Here’s some ideas that I use on a regular basis to gently develop my musical senses. I also like intense practicing but sometime I feel I can accomplish a lot on a subconscious level by exposing myself to different elements like good time and good music. I don’t always feel focused enough to transcribe a solo or learn a technically challenging section. They also add consistency to what I may already be doing. For example, I am going to solo anyways, so I may as well use a drum machine to have better time.
I do singing exercises every morning while I check email. I’m not a great singer or even really singer but my singing has improved. These are ones I enjoy.
Warm up with a metronome
By doing slow simple chords in the morning, my hands feel warmed up fairly early in the day. I use a metronome set at between 35 and 44 beats per minute, so I can get a feel for a slow steady beat. I try to subdivide the beat in different ways to get a feel triplets, quintuples, etc.
Play along to your favorite songs
Since I am going to listen to these songs anyways and probably sing along, I figure I might as well play along on guitar. There are so many great things about playing along with great records. You’ll learn most of the solos and song over time. You also learn to play with really a good group of musicians and all the nuisances associated with great music. Of course, metronomes and drum machines really help develop one’s musical abilities but they don’t substitute for listening and learning from great recorded music. I try to start every day playing along with So What.
Practice solos with a drum machine
Instead of just playing solos on your own, I suggest using a drum machine to create rhythms that outline the basic form. This helps me work on the structure of my solos and also I know when things fall off because I won’t be lining up the downbeat on the drum machine anymore. Here’s the drum machine I use, Beatcraft, though I am sure lots of good ones can be found! If you have a Mac, you can use GarageBand, which has some nice beats, for example.