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Gypsy Rhythm: How loud should it be?

guit-boxguit-box ✭✭
edited August 2013 in Gypsy Rhythm Posts: 47
I was having a discussion/debate with another guitarist about how loud the gypsy rhythm should be. His take (from having taken a lesson with a couple famous players) was that you have to play all 6 strings on each beat, and that because of this, the rhythm is supposed to be loud.

I've always felt from a musical standpoint that the melody and soloist is the central part of the music and any rhythm should never cover it up. I know this to be true in all other styles of music and I can only assume it to be true in gypsy jazz as well. If the rhythm player is playing 6 strings and the soloist 1, then obviously there is a likelihood the rhythm will cover up a soloist if they are not careful. Also, different soloists have different dynamic range capabilities, so the rhythm player has to adjust to make sure they are "accompanying" and not forcing the soloist to play with more right hand force than they'd like to. I've watched/listened to a lot of different rhythm players, and the ones that I like such as Hono Winterstein and Nous'che Rosenberg do not seem to be playing all 6 strings all the time or hitting the strings with much force. Also, it doesn't seem to me that playing lightly and playing all 6 strings are mutually exclusive. I personally really like to have the option of playing a melody or solo with a wider dynamic range. If I'm struggling to be heard, then that forces me to play fortissimo and I end up not feeling like I can play musically. I've heard some gypsy rhythm that is very loud (mostly in jamming situations) and to my ears it sounds like the soloist is buried in rhythm and/or forced to play too hard.

Anyway, there must be other players thinking about these issues so I thought I'd post this debate. What are your opinions about how loud the gypsy rhythm should be and whether or not you need to play all 6 strings?
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Comments

  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 384
    I think the rhythm should be at a level where it sits under the soloist. This will change depending on the soloist, obviously.

    As a pretty loud soloist, I like the rhythm to be fairly present, so that if I play a loud tremolo or gliss, I can still hear the accompaniment beneath me and we come out of it in the right place together - I have had experience with rhythm players playing so quietly ("sensitively"), that I can't use my full dynamic range for fear of overpowering them and not being able to hear the beat. Likewise, I think we've all suffered under - and at some stage probably been ourselves - overly loud rhythm players that limit the soloist in the other direction and obscure the lead line, which will never sound good.

    So the answer, in my opinion, is that a good accompanist listens constantly and adjusts to whomever they playing with.

    Soloists though, I think, should hold up their end of the bargain too, and be able to put out a reasonable volume level - if you're forcing your rhythm player to barely touch their guitar, that's not fair either, as it makes really swinging almost impossible.

    Jon
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,059
    as jin said, loudmess depends on the soloist, and even style of rhythm... for a guy like jon ( tchavolo from down under) i d use a very typical gypsy swing rhythm with a fair amount of drive, but for someone who plays softly, i ll use a softer touch and mayvbe even a digferent sound...

    that said, just because u hut all the strings does nit mean it has to be loud, with proper training and technique, yiu can easily control the volume without changing the tone of the rhythm
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    Was just thinking about this last night, watching Rosenbergs Live at New Morning. Among so many other attributes, always marvel at Nous'che's uncanny ability to be so soft, yet swing so hard at the same time.
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • guit-boxguit-box ✭✭
    Posts: 47
    Has anyone come across players who teach that you should always hit all 6 strings for gypsy swing rhythm? I just watched videos of Stochelo, Hono, Andreas Oberg, Bireli, Nous'che. To my eyes, 90 percent of the strokes are on the low 4 strings with an occasional 2nd string for a higher voicing mixed in for effect. All of these guys play with an arcing from the wrist, from what I can see, so that would also likely make you miss the first two strings. I have seen a couple vids where people play from the elbow more, and their arm can go past the first string on beats 2 and 4. It's hard to say since I've never had the opportunity to ask any of them, and it can be difficult to see what's going on with fast hands on tiny youtube videos. Clearly there are different approaches, but the ones I've listed are some of my favorites and they seem to play without being too forceful or heavy handed. I wish I could understand what Hono is talking about in his video, but I don't speak the language. It seems like he has some alternate swing rhythms that are a modern jazz take on the gypsy rhythm--quieter with some palm muting. Can anyone describe what he's doing and talking about?
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    Guit-Box, I'll prefsace everything below by saying, take what I say with a grain of salt...still very much trying to figure this out. Denis could speak to all of this - I highly recommend his accompaniment DVD. Others, you may already have: I also recommend Michael Horowitz's Gypsy Rhythm book, Hemert's (Christiaan's) recent indiegogo campaign for Nous'che rhythm style, and sounds like you already have Denis's DC Gypsy School, Hono Winterstein material. Hopefully Denis will chime in but in the event no, my observations:
    guit-box wrote:
    Has anyone come across players who teach that you should always hit all 6 strings for gypsy swing rhythm?

    Well, Denis, for one. Not "should," but lays it out very well that as an option in his DVD. I believe Denis does teach that as one approach for beginners..always easier to "pull back" (this, or dynamics) perhaps, then start clanging on the bass strings and later develop a smooth attack, on whatever strings one chooses to use in accompaniment. That's my read of what Denis teaches, anyway. Fapy sounds to me like he does this, largely, plays all strings.
    guit-box wrote:
    I just watched videos of Stochelo, Hono, Andreas Oberg, Bireli, Nous'che. To my eyes, 90 percent of the strokes are on the low 4 strings with an occasional 2nd string for a higher voicing mixed in for effect.

    I can only speak to Stochelo, Hono and Nous'che (and that, from videos only), but yep, that's my observation as well. But it's important to say, "bass strings on beats 1 and 3," because on beats 2 and 4, the percussive beats, they're hitting all the strings.
    guit-box wrote:
    All of these guys play with an arcing from the wrist, from what I can see, so that would also likely make you miss the first two strings.

    Again, my observation only, but I think there is a distinction here between beats 1 and 3 on the one hand, and beats 2 and 4. Took me quite awhile, and I may still be wrong, but Nous'che is very "square" on beats 1 and 3, from my study of him. Very dry, very square, and not arc'ing - which he clearly does on beats 2 and 4. The full "thwack" of these beats, it's natural for the wrist to fly, and arc.
    guit-box wrote:
    I have seen a couple vids where people play from the elbow more, and their arm can go past the first string on beats 2 and 4. It's hard to say since I've never had the opportunity to ask any of them, and it can be difficult to see what's going on with fast hands on tiny youtube videos. Clearly there are different approaches, but the ones I've listed are some of my favorites and they seem to play without being too forceful or heavy handed.

    I see this alot, mostly in "new wave" players, meaning, younger guys who have been influenced by the current Parisian movement, for want of a better term, in playing.
    guit-box wrote:
    I wish I could understand what Hono is talking about in his video, but I don't speak the language. It seems like he has some alternate swing rhythms that are a modern jazz take on the gypsy rhythm--quieter with some palm muting. Can anyone describe what he's doing and talking about?

    If you're talking about the DC videos, yep, he does talk about this. Basically, he's talking about changing the style of accompaniment to suit the needs of the soloist - in this case, Bireli Lagrene, who I understand showed Hono this technique. Much straighter wrist, indeed, muting the strings with his right hand. One method, a "modern" sound, in an arsenal of accompaniment techniques.

    Paul
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,059
    your observations are spot on :D

    btw the hono videos have english subtitles...
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 560
    guit-box wrote:
    I was having a discussion/debate with another guitarist about how loud the gypsy rhythm should be. His take (from having taken a lesson with a couple famous players) was that you have to play all 6 strings on each beat, and that because of this, the rhythm is supposed to be loud.

    Okay, not to state the absolute obvious, but I assume you are aware that Gypsy jazz rhythm guitarists are essentially playing the role of the drummer. The Pompe', if I'm not mistaken, is a mimic of the classic swing High hat ride.

    So comparing gypsy jazz with other types of music in terms of the rhythm guitar makes little sense unless its a musical style where the rhythm guitar is serving the role of drummer as well.

    So perhaps a more important question is "how loud do I like my drummer to play?"

    Anthony
  • JonJon melbourne, australiaProdigy Dupont MD50B, '79 Favino
    Posts: 384
    Just echoing that Fapy plays and teaches hitting all 6 strings on every stroke. He has a light, traditional, really swinging rhythm sound - my favourite. As Denis said, dynamics is not just about how many strings you hit - you should be able to play under most soloists while still hitting all the strings if you are relaxed and in control.

    Jon
  • Nothing left to say :lol: :lol:
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    dennis wrote:
    your observations are spot on :D

    Jeez, um, er, really? That would be an absolute first, Denis! Now, if only I could play as much as I can observe, and talk, hahahah.
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
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