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New player seeks advice from seasoned GJ players

David_HammDavid_Hamm Scappoose, OR USANew DG-300 Gitane
in Technique Posts: 1


I am new to Gypsy Jazz. I would be interested in advice to get "up and running" the quickest. Looking back at all you have learned over the years of playing Gypsy Jazz guitar, what is (in your opinion) the most valuable thing to learn first so the "overwhelmed" feeling doesn't lose the "wind from my sails"? to speak. I understand it is mainly by arpeggios of the chords as they are being played, but I feel like I am missing something that would help me.

So if you are willing to help me out here, what has benefitted you the most in your learning?




  • nomadgtrnomadgtr Colorado Bumgarner, Marin, Holo, Barault
    Posts: 114

    Welcome David!

    It helps to know your frame of reference but for many of us, we were musicians before embracing Django. So for example, in my personal journey I had to learn the techniques which are far different from the rock and contemporary jazz/fusion that I came from. So spending a considerable amount of time playing slow to develop that technique so I could produce the tones I was seeking to achieve. It helps me personally if I immerse myself in the music I want to play so I listened to endless hours of not only Django but all the modern era players in the genre. For me it was initially the right hand technique that took a lot of focus. Some pick up on that quicker than others. Taking it slow and develop your tone is my advice. Speed comes later. Yes arpeggios are a good left hand start. Chord shapes and learning la pompe are as well. Get a good grip on those and you'll have a solid foundation.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,226

    For sure learn to comp well and people will want to play with you. Memorize the changes to LOTS of songs and practice by playing along with bands that you like. Slow down on Youtube to where you can play cleanly. Keep good time.

    MikeKWim GlennBuco
  • TwangTwang New
    Posts: 376

    Having waded through a lot of resources, If I was starting from scratch (assuming you have some musical experience) I’d get the following:

    The Van Hemert System book -priority imo

    Stephane Wremble’s Getting into Gypsy Jazz - It’s got everything you need but it’s not repertoire based like the above.

    Denis Chang’s beginners method on soundslice (I don’t have this but it’s bound to be good)

    Possibly Daniel Givones method but it’s in French and better for just dipping into.

  • Posts: 3,931

    I wish it didn't take me that long to sit down and learn chords to a lot of songs that I can play in jams without looking at the charts.

    If you're asking more about improvising, I wish it didn't me that long to start working on it in a slow and methodical way.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • JSantaJSanta NY✭✭✭ Gaffiero Modèle Original
    Posts: 214

    The most beneficial thing I did was find a good teacher. Everything else has come as a result of having an excellent instructor and the accountability created with that relationship.

    It's fair to talk books and resources and process, but having tried to do much of that on my own for so many years, the progress I've made in two years with a teacher is more than I had made in the 20 before.

  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    Posts: 146

    It really depends on what "get up and running" means to you. Everyone loves to solo, but good rhythm will get you playing live with others quicker than anything else.

    I personally agree with @JSanta that if you're really serious about playing this style, you'll pay for a good teacher. I'll add that you need someone to give you 1:1 time - the fastest way you improve is by surrounding yourself with better players.

    Honestly, I know guys who aren't very good soloists (myself included) but who are gigging and getting better quick because they:

    1. Memorized a few jam tunes to get the confidence to play out
    2. Learned how to read jazz charts when necessary
    3. Kept really solid time (only speed up or slow down a little)
    4. Support the soloists / vocalists (keep rhythm short, percussive, and to only 3-4 note voicings)

    Good rhythm playing goes waaaay deeper and I could go on, but honestly Christiaan Van Hemert already has videos:

    rudolfochristJSantaAzazzellDeuxDoigts_TonnerreWillieBill Da Costa WilliamsAndyWrichter4208billyshakesBones
  • lorenzoplorenzop New
    Posts: 13

    I know this has been discussed here ad nauseum but I find his chord playing a tad too dry, not enough harmony coming through. When I listen to his rythm and don't watch his hands, I can't really tell when he's shifting chords.

  • ScoredogScoredog Santa Barbara, Ca✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 765

    That's kind of the idea....small movements for the rhythm player meaning likely good voice leading and let the soloist dictate the harmony. Christiaan could have made it deeper harmony wise (he certainly is capable) but this is a great starting point and as a soloist though I like some interplay with the rhythm player, some don't and it is safest to do what Christiaan did here.

    MikeKWillieBill Da Costa WilliamsBones
  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    edited May 17 Posts: 146

    @lorenzop I agree that it is very dry and difficult to tell the harmony at times, so the bassist and soloist need to know the form very well.

    It's on the extreme side of being "felt" vs. being "heard," but actually has distinct advantages when you're starting out:

    • If you lose the form, you can still keep the beat
    • Focus more on time and locking in if you hit the same four strings the same way for all beats
    • You don't stand out, so easier to blend with other players
    • Being very consistent makes other players relax and feel comfortable
    • Pleasant voice leading is built in when you chose to accent some chords

    While I don't play like CVH when I'm the main rhythm player, I do shift closer to his style when I have a 2nd rhythm player. Listening back to multiple recordings, it does just lock in and sound better as a group. Just some additional food for thought @David_Hamm

    MikeKWillieSwedeinLAAndyWBill Da Costa Williamsrudolfochrist
  • SwedeinLASwedeinLA New
    Posts: 35

    It's as much percussive / a beat, as it is harmonic context.

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