I'm Sick, you've probably seen me on this site a few times (given that you hang around in the GT forum).
I've been playing for a little over 3 years now, and during that time I've seen and tested various methods of practice. And since I know how hard it can be for beginners (& even some more intermediate players) to learn certain stuff, or not being sure how to go about learning stuff I am going to share some things that hopefully will help.
Basic rules for practicing:
1. You should always be relaxed when practicing anything new, or playing anything for that matter.
2. Go for cleanliness rather than speed (This is a problem many early players have, just focusing on speed).
3. Don't over work yourself, it's better to spred out things to practice over days than sitting too long with things. (This is not always the case though, if you have the discipline to practice focused for hours that's great)
4. Don't waste time. If you sit down to practice, practice. Don't watch TV or anything else.
The methods I will talk about is: Metronome based practice and intervallic based practice.
Metronome based practice is something i see a lot around the web, it is simply practicing your guitar technique to a metronome. You've surely heard the sentence "Start slow, build speed. Use a metronome" a lot of times already.
For those of you that don't know. A metronome is a tool used by musicians to keep time. And you can set it to various tempos.
The metronome method works like this. You start working on something, a riff or a lick or anything.
You set your metronome to a slow tempo and practice there for sometime till it feels natural to you, then you raise the tempo a little bit on the metronome and repeat.
This method is very good for developing a good feeling for timing. And practicing with this method will a sure you that you will play cleanly and accurate.
The thing that I think is bad with metronome based practice is that you can be stuck on the same thing forever, and you might not progress that fast (Varies from player to player).
Intervallic based practice.
Intervallic based practice was something I came across fairly resent, around 1 year ago. The basic idea is to practice non stop in intervalls of "insert time here" then have a short break, then do it again, short break, then twice the time, then a break and then move on to the next thing.
An example of this so you might see a little clearer what I mean.
Practicing for 5 minutes nonstop at the highest tempo I can play relaxed and cleanly.
3-5 min break.
5 minutes practice.
3-5 min break.
10 min practice.
5-8 min break, then move on to the next thing.
The thing that makes this method very good is that you are letting your muscles process what you did in between the practicing, therefor building your muscle memory quicker than the metronome based practice would. It also works great for theory based practice like reading sheet music cause the breaks give your brain some time to analyze what you just did.
The bad thing would be that you are not using anything to hold time for you, so this is mostly recommended for players that have a pretty good sense of timing already, but even if you are a beginner I advice you to give it a try.
I've used this method since I got my head around it and I haven't seen anything but good from it. It's used by lots of players as well, one of the most well known would probably be the technique freak Rusty Cooley.
I hope this was helpful to any of you, keep in mind this is my first lesson posted.
Cheers, and keep practicing. :)