the technique.

I know it would be slower than just plain practicing the technique but I find it more motivating and encouraging to learn techniques through playing solos.
I find it more enjoyable learning techniques through playing solos or other lead parts that require said technique.

However, with sweeping, I felt that it required pretty much solid attention, so I built my own solo or progression if you will of just sweep-picked arpeggios that I could practise and elaborate on as I got more fluent with them.
I think any method that you enjoy will yield better results.
Music is creative so it makes sense that playing solos rather than just practicing single notes to a metronome would be better for some people.
I've always learned techniques through playing songs.

There's no way I could ever sit down and say "Ok, I'm now going to learn this technique"; I would have given up the guitar long ago if that was the only way to do it because that's not fun or exciting at all.

I don't do sweeps, but like Disturbed_EMG said, that's something that's probably best practiced on it's own.
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I've tried using specific exercises as well as going through a riff/solo/entire song that's challenging and uses the technique, and I have to say that the second option is a lot better at keeping you interested in working at it. You can't play an exercise in front of people or with a band and have it sound good... well, as good as an actual song will sound.
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In general, that's the best way to learn technique. Exercises for me are more for identifying and hammering out problems areas.
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I spent the first 5 years of my guitar playing `career' doing just that, copying solo's and learning technique that way. It's just a lot more fun that way because you're learning technique and at the same time you're learning to play cool stuff. Win win right?

This only got me up to a certain point, though. I reached a plateau after a while. It wasn't until later when I developed some more discipline that I was able to lift my playing up to a new level again by making a more conscious effort to practice.

But yeah, the trick is to keep it fun. If it ain't fun, then why they hell are you doing it?

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Personally I find learning whole solos boring as hell unless you want to show it off to your buddys.I do however like skimming through them and picking out interesting parts and just playing those parts a few times,then I will incorporate something very similar into my own improvising.
I've always practiced my technique through learning songs - more fun and keeps me interested for longer.
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