How to Get to Next Level

jpipper17jpipper17 New Saga Cigano GJ-10
edited February 2020 in Licks and Patterns Posts: 34

Hi. I'd consider myself an intermediate guitar player. What has happened since I've tried to dive into Gypsy Jazz is I feel like a complete beginner. I cant put a loop on or backing track and play pead that sounds good, rhythmically or tonally.

Do advanced players literally have countless internalized phrases sunk into their being, that they understand inside in out? Or do they know arpeggios and practice picking a certain rhythm and are able to apply it to live improv?

I have no clue how to move forward as a player because the path to get to where I want to be seems daunting. I dont have fun when I practice one small piece of theory, try and apply it, and it not sound good.

How did you get to the next level, ie playing phrases with as seemingly the same ease in which you speak a sentence?



  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2020 Posts: 883

    Potentially a very long answer and there might be a bunch of different view points but to me advanced players have a vocabulary to draw upon which took time to process unless one is a servant. Compartmentalize, take a lick, fragment and get comfortable with it, add another and in a few days and then another and start piecing them together. Learning arpeggios hoping it will take you to the promised land is a step removed, better to find a musical way to play an arpeggio and start working it in from the get go. I have a many many ideas but this is where i would start.

    Also I never think of things as levels, we don't actually reach the next level because there really is not one, it is a fluid process of learning and then having it sink in and be natural.

  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 417

    Gonzalo Bergera said “learn a little and use it a lot”. Find a lick you like that works over a particular chord eg dominant 7th and make it fit over every dominant that comes up in every tune you’re working on. Your practicing should be more fun cos you’re always going to sound good now. If you practice arpeggios and scales thats whats going to come out. Its very important to really know the chord progression so you always know where you are in the tune. So work on that too. I’m kinda repeating what’s been said above! Hope this helps.

  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,161

    I made a few videos about this topic:

    beginner’s perspective:

    how Gypsies learn (not necessarily the best and / or only way:

    gypsy jazz rhythm:

    How I personally learned:

    Learning tunes:

  • edited February 2020 Posts: 4,832

    Here's a short version of what follows: use a major scale of the key of the song to solo and practice slow and the results are mostly the amount of time and focus that you put in. Now for the long version...

    What helped me feel a lot less frustrated is after a long time trying to figure out this thing of "following changes" and seemingly not getting anywhere and beating my head against the wall is when I said to hell with this, I'm gonna solo in the key of the song. That was my crutch for a long time. And I started having fun playing gigs instead of being eternally stressed. However I also was listening to a lot of GJ and my phrasing, even though it was all pretty much inside a major/minor scale, after a while started sounding like GJ because I was eventually able to somewhat musically express what was stuck in my head from all that listening. I practiced the picking intricacies, rest stroke, paying attention to the tone much more than arpeggios, licks etc. Then when I felt I'm at a comfortable place I started incorporating arpeggios, learning occasional lick and such.

    That was first, second thing that helped is when I started a slow practice. Before that I'd try to prepare for a gig, play at home at the tempo I'd be performing at and sound like she*t to my ears at the gig. When I started practicing as slow as it takes to where I can comfortably navigate the changes and keep my mind at two places at once, chord progression and my soloing ideas, I'd practice like this at home and go to the gig and you know what happened, I didn't sound like she*t any more. This means you sometimes slow down to one third of your performance tempo.

    But bottom line is it takes time. A sh*tload if you wanna get really good, like ripping good. So many times at Django in June, guys would answer the question "what did you practice when you were starting up?" with something like "I didn't really practice, I just played a lot, learned songs, solos and stuff but mostly I just played a lot". Sebastian Giniaux said: "trust me guys, there's nothing special about me that you guys don't have but I played like 10-12-14 hours a day. I was bad at school because I put all my time into music because I knew this is something I want to spend my life doing. It's all about commitment".

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465

    The first 30 years are the hardest. ?

    Seriously, learning vocabulary is a must. Jazz is a language. One needs to know words (licks) to make a sentence (musical phrase).

    Make your playing your practice and your practicing your playing.

    If you are stuck, find a teacher to help you improve. One can always learn from others. Bruce Forman told me that he took a couple of lessons with Joe Pass.

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH6, AJL Silent Guitar
    Posts: 346

    I was going to recommend checking out Denis and his DC music school and various videos before he heard the plea in your words and did so himself. Whenever I feel stuck, I often go back and review some basics from Denis, Yaakov Hoter, and Christiaan van Hemert. Helps me refocus.

    That said, I try to really concentrate on good tone, good rhythm, and a hard swing feel that’s on the mark, on the beat. I tend to concentrate on melody as my guide to soloing, but I have learned a lot by learning classic solos note for note to “Minor Swing,” I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “Nuages,” and a few others.

    I try to play every day, but not unless I feel it. Mostly, it’s only the late hour and the fear of disturbing my tenant next door that stops me from continuing to play late into the night. I generally feel more energized at the end than when I started. I usually end the evening practice by playing something beautiful I know well like “Tears” or “Nuages.”

    Progress does happen over time, and you can progress faster with focused instruction and practice. I only wish that I’d started studying this 10 years ago.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited February 2020 Posts: 6,155

    Well said Marc. Gypsy jazz, along with swing, bebop, and other forms of more traditional jazz are based on a language of melodic and rhythmic ideas that form a standard vocabulary that players use when improvising. The top players just have a bigger vocabulary and can execute these ideas perfectly at any tempo (well different ideas work at different tempos.) Of course you can develop your own phrases as well, but it's not easy to come up with good ones so don't try to reinvent the wheel. Just listen to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and of course Django. It's all right there.

    You don't even need to know that many phrases, just a few important ones (i.e. ii-V-I. I-vi-ii-V, and blues.) With 10 good phrases down you'll sound like a champ on most tunes.

    One of the things that has dawned on me after transcribing Django for 20 odd years is that he used the same ideas over and over and over again for decades. Even much of his later, more modern sounding stuff is just the same ideas that were modified through a few additional notes and/or rhythmic or harmonic displacement. Most of what he did came out of about a dozen fingerings on the guitar which he had down cold and could use to make endlessly varied, yet brilliant musical statements. On paper, it's all really pretty simple, it's just the execution that's the hard part.

    Of course, you can make the artistic decision to not learn the more traditional jazz and/or Gypsy jazz vocabulary, and there are players who do that but they're usually playing some sort of fusion or free jazz. But if you want to achieve the more traditional sound that Django and all the classic jazz players had, you have to spend a lot of time learning all the standard phrases.


  • stuologystuology New
    edited February 2020 Posts: 196

    There is only one reliable way to do this. Click Guitars / European and North American. Scroll past the ones you can afford. Then a bit further. Just a little bit more. Click on that, click 'buy', enter your credit card details and then wait for it to arrive.

    The joy of having a good quality guitar plus the guilt of knowing you've over-stretched your credit limit and can't possibly justify the expense is all the motivation you need to get seriously good.

  • edited February 2020 Posts: 1,233

    There are many good comments here and I'll add my 2 cents.

    I tend to think that you should learn as much of the repertoire as possible...the chords and the heads. That's one aspect of it. However, take a tune a month and sit with it. Get some GJ style and straight ahead versions of the heads. Learn them in a bunch of keys. If it can't be every key, try to determine what are the most common keys you might play in your current playing situation and learn in those keys. By learning, i mean make sure you just aren't moving it positionally down the're learning a different way to play it. Learn it in a different octave. spend some time comping with it. transpose these. pick a chorus or lines that you like. transpose those. As someone else said, limit your focus because it will translate to everything.

    Make sure you have a plan and stick with it. that plan must have attainable goals with subgoals and even subsubgoals. Don't set goals that are guaranteed to make you fail. Set them reasonably. Listen to these: and

    Also, get out and play.

    When given choices between taking a hotshit damn woowhee run and a melody, think about what one is really going to sound better. Chances are it's going to be the melodic run.

    Serve the song.

    Have fun and don't compare yourself to others. Enjoy it.

    I'm no one, really. I went from listening to this non stop to buying all the lessons and books and taking lessons to realizing i wasn't having fun. I hurt myself and I was just cramming stuff into my practice and hoping it would stick. Fast forward to now: in the past 30 days, I've been working one one chord melody and not even in this style. I'm having fun and that stuff is seeping in to my gig playing at a faster rate.

    Anyway, that's my take.

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