Many guitarists, especially those who are into the melodic power metal, neo-classical and progressive metal genres, feel the desire to improve their shredding technique, in order to be able to play and compose music in these musical styles. This is not an easy or trivial task – mastering the skills needed to be able to express yourself musically in these genres, requires strong determination, discipline and patience.
Although the amount of information available on the internet regarding the “what to and how to practice” is endless, it can also be confusing and contradicting, and create unnecessary disappointments and self criticism that are the result of unrealistic promises (“Secret” methods promising to get you to “play like Yngwie Malmsteen in 4 weeks”), impatience (not taking the time to get the basic skills properly), lack of focus (trying to work on all the different techniques at the same time), and competitive, “instant results” oriented attitude.
Another common problem is that many guitarists start working on technical exercises and do get better in terms of speed and technique, but the exercises feel very “cold”, technical and non-musical. They don’t see the connection between the exercises they do and the musical passages they hear on their favorite songs. They feel that something is missing. the practice session becomes forced and boring. They keep believing that “if I’ll just get this exercise 20 bpm faster, or master this or that technique – it will finally start to sound like actual music” and they keep on being disappointed, gradually losing interest and don’t preserve, feeling bad about their “lack of discipline”. But their lack of interest is not an indication for lack of discipline, but an indication that they are overlooking something important. What they are actually missing is not “more technique” or “more discipline” but an example of how to incorporate the technique they already have in a musical way.
Technically-focused musical etudes are a great way of learning how to use your technique in a musical way, as well as adding fun, excitement and inspiration to the practice session.
the approach I encourage is about persistence combined with emphasis on how you feel during your practice session – I believe that in order to improve, and in order to preserve for a long time you have to feel inspired, and enjoy your practice. you have to feel like what you are spending your time and energy on actually helps you to express yourself musically. Musical self expression is the reason you feel inspired to practice in the first place, so it only makes sense that if you feel like your practice session does not serve that purpose, you will lose interest and not preserve.
the idea of technically-focused etudes is that you don’t have to master dozens of different techniques and practice for years just in order to start playing something that actually sounds like music. you can create music with what you already have, and you can choose an etude that will push you only one step up at a time, an etude that is challenging yet realistic at the same time, inspiring you to practice.
I recommend choosing etudes that are not too far from where you are now, but something that will challenge you on the one hand, yet with some practice you will be able to execute it within a reasonable time frame (1-2 weeks), so you will enjoy the feeling of success and improvement, and the feeling of being able to use your newly acquired technique in a musical way. that is also why I offer backing tracks in 3 different speeds on each etude. All etudes are designed to sound musical and impressive when played in medium and slow speeds as well, so you don’t have to practice for a whole year in order to start feeling the satisfaction and improvement.