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Need some advice for effective practice routines?

murillomurillo ✭✭✭
edited April 2010 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 46

I need some advice about practicing. Unfortunately I have only two hours for practice during weekdays, weekends is much better if I don’t work.

Normally I divide the time in 30 minutes intervals, where I usually first do 30 minutes of rhythm practice, and then 30 minutes of some exercises from Michaels Gypsy Picking (arpeggios and other stuff). After that I usually practice some licks that I transcribed, at the moment I am working on Gonzalos version of Djangology. So far I have only transcribed half of it. I am trying to get it under my fingers before I do the rest. Transcribing takes time so I think that I will do that on weekends only so I have more time to practice on weekdays. The last 20 minutes I try to do some improvising over different backing tracks. When practicing I almost always use a metronome.

I have played guitar (folk, rock, blues and heavy metal) since I was a kid and played in a lot of bands. I’m not a beginner and are consider to be a experienced guitarist by many musicians.

I started to play Gypsy Jazz a year ago and to be honest it sounds really crappy when I play. Especially when I try to improvise solos. Like a complete beginner. I don’t have any problems transcribing solos from other musicians and play them in songs, but I want to be able to improvise. I have always improvised solos in the bands that I played in before, but this GJ is really difficult.

My main goal in this music style is to be a solid rhythm player, and so far I have been concentrating my rhythm (read guitar) practicing almost exclusively on the straight pompe. But I also want to play solos as much as I want to be a solid rhythm player.

I feel that for the last three months or so that there have been very little, if any, progress in my guitar playing.

Is there something that I should change in my practice routines?

Answers are deeply appreciated.

Best regards



  • Murillo

    If you incorporate some scale and arpeggio practice using the chord structure of the song you want to learn and do that in place of the improv at this stage of your learning.

    Another suggestion is to decide what song you want to learn, and listen to the head and any improv lines until you can sing, whistle or hum them, whichever is easiest for you.

    Once the music phrases are in your head then start playing them on the guitar and find the easiset fingering that works for you. I am assuming in this that you know the fretboard and can pick out all the C#'s and the Eb's etc etc easily.

    I spent years practicing scales and arpeggio patterns learning classic guitar which has been helpful to me.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    It depends on what you mean by 'little progress'

    If you mean that you're still not getting the feel of the rhythm, you're probably right. I've heard that from more than a few very good players who have taken up this style. So, take heart, you're not alone. You weren't born into it so your internal clock is fundamentally wired differently than guys who have heard it for hours every day since they could stand up in their crib.

    If you really want to sound "gypsy" it is going to be like learning to write with your left hand while looking over your shoulder into a mirror because every musical instinct in you will be screaming at you to play with the rhythm, phrasing & feel of the music you grew up with... Listening to a lot of oldschool GJ will help you. People who grow up in it hear it constantly so they feel and understand the rhythm in their blood & bones. We have to learn that feel. All the best non-gypsy-born players I've ever met basically said they listened to a lot of it... then played and recorded themselves and listened to the difference between themselves and the record with brutal honesty... and they didn't give up... and sometimes they had moments where for a few seconds they sounded the way they wanted to... and over time the frequency and duration of those moments grew...

    Europeans have a bit of an advantage in that it's not quite as hard for them to find traditional sounding players to jam with... and jamming is important because unlike practice you can't stop and start over - you just have to hang it out there and pick yourself up when you go "splat"... And if the guys you jam with all sound like Western Swing players - make sure you offset the time you jam with an equal or greater amount of listening to top oldschool players so you don't gravitate toward other people's non-gypsy habits.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,379
    Hello Murillo,
    Here are my humble suggestions:
    You have to prioritize your time, you want to get better at improv and rhythm so I would divide the 2 hours like this:

    -20 mins technique (also serves as warm-up)
    -10 mins transcribing (Only transcribing a couple of measures per day but doing it daily)
    -45 mins for rhythm
    -45 mins for improv

    I would gradually "steal" minutes from the first two sections to spend on the main two things you want to improve. Just do at least 5 minutes for ear training (transcribe)

    You should see improvement in the next 3 months.
    As for working on improv at first I would focus on precomposed solos, taking a simple progression like "All of me" and working out some typical gypsy licks over each chord and then chaining them together. The idea here is to have several options for playing pre-made phrases over each chord so you can mix and match. This is a bit like the Rosenberg approach.
    This won't be "true" improvisation but it's a lot of fun and prepares you well for the next step.
    After you get the hang of it try altering a bit the phrases you picked up from your transcribing work, just change a note here and there, play with the rhythm, repeat notes...
    Work on some other simple tunes as well.

    Then start working on your own ideas on static chords: 2 minutes of C6/9, 2 minutes of E7, etc. Focus on one bar and two bar phrases,
    Then play over two chords at a time... Then four chords. If you can hear the changes without any accompaniment you're on the right track.
    For this part your knowledge of arpeggios is very important and the ear training you'll get from transcribing will come out to help.
    After that start mixing the original gypsy licks with your own phrases.

    Aside from that, I strongly recommend Denis Chang's DVD's "Technique and Improvisation" (sounds like you'll want vol I and II especially) those will have you playing more like you want to in very little time.
    Also Andreas Oberg's "Gypsy Fire" book did wonders for me.
  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio
    Posts: 665
    check out:
    "Djangology arpeggio exercises" by Thrip in the Technique section below; Thrip's got some really neat ideas so check out all his lessons that he's generously shared and put on youtube; and on his website you can print out the TAB of the arpeggios to his excercises;

    Next check my favourite crazy dude of a guitarist out!:
    :D :!: :idea: :arrow: :shock: 8)
  • murillomurillo ✭✭✭
    Posts: 46
    Thanks for the tips and ideas, I really appreciate it. I was a bit stuck with my old routine and felt that I was going nowhere. Your ideas helped me to look at my playing from a different angle. Apart from opening up my practicing and playing, it’s a lot of fun to work on new ideas.

    Once again thanks.

    Best regards
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,664
    Another great resource for arpeggio training is Gonzalo Bergara's "How I learned, volume 1" ... arned.html

    It looks rather crude and homemade (which it is), but don't let that fool you - it is the best arpeggio resource I've found. He doesn't give you a bunch of arpeggios, he gives you whole solos built of linked arpeggios, shows how they tie together and how you can extract phrases to use elsewhere. Carve out a chunk of your practice time for this each day and you will be amazed at the results. It will be slow going at first, but keep at it.

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
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