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Where to start in Gypsy Jazz guitar style?

I know this question may seem redundant for you guys, pardon me I am technically new to this site, but I just really want to know where to start in Gypsy Jazz guitar style. I always did have a thing for jazz music since then, but it was just recently when I got serious on Gypsy Jazz, Django Reinhardt, etc. and now I want to learn the style. I've been playing guitar for almost 2 years, I started out first with electric guitar and last year with the classical guitar, and I also intend to play Gypsy Jazz on the classical guitar. By the way, I'm from the Philippines and bad news it is, Gypsy Jazz is like a dead meat here, almost non-existing and I don't know any GJ guitar players here nor I know any renowned ones. So, I just have a few questions:

1. Where (really) to start in Gypsy Jazz guitar style? Are there any necessary equipment or techniques in order to play GJ?
2. Can I play it on a classical guitar or should I immediately buy a GJ guitar?
3. Would natural minor, major scale, and other common scales work out for GJ or you guys have special scales you use for it?
4. What books would you recommend for learning it?

Thanks in advance.


  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited January 2015 Posts: 1,819
    #1 on your list is to get "gypsy picking" by Michael Horowitz and start working on your right hand, which is the key to this style.

    You can actually use any guitar to get started, but sooner rather than later you'll want to get some kind of gypsy guitar, whatever you can afford.

    The Horowitz book will keep you busy for a good 6- 12 months,during which time keep coming back to this site and finding out about the many other fine instructional materials available.

    Good luck!

    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 January 2015 Posts: 25
    Is buying it online the only way of purchasing the book or there are any publications available internationally (especially here in the Philippines)? Btw, thanks for answering my questions.
  • Rob MacKillopRob MacKillop Edinburgh, Scotland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 201
    +1 on Gypsy Picking - a fine book. I'm using it in conjunction with lessons from Yakov Hotter: - recommended.

    This looks useful too:
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,379
  • Thanks for all the answers, really helpful. I would probably look forward to Gypsy Picking and Gypsy Rhythm, and I'll try to invest money for both. One last question, when you guys play fast solos or guitar lines, do you still maintain the rest-stroke picking technique even at fast tempos (let's say, 200bpm above)?
  • A GentA Gent ✭✭
    Posts: 20
    I know this is an obvious piece of advice, but it can't be restated enough and it's the best answer to your very first question: listen to Django Reinhardt. All the time. Seriously, all the time.

    Good luck!
  • jwpfeiferjwpfeifer Phoenix, Arizona✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    Posts: 21
    Being a newbie to Gypsy Jazz myself, I can also recommend to include a lot of listening time in your development. Learning any new style of music is similar to learning a new language. You have to be exposed to it a lot in order to understand the common phrases, the way the rhythm guitars sound, common chord progressions, and overall energy of the music so that you can "speak" it yourself.

    There is a great video course on that is also a good primer for learning the La Pompe and Bolero rhythm styles, common chord voicings in addition to some great licks to get started. It's called 50 Gypsy Jazz licks you must know.

    Good luck!
  • jwpfeiferjwpfeifer Phoenix, Arizona✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    Posts: 21
    Another thing that I'd recommend is to take a Django tune that you really like and try to transcribe as much of it as you can. This can take some time and effort to get through, depending on the song, but the benefits of this process are well worth it. In the the process of learning a song note-for-note it forces you to listen to the track over-and-over, picking apart each phrase, line by line, and really understand how it works. It will also force you to struggle somewhat and think through the fingering for each phrase and try different approaches to see how they lay out on the guitar neck. If nothing else, it will give you a renewed admiration for Django as you wonder how he was able to play various phrases with only 2 fretting fingers to work with. This can also provide you some clues as to how he may have fingered various lines. There are a number of software tools you can get to slow down the track, to make this process a little easier. The program I use is called Best Practice and you can find it here:
    Oh, and make sure to brew a full pot of coffee when you work on your transcription sessions ... you will need it :-)

  • PapsPierPapsPier ✭✭
    Posts: 425
    +1 for Stuart. You should first really focus on the rhythm. Learn from a book or from the internet and then play on the songs you like. When playing on the songs you like, you'll also learn (if you play it several times) the choruses which are played on the songs. And finally, you can begin to practice and play choruses by yourself.

    There are a lot of technical questions for the rythm and a lot for the chorus. To be efficient you should really begin by focusing on the rhythm.

    And in my opinion, it is ok to begin practicing with a classical guitar (I have done that) and when you feel that you won't give up, that it is this special music you want to play, then you can buy a gypsy guitar. By switching from classical to gypsy guitar you'll need to slightly adapt your technical skills but it is not terrible.
  • Rob MacKillopRob MacKillop Edinburgh, Scotland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 201
    What?! I have been lead to believe the rest-stroke technique almost defines GJ playing. The little I've learned so far just doesn't sound as good with my old technique.
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