What are the best Django solos to transcribe?

vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
edited January 2012 in Gypsy Jazz 101 Posts: 133
Hi All,

Transcribing takes a great deal of time and effort to do, so it seems a beginner should choose a piece by Django that gives them a wealth of ideas, phrases, and is not too difficult. I wanted to start some discussion on this — what are some of the best works to begin transcribing? Do you actually write the piece out in tab, memorize everything, or just learn certain phrases?
I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.


  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,857
    Vince, you don't say exactly what kind of beginner you are... I normally assume that most people who stumble on this site at least know the basic guitar chords, etc... so they are beginners in GJ, but not absolute beginners on the guitar itself?

    So assuming that's an accurate description of you (?) I'd personally advise you not to bother too much with Django solos until you've at least mastered most of the RH technique taught in Michael Horowitz's "Gypsy Picking", or some similar manual... though I do think Michael's is the best.

    When you can do most of the stuff in Michael's book (it took me a few months of practice) then you're ready to start challenging yourself with Django solos.

    Yes, you can transcribe them yourself, but if you are new to this I'd recommend you purchase some of these inexpensive transcriptions at

    I've tried of few of them and found them to be pretty accurate: LH fingering seems to be a kind of individual thing with guitarists; what works well for one may not for another... but pay close attention to the RH patterns, because they will help you a lot in playing this style authentically.

    If you do a search at this site for some of my own postings (lango-django), you'll find that I've taken about half a dozen of my favourite Django solos and broken them up into little chunks so that they can be learned a phrase at a time, by playing them back using a free program called QuickTime, which allows you to reduce the speed and loop the phrase so it plays over and over... I've found that very helpful.

    Good luck, and I think you may find, like me, that once you learn a Django solo, you have to keep playing it over and over to really know it and keep it... I'd like to say "understand it" but I've found that some of his wonderful stuff that I've learned to play by rote, I STILL don't really understand the logic behind it!

    But that's the genius of Django!

    Good luck!

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • Why do you want to transcribe solos. Is it to learn the style or develop your ear
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • marcelodamonmarcelodamon Hattiesburg, MS✭✭✭ 2005 AJL Modèle Marcelo Damon Selmer copy, 2020 Aylward Favino copy
    Posts: 31
    Jon Thor Williams compiled a great list of Django's best solos. You can view that list here:


    Marcelo Damon

    Also I have a few video transcriptions of django's solos available. Just let me know!
  • vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
    Posts: 133
    I'm not am absolute beginner in this style (I feel good about my picking, gypsy chords, arpeggios, and la pompe). What I lack is solid ear training. I wasn't asking just for myself either; rather I was trying to get some discussion going. I feel like certain solos I've studied are more accessible than others. For example, "I'll see you in my dreams" is probably one of my top favorite Django pieces but the solo is not very accessible to transcribing for beginners (lots of chord changes, many different transitions, and so melodically complex). Blues en mineur on the other hand is simpler. I was hoping to gain some recommendations, i.e. if you want to learn dominant phrases, study this piece, if you want to learn m7b5 phrases, study this, etc., and also information on how people approach transcribing in general. I love Denis's DVDs, but I'm looking to really develop an ear and a creative mind for these wonderful melodies.
    I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
  • One learning exercise that works well for me is to arpeggiate the chords for a tune. Start slowly with a metronome and work on that song until it can be done easily without much thought. Give each chord the correct number of beats for the song

    Once you have the form and harmonic structure down with arpeggios start working on making it musical but restricting yourself to the chord tones at first then start adding more of the notes

    On top of this pick a version of the song you really like the solo on and memorize that solo, not on the guitar but so you can hum siing or whistle it. At that point if your scale knowledge is good you can easily figure out where the notes are. If not use someone's transcription and get the fingering down

    If your fretboard and scale knowledge is good this won't take nearly as long as it sounds ......couple of hours a day for a week then on to the next one. If the first ones go slowly more scale practice is required. Keep going back to the songs you lern this way several times a week you will be surprised at how many tunes you really know at the end of. Year
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • tacosandbeertacosandbeer ✭✭
    Posts: 47
    Jazzaferri wrote:
    Why do you want to transcribe solos.
    Why wouldn't you want to transcribe solos.
    "Without music, life would be a mistake." --Friedrich Nietzsche
  • No reason not to but depending on what one wants to focus on learning maybe transcribing would not necessarily be the most important priority at the moment.

    Undoubtedly a great way to learn stuff but can be very time consuming if one's fretboard knowledge is shaky.

    If you want to develop your ear I would suggest starting with some of the more harmonically simple and less note dense phrases that you like. IMO learning a whole solo is not the easy way to one's own vocabulary. Take any of the blues forms that Django played on and pick out phrases that speak to you. The ones that make you go WOW what a neat phrase. Loop it in some sort of software slowed down and get the phrase down in your head to the point where you can pick up your guitar and in a few minutes figure out roughly where DR played it and also where you want to play it.

    If you really know it and you know notation well you should be able to get the starting note and then complete it without reference to the guitar. If you are aTAB person then figure out the timings and tehn add the string and fingers as you like em. Play it from your transcription to check it and then on to the next phrase.

    I have heard sax players who can play Sonny Rollins or Coltrane and sound pretty much the same as the original Often they cant play like themselves though
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
    Posts: 1,018

    My updated list of Django solos you can transcribe:

    Index of Django's Significant Solos

    by Jon Thor Austen


     - Not a list of all solos, just the ones with the most content to them.

    Air Mail Special, Vol.19 CD1

    All Of Me, Vol.10 CD2

    Anniversary Song, Vol.18 CD2, Vol.14 CD1

    Appel Direct, Vol.8 CD1

    Babik, Vol.13 CD2

    Belleville, Vol.15 CD1 (fast with Tchavalo lick), Vol.12 CD2, Vol.12 CD1

    Blue Drag, Vol.3 CD1

    Blues Clair, Vol.12 CD1*

    Blues Clair, Vol.14 CD1

    Bricktop, Vol.17 CD2

    China Boy, Vol.4 CD1

    Clair de Lune, Vol.13 CD2

    Coquette, Vol.13 CD1

    Daphne, Vol.7 CD2, Vol.6 CD1, Vol.17 CD1 (fast), Vol.16 CD1 (best)

    Dark Eyes, Vol.14 CD2*, Vol.10 CD2

    Dinah*, Vol.15 CD2

    Djangology, Vol.3 CD1, Vol.17 CD1

    Djangos Tiger, Vol.13 CD1

    Douce Ambience, Vol.12 CD1

    Feerie, Vol.14 CD2 (fast)

    Fleur D'Ennui, Vol.12 CD1

    HCQ Strut, Vol.9 CD2

    How High The Moon, Vol.17 CD2, Vol.15 CD2, Vol.13 CD2

    Hungaria, Vol.9 CD1, Vol.8 CD2, Vol.11 CD1

    I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Vol.17 CD2, Vol.15 CD1*, Vol.12 CD1

    I Love You, Vol.15 CD2

    I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight, Vol.9 CD1, Vol.8 CD2

    I'll See You In My Dreams, Vol.9 CD1

    J'Attendrai, Vol.7 CD2

    Just One Of Those Things, Vol.14 CD2 (good solo)

    Mabel, Vol.6 CD2

    Melodie Au Crepescule, Vol.15 CD1

    Micro, Vol.17 CD2

    Minor Swing, Vol6 CD2 (4), Vol.18 CD2 (3), Vol.17 CD1 (2), Vol.16 CD2 (2), Vol.14 CD2 (1)

    My Melancholy Baby, Vol.9 CD1, Vol.8 CD2, Vol.8 CD1

    My Sweet, Vol.7 CD2

    Nuages, Vol.18 CD1

    R Vingt-Six, Vol.13 CD2

    Red, Red, Ride, Vol.13 CD1 (difficil)

    Rhythm Futur, Vol.14 CD2, Vol.10 CD1

    September Song, Vol.14 CD1

    Seul cd Soir, Vol.12 CD2

    Sheik Of Araby, Vol.5 CD2 (chromatic runs + rhythmic embellishments)

    Stockholm, Vol.9 CD1, Vol.11 CD1

    Stompin' At Decca, Vol.7 CD2

    Sweet Georgia Brown, Vol.7 CD1, Vol.18 CD2

    Swing 39, Vol.14 CD2, Vol.8 CD2

    Swing 42, Vol.11 CD1

    Swing 48, Vol.14 CD1

    Swing Dynamique, Vol.14 CD2 (electric)

    Swingin' With Django, Vol.6 CD2 (melody only)

    Swingtime In Springtime, Vol. 13 CD1 (he recorded this twice)

    Tiger Rag, Vol.16 CD1 (fastest playing)

    Troublant Bolero, Vol.18 CD1 (with ending)

    Twelfth Year, Vol.8 CD2

    Ultrafox, Vol.3 CD1

    Vipers Dream, Vol.14 CD1

    Webster, Vol.17 CD2

    When Day Is Done, Vol.5 CD2

  • asd123321asd123321 ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 121

    I suggest doing ones that haven't been done

    Vous et moi is one I could use

    Ben Givan's  200 we don't need

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