#1
As a somewhat beginner myself, I have played for a few years with a whole year off. I took other breaks mainly because I would find myself in "dead ends", not progressing. Until recently, when I decided I was motivated to kick myself for the next few months, hoping for progress. In the meantime, my musical orientation changed a lot. I used to listen to and played some pretty basic and easy stuff(most of Metallica's "slower" songs). Those songs I never focuses on either, as in, never really tried perfecting them. At the time, I just cared for "playing" them.

Lately, I read a lot about the 21 days practice thing, and how by practicing intensivly at a slow tempo, you teach yourself how to play it fast, etc. And just to sum it up, I'm self-taught, and I have a very very little knownledge of theory. And by very, I mean VERY.

Since going back at it, I listen to more fast and technical stuff that I used to. I picked up for a song to learn, Kissing the Shadows by Children of Bodom. I found most of the song rather simple, IF played at slow speed. So I decided I'd just learn it slow, even if it means half the original speed. After all, I still find it good to listen to, and apparently, it's what's gonna make me play faster eventually.

Lately, after a mere few weeks at it, I'm making good progress. The main riff I'm practicing is the interlude part. Altho the real speed is about 140 bpm, I can play it accuratly at 80 bpm. Sometimes after a few hours of practicing it, I'm able to play it up as 100 bpm. Now that's really not fast, but compared to not being able to even play a few notes at 70, it's pretty good.

Now where I need a bit of clearing... I read everyone talk about "exercises", but that's never the way I practiced. I always just picked up a particular riff from a particular song, learned it, and gradually started learning the other parts, until I knew the whole song. In other words, I don't really use exercises, or should I say, I use riffs I like as exercises.

For Kissing the Shadows, I mostly practice two riffs, because I felt like it's something I could have never played and thought that playing them would make me progress. For example, the first one happens to contains a lot of string skipping, which makes me work my muting after involved notes. I feel like I'm getting much better at muting now, and hell, I feel more confortable then I used to at playing a tad bit faster.

What I'm wondering is if doing such a thing is actually a good exercise. Since I'm still much of a beginner, I feel like I need to do more progress before I move on to sweeping etc. I'm planning on getting lessons eventually too.

Sorry about the huge text, I had to get it out
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#2
Starting out slow and then speeding things up us always the best, and in most cases, the only way to learn something and in general - practise and improve skills. And excersises are exactly this - riffs which focus on some specific technical method of playing these riffs. So, you are doing right
#3
I think that i actually pick things up this way too. I pick up a riff that i like, say for example Cerpain Taxt By the Mars Volta or something like Cowboys from hell by pantera, I'll learn the verse, the chorus, any bridges or extra stuff (Basically I learn it verse by verse) and then gradually work it up to the original tempo.

The only thing that stops me from playing fast, is not knowing the riff well enough. And the more i get to know it, the faster i should be able to play it at the end, because of the practice i had of getting to know it and increasing the tempo..

If you know what i mean..
#4
yea represent French Canada

dude you guys hes an 03'er

um i do exercises like these

1---3--- 1--3---
--2----4 -------2-4

on all the strings then the backwards just stuff like that and of course chromatics and scales
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#5
Exercises are sposed to be wat you use to increase your overall speed and help you learn the notes in scales. Most exercises are jus takin scale patterns (ya know, take a scale and the box it forms over four frets) and playin em at the 1st position (frets 1 to 4) all the way through the the end of you fretboard (for me, frets 20 to 24). But once you can get good speed up with em (like 180bpm or faster) and you know the notes of the scale, there's no point usin em really EXCEPT as a warm-up tool. They have their uses, but there aren't the give-all-end-all. If you find usin em works, good. If not, that's ok too.