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Bireli's picking style

nelson84nelson84 New
edited August 2007 in Gypsy Picking Posts: 28
While I understand why most players emphasize the importance of Django picking when picking up and down different strings, but from watching a clinic video with bireli lagrene, he mentioned that when he solos, he just picks whatever way comes most natural to him. Does anyone know if he picks true gypsy style (as Michael Horowitz emphasizes in his instructional books) or does he just do alternate picking....because i mean, if he does alternate picking....thats a pretty good example of true gypsy picking not being entirely essential for an authentic gypsy sound....bireli has some of the best tone ive ever heard...
any thoughts?



  • pdaiglepdaigle Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 233
    When playing on acoustic guitar Bireli mostly uses the gypsy picking technique. Occasionally, he will use a sweeping technique or alternate or economy picking (he does mention Frank Gambale in an article I have read) for a specific lick. When playing electric his technique is closer to modern alternate picking.

    Bireli was influenced by many different musicians and styles and he blends it all in his music this is what makes him great. That being said, on acoustic, I believe he mainly uses gypsy picking. Just watch his right hand in the following video if you are not convinced:

    Straight up GP with rest stroke and movement originating from the wrist.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,891
    Yes, Bireli uses primarily Gypsy Picking when playing Gypsy jazz. He may throw in some other picking techniques as well, but most of the time he's playing with a very traditional technique.

    On electric, he plays differently.

  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    it may look like it comes from the wrist, but it doesn't. it comes from the muscles that are used to raise and lower the forearm.

    he's got a funny tone in that video...sounds like a smurf tone. all of the formants are high...kind of like if you breath in a lot of helium.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,886

    Check out the Bireli & Friends Live Jazz a Vienne DVD. I'm no expert and I have not analyzed it but it sure looks like mostly rest stroke/gypsy picking. I don't have any way to slow down video to really check out the really fast runs, some of which look like alternate picking but he might also choose his left hand fingerings and arpeggios during those really fast sections to play 2 or 4 notes per string so that string changes automatically end up on downstrokes.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    yeah, it's rest-stroke 98% of the time...and the motion starts up in his arm.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    Yes Bireli is a Gypsy picker but he seems to adopt a more Bensonny pick technique when playing electric. Seems like the guy can do anything... even play a fretless like Jaco!

    As far as I understand the movement does come primarily from the wrist.
    The rest of the arm moves very slightly but only as a result of the wrist moving and it being so loose, the different parts of the hand /arm work together but the main power is generated from the weight of the hand falling with the wrist acting as a sort of pivot.
    Just textbook Gypsy Picking, isn't it?
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    I think it may look that way, because his technique is so subtle, but those little jerks from his arm come first. The energy then gets funneled into his wrist via a whipping motion.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,886

    Do you mean a rotation of the forearm/wrist or an up and down motion of the forearm from bending at the elbow? I'm trying to understand the subtle part that you are talking about.

    Can you recommend a part from the Vienne dvd that illustrates this so I can check it out?


    PS- BTW I enjoyed your vid of the valses. Do you have one of Montagne St. Genevieve?
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    Someone else described it best for me as like putting out a lit match (but less vigorously).
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    Alex, I also enjoyed your valses, nice work!

    I think understand what you're talking about...
    But isn't that just the regular way to do it?
    I mean I don't see anything different in the way Bireli and the rest of them
    pick, to me it's all just straight Gypsy picking, though the dutch guys do seem to apply more "bounce".

    Keep in mind that with a floating hand the wrist can't move totally independent of the rest of the arm.
    Try this, I hope it's clear enough: first keep the edge of the hand aligned with the forearm as a "karate chop" and move your wrist up and down, it moves independently.
    Now drop your wrist slowly to the Gypsy picking position while moving it up and down and you'll find that now the movement has sort of "spread" to the rest of the forearm all the way to the elbow.
    This is the normal way the wrist works.
    Is this what you mean?
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