The overall skill of being an excellent guitar player is really several smaller skills. In other words, there are several links in the chain of great guitar skills. This goes for your overall guitar playing skills like your soloing and rhythm guitar work. But also the specific techniques you use and the things you know like scale shapes and chords.
Each skill is a link in the chain so let’s look at the rules of the chain.
Rules of the chain
1. Any chain can only be as strong as its weakest link.
2. There is always a link weaker than all the others
3. Working on your weakest link will give you the fastest progress, by far.
If you pull a chain until it breaks, it will of course break at the point where it is weakest. And no chain has equally strong links. Even if the difference in strength is minimal, it’s still there.
Working on strengthening links that are not the weakest will make it seem like you are making no progress, because the chain will not get stronger until the weakest link does. So the ability to identify and work on the weakest link is the ability to create rapid progress.
Not working on the weakest link is one of the primary reasons why people develop very slowly, get frustrated and give up – because as they are focused on practicing one element, another one is keeping them from experiencing the progress they actually make.
Finding the weakest link in your playing
With this in mind, you might ask yourself a couple of questions:
1. If there was one skill holding me back which one could it be?
2. When I solo and improvise, what skill is holding me back the most?
3. When I am playing rhythm guitar what missing or weak skill is holding me back?
On this general level it can be very hard to find the right answers because you can’t have the big picture when you are in the middle of it. So whenever you have the chance, ask other people. Ask someone who can play like you want to play. Ask your guitar playing friends for input and then decide what your focus should be.
Analyzing techniques for big results
You can also use this principle to analyse and find away to improve your techniques fast and the beginning of this process is always asking:
What’s the weakest link in my hammer-ons and pull-offs? Or what’s the weakest link in my alternate picking technique? Is it the outside string shifts? Is it the ascending string shifts? What is it?!
Just imagine if one little discipline within your alternate picking technique, is half as strong as all the other little disciplines. This means that when you handle it and get it up to where all the other elements of this technique are, you will effectively double your alternate picking speed and control.