The Frank Gambale interview is here!


Argh is it really that expensive now? I recall making use of some offers (because I had the blues one), I don’t remember the exact price, but I may have payed around £150-180 or so (GBP). It was around payday and my defenses were low :smiley: . Also for the blues course I didn’t pay the full price, I think it was an early bird or a Black Friday deal, and I ended up paying about the same. They periodically seem to have discounts (you may have to sign up to their newsletter though) but the full prices are Frank-ly ( :sweat_smile: ) a bit high.

EDIT: And also, I think you can get a lot of mileage out of the examples in Troy’s interview, which you already have :wink: !


yeah man, I was going to buy it but when I saw the price - no way. I don’t think I would pay £150 either. Troy’s interview is probably way better.


I don’t think our interview is any kind of substitute for a serious instructional presentation of something. If anything, the giant quantity of interviews on our own site is pretty good evidence of that. We get a lot of feedback from viewers that they need more than just watching someone do something.

Presenting technical topics in a way that someone actually gets it, and really honestly improves, and doesn’t just say they improved because they enjoyed watching it - well, that’s no small task. So if we can help it I’d rather not throw around speculation about what’s in Frank’s courses or not.


Thank you for this @Troy and company. I first heard Frank Gambale, live, at Starlight Musicals in Indianapolis in the mid-1980’s. He was playing with Chick Corea’s Elektric Band, and they were sharing the bill with Herbie Hancock’s band. Michael Brecker et al., wow! Met bassist Darryl Jones afterward… What an amazing night that was!

He was fantastic then, and his playing has clearly matured far beyond that time. Great joy to check out his lines on the interview.


I watched the interview twice in the last couple of days, so many cool examples! The funny thing is that Frank just came up with them on the spot, while it may take me years (or infinity) to study these lines properly!

For me, one of the mysteries about Frank’s playing is his impeccable timekeeping, which seems very hard to achieve with sweep/economy. I have formulated a sort of hypotesis after (re)watching the interview: I think Frank uses target notes both in a melodic sense (which he says explicitly), but also in a rhythmic one (which maybe is implied by his “waves” analogy).

I.e. there are certain crucial notes that he makes sure are 100% in time, while the notes in between are sometimes allowed to fluctuate a little (particularly in very fast sweep sequences). Overall the phrasing is very tight and beautiful - so it’s all good!

It made me realise that maybe I should… chillax a bit more when I practice sweepy stuff. My idealised goal of perfectly evenly spaced notes may be a bit unrealistic!

Does this make sense or am I speculating wildly?


I think part of this is just playing to the strengths of whatever technique you are using at the moment. I pulled out this clip to illustrate:

It’s basically entirely alternate picking until he gets to sextuplet tempo, when the sweeping kicks in. But notice the hand doesn’t even really move faster at that point, it’s just the string changes that are giving you more notes for the same distance of movement. To do this with pure alternate you’d have to completely change the speed of your picking motion in the middle of a line.

So yeah first counterintuitive conclusion is that Frank is great at alternate picking, including both pickslanting and crosspicking movements. And two, he doesn’t always try to force sweeping to be totally even in time. If the sweeps are faster, let them be faster, that’s how you get radically different speeds inside the same phrase. Not all the time, but very often that’s how he uses it.


Thank you for this interview, definitely very interesting watch. I love Frank’s note choices.

I’ve always had this problem with Frank’s playing though – it has something to do with the sweeping technique, timing, and also tone. These examples don’t sound very smooth to me (and these lines present in 90% of Frank’s solos):

These descending groups of four notes are supposed to sound like 16ths, but they tend to sound more like sixtuplets, the lowest note having duration of previous three notes. Lowest note is longer because it takes more time to move the pick back to its original position. As a result these notes are neither 16ths nor sixtuplets, but something in between. To me, this sounds kind of sloppy in an unpleasant way. And that’s the problem with sweep picking, which is apparently so fundamental, that even Frank couldn’t eliminate it completely.

But it’s not only about timing. I think there’s also something going on with the tone. First note sounds somewhat brighter than the next three, which sound a bit muffled or slurred. And this, to me, just adds to that feeling of sloppiness.

So that’s probably the answer to Frank’s question “Why would I pick four times, when I can pick just two times” – because perhaps four times sound better in terms of timing and tone.

I wonder if I’m the only one here who perceives it this way.


I think it’s partly a matter of taste. As I mentioned above I do like the overall feel of Frank’s phrasing, because the important notes are always in time even though some sweeps have a looser feel to them.

There are also cases in which he plays every single note with great timing, the “Monster Lick” being a prime example:


I agree with everything said here including the response that it is a matter or taste. I have been thinking a LOT about time and groove over the past couple of years. Earlier this week I was doing a duo gig with a saxophonist I respect and talked with him about his approach to time. His reply kind of floored me: “Man, you rhythm section guys worry about time way too much.” Now, I’m thinking about loosening up a bit…

@tommo I do like the concept of using target notes for time. It makes a ton of sense.

@Troy Loved every minute of this video. It’s the one I’ve been waiting for. I hope to see some observations from you on Franks’s mechanics in a video. You always notice things that I miss.


I agree. As I mentioned above, one of @Troy’s follow-up video analysis for this interview would be great!


Of course I hear what you’re pointing out here. You are absolutely allowed to like or not like the timing of this particular phrase. But to be 100% clear, the examples you’re citing are not actually strictly sweeping:

These examples are sweeping and alternate picking, with an alternate picked string skip. That’s a whole different animal. It may very well be that the string skip part of a sequence like this has a tendency to take slightly more time. We’d have to test that. But to take these examples and make a “sweeping” conclusion (thank you, I’ll be here all week) about sweeping:

…really isn’t accurate. If you prefer totally straight time, there are lots of examples of sweeping in Frank’s playing and the playing of other players that have it. Tommo’s example is a good one. So we know already that this is not strictly due to sweeping per se, but perhaps a specific usage of it.

I’ll give you an example of my own where sweeping does not automatically lead to time issues:

Similar to the above examples, this isn’t pure sweeping - it’s a mix of sweeping and alternate. The hand needs to actually start and stop the picking motion to keep note-level timing equal, or more equal, for all notes. If you watch in slow motion you will see that the way I do this is with rest strokes. The pick actually hits the string and waits. The trick is not to push too hard on the note before the sweep - this makes it easier to stop the motion after that single note. Hitting the string helps, but it’s actually you, deliberately turning “off” the pickstroke, that really does the work. Over time, as the coordination of doing this increases, you’ll be able to do the start/stop thing faster and still be smooth. The payoff is that you can now play a fretting sequence that most pure alternate pickers, even all-time greats, have tended to avoid.

That’s just one example. My point is that techniques have characteristics. I won’t even call them strengths and weaknesses because that’s a value judgement. One person’s strength is another person’s weakness. Instead, I’d suggest that we simply need to be aware of the characteristics that techniques have and use them we want those characteristics.

When I listen to Frank, I hear a player in total control of time. When he wants totally even subdivisions he can get that. He alters his choice of phrase to aid that, so he’s not doing the multi-string skips. And he gets that time with serious groove. And sometimes he even gets it with pure alternate picking as in the earlier example I posted.

When he goes into rush time mode, especially for the big descending sweeps that become almost like rakes, no doubt, that’s a choice. You can like it or not like it. But the “rakes” are placed expertly in time. They start where he wants, often in syncopated fashion. In no way do I hear that stuff and think, this guy can’t control his tempo. He’s controlling it precisely as he wants.


I try to avoid getting pointedly into the aesthetic questions as the opinions are so incredibly personal, especially when folks may stumble across a thread and feel bad.

That said, aesthetics matter a lot to me too. But the more interesting question for me is what one takes from the predecessor and does with it in one’s own playing? We’re at an advantage with hindsight, especially with regard to the pedagogical setting, and Troy’s addressed some of the generalizations about sweeping.

We all are pretty attuned to detail if we’re on this forum, and with that comes a certain responsibility to take the individual artists out of some of the equation lest we harm folks that haven’t asked for criticism.

Fwiw, I don’t hear Yngwie’s sweeps and other escape tricks, nor do I hear the sweeps in super fast Charlie Parker lines I’ve been challenged to work on recently. I can’t strictly alternate pick those lines at anything close to tempo, and in the minds ear, the notes move so fast that without repeated listening, it’s mostly a pleasant blur.

Furthermore, a couple of things. I hear Gambale as having developed his approach and tone since I first heard him in the mid-eighties–who hasn’t? And where there may be shortcomings in a given tactical approach, to achieving a certain tone, if “fixing it” doesn’t really make sense for a given style, I can’t fault folks as I don’t really see a “fault.” Playing lines with distortion and pick slant constitutes a mostly different realm than the pointed articulation of Django’s jazz, or of very toneful, slow picked alternate-picking. I can’t really make an aesthetic assessment of what he’s doing these days for reals short of hearing him live.

The first time I heard Kind of Blue using a critical ear back in the eighties, I was astonished how “sloppy” it sounded relative to some of the fusion I was into at the time and relative to some of the “revivalist” jazz that was out there. Ultimately though, as with so many musical discoveries in life, I laugh now at my earlier first impressions.

I too loved the interview and his note choices, and I hope my thoughts are taken in the positive. My two cents. :slight_smile:


Can someone ever explain how he builds his lines?
Take any ex from improvising made easier…how he thinks?
Im thinking about that example whrere joe pass explains the “fretboard mental mapping” for a lick.
Thats the secret, later powered by sweep.


We talk about this specifically in the interview, and I tried to drill down as far as I could in the limited time. I think it’s essentially shape-based, like a type of CAGED. It’s very similar to what Joe Pass describes, which we’ve talked about here before, about dividing chords into families, learning the arpeggio shapes and scale shapes for those families, and then connecting them through changes.


I’ve a hard time imagining Gambale thinking in “CAGED” terms per se. The tablature for the interview should be revealing. Otherwise, it’s a pretty broad question with regard to jazz. I look forward to diving deeper with it.


I find it frustrating that there is neither a link I can find at Planet Waves (D’Addario) on Franks picks that he uses nor anywhere on Google. You know how many picks that could feasibly fit this description? It would be fun for me to try and test drive what he plays. Little help with a URL to purchase appreciated. Thanks


Caveat, I may be totally wrong about that if they were say, explicitly calling it that in the early eighties at GIT. For all I know he may refer to his playing as such. Either way, CAGED is a subset of systems that reference chord shapes underhand, and if one learns Berklee patterns first, it’s easy to find it odd to hear things categorized that way, so I may have been too quick to speak.


I don’t mean to suggest literally that he uses the term or is even aware of it. I don’t even really care about what you call it. But it’s pretty clear that’s what he’s doing. At one point he even runs through all the major arpeggio shapes up the board and says that he has them memorized so he can navigate them without thinking. Then he says, ok the notes not in the chord are the passing tones. Then he proceeds to fill in the missing notes to create the scale right on top of one of those shapes. Then a few minutes later he demonstrates swapping out one dominant scale for the new one, in the same spot on the board, when the chord shape changes. “Every position has everything” he says. I respond, so you have all those scales clustered in that one area right on top of that chord shape, and he goes, “Yes, that’s what you do!”

This is basically CAGED. Again, not religious about the terminology. If you prefer, let’s call it “chord shape to scale shape mapping”. That’s a more practical description. But if you want to know what he’s doing, he pretty much spells it out. With killer playing examples like this:


It is weird. I did some poking around and found them and ordered a pack. I think this is the exact one he uses in the interview:

I will say, it actually does slide over the strings as he describes. But you still get that snappy attack that Frank totally has, and that you don’t usually get when you use a lot of edge picking like he does. You have to set up with his arm position and grip, but when you do, using this pick, you can totally see how this works. It’s a little like doing an impersonation but it’s cool.

Frank Gambale's pick

FYI the tablature is up there. If you spot any errors let us know we can fix them pretty easily now.