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Gypsy Jazz Guitar

It's not often that a single artist invents a popular and enduring new "branch" of music, but an uneducated Gypsy guitar player did just that during his short 43 years of life. And not only that, Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) did it with blinding speed and technical mastery, while missing 1-1/2 fingers from his left hand due to an unfortunate encounter with fire.

The sound that Reinhardt and violinist Stephan Grappelli perfected in their famous "Quintet of the Hot Club of Paris", formed in 1934, was driving, swinging, urbane and delicate - all at the same time. The lineup was unusual by any time's standards three acoustic guitars, a violin, and a string bass. Most of the time, two of the guitars were chomping down on the rhythm together, the bass would be walking, and Django or Stephan would be wailing away out front.  

Many of the tunes that the Quintet played were jazz standards, but they also wrote many of their own, several of which have become standards - especially the great jamming tune "Minor Swing" and the ballad "Nuages".

The style that came to be known as "gypsy jazz" is still alive today. It endures because of its appealing balance of sweet melodies with driving rhythms, seasoned with flamboyant touches of virtuosity.  Django and Django-style recordings are often used prominently in films (most notably and recently, Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown and the surreal Oscar-winning French animation "adventure", The Triplets of Belleville). Django has many devotees among guitar players (including Willie Nelson, Bireli Lagrene) and an annual Festival de Jazz Django Reinhart in the French town of Samois sur Seine where Django spent his last days. Other festivals are held in the US and elsewhere.

Musically speaking, gypsy jazz is made recognizable by the solid rhythmic backing, the choice of chords (minor 6th chords figure prominently), and the ornaments, among other aspects. Of course, our products SlowGold and SlowBlast! are excellent tools for picking up on the specifics of Django's technique. We've provided you with a couple of Woodsheddin' articles specifically addressing Django's style, including The Gypsy Turn and Django Speaks. We also have an annotated list of selected links, including free lessons in the gypsy jazz guitar style.

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