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Joseph's use of barre chords

JonathankJonathank New
edited April 2006 in Gypsy Rhythm Posts: 12
Hi Michael, in anticipation of the new book thought I would ask this Question here.

In the video archive clip on this site for Joseph playing Sonny Boy circa 1955 he is clearly (to my eyes) using a number of barre chords. (From memory - I also think I spotted him doing this in the footage of Joseph, Grappelli et all playing sans Django in Paris on the A Life in the Jazz century DVD).

Now all of the various posts I have seen over the years on the yahoo site, your online lessons, Teds postings on the J'attendrai voicings, etc, etc suggest the Gypsy jazzplayers were more likely to use voicings with the thumb on 6th string and not the "modern" barre for example with root on 5th string, etc.

I note on your other clip of Joseph playing Bric a Brac you comment on how the musicians adopted US jazz styles and moved away from Django style e.g. flat four rhythmn. Do you think this is what happened with Joseph's rhythmn style or do you think he always played barre's?

Why do I think its important ? Surely any of the voicings is good enough? - well I'm focused on trying to get my rhythmn playing off pat before I even attempt soloing and over the last few years I have paid good money for a Nolan's book then found the voicings weren't matching the records, tried gadrodom but their charts and chord suggestions don't always match, noting Cosimini's voicings and some of the modern gypsy voicings don't match the original recordings either, and I am getting frustrated that my ears aren't hearing my fingers achieve that original joseph/roget/etc QHCF rhythmn sound.

Its like the postings on the Swing Blog point out I want to learn by developing my style through similar stages dajngo and joseph went through i.e trad jazz to swing 6ths to BeBop chords, etc.

So I can't quite wait to see what you have come up with in your new book!!

Cheers

Jonathan

Comments

  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    the chords used by the Quintet rhythm players were standard barre shapes. However, the chords played by most GJ rhythm guitarists nowadays are the ones like Ted posted - they are based on the voicings Django himself used.
  • KcoxKcox Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 110
    I think you'll find getting the ryhthm "down pat" is more fluid a thing than some purveyors of the style might have you believe. Learn all those different chord voicings and then use the ones you think sound best. One nice thing about the Cosimini books is that in some cases he'll tell you how he went about making his choice of voicings and how you might makle other choices.

    Being a great accompanist doesn't necessarily mean playing the song the same way with the same voicings every single time.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,827
    Hi Jonathan,

    Yes, Joseph definitely played barre chords. So did Baro, Matelo, and probably every other rhythm guitarist he played with. And guess what? Django played barre chords too! The issue is not whether or not it's a barre...ultimately it's the actually notes in the voicings that matter. And many of the voicings that Django used simply cannot be played using standard barre chords. You need to use your thumb and the one finger double stop technique. Joseph and the other previously mentioned accompanists certainly used unconventional non-barre voicings as well. However, since their role was to keep solid time and play only the basic harmony, it made sense for them to just grab the basic barre chords. So you don't see them using their thumb as much.

    The other thing that's important to note, is that once you get used to these unconventional fingerings, they're actually way more efficient then more familiar voicings. Rhythm players spend about half the time in what I call the "thumb position." They have their thumb hanging over the top of the neck, whether they're using it or not. This really helps make the chord changes seamless, especially at faster tempos.

    Also, I agree with Nick's assessment. Modern rhythm players use more tensions then the original Hot Club accompanists did.

    So the bottom line is, you don't need to use the thumb and other unconventional techniques. The right hand is far more important anyway. On the gig, I'd much rather have a guy playing simple bar chords and keeping killer time then have someone playing all the hardest voicings and totally botching the time.

    However, Django, his accompanists (only sometimes), and nearly all contemporary Gypsy players do use these techniques. So ultimate mastery of Gypsy rhythm playing requires that you know these voicings.

    The Rhythm book will have transcriptions of what the accompanists played on the original Hot Club recordings. Often it's very simple...and sometimes completely surprising. Like the intro for Honeysuckle Rose...no one plays that right!

    'm
  • JonathankJonathank New
    Posts: 12
    Thanks Michael - that was an excellent reply

    Cheers

    Jonathan
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    The other thing that's important to note, is that once you get used to these unconventional fingerings, they're actually way more efficient then more familiar voicings. Rhythm players spend about half the time in what I call the "thumb position." They have their thumb hanging over the top of the neck, whether they're using it or not. This really helps make the chord changes seamless, especially at faster tempos.

    Hi all,

    An old post, I know, but just thought I'd second what Michael says above for anyone new to the forum. If you've got the Bireli Live in Vienne DVD (or any other good video footage, really) you'll see great examples of how these fingerings make navigating standard changes (ii-V-I, turnarounds, etc.) extremely efficient-you barely need to move your fretting hand in many cases. I remember learning these as a real 'Eureka' moment; get them down and you'll suddenly be a lot closer to 'The Sound'.

    Best,
    Jack.
  • ghodaddyyoghodaddyyo The slums of OCNew
    Posts: 41
    Jack,

    I don't use thumb chords and still minimize my fret hand wrist movement. I will never be able to use effective thumb chords, not from a lack of practice, but from physical limitations. Small hands, short vienna sausage fingers, inflexible stub thumb. I wish I could use them so that I could qualify for this statement:
    So ultimate mastery of Gypsy rhythm playing requires that you know these voicings.


    :cry:
    "Aw, that's just pillow talk baby!"
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    ghodaddyyo wrote:
    Jack,
    I don't use thumb chords and still minimize my fret hand wrist movement.

    What I meant was it helps minimize the movement of your fingers when changing chords; if you're using the one-finger double stop you often don't even need to lift your fingers from the strings. So even if you're not adding the thumb in the bass those shapes can still be extremely useful, especially at some of the tempos that are becoming standard these days!

    Best,
    Jack.
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