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  • Andrew Ulle 5:45PM

Practice Schedule Help Request

AngelojfAngelojf New
edited March 2013 in Gypsy Jazz 101
I am somewhat a beginner to GJ but can probably hold my own well with early rock and roll, blues, and jazz chords. Can probably do OK in a GJ setting if I play rhythm only, but in such a setting I'd need the chord chart in front of me (my ear is terrible) and I'd probably be playing mostly standard jazz chord shapes.

A) Learn GJ, but primarily improvisation in this style. I want to learn how to play GJ as well as improv correctly!
B) I'd also like to learn to play straight melody lines, but by ear, not by reading it in tab or standard music notation; again, my ear is terrible.

Learning tools I have (or will soon have):
1) Pearl Django Play Along Songbook Vol 1
2) Romane & Sebastian's L'Espirit Manuche
3) Vol 1: Chang's Technique and Improv DVD
4) Wrembel's Getting Into Gypsy Jazz Guitar

Lets say I only have about an hour a day to practice.

Four Questions:
1) Am I missing any learning tools in my list above that you have found to be really helpful? For example, I hear good things about Michael's GJ Picking book.

2) Given I only have about an hour a day to practice and my goal as stated above, how many minutes do you think I should devote to each tool?

3) OK to play my standard jazz chords in this genre?

4) Any other general advice?

Thank You!!!


  • BonesBones Moderator
    Get Gypsy Picking and Rhythm by Michael.

    Learn to play rhythm properly first. Also, as you learn the chord changes to alot of songs and play along with them you will be able to hear the changes which will help your ear.

    Learn some melodies that you like.

    When you get further along, selecting Django solos that you like and transcribing them will help train your ear but that may be tough to do just yet if you are just getting started.

    It's a long process. Be patient. Keep at it.

    An hour a day is not a lot but I know how that is. Probably just focus on rhythm and some simple melodies for now???
  • In order to avoid the frustration of coming along slowly you might consider learning mostly rhythm techniques and GJ chords on the songs while spending 10 minutes a day on a Gypsy Picking book exercise.

    Tihis genre require a very high level of technique and a high level of physical fitness for the parts that execute the playing. Try squeezing your fingers on the strings 200 times a minute for 5 minutes :D

    If you learn to play rhythm well enough to participate in jams first and then start adding in some single line stuff as you develop.

    I was spending several hours a day until two and a half years ago when I started back playing sax...now I spend an half an to an hour a day and while what I have learned has gotten better as one moves up the levels the time required to reach the next goal increases.

    Learning GJ is much easier if truly enjoying the ride rather than worrying about where you are or aren't really helps.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • I think you'll get many different answers to this kind of question. But if I personally only had an hour a day to practice I would go about it by doing something like this.

    You could structure your hour very precisely doing something like:

    10 mins working on picking technique (this might include licks/arpeggios/or something like Michael's Gypsy Picking book)

    20 mins working on rhythm technique (working on your pompe and/or practicing gypsy chords)

    30 mins working on a particular song (chord comping, learning the melody, transcribing a solo, practicing your own improv)

    I think a lot of people endorse this kind of structured practicing because you'll slowly make progress this way and it keeps you from getting rusty at any one particular thing.

    The other way you could spend your hour would be to pick one song, and just completely devote your whole hour to it. Practice different ways to play the melody and rhythm. You could study several solos (probably one at a time though...) and explore many different approaches to improv.

    I would probably switch between these two routines throughout the week, but I have a hard time doing the same thing day in and day out. One thing that really helped me improve was when I started practicing songs the way they are played at a jam.

    This sounds like common sense, but when I first started practicing I would play through once and just play rhythm, then play through again just doing lead. I found when I was out jamming that transitioning between rhythm and lead was actually really difficult so now when I practice a song I'll do something like play the head, take a solo, play rhythm and maybe take another solo or play the head out. This emulates what you might do during an actual jam and I think it's really beneficial.

    Also, specifically about ear training. I'm still not very good at it, but just working through Denis's DVDs really helps. Watching him play all those licks, and then attempting to learn them yourself, it trains your eyes, ears, and hands. Very effective (and I've only gotten through the first one!)

    I agree with Jazzaferri that you have to enjoy the ride though, because it's definitely a long one.
  • It maybe somewhat counterintuitive but I see many people trying to practice waaaay too many things at one time..... :shock: :twisted: ...i know the feeling well as I am always struggling with this one.

    Bill Evan once was asked about what he practiced....he replied ....the minimum...not the minimum time but the minimun amount of material... He would practice something until he had mastered it and then moved on.

    In the jazz program I am taki g they come at things completely the other way....which is a real drag for me, but only another year and I can get back to mastering something before i move on.

    I have been working on the same 4 exercises on sax for months and am now getting up to about 240 bpm for some keys :lol: and still back at 120 in others. Has to be mastered all keys at eighths 300 bpm clean effortlessly before I can move on. Those and working one one gj song a day is 2+ hr plus another 45 to an hour of sight reading practice on all the big band stuff. That is a minimum successful day for me on that...add in an hour or so of guitar and some more for writing ....no wonder I am feeling busy.

    But back to the topic. While it feels progress is slower at first if one really hones in on all the scales really well in all sorts of combinations, chromatic, major modes minor and modes. Thirds fourths arps etc.

    One gets to the point that any melody one hears in the head one can play without thinking. Different approach than some but it does work really well. THE IMPORTANT RULE dont move on til you can come back to something after a month or say and play it just as well as when you left it. If you can't do that you haven't mastered it.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    I agree with Jazzaferi -

    I have been working on the same 3 or 4 songs for the past 6 months - All of me, Sweet georgia brown, Djangos tiger, and minor swing. I do different exercises, but keep it in the same few songs.

    Even still I feel like I would be better served to pare that down a bit.

    The challenge is that when you work too much on only one or 2 things, it can get boring.

    I don't know... All things considered though, I would say an hour a day, if consistent, is pretty damn good.
  • Years ago a teacher who was also a great player told me that for most students about half an hour a day was about standing still...
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Oh and one thing I don't think anyone has addressed yet. As far as using standard jazz chords vs. gypsy chords I personally have been using standard chords since I found a group to play with weekly before I got to learning all the gypsy voicings and it hasn't made a big difference when we play together. Much more important (and difficult) is getting the rhythm right.
  • Thank you all for taking the time to reply. Keep the replies coming!! Much appreciated, and thanks again.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Here's a breakdown that Stephane Wrembel gave me when I was taking lessons with him and only had about an hour a day. This adds up to 1:15, which means 1:30 by the time to factor in breaks and things.

    1. Comping - Ear Training - Repertoire/ 15 minutes
    2. Django's Solos/ 15 minutes (30 for a two hour session)
    3. Waltzes/ 15 minutes (30 for a two hour session)
    4. Improvisation/ 15 minutes (30 for a two hour session)
    5. Technique - Mapping - Material/ 15 minutes

    Ear training is important, as I am late to discover, and you can do it by playing records, or just trying to play every TV theme and commercial you hear by ear. Don't be discouraged if it's too hard. if you keep at it, it will start to come...or so I'm told. I'm still in the nascent stage.

    Pick a Django solo, like "All of Me" over a simple chord structure, and play it until you can sing it, or if you are me, until you can croak it out in an out of tune frog voice.

    Waltes are the great technique builders, the etudes of gypsy jazz. Pick one, like Montaigne St. Genevieve, or Passion, and learn the simplest version of it you can, then take the licks, and apply them to improvisation.

    Wrembel always maintains that the only way to learn to improvise is to do it. He'd put that droning Indian thing on and let me play over E for five or ten minutes, or until he just couldn't stand it anymore. He is right. There are no shortcuts. You just have to try and fail and little by little, things will happen that you like. Keep them and discard the failures. As time passes, you will learn what works, but accept that you will be terrible at first.

    This is where learning arpeggios and learning the fretboard come into play. Then you can add a special technique, like playing all downstrokes on a descending arpeggio.

    Stephane recommends a timer and a metronome. Set the timer for five minutes and just work on one small thing for the entire time. You'll be surprised that if you do that, things will start to happen that weren't happening before. And don't let anyone tell you that unless you practice three hours or more, you won't get better. Decided how much time you have and work with it. Don't plan for three hours if you know you can only do that two days a week. Plan for what you can actually do every day, and just play things longer when you have a day with more time.

    And play any chords you know, but try to start adding a new gypsy voicing a week, and before long, you'll have plenty to work with. Some voicings seem really difficult at first, but if you give them time every day, they will start to get easier. The trick is to not give up when something is hard. It took me way too long to learn that lesson, and now I am trying to make up for wasted time.

    Finally, it's all about the time you put in. Do some ear training when you are watching TV, but when you are really working, try to eliminate distractions. Every teacher I have ever worked with, from Stephane to Denis, to Gonzalo to Alphonso and others have agreed that how many hours you practice is important, but most important is how many hours of concentrated, serious practice you put in. One good hour by you can equal three by someone watching Honey Boo Boo while trying to learn the same thing.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • Michael has the magic formula. I currently study with Stephane and this is it. I'd suggest changing the order putting a warmup up front to start. Something like this:

    1. Warm-up 5-10 min
    2. Technique - 15 minutes

    and then the rest. Doing a waltz plus a solo a day has done wonders for my technique and improv.
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