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The Seduction of Django's solos

ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
in Technique Posts: 233
I began my study of Gypsy Jazz 2 1/2 years ago like many of us: memorizing Django solos. Now, I am making a real effort to learn to solo on my own. I've been using Anthony Parker's great new book and tuning in to Christiaan's helpful videos to get that going.

I've hinted at this in other posts before in various ways. Now, as I really work on understanding licks, phrases, étude studies, I find myself drawn back into keeping the repertoire of solos I've memorized up to par. In fact, those solos often seduce me away from the more difficult task of learning the fretboard and understanding theory specific to Gypsy Jazz. In other words, the hard stuff. After all, will I ever be able to play anything more interesting than Django's solo for "I'll See You in My Dreams," for example?

So, fellow travelers, I'd be interested in how you broke away from my canon of solos out there and ventured into your own territory.

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Comments

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    ....... After all, will I ever be able to play anything more interesting than Django's solo for "I'll See You in My Dreams," for example?

    No you wont but neither can anyone else so it is an unrealistic aspiration. If you are happiest playing Django's solos then that's what you should do. Unless you are a professional, then it is what makes you happy that counts not what other people think.

    Having said that you should be able to string a solo of your own together if you have learned several of Django's note-for-note even if you start off by mostly using licks. To be honest, a lot of gypsy jazz players are primarily stringing together licks.

    MichaelHorowitzadrian
  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 558
    My guess is this going to be a long thread.

    listening to others like Stuart said is always good but when you start copping their stuff you are essentially doing what you are doing now, learning licks, and it is unlikely you will get much better just by listening. My suggestion is to learn the guitar better so when you play a Django lick you see where it is coming from. From there you can alter the lick or create your own licks based on what you already know. Learn patterns, scales and arpeggios throughout the neck or discover them at least where the licks you know already exist. If you can't find the associated scale, arp etc, a good teacher should be able to help. Maybe initially you will sound like one of those guys you mentioned who use Django licks and then sound different when they play their own but it has to start somewhere.
  • NejcNejc Slovenia✭✭ Altamira M01
    Posts: 92
    ....... After all, will I ever be able to play anything more interesting than Django's solo for "I'll See You in My Dreams," for example?

    No you wont but neither can anyone else

    I hate when people say such things.
  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,161
    Nejc wrote: »
    ....... After all, will I ever be able to play anything more interesting than Django's solo for "I'll See You in My Dreams," for example?

    No you wont but neither can anyone else

    I hate when people say such things.

    Maybe you do but it's true and I think you have to accept it or you will never move on. In saying that, I am of course referring specifically to Django style/gypsy jazz. There are many other great solos from performers in other musical genres.

    Nejc
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 560
    It's interesting the topic of learning Django's solos note for note. Ultimately, I think it depends on how much time you have to practice. If you have time to learn the solo note for note, perfect it, DISSECT it, analyze it, etc... then that's great. But it is seriously time consuming. To fast track your way to improvising, I still suggest you pick maybe ONE Django solo and keep it in your repertoire (meaning keep playing it often enough so you don't forget it).
    What I find is that, over time, your understanding of the solo will change, and more and more elements from the solo will find their way into your playing as this happens.
    As far as playing a solo as good as Django, well, that's a pointless pursuit, because it's all relative.
    I mean, Gonzalo, Mogniard, Bireli, Ginaiux, etc can all play faster, and more technically complicated lines than Django did, but does that make their solos better ?
    Maybe to some peoples ear it does, but it's different.

    Bottom line is, none of us are getting rich by being the BEST manouche player, so it's really all about the fun of playing.... In my experience, what makes this fun is jamming with others and actually improvising without sinking.

    Anthony
    nomadgtrScoredogaltonWim GlennpickitjohnDaveyc
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,747
    I think it's good to memorize a few of Django's solos just to get his ideas, phrasing, etc deeply ingrained in your playing. But you do need to move on as otherwise you will only be able to play those tunes at the tempo/key Django played them at. Ultimately playing jazz is about adapting to the moment so you'll need to learn to think on your feet.
    nomadgtralton
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 233
    Wow! Thanks guys. I'm so glad all of you have weighed in on this topic. Obviously, you have given a lot of thought to it in your own practice and/or have struggled with the same thing.

    To be clear, it's amazing how wonderful it feels to play the solo for "I'll See You in my Dreams." I tend to treat it as a set piece like I do with the version of the solo for "Indifference" I learned on Stochelo's site. To me, both of these pieces sometimes feel like classical music: pretty well set, but there is room for interpretation in the emotion of player. I think I can say that for Django's versions of "Nuages," "Tears," "Minor Swing" and "Minor Blues" all of which I've also managed to get it a pretty good handle on.

    Obviously it's been much easier to attempt improvisation on the less complicated swing and blues tunes than those with a lot of changes. But, there is something seductive about re-upping my membership on Stochelo's site and just spending all my time digesting and memorizing all the solos laid out so clearly.

    Nonetheless, there's a lot of good music in my head. I can scat sing, hum, whistle out a great solo over any of these tunes with ease. So, I think the trick here is how to get it from my head to my fingers and out the front of the guitar.

    To that end, it seems the way forward is to study and learn as much as theory and technique as I can, and then try to forget it and let the melody, emotion, mood take me where I want to go. Unfortunately, I find myself trying to do that now before I've got all my technique down. I vacillate between playing memorized solos versus allowing myself to wander without restriction in search of a good solo of my own. After all, the right note is generally only a half a step or a fret away. That's why I tend to resist just memorizing licks, per se. Yet, when I do memorize short phrases, I'm not afraid to alter time, speed, volume, or even mix up the notes as the feeling takes me.

    As you can probably tell by now, it's got my head spinning. Why else would I contemplate taking early retirement and devoting myself to spending all my time studying this music?!?

    I really appreciate the time fall of you have put into your very thought-provoking responses so far.
  • @anthon_74 ...not sure that anyone could play the acoustic guitar faster than Django. He was mostly about his artistry rather than speed per se.

    I have learned a couple of complete solos note for note in my 50 odd years of music. i have learned a few dozen single choruses of someones solo, and lots of short phrases that speak to me.

    I beleive that to develop your own voice (which is my goal) spending a huge amount of time on anyones work would be couterproductive. learning scales, patterns and such gives one a better toolkit. One can do this in a musical way or a pedantic way. One learns different things from each. When I was getting back into sax, I would spend hours noodling in keys and modes of keys to ingraine the fingerings.

    If you want to get somewhere efficiently, figure out where you want to be and then set a number of waypoints on the journey.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    Posts: 687
    I do agree with Teddy!

    I personnally tried a lot to play like "Me" and now I'm really bored to hear me playing and also to hear me playing so far from Django in terms of beauty and efficiency.

    I'm now considering that a way to exit such a loop is to place more attention on the sound that's to say on the way I produce the sounds on the guitar and with no doubts trying to play only with more delicacy and precision.

    I only had the intention to play with the language of Django but it is so hard
    Buco
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,306
    I agree with Jay that finding one's own voice is the jazz player's most important and most difficult challenge.

    As great as Django unquestionably was/is, there are lots of other great players around, both past and present, to inspire one in seeking one's musical voice.

    My personal constellation includes Eddie Lang, Oscar Aleman and Teddy Bunn (in the "dead guys" category) and for today's players: Howard Alden, Frank Vignola, Martin Taylor and both Pizzarellis... plus European GJ whizzes like Stochelo, Bireli, Sebastien and a few others.

    As Jay said, you've got to be guided by what 'speaks to you'.

    Some guys can play a million miles an hour and still leave me bored, while Eddie Lang can somehow manage to excite me with three simple chords.

    That's the mystery of music and life...


    Will

    I live in a little tourist town called Niagara-On-The-Lake, Ontario, Canada, which is about twenty miles north of Niagara Falls.

    If you are ever planning on visiting the beautiful Niagara area, feel free to PM me and perhaps we can get together and do some jamming.
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