Five Golden Rules Of Technique Practice
If you are going to start developing your chops (guitarist slang word for technique) then there are a few Golden Rules you really ought to be aware of and follow wherever appropriate - bearing in mind that there are ALWAYS exceptions to EVERY rule :) so use your good judgement and logical thought!
1 • PRACTICE MAKES PERMANENT
Practice does NOT make perfect as the old adage would have you believe. Do not let yourself make any mistakes while working on technique. Do things very carefully, because there is no point in working a lot on developing a bad habit into a perfect bad habit! If you do something sloppy a hundred times, why do you think it might suddenly come out perfect on the 101st time? It won't. So don't! Practice Makes Permanent, So Practice Perfectly.
2 • START NEW THINGS VERY SLOWLY AND ONLY SPEED UP WHEN IT'S CORRECT
Speed comes with time and a little help from a metronome and fast runs must be played smoothly, accurately and clearly or they sound rubbish. The amazing thing about the really technical guitarists like Steve Vai or Eric Johnson is not just how fast they play but how cleanly they play. Slow it down to half or quarter speed and you can hear every note clearly - that is what you should be aiming for. Clarity.
When you start playing something you are 'writing the code' for the technique (or song or whatever). If we make mistakes in the code it's going to be very hard to come back and fix them later, so start slowly, get the code perfect and then it's relatively easy to tell your brain 'that thing I've just played perfectly 10 times, well lets start speeding it up' because it knows what moves to make and when. Then it's just a physical thing improving muscle speed or dexterity and your brain can take a break!
3 • KEEP ALL MOVEMENTS TO AN ABSOLUTE MINIMUM
Try and keep all movements as small and accurate as possible. Try not to let your fingers fly too far away from the fingerboard, or to 'point away'. Try and keep your picking under control using only the tip of the pick and not moving it too far from the string. That said - sometimes a technique will work better with a big movement (then fine!) and other times it just feels better to make big movements - and it's fine to do so if it's aiding your expression. Expression is the king, not technique.
You’ll want to check out the Minimum Movement Exercise for sure, nearly everyone gets to benefit from that one!
4 • UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF THE EXERCISE
If you are doing a technical exercise, make sure you know the point of it and then focus on that one thing and don't let yourself get distracted. If you are working on your time, stay focused on that, the notes are not the point. If you don't understand the 'essence' of the exercise, stop and think about it until you do, or don't do it! I wasted many hours of practice working on things the wrong way where I hadn't really grasped the 'point' of an exercise - I'm here to help you avoid this mistakes I made ;)
5 • DON'T OVERDO IT
It's very easy with technical stuff to overdo an exercise and hurt yourself. Many times technique exercises are physical and if you go crazy working on something you might hurt yourself. Use your head and just be aware of what you're doing. It's unlikely that you'll hurt yourself working a lot on vibrato (there are probably other things you've stolen time from?) but work on big string bends for an hour and you'll have no skin left! So always be aware of what muscles you are using and how much stress you're putting on yourself physically and you'll be fine.