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Can't hear upstroke on Bireli CD

GregHBGregHB New YorkNew
edited November 2008 in Gypsy Rhythm Posts: 47
A quick question...I've been listening to Bireli's "Gypsy Project and Friends" CD (the one that kicks off with Djangology), and have been trying to determine whether or not there is an upstroke employed. I don't hear one for the majority of the record. Is it just so subtle that I'm missing it, or am I trying to hear something that isn't there?

I guess, in short, does this record use an Alsace style or German style or something else entirely?

Thanks in advance for any replys.


  • Phydeaux3Phydeaux3 New
    Posts: 22
    I would suggest that its not obvious; if used at all and not to overly worry whether it is or isn't. Bireli and Hono (?) utilise very strong, solid and authorative rhythmic techniques. The motion of the hands could suggest a very delicate brush on the way up, but not a definite strike.
    Is it Alsace? As I've posted before, I don't recognise regional differences only differing techniques to swing a rhythm. My interest is to ensure the rhythm swings and is interesting both for the listener and player.
    There are times when you might want to upstroke; like if you want an authentic sound of a particular recording.
    I upstroke on Swing 39 but it's not a definite strike. I don't on a tune like How High The Moon as it's a differnet groove.
    On slower numbers I brush the strings on the up but use the side of my hand (below the thumb) instead of the pick to make it very subtle but enough not to detract from the swing beat (which to me is a One Two, One Two not a One Two Three Four).
    I didn't learn this from books or scrutinising Gypsies (although sitting in with them has helped), I learnt from listening to Swing in varying band set ups (Big Bands, Trios, Singers, Small Bands etc...) and when I started in this style the need to fill the sound out when playing in a duo or trio and make it more interesting. Now I mix these 'rhythm style' elements depending on how the groove or feel of the tune is going or even how I feel on the night.
    To me it's all swing rhythm.
    From the early Hotclub to say late Django ('49-'50) you shold notice the changes in the style of the rhythm, not only with Django but those who backed him.
    Listen closer to the 'pulse' of the rhythm (especially behind Django). For me it this pulse that is the essence of swing and coupled with steady tempoing, this is what rhythm players should work towards.
    Here's a question. When you clap along with a swing beat, can you do an upstroke and make it heard? Hopefully the answer is no. It doesn't mean you can't upstroke when playing the guitar because the hand position and movement is different, it just demonstrates that the pulse is on the One Two (or for those who prefer and the Three and Four).
    If you play the awful Daa Dicky Daa way all the time on every tune you play, do you think it gives enough 'space' for someone like Ella Fitzgerald to scat against or a soloist to 'breath' when improvising?
    That's my opinion. All I know is that I love playing swing rhythm and it's very satisfying knowing that you're on the beat all the time and grooving the tunes for the solo players to improvise easily. So, over to someone with more knowledge than me to answer.
    Alors, un, deux...
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,023
    Many of the modern players play the upstroke so fast it's barely audible. If you watch the Live in Vienne DVD then you can hear and see Bireli using the upstroke on the duets. Hono also looks like he's doing it, but it's harder to hear.

    But you can also get a good rhythm sound with just downstrokes...that's what Mathiue Chatalain, Stephane Wrembel and many other younger guys do.

    I use it 90% of the time because I like the sort of ride cymbal pattern is adds to the rhythmic texture. But if you leave it out it's easier to get the bass strings to really move and can be a bit clearer as the upstroke can add some "clutter" if not used correctly. Guys like Martin Limberger can get the bass strings to really come out and use the upstroke at the same time. That's pretty hard to do!

  • GregHBGregHB New YorkNew
    Posts: 47
    Thanks for the advice and info. I had actually been watching the Live in Vienne DVD when trying to figure this out and it seemed pretty obvious that he's using a very subtle upstroke. I just wasn't sure whether or not he had chosen to drop it for the record, considering that it sounds as if Diego is implying the upstroke in his basslines...(perhaps Bireli thought this would make it redundant)? Anyhow, thanks again for the replies.[/quote]
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