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Another Newcomer to the Jazz Manouche world...

Andrew UlleAndrew Ulle Cleveland, OH✭✭✭ Antoine DiMauro modele Django
in Welcome Posts: 527
Hello to all in the forum -

While I have been playing guitar (rock-n-roll rhythm) for many, many years, the gypsy jazz bug has been buzzing in my ear since I saw the film Chocolat in 2001 and heard Johnny Depp playing Minor Swing. After 13 years, I finally bit the bullet and acquired an entry-level GJ guitar (an Asian made Del Arte DG-H1), and have started to teach myself the style. Alas, where I live, there are no gypsy jazz bands (well, there is one part-time quartet), and no one that teaches the style as far as I know. So I am stuck teaching myself, and that is why I am joining this forum - to pick your collective brains to guide me to the best DVD or online instruction I can afford.

From what I have read on older posts, it seems the consensus is that Denis Chang's "THE ART OF ACCOMPANIMENT" and Michael's "GYPSY PICKING" are probably the best places to start.

I am really attracted to the rhythmic style of GJ (and I guess that's a good thing, being that it's so important to the genre), and my background is mainly rhythm playing. Of course, playing rhythm guitar in a 60's band only requires 3-5 chords at most, and now I need to master about 40 new ones. I haven't learned a new chord since I was 18, I think, so I'm a little rusty in the "new tricks" department.

As an experienced player, I understand the fastest way to learn is playing with others, especially those a little better than I am. Unfortunately, I don't think there are any GJ enthusiasts within 50 miles of me; in fact, it seems that there are very few quality GJ groups in the United States. I guess I'm going to have to be satisfied watching DVDs or youtube as my only form of musical inspiration.

So I am asking for any advice that anyone here wants to give - best instruction packages, best books, etc., or just any general hints to help jumpstart my playing. Even if you have suggestions of what to avoid as a beginner, I'll take that too.

Thanks in advance for all your patience with newbies like me.
Ryan Rhea


  • Hi and welcome. You can't go wrong with Dennis and Michael. One can easily spend two or three hours a day for A few years mastering all that is in those two alone.

    A lot depends on how you learn best. Are you a book learner, DVD or live lesson learner? Anyway, as you have been playing a while I am sure you know that answer. Follow what works best for you. Several good online or skype lessons as well.

    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • JSantaJSanta NY✭✭✭ Gaffiero Modèle Original, Gaffiero Magda
    Posts: 227
    Welcome! Because you mentioned rhythm, I would take a look at Michael's Gypsy Rhythm book. It is an excellent resource, and the play along CDs are immensely helpful. I've also picked up Gypsy Picking and Gypsy Fire as well to work on my rest stroke technique. The Rhythm book is a fairly exhaustive resource. I've had it for a few months now and really feel I've only scratched the service. When I listen to a good player, I know I have a long way to go.

    You mentioned that there is a Gypsy style quartet near you. You would be surprised how helpful people in this community really are. Reach out to the guitarist and see what he/she says. I've found that everyone really wants to help new players. Even if it's just sitting down a couple of times, it helps a lot. I've taken a couple of lessons from a local monster player, and just those few hours made a big difference.
  • In addition to the resources already mentioned, you also can't go wrong with the Hono Winterstein lessons at DC Music School.
  • Andrew UlleAndrew Ulle Cleveland, OH✭✭✭ Antoine DiMauro modele Django
    Posts: 527
    Thanks, I will check out Gypsy Rhythm - and the DC music school lesson - those sound right up my alley. Also, has anyone heard of/ tried the conmputer-based "Djangolizer?"
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 128
    Spend time playing rhythm with a metronome and make sure your technique and hand position develop properly. Start with the metronome click only on the 2 and 4 and then later switch to only on the 4 (so setting it to 52bpm would actually be 208). Everyone who has strong rhythm, good feel, and proper technique is fun to play with whether their solos are rocking your world or not. Playing rhythm properly will help keep your picking technique on track for soloing as well.

    A lot of folks come to GJ with some other kind of guitar experience and there's nothing wrong with that. But by and large I think American players are too comfortable only developing a hybrid style of both rhythm and lead playing that stays infected by whatever they were doing before they took up GJ. The most common issues are 1) brushing or slapping the strings instead of really digging in and strumming them, 2) moving the right/strumming hand too fast and too far past the strings, 3) a "bad wrist" from some other style of play, especially from folks coming from electric guitar, and 4) over-accentuating the 2 and 4.

    I've heard lots of good things about the books and schools and I think any of them is sure to be a good investment. You can also gain a lot from studying YouTube clips. I prefer small, acoustic clips because GJ guitars sound better unamplified.

    As for soloing:
    1) Concentrate more on your right hand technique than you'd think.
    2) Learn licks and just play them over and over again so you can play them better than something else that lacks the muscle memory.
    3) Practice soloing with a metronome while moving through the chord changes for the tune in your head.
    4) Collect and play along with backing tracks like the ones at Stephane Wrembel's site. Making your own is a good idea too.

    Finally, go to Django In June next summer (and any of the Djangofest events near you too). That's the best way to join the global community of gypsy jazz folks who mostly live in North America. Plus as an ancillary DIJ benefit, replacing all your Facebook friends with GJ players from all over the world is really refreshing. Imagine if every time somebody posted a picture of their kid or a plate of food in front of them it was a photo or video of a gypsy jazz combo instead.
    Ryan Rheajonpowlkevingcox
  • crookedpinkycrookedpinky Glasgow✭✭✭✭ Alex Bishop D Hole, Altamira M & JWC D hole
    edited August 2014 Posts: 880
    I thoroughly recommend buying the Dennis Chang backing tracks, in contrast to some they are well recorded and played at sensible tempos. And definitely get a steady rhythm technique down first.
    always learning
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,267
    Another trick for learning chords/rhythm (especially since you don't have anyone to jam with) is play along with recordings of groups/songs that you like. Slow them down to where you are comfortable and can 'groove'. Pick a number of them with different chords/progressions/keys (Minor Swing, Django's Tiger, etc.) and pretty soon you will be able to remember the chords.
  • spatzospatzo Virtuoso
    edited August 2014 Posts: 766

    All above is good advice to me. I agree with Jazzaferri it depends mostly on you.

    A good start, not disregarding Dennis and Michael great works, could be the Nolan Gig Book that gives you the shape of the chords, the changes of the tune and an easy choice for melody playing too.

    Later or not another idea is to take some easy to manage software such as the free Audacity, to record on it the easier tune you like, first the chords on one track and then to record on another track three choruses: one chorus with the melody, one chorus of improvisation (whatever it is) and then to turn back to melody on the third chorus; You might then send the draft result here and we will certainly be able to give you more ideas of the work to be done. Your production will be welcomed.

  • jonpowljonpowl Hercules, CA✭✭✭ Dupont MD-100, Altamira M01F
    Posts: 676
    I second everything stated here, especially The Gig Book. I really like Samy Daussat's Cours de Guitare Jazz Manouche found on Facebook, and it's free. He posts a video and a PDF for every lesson, but it's in French. Gypsy Picking and Gypsy Rhythm by Michael Horowitz and the Renier Voet 50 GJ Licks on True Fire are very good for rookies.
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