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The process of going through Gypsy Rhythm.

janthorejanthore New
edited May 2011 in Gypsy Rhythm Posts: 6
I bought the book a couple of months ago, and I'm pretty lost in it all! I learn bits and pieces every once in a while, but it feels like I'm going through it all wrong.

I mean, there's an excellent song breakdown of e.g. Douce Ambience at the end, which is great for learning that specific song and chord progression. But before that, there are like... chord charts (basic and advanced chords), substitutions, multi-purpose chords, ii-V-i progressions with various chords etc...

I mean, I can understand that you need to learn at least the basic chords before moving onto progression types. And you need to understand the basic progressions of e.g. V-I before moving on to entire songs. But I've been spending a month (on and off, as I play other styles as well) ONLY going through chord shapes, seeing that I can take a basic G7 shape and move the 7 to get a Gmin6 etc... It feels like I'm building up a few tools that I can't really use that much, as I don't know that many songs yet.

Should I start going through the songs? Should I start working on the melody lines and embellishment parts of the book? I'm going through Wrembel's "Getting into gypsy jazz guitar" as well, which is _excellent_ for lead playing. But I still don't sound semi-gypsy more than perhaps 1/5th of my playing time. And I feel that in the amount of time I've spent on this, I really don't know too many songs yet! What's the point of it all if I can't even play more than 4-5 songs (some of them not even "standards", but more like Big Brother by Stephane Wrembel)?

Sorry for the long post, but I'm just kinda lost. I'm going to start jamming with other musicians this summer, and I need more songs down before I... well: "enter the stage".


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,908

    The book is not designed to be "worked through" from front to back. Rather, it is more of a reference book which can be used to explore accompaniment techniques. Also, it is not a song book....there are many of those including the complete Django and the Robin Nolan books. Those are great for learning the basic changes for lots of songs. Gypsy Rhythm focuses on the right hand and more advanced harmonic variations. If you want to expand your repertoire just learn all the basic versions in the book and get one of the repertoire books previously mentioned.

    Good luck!

  • seeirwinseeirwin ✭✭✭ AJL J'attendrai | AJL Orchestra
    Posts: 115
    Welcome to the journey!

    I had a pretty similar experience getting into playing rhythm guitar: I had a copy of Gypsy Rhythm but I wasn't too sure how to get the most out of using it. Fortunately, there were a bunch of people who had some great advice on this forum (and I was able to find some in person, as well). Here is my advice...

    Gypsy Rhythm is an amazing resource, but not really a how-to or method book. More about that later.

    Find a rhythm guitarist's sound that you like. Lots of people really like Nousche Rosenberg's playing, so you might start there. For me, I like Hono Winterstein (Bireli's guy) because his playing is a little more agressive and on top of the beat. Others like Tchavalo. There are tons of options. Anyhow, find one that *you* like, and don't worry about who everyone else says has the best rhythm. If you are lucky, you'll find some youtube videos of whomever you like. If not, the recordings are just fine.

    Then you need to learn some songs and play along. This is the humbling part. The basic strategy you can use here is to ask yourself a few questions:

    1. Does my rhythm swing? (most important)
    2. Does it sound like whatever rhythm player you like? (awesome if it does, but okay if it doesn't. It is something to work toward).

    As hard as it can be to listen to, recording yourself really helps with this. In the beginning, you may be surprised how different your actual playing sounds on a recording, as compared to how it sounds in your head when you are playing. Don't be too critical of your playing at this point. The point is to listen thoughtfully to what you are doing and have a sound to aspire to. That will take a long time. As long as it swings, that's what counts.

    Here's something I haven't seen mentioned too often on this forum: it is impossible to get the energy and sound of a what's on a recording or what you see live by practicing in your living room. When you play with others, you play differently; you are listening to others, interacting, maybe trying to project the band over restaurant patrons, etc. and all of this changes your sound. Not completely, but it changes the flavor a bit. In other words, the next step is to play with people. Take lessons, go to jams, do whatever you can to play live. For this step, you will want to learn some of the basic repertoire. There are posts about this, and a nice page on the Django in June website about what to learn. There's also the Robin Nolan gig book, etc.

    After you do this for a while, you'll find your playing has transformed and you are way more comfortable than you are now. At some point, you'll listen to Nuages and wonder how to do the chord enclosure thing on the G chord that you hear all over the place. That will be in Gypsy Rhythm. Later, you might listen to Django's Tiger and want to know what the rhythm guitarists are doing to make the A chord in measures 5-8 sound like it's moving around. That will be in the book, too. The beauty of Gypsy Rhythm is that it has everything in it. But that doesn't mean you need to learn it all before you go out and play... I'm pretty sure Michael would agree.

    One last thought: you will never find a lead player that won't appreciate solid, swinging, simple rhythm playing. It's cool to be able to do tremolo, chord scales, and hits, but it's not always easy to use them tastefully in the beginning. Michael mentions this in the book, but I thought I would reiterate. If you have good time, swinging rhythm and "just" play la pompe for a whole song, you'll have people that love to play with you.

    Best of luck!
  • janthorejanthore New
    Posts: 6
    Thanks a lot for the fast replies, guys!

    I'm gonna save up and get the Robin Nolan gig book as soon as possible. I'm a physiotherapy student, so I'm kinda flat broke atm, hahah.

    So far, I've been trying to figure out songs by myself. I recognize sequences and similarities between songs, but I notice limitations in repertoire and "filler chords" or moving chords (chord scales etc).

    I guess I just have to keep figuring out songs until I get the gig book, and get a working repertoire for this summer. I really want to become a good lead player in gypsy swing though! Most people tend to tell me to work on the rhythm for a couple of years and just dabble in leads, before going more heavily focused into lead playing. It seems like a good way of doing it, as the rhythm seems like the backbone of the entire genre. What's the point in playing an E dim arpeggio over a C7, if the stuff you're playing doesn't swing?

    I've tried recording myself several times, and I do notice a lot of un-swingy mistakes. For one, I tend to do the up-stroke before hitting the 1 and 3, instead of doing a downstroke and hitting the 1 on the upstroke, like e.g. Denis Chang does. I've grown really fond of Stephane Wrembel, Stochelo and Gonzalo Bergara though, so I guess I'll focus on them!

    Again, thanks a lot!
  • Mark DSMark DS New
    Posts: 37
    There are a lot of resources online with chord charts, although figuring songs out by ear is good too. Check out these:
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