1. Focus on sound when you practice.
When I first heard Surfing with the Alien by Joe Satriani, my initial reactions were related to how awesome he sounded. I didn’t know enough about technique to identify what was going on. All I knew was he had an incredible sound and that I definitely didn't sound anywhere near as good as that!
Despite not having Joe’s experience, skill and higher quality gear, my resolve was to use my pick to craft my tone so that notes shone out with clarity, excessive and unwanted noise was muted, notes weren’t just played but really PLAYED.
If we make the overall quality of sound our goal when we work at something, we'll land much closer to what we hear in our head than if we just focus on the techniques.
2. Copy your heroes but don’t imitate them.
To copy our favorite guitarists is to take something of theirs for ourselves. To imitate them is to try to actually be them. When we take a lick idea from one of our influences, we can change a few things around. We can apply our own preferred fingerings, we can apply our preferred method of picking. We even can take a legato passage and add tapped notes if the stretches are too wide, making it something completely new.
A great artist knows how to copy from others and make it his or her own. Some people take it a little too far and confuse borrowing with imitating. Not only do their play licks note for note from their favorite players, but they strive to get their tone, their vibrato, they even write the same kind of chord progressions and, in some cases, dress like them.
Some people might be