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Kliphuis' Grappelli book review

panickpanick New
edited October 2012 in Violin
People have been asking about Tim Kliphuis' Mel Bay book/CD on Grappelli style. I wrote up a review for Fiddler Magazine before realizing that Paul Anastasio had written one as well. So I decided to post my review here. Hope it helps!

- Peter


Stéphane Grappelli: Gypsy Jazz Violin by Tim Kliphuis
[Mel Bay Publications, Inc. [url=http://www.melbay.com]www.melbay.com[/url] ; #4 Industrial Drive, Pacific, Mo. 63069]

Stéphane Grappelli, whose 1930’s recordings with Gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, defined the role of the violin in what is now known as “Gypsy jazz”, was notoriously bad at explaining his own playing technique. “The bow”, he once remarked, “ must go up and down.” Fortunately for contemporary students of this ever more popular genre, Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis is equally adept at teaching Grappelli style swing as playing it. For some years now, Tim has been leading workshops aimed at helping classical and folk fiddlers overcome the key stumbling blocks that fiddlers inevitably encounter when they try to pick up Grappelli’s signature brand of swing violin. In this book, he lays out the key ingredients of the Grappelli sound – his use of accents and ghost notes, bowings, positions and vibrato. He then introduces the basics of improvisation through the use of arpeggios – outlining the notes of each chord and then adding color tones. The book then turns to an analysis of six of Grappelli’s improvisations, which provide opportunities to introduce further nuances of phrasing and harmony, such as the use of chromatics and diminished chords, slurring, slides, and harmonics.

While it is, of course, impossible to learn to play jazz from a book, what this book does so nicely is focus our attention on those specific aspects of Grappelli’s approach to the violin that really defined his unique sound. By choosing examples from different time periods, Tim even pinpoints differences in phrasing between Grappelli’s classic recordings and his later more “modern” sound. Thanks to this attention to detail, even experienced jazz fiddlers are likely to pick up some tricks from this book. For the novice, this is a great way to get started. You will need to be able to read music to fully take advantage of it, although there is an accompanying CD that contains most of the examples used in the book (but not the Grappelli improvisations analyzed – for those, you should to listen to the original recordings anyway). For most examples, a knowledge of first position is sufficient.

Having observed Tim’s pedgogical skills at his workshops, I had high hopes for this book. I am happy to say that he did an excellent job of translating his in-person lessons to the printed page. For anyone with an interest in Gypsy Jazz or swing violin in general, this should be required reading.

- Peter Anick


  • PolkatPolkat Chico, CANew
    Good review. I've been using this book for about a year now and like it a lot. One thing I slightly disagree with is that a first position only player can make good use it. Many of the examples require a working knowledge of third position as well, which should be studied anyway to be a rounded swing player.
    Violin's swing the best!
  • beavertoofbeavertoof nashville, tnNew
    I got the book awhile back. I am primarily a guitar player, but dabble occasionly with swing on fiddle.

    I am having trouble fully grasping the ghost notes concept that he talks about in the book, or here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loK5OngK ... L&index=27

    While I understand what he is saying, and can hear him doing it in his video, when I listen to Grappelli, I don't actually hear that happening myself... I just hear Grappelli ripping thru a series of notes, all seem to be bowed evenly to my ears.

    Do I just have dead ears and am missing this obvious 'key' to Grappelli's playing?
  • PolkatPolkat Chico, CANew
    I too had a bit of difficulty understanding the ghost note thing. Let me be more clear, I understand ghost notes and how to play them, but like beavertoof, I don't actually hear them in the suggested listening (Grappelli) tracks. I do hear (or not hear as it were) a few (missed?) notes, particularly as he approached the end of his life, but maybe someone here can explain this better? Or is a ghost note an assumed note that's not actually played but fingered to keep a pattern going undisturbed (or as I mentioned before, may truely be accidentally missed?)? Hummm...maybe I'm making more out of this then there is.
    Violin's swing the best!
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    i dont know about the book, but in the DVDs, tim mentions that he's primarily teaching the grappelli style post django....

    if you listen to grappelli during the django era where there was no amplification system, he had to play a different way and ghost notes would not have been possible with 3 guitars playing fairly loud rhythm

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    I just met a guy with some classical violin training who told me he'd love to learn to play some Grappelli stuff... Should I recommend the Kliphuis book to him, or is there another that folks here like better?

    It seems that among GJ guitarists, opinion has definitely coalesced in favour of "Gypsy Picking" as being THE introductory book (thank you, Mr. H!)... Have the violinists similarly settled on a clear favourite yet?

    Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
    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.
  • There arn't that many gypsy jazz violin books to choose from. A while back there was the Grappelli/Glaser "Jazz Violin" book. Then Norgaard came out with the Jazz Fiddle Wizard books, an extension of which was Getting Into Gypsy Jazz Violin. And Kliphuis offered the Grappelli book/cd along with his DVD collection of lessons. Another good book that's been out for a little while is Chris Haigh's Exploring Jazz Violin, which, while it does not concentrate entirely on the Grappelli style, offers a wide variety of usable info. There are no doubt more that others will suggest.

    All these books are quite useful, but I can't think of one that has become a 'standard' among gypsy style violinists. I presently prefer the Haigh book, but that's just me.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Should I tell my violinist friend to buy 'em all?
    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.
  • Barring expense, there's so little help out there for gypsy/swing violinists that I'd say yea, buy 'em all!
  • lacrossehotclublacrossehotclub La Crosse WI✭✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    edited October 2012
    Recently I noticed that Elana James has produced a Hot Violin DVD. I haven't seen it but I've heard her play with the Hot Club of Cowtown and they've got a great sound.

  • I'm a fan of Elana's too. Met her a few times. I'd like to hear more about her book. Rather pricy, but I guess they are all getting that way these days.
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