learning to improvise in gypsy jazz- beginner level

rafapakrafapak ✭✭
in Technique Posts: 221
Hi guys

I would like to ask you for advice. What beginner should start learning improvisation from ? Should I learn arpeggios first ? One octave or two octave arpeggios are employed more often ?


  • PetrovPetrov ✭✭
    Posts: 125
    We have a lot of different people here on the forums. Different methods, different levels, different approaches. Prepare yourself to be bombarded with information :).

  • PetrovPetrov ✭✭
    edited August 2017 Posts: 125
    Are you just beginning in GJ or you've already got the basics of technique and you're looking to get into improv?
  • rafapakrafapak ✭✭
    Posts: 221
    I have basics of technique and I am looking to get into improvisation
  • Elí SaúlElí Saúl Toluca, Mexico.New Dell'Arte DG-H2
    edited August 2017 Posts: 104
    Actually before you should kinda understand harmony at least a little.

    I'll try to explain the way I approach this.

    First of all get your major and harmonic minor scales in all keys, if you can it wouldn't hurt to lean whole-tone, diminished and melodic minor.
    Also you should have learnt arpeggios for mayor minor and diminished triads as well for maj7 m7 7 and m7b5 chords

    If you have time you should try first to do this "table" on every key:
    Harmonic Universe C Major
    Tonal = I, iii, vi
    Subdominant = ii, IV
    Dominant = V, vii
    I.     ii.      iii.     IV.        V.   vii
    Cmaj7 Dm7 Em7 Fmaj7 G7 Bm7b5
    Alternative dominants and tritone substitutions 
    Dm7 G7 alt
    Abm Db7 tritone
    Em7 A7
    Bbm7 Eb7
    F#m7 B7
    Cm7 F7
    Gm7 C7
    Dbm7 Gb7
    Am7 D7
    Ebm7 Ab7
    Bm7 E7
    Fm7 Bb7
    C#m7 F#7
    Gm7 C7

    This "table" gives a pretty good insight to start understanding chord progressions and it gives you some of the common substitutions used.

    Now that some basic harmony is in your head, you can move to your favorite standard, first you need to learn the chord progression and determine if it's in one key only or if it modulates to another key(s). Let's say All Of Me:
    | C | % | E7 | % | A7 | % | Dm | % |
    | E7 | % | Am | % | D7 | % | Dm | G7 |
    | C | % | E7 | % | A7 | % | Dm | % |
    | F | Fm | C | A7 | Dm | G7 | C Am |Dm G7 |
    As you can see the song is on C major, with important interchanges the first one es E7 which comes as V/V/ii you can explain this in many ways, but the important reason is to create tension before going to ii Dm.
    Then D7, that can be seen as v/v again its for tension , then Fm can be seen as modal interchange.

    The first thing you should do is play arpeggios over the changes, then major scales.
    Put always attention to what you improvise tho, try scatting your lines, that will really make a difference on what you play and will eventually make you swing your lines.

    When you get comfortable with this try doing some substitutions, try changing subdominants between them, ex. Fmajor7 over Dm, and so.

    Then you can move to experiment different scales an arpeggios superimpositions over dominant chords, some really cool resources I like are harmonic minor half step above, a fourth, a fifth above, whole tone.
    Melodic minor
    Don Mock has made some really interesting books for jazz improvising, you should check them out.

    With this you can get started, to be honest I really recommend scatting your lines, it will improve your intonation and creativity at the same time.

    Also, transcribing solos you like is important as well, this is the most reliable method to get new ideas for improvising. Analyzing solos will really open the picture for jazz Improvisation.

    Hope this help!
  • PetrovPetrov ✭✭
    edited August 2017 Posts: 125
    A few ideas
    -start with improvising on simple progressions like a 2 5 1 (ex Am D7 G in the key of G) using arps over the changes
    -The 2 5 1 is found in many GJ tunes.
    -Try different arp, licks, scales on the progression. There's tonnes of info online for free or lessons at a affordable price.
    -Yes, eventually learn all the keys, but start with G, D, C, Am, Gm, Dm, Bb
    -Learn to identify progressions within songs. Look a few tunes in a Major tonality and guaranteed you will find a 2 5 1
    -Learn to simplify progressions. A 2 5 1 can be simplified to 5 5 1 for example. Identify these in tunes.
    -Learn about tension and resolving
    -learn about Dominant V7 chords and all you can do on them
    -practice slow, relaxed and with good technique. Speed will come with time.

    -Most important is to have fun with it!

  • rafapakrafapak ✭✭
    Posts: 221
    thanks guys for replies
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    edited August 2017 Posts: 1,459
    The first thing to do in this style is to get to play rhythm guitar well. Go to jams and get experience. Once people are complimenting your rhythm, and other players want to play with you or some guys want to book you to play rhythm for their gig, then it can be a good time to focus on working on improvisation. The reason I write this is that everybody hates the guy who takes cool solos but can't play rhythm well. Don't be that guy.

    Yes, you should learn arpeggios - over 1 octave is pretty useless. 2 octaves is good. 3 octaves, better!

    For 3 note arpeggios, just focus on these ones:
    - Major triads (1 3 5)
    - Minor triads (1 b3 5)

    For 4 note arpeggios, just focus on these ones:
    - Minor 6th (1 b3 5 6)
    - Diminished (b9 3 5 7)

    For the diminished arp I've spelled it different than usual, because it's almost always played over the dominant chord. So, there is no "1" really.
    For the others: you need to practice them with the root on the 5th string and the root on the 6th string, because the shapes are annoying different :( That's the fault of the semitone offset between G and B strings - if the guitar were tuned in all fourths then you can transpose vertically as well as horizontally!

    It's also good to learn some cool licks. Some people might scoff at this and complain that if you're chaining licks together, then it's not really improvising. You can bet those people also have their own licks and they've just learned to disguise them and/or alter them slightly on the fly. Yes playing licks can be taken too far out of good taste, that's true, but many of the top players in the world steal licks from each other and use them. And Django for sure had a bag of them, probably a few stolen ones too. :)
  • jonpowljonpowl Hercules, CA✭✭✭ Dupont MD-100, Altamira M01F
    Posts: 706
    Although I still feel lost most of the time when a solo beckons, I learned a lot from Samy Daussat when first starting out. Here is link to a solo for All of Me You can probably find the tab at Samy's FaceBook site
    There is also a solo to Sweet Georgia Brown and again you might find the tabs in photo files at FB Cours de guitare jazz manouche. If not, PM me and I'll send them to you. Samy's 12 Plans de Do and 6 plans de sol are very beginner, but a good place to start.
    Francois Hegron also has a lot of great free stuff on YouTube at All of me is well done but speaking French might help.
  • rafapakrafapak ✭✭
    Posts: 221
    thanks guys for help and replies
  • There's some great info posted here. I'll add that I'd check out multiple versions of the same song by GJ artists and transcribe on guitar (and possibly paper) the ideas they play over specific progressions of songs.

    For example; listen to the way Django plays the last 8 measures of All of Me (starting on F to Fm, etc.) and then listen to the way Romane, Moreno Winterstein, Fapy Lafertin, etc. play it. You will see both similarities and non-similarities between each player's own sound, which hopefully will get you on the path to creating your own unique sound and style. I also believe arpeggios are the way to start out. There are many texts that cover this subject, and are very helpful when learning to improvise in this context.

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