Learning new songs - Priorities?

jazzygtrjazzygtr Stillwater, MN✭✭ Gibson J-35
edited August 2014 in Technique Posts: 80
So being new to GJ (been playing Clapton, Beatles and B.B. King style for 35 years) I have put together a practice regimen to build up my GJ knowledge and repertoire with the following focus... Would love any opinions on any changes that anyone could recommend:

-I start by trying to learn the chord progression in at least two different positions (one focusing on standard chords that focus on the lows and mids and then another set that really focuses on either the top or middle 3 middle strings) just to make sure that I can play through it at least two different ways just in case I end up jamming with someone, and so we don't end up in the same register.

-Learn the basic melody and/or head in at least 2 to 3 positions and registers.

-Begin working on being able to play arpeggios through the chord changes (no focus on soloing yet, just making sure I'm comfortable outlining the progression with arpeggios).

-And last but not least think about and start working out solos or improvising over the tune.

I have been trying to focus on 3 songs at a time which has been good and keeps me from getting board with any given tune.

Comments, recommendations or other formulas that have worked for you would be welcomed :D
Ryan RheaMattHenry


  • Check this out:

    There are some really good nuggets of information in the above thread.

    The first thing that you are likely going to read about is understanding how rhythm guitar plays into this style. You should spend some time exploring that topic around here...there is a ton of information here about it. Ultimately, it is a worthwhile endeavor to spend a lot of time on rhythm.

    Robin Nolan's gig book can also help eliminate alot of the work for you with regards to learning heads.

    I'm sure others will give you plenty of good info once you get past this point.

    Welcome and enjoy.
  • jazzygtrjazzygtr Stillwater, MN✭✭ Gibson J-35
    Posts: 80
    Thanks Jim. I've been working out of the Django FakeBook and comping along with CD (at both full and slower speeds to really make sure that I'm in control of what I'm doing with my rhythm).

    I'm no good at reading notation for things like the heads, so the FakeBook has done me much good there. So I either learn it by ear, youtube or tab found online. Would Nolan's book help with the head and melody's via tab? They seem pretty expensive, but I keep reading that they are worth it.

    I'm also looking at picking up Mike's book on rhythm next month, and am REALLY looking forward to that.

    Thanks again.
  • Robin's book has the heads all tabbed out. I think there are roughly 80 tunes in there. Additionally, you can also go to the Django in June page for lead sheets of commonly played tunes tabbed out as well.

    Many of tunes in the standard repertoire are standards. I try to find the original recording with vocals and learn from that. Sometimes, the melodies will be embellished on these songs and the original head is the best place to start.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 360
    Robin Nolan's books have helped to establish a canon for jams--repertory, keys, changes. But there's the whole Great American Songbook to explore, plus the new material generated by later generations of player-composers. Those of us who were listening to this music before the relatively recent flowering of interest were led by our listening to the Hot Club sides and the swing and jazz that surrounded that music. (At least that's how this geezer experienced it.) So in addition to the Nolan and Horowitz materials, I'd recommend exploring the tunes in some of the big standards collections (Frank Mantooth, Dick Hyman) as well as listening to the classic big bands and singers. You can learn a lot about phrasing from Louis and Ella and Billie and Frank and Tony and Keely. It may not be officially "gypsy," but that tradition is part of what drove Django.
  • cavemusiccavemusic Edmonton, Alberta 2010 JWC Modele Jazz, 2015 Jean Barault Grande Bouche with resonator, 1947 Kay upright bass, Django finger puppet
    Posts: 45
    I picked up my copies of The Gig Book directly from Robin Nolan's site but I notice that on any site I've checked lately it's listed as sold out. I hope he prints more! I bought 3 copies not long ago - for me and a couple of friends - and I don't regret spending the money. For me it was a great resource to get up to speed on numerous chord shapes and tunes in a short period of time. A friend of mine has the Colin Cosimini series of books: which as a set are pretty comprehensive.

  • jazzygtrjazzygtr Stillwater, MN✭✭ Gibson J-35
    Posts: 80
    Thanks one and all. Much appreciated! I've been listening to GJ for years, but always just saw it as something that was out of reach (way to many years of speaking through straight pentatonic scales), but I've just gotten so board with most of the blues and rock I've been playing that I finally sold all of my equipment other than my Gibson J-35 and I'm hoping to pick up my first Selmar style by the end of the year. But I'm looking forward to learning all I can before getting it :) Thanks again.
  • Oh oh ..... The bug has bitten deep.........
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • MattHenryMattHenry Washington, DC✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 131
    Get a cheap Android tablet and buy iReal Pro for $10.99. You can then browse to the built in online forum and import charts for 375 GJ tunes and 1300 standards. Get the Brazilian 150 while you're at it too. Any chart you can't find you can make and share yourself in a few minutes.

    There's a playback mode with around 40 styles to practice to and all charts are transposable.
  • jazzygtrjazzygtr Stillwater, MN✭✭ Gibson J-35
    Posts: 80
    MarrHenry, now that makes me smile because I had already done that :) I've been really enjoying iRealPro.
  • Only thing to keep in mind with iRealPro is that sometimes the chords are pretty funky, or even just plain ugly
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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