Denis Chang's Jazz Manouche - Technique & Improvisation

BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
edited August 2008 in CD, DVD, and Concert Reviews Posts: 1,379
I just finished watching Denis Chang's new instructional DVDs on lead playing and MAN! They are absolutely amazing! I have been waiting for something like this ever since I first became interested in Django's music... Denis delivers even better than I could have hoped for. I'm just soooo happy and thought I should write a review and share with all of you what this videos have to offer.

This just released 4 DVD series is packed wall-to-wall with all you need to play this music the way it's supposed to be played. Besides being quite a monster guitarist himself he has the extraordinary ability to be able to transmit his knowledge to you in a simple, direct and fun way. Each volume has over 2 hours of material! and every minute is choked full of wonderful advice.

You'll learn right hand and left hand technique, arpeggios, chord soloing, all sorts of substitutions, phrasing, articulation, timing, lots of tricks and all you ever wanted to know about playing Gypsy Jazz like the masters do.
What really makes this videos so unique are Denis' teaching methods, he doesn't use any TAB or score, instead he forces you to rely on your ears and develop real time learning skills the way the gypsies have always done. Denis manages to find the easiest, most direct way to get his point across and his system is so effective you'll be playing better right away.

This is a totally hands-on tutorial that you watch with your guitar and with each passing minute you feel yourself growing as a Gypsy Jazz musician. He explains every single topic in great detail always encouraging you to make this stuff your own, to develop the skills needed to keep learning and above all to make beautiful music.

The videos are packed wall-to-wall with dozens of licks (the ones you always wanted to know), typical chords, concepts ranging from simple arpeggio playing to ear training to things that will make even your modern jazz player friends turn their heads and go "what the @#!%!!!".

He keeps things light and fun, being totally unpretentious all the while. The material is very well organized in order of complexity and difficulty, the various camera angles make it effortless to see what he's doing and the English (or French) subtitle feature is really handy for following picks strokes (indicated by up and down arrows), chord progressions and fret positions. Keep your remote control handy for pausing and rewinding during difficult bits.

This videos are for everyone, as a newcomer to this music you'll find a clear path from where to begin your journey and if you're intermediate to advanced you'll get stuff that will push your playing forward and help you get on the way to the level of the best players around. Some of the material you'll be ready to apply on tonight's gig and there's also things that you could spend a lifetime on and never exhaust completely.

The saying goes that the first 30 years are the hardest in learning Gypsy jazz, Denis DVDs can maybe scratch that zero right off for you!!!

If you are any serious about playing Gypsy Jazz you can't afford not to get this, it is absolutely a must have.
You can buy yours here: they ship really fast too! Mine went out from Canada on the 15th and I got it three days later... in Mexico!!

P.S. Save yourself some time and order the 4 volume pack right away or as soon as you're finished watching the first one you'll find yourself logging into Hypermedia's site and purchasing the rest.


  • Posts: 597
    Great, enthusiastic review! Thanks for taking the time to post your impressions. Gonna have to check the budget for this one! 8)
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,379
    Glad you found it useful.
    I know they cost some money but in my opinion they are worth every cent... they make it easier for us mere mortals to match the level of the masters.

    I think they really raise the bar of instructional material and once everyone starts working on them the playing bar is surely gonna be higher.

    I really believe that these along with the tutorials published by Djangobooks will help you play Jazz manouche like you want to in less time that you expect to.
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 320
    I don't own this (yet!), but I've watched a few of the youtube clips and I can tell right away that you will save yourself a hell of a lot of time in learning to improvise if you get these DVDs. Dennis' emphasis on ear learning and geometric patterns over hard theory are right on the money.

    I only wish this was around when I was locking myself in my room combing through videos and puzzling over gypsy fingering patterns for hours. To tell the truth, the fact that Dennis is even out there teaching makes me nervous because he's giving away all the "secrets"!

    The price may be daunting, but you could easily spend that much on a few lessons with some local guy who isn't even close to Dennis' level of expertise.
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,154
    wow! thanks guys i really appreciate it... i'm working hard on editing a Gypsy violin video... the very first (based on my research) of it kinds from a world-class roumanian violinist

    and this summer we're gonna do a jazz/swing violin DVD similar to mine with Tim Kliphuis
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    i just received my set of dvds. delivery was very quick to Ireland. I have only had time to just skim through the first disc but it looks very very good. tons of great licks tricks and advice. years worth of stuff to go through.
  • num3ricnum3ric Montreal, Quebec, CanadaNew
    Posts: 11
    I thought I'd share my opinion on the dvds also, even though BluesBop Harry almost said it all! First off, let me congratulate you Denis for this amazing series on Technique & Improvisation.

    Let me start with technique. Coming from an electric guitar background, I feel these will definitely help me with my reststroke and all. Denis uses a "technique through licks" method which obviously is more interesting and useful. I was also surprised to discover pull-offs where I didn't expect any! Whether it's only to facilitate the flow of the phrases or to put the accents on the correct beats, he explains it all.

    Now with the improvisation. This is the weak point in my playing and from I've watched closely until now, guitar and remote control in hands, I'm confident these lessons will dramatically help me. They're unlocking the doors on how to approach improv. What I mean is that instead of looking at my guitar neck in discouragement, I finally feel as if there's a concrete (meaning humanly possible) way to learn -using different tools and tricks- how to express myself musically through improvisation. I find this more than wonderful!

    What I also find great about theses dvds is that they're interconnected. Concepts, once introduced, can reappear later on from a new standpoint, for another use or in the examples. By the way, these examples where he applies the notions must also be very educational if you bother analyzing them in more depth.

    These dvds abound in useful and applicable material, it's crazy. It's more than an eye-opener, it can be a daily tool to incorporate in your practicing. Personally, I plan on using them in blocks of around 10-15 mins. Believe me, that is enough if you really want to absorb the lessons (to practice, to internalize, to play around with the technique/licks/concepts). Now since these 4 dvds are more than 10 hours long, you do the math...

    Final review : An invaluable tool. :D

    P.S. Gotta love the humor! I sometimes find myself laughing out loud...
  • jmcgannjmcgann Boston MA USANew
    Posts: 134
    A picture being worth a thousand words, moving pictures are worth volumes...

    A lot is made of "learning styles"; that some are 'visual learners' more than 'aural'...the DVD format really covers all the bases.

    I have nothing against the reading of music/tab, but it is not a great skill in service of learning particular stylistic things beyond the raw pitches/rhythms. This technique of playing guitar is so specific, and having the visuals with which to work is so great...

    If you can't get to Montréal to work with Denis, now you can get him to come to you on this and the Rhythm . Denis and HyperHip are doing great things to expose the secrets of Le Monde Django!

    I've never heard Django play a note without commitment.
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
    Posts: 1,017
    I think that the fact that Dennis forces you to learn by ear is the single most important thing any of us will learn. Learning how to transcribe and pick up things from other people is one of the things that will enable your playing vocabulary to continue growing. I personally feel that is one of the more obvious things which holds back my playing progress.
  • jmcgannjmcgann Boston MA USANew
    Posts: 134
    But it is also true you are "learning by eye" in this DVD, by watching the hands in concert with using your ears to hear the notes and especially the all important chord/melody relationships.

    I agree the ear training aspect is excellent, if frustrating for those who are slower at the ear...

    One tip is that you can easily extract sound bites by using shareware like "Wiretap" to record the section you want while it plays on your computer, then bring it into the Amazing Slow Downer or some such program to get the pitches (maybe with all downstrokes, to give you just one thing, the left hand, to focus on first), and then apply the pick directions (which for us lifelong alternate pickers is the grizzly bear!)

    It's true for many people who came up learning to play "by eye" that their reading skills are sometimes more developed than the crucial ear skills- ask any classical musician who has crossed over into jazz improvisation, where the ear skills are so important!

    I've never heard Django play a note without commitment.
  • V-dubV-dub San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 320
    jmcgann wrote:
    One tip is that you can easily extract sound bites by using shareware like "Wiretap" to record the section you want while it plays on your computer, then bring it into the Amazing Slow Downer or some such program to get the pitches (maybe with all downstrokes, to give you just one thing, the left hand, to focus on first), and then apply the pick directions (which for us lifelong alternate pickers is the grizzly bear!)

    Woah, you're working waaay too hard. Transcribe does all this in one stop, and does it better:

    No shame in slowing things down--everyone does it. Only difference is that now it's way easier to do now thanks to computers.

    My theory is that everyone before us had to set their record players to 50% (drops the key exactly one octave for easy transpose) and wear out their favorite Django records to learn!
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