Made some serious progress today in my quest to get that Dream Theater lick up to speed. I started last month at 75bpm, increasing daily by 1 up to 112. I was slated to hit 94 today. Ever since about 85, I've noticed that the top few slots of my progress have been getting sloppy, while everything slower than that is clean. My criteria for crossing off a tempo is to play the lick cleanly at least once. I notice that as I push forward, only the top two tempos retain sloppiness, so I don't think I'm screwing myself by playing faster than I should. Besides, I spend far more time at lower tempos than on the threshold of my abilities.
So I've been struggling a bit since I hit 90bpm to climb 1bpm every day. Some days I don't make it, and I have to be honest with myself. If I can't hit the lick right on at least once, I won't cross it off.
I've mentioned before that this is my first experience working specifically on speed. I've read and heard plenty of advice over the years, especially from John Petrucci. (Incidentally, he plays this very lick.) He frequently draws an analogy to lifting weights. Signs of progress are not steady, but come in chunks, as long as persistence is steady. You may hit a number of plateaus along the way, but as long as you continue practicing with the same diligence, one day you'll find a surprise improvement, much larger than expected.
I had such a breakthrough today. Like I said, I was preparing to hit 94bpm. It took less time than usual, so I tried 95. It worked, so I kept going and made it all the way to 100. All this in a single day after struggling to hit 91, 92, 93 over the past week. Who knows if I'll still have it tomorrow, but it's exciting nonetheless. Over halfway there. w00t.