One of the things that attracts me to the Gypsy swing style is that it has a systematic technical method. Before I started to play Django style, none of my teachers talked to me about technique or how to improve my sound. I noticed that every guitarist has a different way of playing and I remember myself changing the way I played every few months.
Things are different when you learn to play the Gypsy jazz style. Django Reinhardt and all the other gypsy jazz guitarists use the same method of picking, a method called rest stroke picking (other jazz guitarists like Joe Pass use this method as well). For me, this method and the resulting sound is the heart of the gypsy jazz style and is as important as phrasing, articulation, time, feel and the notes I choose to play.
In this lesson you will learn:
The “rest stroke” picking technique.
Minor 9 and diminished arpeggios.
How to use these arpeggios over the Minor Swing chord progression.
I strongly recommend that you practice the arpeggios slowly in order to master the rest stroke picking technique. Decide how much time you want to spend every day on practicing arpeggios. Even if it’s 10 minutes, it’s all good, but do those 10 minutes every day! Start slow and focus on your right hand. This is the fastest way to master this new technique…
Rest Stroke Picking
Rest stroke picking consists of two important movements:
The downstroke – use your elbow to play the downstroke (your wrist should be locked)! It’s like each string has a different elbow position. When you play the downstroke, you should come to rest on the string below. For example, after hitting the 6th string, you should “lean” on the 5th string with your plectrum.This downstroke is very important. Every first stroke on each string is a downstroke and then you continue on the single string with alternate picking. This means that if you have and odd number of notes on a certain string, you have to play two downstrokes in a row. When you play this downstroke and then play a note on a string above, you need to continue with the same movement from your elbow to the higher string. For example, if you play a downstroke on the 6th string, and the move on to the 5th string, you have to push your hand further down from your elbow. We call it “sweep”.
The upstroke – use your wrist to play the upstroke! Imagine you have a card inside your hand that you want to quickly glance at and then immediately hide it again. The upstroke is fast and short, a flick of the wrist.
Minor and Diminished Arpeggio Shapes
Here are the arpeggio shapes used in this lesson. Each arpeggio has 2 versions, an ascending version and a descending version. The numbers in the dots refer to the fingering.
Minor Swing Chord Progression
Minor Swing is a gypsy jazz standard and one of the signature compositions of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli. Here is the chord progression for the solos.