Gypsy jazz music is a strange and
wonderful branch of jazz that merges the stylings of French gypsy music
with American jazz compositions. Its most famous player was
Reinhardt, after which all aspiring gypsy jazz guitarists attempt to
Most of the
following refers specifically to gypsy jazz guitar, although the style
can be (and usually is) played on violin as well as mandolin and other
The gypsy chord - The signature
chord of gypsy jazz (often referred to as "the gypsy chord") is the
minor sixth. Technically it's a #6, but no one I know calls it
that. An example might be an Am#6 (A-F#-C), the central chord in
tritones - In addition to the m#6 chord (which features a
tritone), many other dissonant chords appear (as in other styles of
jazz, but) particularly diminished chords.
modes - Naturally most gypsy songs (and gypsy-styled renditions
of traditional songs) are in minor modes with alterations appropriate
to the chords.
neatly to the root in most cases - Unlike more traditional
styles of jazz, gypsy songs generally resolve to the root. There
is no dangling note at the end of a phrase or piece.
4-to-a-bar rhythm - Modern rhythm
players may dress up the rhythm a bit, but the classic recordings
demonstrate how every bar had four quarter notes and not much else.
Notes and even chords are rarely sustained. Even the rhythm
chords are muted (by left hand release) as soon as they are
executed. Notes are attacked and then abandoned.
runs - Django was famous for running chromatic lines (even with
chords). Modern players incorporate this as well (see my favorite
guitarist, Joscho Stephan, for example).
- Sure, these is a prominent in jazz in general, but gypsy jazz
guitarists take it to a whole other level.
more intense - Gypsy jazz is never relaxed. Both the tempo
and intensity (including how hard the strings are hit) is consistently
greater than perhaps any other style of music.
Selmer Maccaferri-style guitars -
Usually the oval-hole ("petite bouche") plays lead while a D-hole
("grand bouche") plays rhythm. There is much more to be said
the design and set-up of these guitars (e.g., which strings are
appropriate, etc.), but not here.
picks - Wegen picks are the choice among the gypsy guitarists I
know, but any hard, thick pick will do. Purists often seek out
Traditionally, gypsy jazz was played acoustically (after all, there's
no electricity in a caravan or around the campfire), but Django
ultimately went through an electric phase much later in his
career. The magnetic pickups of choice are by Stimer and are
mounted on a Maccaferri guitars. However, modern players are more
likely to add piezo pickups to their instruments to amplify the