Help required with the challenging phrases

Kevin FurnissKevin Furniss France✭✭ AJL 503 XO
in Technique Posts: 85
I am at the stage of learning django solos to get started somewhere - I can play parts of several tunes up untill the more challenging phrases. I have about 5 of these phrases from different tunes that I cycle through and repeat over, In isolation I can play many of these licks up to speed, unfortunately when I solo over a playalong the pressure creeps up as this phrase looms and then I stumble through it frequently fluffing the middle of the phrase to arrive at the end on time.
I suppose playing slow is the key but when I try to play along to a really slow backing track you have to hold back and I struggle to find any timing and it sucks.
Did anyone remember being here and how they got through it ?


  • T1mothyT1mothy ✭✭ Furch petite bouche
    Posts: 79
    take the metronome, put it on a tempo that you re comfortable with. Play it perfectly there. Step up 5-10 bpm - get it to perfect state. Repeat. Not easy but really simple as that.
  • edited February 2015 Posts: 4,833
    Playing very very slowly is an important part of anyone's training.
    It helps a ton for all the building blocks to get tied together in your brain.
    There's also a wrong assumption that this is easy. Also probably many who think that this is something that's very easy and not very helpful have never tried to slow down the tune to the extreme and try to get the timing right and make no mistakes.

    After reading a book on music practice that mentioned the importance of slow practice, I tried it and it wasn't easy at all. I took a good week of wrapping my mind around of slowing the song down that much and getting all the beats and timing correct.

    The part I read in this book is that there's a music camp in upstate New York, classical music string players.
    On a teaching staff they had in the past: Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman and such. No need to state the accomplishments of these people, right? If they have instructors like this you can guess that this camp isn't a place with casual student musicians.
    Now, one of the teachers in this camp has a thing for slow practice and gets them to play the piece so slow that if somebody can immediately recognize the melody they are playing, that means it's too fast.

    That's when I told to myself "if the music instructors of this caliber take slow practice this seriously who am I to dismiss the importance of it?".
    And I tried the above and you know what, it wasn't easy at all.

    Also while practicing slowly, you need to listen very carefully. Listen to the quality of the notes you play. Criticize yourself and try to realize when the note doesn't sound good, try to change something and see if it sounds better; closer of further away from the soundhole, the pick angle, the amount of the rest stroke attack... And when it does sound good, think why it sounded good, look at where you are in relation to the soundhole, the angle pick, the attack... Practicing that slowly is a perfect tool where you can develop a good tone.
    You'll also have time to think about and process where in the song you are and follow the chord changes as you play Django's solo. This will train you to be able do the same when it's time to solo on your own.
    This is also where it will be easy to spot the parts where you usually make a mistake. Playing slowly you'll have time to think about and make minor adjustments and correct it. It also important to not continue if you make a mistake, stop, play the part again a couple of times without making a mistake and then continue.

    I remember Jimmy Rosenberg saying in some video "if I can play it fast, I can play is slow". So it's true for Jimmy, but he's in the 1 percent.
    For the rest 99 percent of us it's not true. Of course there are exceptions, but you get my point.

    It can be months before you can cleanly play parts that give you trouble now.
    My first Django solo was Minor Swing. I was just starting in the genre and although I played guitar for a long time prior to that, I never played and practiced soloing much. It must have been hundreds of hours before I could play Minor Swing at his tempo without messing up.

    But don't think about the time, you kinda have to like the mule with the carrot in front of you.
    Just follow the carrot and do the work.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Kevin FurnissKevin Furniss France✭✭ AJL 503 XO
    Posts: 85
    Thanks for the great advice.

    I am going to slow it right down and concentrate on technique.

    Im not unrealistic and dont expect to be a great player any time soon, just good enough to jam and have some fun playing.

    I have played on and off a bit of fingerstyle blues stuff for a few years but the first time I picked up a pick just over 2 years ago was to start to learn Django music.

    Should of stuck to Lightning Hopkins :((
  • edited February 2015 Posts: 3,707
    Jimmy started off slowly too, it's just that he was really young so it didn't take very long til what was slow to him would seem fast to us and moderate was beyond most.

    I too read the book on practice that @Buco notes and like him, it fundamentally changed how I Practice and how much more quickly it comes now. heed well what Buco wrote.

    The step sped method is faster than trying to brute force at speed but not as effective as going really slow, perfecting, trying full speed and if you are tense or make mistakes you haven't in fact perfected it yet, so go back to really slow.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Haha. That book gets a lot of love. (The Practice of Practice)

    I echo what has been said here. Even Joscho has been quoted as saying that he practices speed phrases slowly for a long time until he understands what it takes to execute it. It is not magic, but some of us have to work hard to get there.
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH6, AJL Silent Guitar
    Posts: 346
    All these comments are full of wisdom. Consider them. We've all gone through the same thing, and Writers describe does work. In the meantime, don't forget to play something that's beautiful and pleasing to your ear. It doesn't have to be fast, it just has to be good.
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH6, AJL Silent Guitar
    Posts: 346
    Stupid auto correct.

    What I meant to say is that all of the writers here and all of us playing this music have been there and are still there for some things. As they said to me, speed and fluidity will come if you practice and examine you technique. Meanwhile, find something beautiful to play and sub that into the difficult passage while you're learning it.

    Finish your practice by playing something that pleases you. I usually end with Nuages.
  • Kevin FurnissKevin Furniss France✭✭ AJL 503 XO
    Posts: 85
    Little update

    The initial thought that in order to improve I was going to have to play very very slowly didnt fill me with joy but after 3 nights of playing very very slowly "ill see you in my dreams" first at 1/2 Django speed and then to a play along @ 140BPM - there is some improvement already - much more relaxed and less tension in the R/H.
    Its really encouraging.

    Im going to search out that book "the practice of practice"

  • Posts: 4,833
    Since I started with the slow practice I can play faster with my band and actually play something that sounds decent and I removed all the stress and frustration out of my practice, I look forward to practicing now.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Funny how that counterintuitive
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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