Usually musical advancement is gradual, but every now and then you make some breakthroughs that really open a lot of doors. I'm curious to know what sorts of new ways of thinking have helped you guys out in your playing of this music. Perhaps they can help others out as well. Here are a few for me:
Gypsy picking: I have been slowly developing this style of picking for a long time, but my first attempts at it we're definitely not optimal. Over the course of several months, I made a few breakthrough refinements to my technique that helped me a lot.
1. I noticed that my thumb was getting very tired from practicing. I eventually realized that I was making a pressing motion with my thumb and forefinger to pluck the strings with a little more force. One day I tried playing using only my wrist and gravity, I could immedately feel the difference in speed and thumb fatigue. I never went back after that.
2. Arm placement: I was watching some videos of Bireli and Stochelo and noticed that their arms were placed much lower than mine. My arm was draped over the top of the guitar while theirs were more coming from the side and back. What this does is place your elbow lower allowing you to swing your arm more evenly over the strings in an equal arc. Previously, I would come at a bit of an angle and begin to get very close to the bridge when picking on the higher strings. I simply moved my arm and noticed that it took a lot less movement to reach those high strings and I could put more force into them.
3. Pick grip: I used to hold my pick with the tip of my thumb at a 45 degree angle on the pick. This caused me to have a large wrist angle of about 90 degrees to compensate for the striking angle of the pick. I always noticed that the gypsies angle isnt this big, but never made the connection with pick grip. On a whim tonight, I tried holding the pick on the joint of my thumb instead. Wow, what a difference. The angle of my wrist decreased considerably (forcing me to drag my fingers under the strings like stochelo) and the power of my playing increased in a major way! I immediately found that I could play difficult lines that I was not able to play before (such as the head to nuits de st. germain). It also feels nicer to not have so much "give" when I strike the strings, which was caused by the longer length of pick that was exposed in my previous technique. The pick feels absolutely secure and the weight of my fist is transfered much better.
Now that I watch the videos of gypsies playing, these sorts of things are immediately obvious. I also re-read the Gypsy Picking technique section and found right away that a lot of these points are described in detail.
So if you are struggling with technique, I would suggest watching closely real gypsy playing and nitpick the heck out of your own technique. Often the answer is not immediately obvious!