This month’s lesson is one of the numerous Gypsy chordal devices you’ll find in the Pearl Django Play-along Songbook and Unaccompanied Django.
This chordal sequence (min, min/maj7, min7, min6) is commonly known as a minor “line cliche.” This progression is usually voiced so that there is a descending chromatic line starting from the tonic moving down to the minor 6 (i.e. in D minor the line goes D, C#, C, B). This device was used regularly by Django and has become even more common among contemporary Gypsy jazz guitarists. See my transcriptions of Improvisation #1, J’Attendrai, Just Relax, and Gypsy Etude #3 to see how Django and other Gypsies use major and minor line cliches to create harmonic movement.
This example of a line cliche places the chromatic line in the top voice. Its a great way to make a minor chord more interesting. Especially when you have to sit on one chord for 2 bars or more. In the audio example I play the line cliche twice: First time as written and then the second time I play a common rhythmic variation. This particular line cliche is commonly used by Dutch Gypsies such as Stochelo Rosenberg, Jimmy Rosenberg, Paulus Schafer, and Martin Limberger.
This month’s lesson is based on Picking Pattern #3 from the Gypsy Picking book. This pattern relies on sweep picking for maximum right hand efficiency.
This lesson uses a variation of Picking Pattern #3 to create a beautiful arpeggiated chordal effect. Django used this device for ending ballads, and it also appears in a number of his unaccompanied guitar pieces (See my book Unaccompanied Django). Just transpose this idea to whatever key you’re playing in, and voila! You have a great ending.
Occasionaly over the years I’ve seen Django’s famous composition Nuages listed as It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues. Often a lyric credit is also attributed to Spencer Williams. I finally did a little research and unearthed the following version of Nuages aka It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues. It was printed by Peter Maurice Music Co. in 1946. I suppose it’s possible Django might have actually collaborated with Williams in person during his tour of the U.S. that year.
It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues
I read through the introduction or “verse.” It’s nice, it could be used as an instrumental introduction for a more conventional Gypsy version of the song. The part we recognize as Nuages begins on the second page were it is marked “Chorus.”
Incidentally, many of the standards from this era have a “verse” which was part of the original show the song was from. They are largely forgotten now. However, its often worth doing some research to find out what they are. You’d be surprised how many introductions are based on the original verse. For example, check out Django’s 1953 version of Night and Day.
It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues was recorded by a number of famous American jazz singers. The most famous was probably Peggy Lee. Here’s a clip of her singing it.
Peggy Lee: It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues
Here’s another version by Monica Lewis.
Monica Lewis: It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues
And finally a contemporary version by Mike Ferre.
Mike Ferro: It’s the Bluest Kind of Blues
This month’s lesson is based on Picking Pattern #2 from the Gypsy Picking book. This pattern uses strict alternate picking to play an even number of notes per string (in this case four notes per string).
Lesson 3 uses Picking Pattern #2 to play enclosures around a G major arpeggio. An enclosure is when you play a note one step above and a half step below a chord tone. Django used this idea often and it has become part of the vocabulary of most contemporary Gypsy guitarists. At slower tempos eighth notes are too slow, so you’ll have to double-time it so its all sixteenth notes (listen to Django’s performance of Del Salle). Because this pattern uses straight alternate picking, you can play it extremely fast.
This idea can work over a variety of chord progressions. Try this idea anytime you’re playing over a Major or Dominant chord for several measures. It also sounds nice over Rhythm Changes tunes like Swing 42. Sometimes I use it over the A section to Djangology and Oh! Lady Be Good. You can also transpose this idea to work over other chords (minor or Dominant). Have Fun! -Michael
This month’s lesson is based on Picking Pattern #4 from the Gypsy Picking book. Django used this efficient picking pattern extensively to produce virtuosic effects. The following lesson is but one example of how Django used simple picking patterns to create incredible music.
Lesson 2 uses Picking Pattern #4 to play a G major scale as descending triplets. For faster tempos triplets are too fast so you’ll have to phrase it as straight eighth notes. It can work over almost any chord progression. The version I’ve written out works well over the A section to Djangology, Oh! Lady Be Good, and nearly any other tune in the key of G. You can transpose this idea to work in other keys (major and minor) and even change the type of scale you are using to fit more complex chord progressions. Have Fun! -Michael