I made it. Completed all thirty hours in three days, although poor time management last night kept me up until 2am in order to finish.
Hour 1: Finger Exercises
More legatos! Went through a bunch of positions on high strings doing hammer-ons and pull-offs. I worked on trills the previous day, and this takes it a step further.
I used finger patterns 1-2-4, 1-3-4, 4-2-1, 4-3-1, 1-2-1-4, 1-3-1-4, 1-2-4-2, 1-3-4-3, 1-4-2-4, and 1-4-3-4 because they occur so frequently in most scales. For each pattern, I used only left hand hammers and pulls at slow tempos, getting the timing and articulation just right.
Hour 2: Scales
Continuing the legato practice, I worked on a Holdsworth-style technique that involves limited picking. I went through all the pentatonic and diatonic positions I know, picking only when changing to a higher string. The rest is left to the left hand.
Hour 3: Chords
The third section under chords is titled "Improvisation." I'm not sure why. Vai's suggestions here don't have much to do with improvising; they're more about creating new chords. If he meant to do this on the fly, it would be improvisation, but it doesn't appear so.
Anyway, the idea is to explore new chords by constructing them yourself instead of looking them up. Try to create original sounds. Use any means you can think of. Vai suggests connecting a chord with an emotion or mapping telephone numbers in a phone book to intervals.
For the first half hour, I worked on a concept for 7th chords I thought of a while ago. Each chord is played on the top three strings in one of two positions. The first has the 3 on the third string, 11, 5, or 13 on the second, 7 on the first. The other position has the 7 on the third string, 1 or 9 on the second, 3 on the first. I dig the sound from these chords because they're sparse but still include the 3 and 7. Every possible voicing I just mentioned except 3-5-7 includes a major or minor 2nd, so they often sound a bit dissonant.
For the second half hour, I worked out all possible 2- to 4-note fourth chord voicings in E Dorian (so I could use the low E as a drone).
Hour 4: Theory
This was supposed to be the ear training hour. I started by expanding the chart of interval locations I thought of on day two. I wrote out every possible occurrence of each interval within the major and minor scales.
But why stop there? I did what any creative mind would do: I made a spreadsheet. On Google Docs, of course. Now I have a chart that shows me every possible context for every interval inside an octave. If you don't hear a minor 6th as 1-b6, you might hear it as 2-b7 or #4-2 or 7-5, etc.
Once I finished the chart, the hour was up. So I decided it was a theory hour because I didn't actually train my ears at all.
Hour 5: Ear Training
I put the chart to good use. I stuck with thirds to keep things simple. Using E and A as roots (for the open drones in the bass again), I cycled through every major and minor third on the second and third strings below the twelfth fret. With each one, I tried to hear the context against the root note in my head. If I couldn't hear it internally, I sang notes in a scale that includes the interval until I had a better idea of how it was functioning.
I think this will yield good results, so I'll keep at it. It's quite engaging. It's more than just flash cards for quick memorization. I have to hear how an interval works, what could have preceded it, and how it could resolve.
Hour 6: Reading
Same as day two, new random page in the 1001 Jazz Licks book.
Hour 7: Writing
Finished writing a solo for "St. Thomas." I played through it for a while, making changes here and there. I tried to tastefully include altered 9ths over the dominant chords. I found a few spots where they sound really good.
Hours 8-10: Jamming
First hour was SRV again, mostly "Texas Flood."
In the final two hours, I continued my exploration of combining bends and slides in blues licks. They take a great deal of hand strength and control, so I isolated each little move for a while, using all fingers, top four strings, bending both directions where possible. It will take a long time before I'm confident with these, but it will be worth it. I get more excited about this every time I work on it, and I'll probably start devoting specific practice time for it every day.
Well, it was much easier on my hand than I thought it would be. I've overworked my left hand a number of times on less than ten hours per day. But of these thirty hours, nine involved little guitar playing, and three more were for sight reading (really slow in my case). All the serious hand work was left to finger exercises, scales, chords, and jamming.
Steve's original 10-hour workout from 1990 had three hours for exercises, three for scales, three for chords, then an hour of jamming at the end. He claims to have never had overuse injuries in his hands. That makes him a fuckhead.
I found the open-ended jamming at the end of each day very productive. I need to do more of it. I don't think three hours every day is the right way to go though. I think I'd rather do a two-hour chunk a few times a week. It's best at night when everything is silent and I'm away from my computer with no distractions, metronomes, or YouTube. I need more concentration in this area than in any other, and I fear that making it a daily routine will inhibit that.
If nothing else, going through the workout helped me get started on a few topics I need to practice more often: writing, vibrato and bending nuances, seriously exploring new territory. I doubt I'll ever use this exact workout again; the whole point of the article was to help the reader construct their own practice routine.
I think I'll stick with the strategy I've been using for a while. I pick a few things that I need to work on every day. Lately it's been ear training, sight reading, and SRV. Aside from that, I keep a list of anything that could possibly take up an hour of practice time. This gives me the flexibility to work on whatever's most intriguing at the moment and to delve further into specific areas of playing. For instance, I might spend an hour on slides every day for a week, then move to sweep picking every day the following week, etc. It's easier to build off of previous practice of a technique if it hasn't been so long since I examined it.
That's all for now. For more of Steve's teachings, visit Little Black Dots on his official site.