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Just How Good Are You?

pmgpmg Atherton, CANew Dupont MD50R, Shelley Park Custom, Super 400, 68 Les Paul Deluxe, Stevie Ray Strat
edited February 2020 in Technique Posts: 140

One of our greatest living music teachers, Christiann van Hemert, recently published a very interesting (at least to me!) chart that allows you to somewhat objectively characterize your current relative playing level and what it might take to get to the next level in your GJ playing journey. A couple of take-aways that registered with me:

1) it takes A LOT of hours to get good at this stuff. While there a handfuls of guys/gals who appear to become master players quickly, for mere mortals like most of us, it takes many hundreds of hours of practicing to even become a decent jammer let alone a Pro or above. This chart gives me even greater admiration for super skilled players that we see in our jams or in performances and deeper appreciation of all the many, many hours they committed to get that good.

2) A distinguishing hallmark of all better players is the number of tunes they know. IMO, learning tunes by memory (melody, chords, variations, etc.) is easier than mastering other aspects of GJ such as gypsy picking, playing blistering arpeggios, etc. Those of us that commit to learn 1-2 tunes per week can get to a "competent" level in less than a year. Frankly I am a bit surprised that 200 tunes is the upper limit in this chart as most of the really good players that I know can play many hundreds of tunes if not a thousand or more by memory.

This chart focuses on solo playing and not rhythm which is another area where many many hours are needed to develop competence.

Here is a link to Christiann's video further discussing this chart:

BTW, I am really loving his almost daily instructional materials that I receive as a result of my monthly donation to his Patreon site. Highly recommended - check it out!!!

I'm always interested in jamming with experienced jazz and gypsy jazz players in the San Francisco - San Jose area. Drop me a line. Bass players welcome!


  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 276

    My favorite teacher as well!

    im reluctant to try and squish my Ego into One of those boxes though! lol

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,654


    I just discovered that my box is “competent jammer”... now, if you”ll excuse me, I’m off to practice 3000 more hours and hopefully achieve “expert jammer” status sometime before I die...


    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • stuologystuology New
    edited February 2020 Posts: 113

    I fall squarely into 'competent jammer' - which will be news to anyone whose jammed with me. You can't argue with an objective chart.

    The most impressive player here is the beginner, who has learnt 20 tunes despite not putting a single hour of practice in.

    rudolfochristnicksansoneWim Glenn
  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2020 Posts: 720

    Well while I think that Christiaan is trying to be objective there are so many other factors at play that this is very much a generalization. I would think if you had us both in a room conversing about it he would agree with that statement. How one practices, who one plays with on a regular basis are all factors that can speed up or slow down progress. Also do you have a musical background heading into being a guitarist. Having played on high level jazz gigs I can tell you Gypsy Jazz is quite a bit different animal so are we talking Gypsy Jazz or jazz in general. The transition from jazz to Gypsy jazz will make the learning curve smaller but there is still the changing of technique to deal with, some people will pick it up faster, some not, it is a fun discussion.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,106

    I fit squarely into the 10,000 hours incompetent jammer category !!!

  • mac63000mac63000 Tacoma, WANew Geronimo Mateos Jazz B
    edited February 2020 Posts: 189

    I haven't read his explanation of this chart, but it seems rather arbitrary to me. And judging by other peoples' reactions, a bit harsh! I can't tell whether the table is trying to give beginners hope or to squash experienced players' egos. Making a table and putting players in boxes is too rigid, in an already quite rigid genre. Scoredog and Bones sum it up nicely for me: context matters and time spent does not equal a guaranteed level achieved. I'm pretty sure Django wasn't thinking "if I only had 5,000 more hours of experience... Or knew 50 more songs, then I've made it!" Though it certainly does help that he was a masterful player with an unreal understanding of harmony.

    I've watched a fair number of his videos and I think there is definitely useful material there, it's just a bit too prescriptive and clickbaity for my liking.

  • terrassierterrassier France
    Posts: 101

    I have prob done 2000 hours of noodling gypsy jazz and fall into beginner - never played with anyone - never really committed to learn the rep- so it completely depends on your quality of practice and how much head space you have left after your other life commitments to focus on quality practice.

    My only glimmer of hope would be that it wouldnt take me 2000 hours to get to competent ?

  • Posts: 3,287

    This is mostly to create additional interest for his channel, in my view. I didn't watch the video so I don't know if he offered some caveats to the table. By his own admitting the titles for the videos y are often clickbait, so instead of a title he offered this table this time. I'll have to watch a video now to be sure haha, damn Christian you really are good.

    mac63000Bill Da Costa Williams
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • criminelcriminel buenos aires✭✭✭
    Posts: 71
  • Posts: 3,287

    Haha...but why? He's giving good advice. Mostly... because I don't agree when he says don't practice modes, scales and etc... Well, he says don't practice modes and then he has a video where he's doing exactly that, playing harmonic minor modes, I think he's using root, 3rd, 5th and 7th, only he called it something different. Ok whatever, don't practice modes, fine...but he's not being objective because he came to guitar as a beginner but expertly trained musician. So he's mind is highly developed musically to where he can skip those kind of rudiments and just go straight to picking out phrases he likes, play them on the different areas of the fretboard, in different keys, see the connecting points between phrases when changing chords, have a vocabulary of minor/major/dominant/diminished etc... which the way I understand forms the bases of his "system".

    What I highly appreciate from him is that he is stressing out over and over again that the results he achieved and the top players is the reward after putting the hours in, hundreds and thousands. He said many times after he played some cool super fast and awesome sounding lick that he must've repeated that same lick for hundreds of times before it got to where it is. Which then there's a difference between the time spent with the instrument just playing whatever, noodling, and quality, focused time. I'm sure I put in 10,000 hours in my life but my playing doesn't reflect it. Because I only started practicing in recent years while I play the instrument for over 30. It's worth pointing out that this quality time can be just about anything as long as you have a goal in mind, I think that's the biggest differentiator. I still didn't watch the video and maybe he explains it somewhere but I think it's silly to think the expert and master have or need or can get away with a few hundred songs bucket.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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