” aspect of playing at a speed that isnt too easy but isnt too hard)

  3. play as fast as possible, try to push your limits (100%+)

of course he could have just said “work at various points on the continuum since each has something to offer”


The caveat is that this advice will only produce results if you have either an explicit or an intuitive understanding of what aspects of your technique are “problem” and what constitutes an effective “fix”. The world of pain in guitar-technique-land comes from people thinking that merely playing slow is a fix in itself, or worse, performing well-intended “fixes” that are counterproductive. If you suck at swinging a golf club, throwing a football, etc., the chances that you’ll intuitively fix your technique without knowing what “good” technique is supposed to look and feel like, merely by doing the same stuff only slower, are incredibly slim.

Edit: To be fair, the advice Kiko gives in item 3 is supposed to help mitigate the potential pitfalls of item 1. Kiko’s item 3 is aligned with the advice @Troy gives about including attempts to play fast from an early stage in order to gain some understanding of what a fast movement will feel like. This is precisely because of the thing I ranted about in the previous paragraph: if someone tries to only do the “start slow and gradually speed up” thing, they are doing it without the wealth of insight to be gleaned from experimentation with “fast” attempts. Even then, when it comes to things like string-switching strategy, the “fast” attempt practice will be much more productive if you have some hints about what is already known to be a strategy that works for top players.


Dude that rips, sounds great! Very nice job. I would call that an impressive take on that. :+1: