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How to Learn to Phrase like early Django

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  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited August 2014 Posts: 1,655
    <I>. I also think Django got more from Eddie Lang than he would ever admit to. </I>

    Hear, hear!

    While Lang's single-string solo style tended to be bluesier and more "position-based" than Django's, Eddie had a unique genius as an accompanist that made all his playing partners sound great; most notably violinist Joe Venuti, guitarist Lonnie Johnson, and vocalist Bing Crosby.

    Lang and Venuti, who began playing together as children, invented a duo style in which the guitar and violin blend so perfectly they almost seem to be a single entity, and while Reinhardt and Grappelli didn't attempt to directly copy that style, I think you can hear its influence upon them.

    Also, I used to have a cassette tape of Django recordings with various French singers. Although that tape is long gone, I vividly remember one of the recordings (name now long forgotten, alas) in which Django deliberately copied an Eddie Lang lead guitar lick... and not in a sarcastic manner, either, but in such a respectful way that you could sense the reverence!

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 3,707
    I think that Django ripped licks just like everyone else. In His solo on Blues Clair I think its at the end of the first chorus, he plays a lick, that Benny Carter played I think in Farewell Blues. Note for note about a bar and a half long, but Django played it with a little different feel..

    Play what you hear in your head. The more one studies anothers work the more influence that will have on one's playing. Master all early Django, and while you won't be able to improvise like Django, one will be able to play some pretty fine music if one stops trying to play it note for note.

    You can never truly improvise like anyone other than one's self.

    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • The following thread really helped me out quite a bit:
    http://www.djangobooks.com/forum/discussion/9612/i-need-a-great-soloing-workout-plan/p2

    Specifically, Jon Delaney shared his practice regimen (at the time) which he posted as this:

    <i>1. Pick a solo - probably Django is a good place to start and end, although Tchavolo is good too, because he plays simple ideas, but really, really well, and with amazing time.
    2. Learn the solo (100% speed, and being very picky about technique and timing
    3. Figure out how everything in it fits against the chords theoretically (chord degrees etc)
    4. Could you have thought of all the phrases - ie do you have an arpeggio pattern to account for each phrase?
    5. If not, practice patterns for the ones you don't
    6. Work out whether some licks could work over different types of chords (ie often minor lines work also over the relative major, or over the dominant 7th a fourth above...major lines that don't use the 7th often work verbatim over dom 7th chords)
    6.5 Some licks work well starting a beat or a half beat earlier or later. Try playing the lick starting on all of these beats - 1,1+,2,2+,3,3+,4,4+
    7. Take one short phrase at a time from the solo and improvise over a new tune playing only that phrase - finding a way to make it work over every chord, or just leaving space if you can't.
    8. Are there any "tricks" or technical gimmicks in the solo (chromatic runs, DUD picking licks )etc? If so, learn them exactly and go back to 7 to practice them.
    9. Learn some hard Waltzes to get you technique working.</i>

    For me, this kind of works. I'm not interested in sounding like Django because I won't. But studying his solos is a great way for me to learn how to phrase better and to see the neck a little better. You can plug in whomever you like into this and the principle is generally the same.I'm doing this with players who play a bit more modern to help me hear that sort of thing a little better.

  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2014 Posts: 128
    The only thing I'd add - and I'd respectfully suggest that for your situation this is actually more important than all the theory conversation about soloing: the right hand technique comes first.

    It's way too tempting to talk about which lines, how many note for note solos, which arp ideas, etc. All of that is totally true and I wouldn't want to take anything away from it. Still, I think that the older you started the more likely you spent time NOT gypsy picking. You gotta take all that fiddly-wristed rock/blues/jazz/folk picking and kill it with fire.

    I mean, you don't HAVE to - anybody can do whatever they want. It's just too easy to get wrapped up in the left hand work and forget how important gypsy picking is.
    kevingcox
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 128
    Oops! The other thing I like to harp on: study rhythm to improve your lead playing. I think the right hand learns by getting your chunk on and I think there's a lot of room for most folks to refine their gypsy rhythm playing.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    Wrembel suggested to me years ago that I start with Django's earliest tunes and learn a few before progressing to the later stuff. The earliest stuff tends to be simpler, musically, than later playing. It's a great place to start understanding Django's phrasing and approach to the fretboard.

    Jay, I get exactly what the OP is talking about, and it's a perfectly appropriate approach to the music. If you are going to play the music that evolved from Django, why not start with the master in his early years? It's not about comparing yourself to Django. It's about learning from him. No one has topped him yet, so why aim for the second or third tier?

    You may be right about starting late. I certainly have more issues with technique and retention than I had when I was young. But the joy is in the journey, is it not? Only a handful ever make it to the top of the slope, but the view keeps getting better as you work your way higher.

    I absolutely do not have the skill set to solo well in this genre at speed. But I do enjoy playing something Django played, note-for-note, albeit slowly, and at least enjoying walking where his fingers walked, so to speak. No one has ever matched Django's sense of phrasing. Who else would you want to copy?

    The best players want to develop their own voices, but some of us will never get there. I'm just happy when I can steal a few licks from Django and actually use them in a song.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • You have completely cleared up what the OP was saying. I was pretty sure I wasn't getting it right. Delaney's regime is pretty standard jazz school practice. Only thing that might be added is playing it in different positions. Uon sax, until I can creatively arpeggiate my way through a tune, I know I haven't mastered the harmony.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 290
    I want to thank you guys for thinking and posting about this topic. This is exactly the conversation I was hoping to inspire.

    A number of things hit home for me very immediately, but other approaches are not for me. As to the idea of "shortcut,"I guess what I really mean to get at is this: I want to cut away what will not be useful to me and concentrate on what will.

    For example, after reading the post today, this is the second time this week that someone has suggested that I listen to Louis Armstrong solos as a possible inspiration for Django. This observation along with the one noting how "playful" Django solos are, hit home for me very strongly having been born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. So, in addition to listening to very early Django material, I will also be listening to the very early Louis Armstrong material for inspiration and instruction.

    Technically speaking, some of you have generously laid out a very straightforward tactical approach to ingest as much knowledge of the fretboard as possible. Unfortunately, I have always been a "by ear" player, not unlike, however, a lot of the gypsy players themselves. But, I'm doing my best to improve in the technical area.

    As to the suggestions for paying attention to right hand, and particularly, picking and rhythm, I do agree. I've spent a lot of time learning gypsy picking, and have been working my way through Michael's Gypsy Picking book. It does make quite a difference in the sound of a solo. My current instructor (Chip Wilson in New Orleans, also a fantastic performer), is also great jazz accompanist and soloist, and has given me a good deal of knowledge regarding court structure and economy of movement.

    I do enjoy learning the solos note for note. I noticed that many of the master gypsy players do show respect for Django by beginning the classic songs playing his solo note for note before going on with their own solos. This is a performance style that I hope to one day emulate. I've already been lucky enough to do this style of performance in another genre: the blues. As a lifelong student of that style, I've had the good fortune of playing live versions of music by Lightning Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Albert King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few favorites. Quoting the original and then going on to create my own solo is a way of paying tribute to the original while saying that I'm capable of learning something new and moving on to say something of my own.

    Which brings me back full circle to the phrase I used to begin this question: how to phrase like early Django. Those of you who noticed that I emphasized "early" Django, see that I am really trying to get at the way he first started to think about melody in his solos. The goal is not necessarily to copy him exactly, or to be able to approach his technical or imaginative mastery. For me, it's always been something more elusive, something akin do channeling his spirit when I play.

    Thanks again for all the comments and suggestions.
    MattHenryjazzygtr
  • edited August 2014 Posts: 3,707
    In light of your latest @Chiefbigeasy I am thinking that It may help to listen a lot to the music that influenced Django. The early Gypsy music, Pops for sure and maybe Bix. Benny Carter possibly as I have heard a few of Benny's licks that Django used and the timing of the recordings leads me to think that. Benny played em first.

    Musette, The mind boggles at how many tea dances he played at in his early days. Even the stuff that an artist may not have chosen to play but did a lot of will have an influence.

    The other thing I would suggest is listen to the recordings of him playing with Rex Stewart Barney Bigard and Billy Taylor. First time I have heard him play in a small group people of the same musical caliber as he was.

    Not taking away from Stephane, but the rest of the QHCF were in a different league.

    I love his playing for the lyrical quality. His phrasing and fluidity of ideas really speak to me, early mid or late period.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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