I have been playing nearly 5 years and I have yet to have a good practice routine. I am going to start taking guitar much more seriously as I only have 2 years left until college - when you can form a band with decent musicians more easily. I play lots of blues and jazz so I want to focus on that. Here is what I need to accomplish:

Speed - I am not fast. I want to be able to play some more speedy SRV songs. It is like clean shred.

Cleanliness - It kind of goes hand in hand with speed but I want to be able to play cleaner

Improvising - Probably the biggest thing right here. I have learned my modes and scales but I just need work on applying to make interesting melodies on the spot. I also find it hard to continue to improvise during long solos without running out of ideas.

So what is a practice routine that can really focus on these things?
My Gear:
Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster
Epiphone Sheraton II
Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue
Teese RMC Picture Wah
MXR Carbon Copy
Keeley Modded TS9
Korg Pitchblack
Schecter Omen 6
Dean Performer Acoustic

You can work on speed and cleanliness by following shred routines like Steve Vai's 10-hour one, or Petrucci's Rock Discipline.

As for improvising, I would suggest listening to a lot of blues and jazz, and transcribing solos. Plus improvising over backing tracks or with a friend.
The Exercise book by Adam Kadmon is great helps with both speed and precision. Practicing with a metronome all the time is also helpful. Chromatic Excerises are helpful also, start in first position on the low E play four consecutive notes moving in half steps on a tab it would look like this E---1--2--3--4-- use a different finger to fret each note 1 is index 2 is middle 3 is ring 4 is pinkie play this same pattern, staying in first position or first fret, on all the strings until you end up on the high E, then shift to 2nd position and reverse the pattern so you start with your pinkie on the fifth fret and end with you index on the 2nd, play this reversed pattern up to the low E and then shift the first pattern up a fret etc.... its also pretty easy to make up variations such as starting with your middle finger on the second fret on the low E and then the third fret with your ring the first fret with your index and the fourth with your pinkie and reversing it at the bottom low E---2--3--1--4-- Reversed on high E ---4--1--3--2--
if you've been playing for five years you shouldnt have trouble coming up with new patterns its important you go all the way up the neck with each exercise advancing only one fret up each position shift , you could also skip strings as you do it so go from Low E to D up to A skip to G up to D Skip to B up to G skip to High E Reversed from High E skip to G down to B skip to D down to G skip to A down to D skip to low E. Also never stick with practicing only one thing for to long it can get really boring. As far as improvising goes listen to music you really like and try to play along instead of looking up a tab for the song just look to see what key its in and try to play along it usually takes a good amount of practice to develop your improvising skills. It also helps to have a band i see you want to form one in college but you should think about doing that sooner as playing with a band is probably the best way to develop improvising skills and the whole problem might be you havent develop any improvising skills because you havent been playing with a band. I find I improvise best when playing in front of other people. And never play a cover the same way the original artist did, its takes away from your own originality. "If you don't want to get locked in the woodshed stop practicing and start playing".
Last edited by Solar Shredder at Mar 10, 2008,
i'm running on assumptions here, but...
if you're running out of ideas, you may be approaching improv wrong. Don't try to make it up on the spot. get a manuscript notebook or print out manuscript/tab paper and start jotting melodies in it. short lines, long fleshed-out melodies, basic patterns, whatever. transcribe them to all keys and various positions. if it doesn't sound good, leave it in there, because it might inspire something good later. take what works and try to write something new with that part. get real familiar with all the stuff you've written, along with basic improv patterns, intros, and outros. transcribe these too. transcribe some lines or solos you really like and play around with them in various keys. mess with the rhythm, add or subtract notes, change notes. eventually you'll develop a solid repertoire and all you'll need to think about is connecting various lines, maybe altering lines on the fly for fun, and when you get really comfortable throwing in completely new lines on the fly. i can't do much in the way of extended improv yet, but i've gotten so much better at improv since i started doing this. oh, and jam to songs you like or backing tracks if you don't already.
ah! one last thing. set aside some time to do free improv when you practice, and record yourself playing. don't stop playing for the entire time; if it sounds bad transition into a new phrase. go back and listen to it (watching a video is even better). see what worked and what didn't, note what you need to improve, and write down anything cool you come up with.
to improve your playing in general, film yourself playing every week or two. go back and watch the tape and make specific criticisms, and use that to build a list of things to work on.
play with friends, it's the fastest way to improve.
last thing: if it gets boring or feels like work, throw all that out the window for a while and go nuts! play anything and everything, a song you like, some crazy lick you know, but don't get bogged down. if practise isn't fun you won't improve as quickly. the drive to improve keeps it from getting dull for me, so i can work within a strict system, but i still leave some time to have fun as well.