How to practice for glitch-free performance?

Question by Bill Sargeant
(San Francisco, CA)

Hi Marc,
What is your practice recommendation for cleaning up a passage that has glitch prone spots?

Two examples that come to mind in my practicing are: the head to “Donna Lee” and a three chorus blues which Joe Pass plays at the beginning of his “Blue side of Jazz” instructional tape. Both of these are technically challenging for me and have been practiced over and over again.

Still, the mistakes happen although there are no spots that can’t be played right at least some of the time. This is a recurring situation in my playing that passages will become playable to a certain point and almost never up to 100%. Usually at that point they become tiring to practice and more interesting things come along.

It would be great to get a few things under my fingers that can be played reliably.

Any ideas?

M-A’s Answer:

Hello Bill,

Oh wow… this is a really BIG one!

I have to be very honest with you : I don’t know. Every musical situation, player and piece is different. It would be hard for me to “nail it” down in a few paragraphs here…

Instead, I will share my own experience so you (and other visitors) can hopefully learn from it. Well, I guess this is what I’ve always done on this website, right?!



In my 15 years of playing the guitar (with 6 being focused hardcore on jazz, averaging 1000 hours a year with is roughly 3 hours/day), I have come to the conclusion I that only “my own stuff” can be executed with perfection. If it’s anybody else’s ideas, I’ll have to compromise somewhere and phrase/play my own way.

Wes Montgomery chord solos? Sure!

Pat Metheny burning on “Solar”? Yes sir.

Jim Hall subtle lines in 3/4? Anytime!

Charlie Parker cooking on Donna Lee at 344 BPM? You betcha…

… BUT, I have my “glitches”. I must admit there’s a big proportion (50%, 60%, it depends) where I must “transpose” the thing into my own language and really own it so it sounds like something.

… or else I’m just a pale copy! (Know what I mean?) It may sound depressing never to be able to play like you idols, but you have to understand that “You’re the Only You” (an article written by a friend of mine).

The flip side of the coin: If you recorded me playing a few choruses of blowing on a standard (I know well) at mid-tempo, I’d bet 99.99999% of other guitarists (including the top players) couldn’t reproduce what I do exactly.

Not that I feel superior or inferior to any other guitarist. It’s just the way it is. No two musicians/guitarists are the same and practiced the same stuff. Your choices, you personality, physical and time limitations, your ears, (etc. etc.) are all different!

So cheer up and say this out loud : “If I can’t imitate the great players perfectly, they certainly can’t imitate me perfectly. Why would they, anyways?!”

I hope this helps,
Marc-Andre Seguin

On the technical level, I believe if you want something “bad enough” you’ll eventually have it. I was (and still am) a poor technical player… For example : I won’t say what tunes or exercises but I’ve been working on some music for 3-4 years… without any success or chances of ever “getting it right”.

Then you wake up one morning and BANG! you got it (3 years later).

Persevere my friend.

Comments for How to practice for glitch-free performance?

May 27, 2011
to Henry
by: Marc-A (Admin)

Hello Henry,

Thank you for the nice words.

In fact, I would LOVE to hear my visitors play through a community page on this website. I’m currently working on a brand new layout/design for the whole (it’s taking a lot of time but it’s worth it).

I will be adding a “Share Your Mp3s” kind of page very soon, as part of the new design. Stay tuned!



May 26, 2011
by: Henry

You seem to be an honest musician. I’;m betting a damn good one.
I’ve played for well over 50 years and you’ve reflected some of my own of my very feelings and experiences.
I’m so glad I happened on to your site. It’s now in my favorites.
Are you ever interested in hearing some of your readers playing or is it too much?
Henry in Texas

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