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Ever tried to play like Django with just the first two fingers?

Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
edited September 2020 in Technique Posts: 1,560

Apologies if this is the seventeenth thread about this same issue.

Today I had a kind of breakthrough fifty years in the making:

I could actually play Django-style, using my LH index and middle fingers only.

It felt kind of like when I used to play the harmonica as a teenager...

Somehow my mouth knew where to go to get the right note, although I had no idea what note it was.

And it was kind of the same thing with my fingers.

Several weird points to ponder here...

  • I didn't DO anything to learn how to do this, it just sort of popped out all by itself.
  • it was pleasant! I enjoyed it!
  • somehow playing like this made me want to avoid looking down at the fretboard, my usual habit... which is probably good, right?


So now, I"m wondering... before I go merrily off down a rabbit hole, has anybody else fooled around with this technique?

In hindsight, was it a Good thing? Or a Time Waster?


Thanks,

Will

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."
DeuxDoigts_Tonnerre
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Comments

  • stuologystuology New
    Posts: 93

    Yes I've tried it, it's a surprisingly comfortable and fast way to play. It's not something I've ever tried to keep up except as a novelty but it's a revealing thing to do, because people tend to talk about Django's 2-finger style as a handicap when it actually opens up a different way of playing. I guess one way to look at it is that you only need one finger to play a note and another to be in position to play the next and the middle finger is the most agile one after the index. Interestingly, sitar players tender to favour a 2-finger technique that's not dissimilar to Django's.

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    edited September 2020 Posts: 1,204

    It certainly limited the chord shapes he could play although when you hear his accompaniments, it is difficult to believe they have been created by such a restricted palette of shapes. Grappelli once said he preferred Django’s guitar accompaniment to any other guitarist he had played with because of the rich variations he created. However, Django once said that it was sad that he heard sounds in his head that he would never be able to play.

    Having only two useable fingers on his left hand must have restricted his solo playing although, again, you would not realise when you listen to him. He certainly could not play some of Bireli Lagrene’s solos for example. However, I think his two fingered soloing gave him a smoothness of articulation that very few other guitarists have achieved. He often played incredibly fast passages without them actually seeming to be fast. Never a sense of “snatching” a note that you often hear with even the best technicians, particularly when playing the acoustic guitar.

    Just watch this. For me, the accompaniment is particularly fascinating.


    billyshakesLango-Djangorudolfochristmac63000Bill Da Costa WilliamsBones
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,560

    Wowser! That's quite an accomplishment, Teddy. And I see what you mean about the accompaniment.

    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."
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 283

    I think working out two-finger technique is a pretty common exercise among Django followers--I remember seeing Sam Miltich reproduce the "I'll See You in My Dreams" solo that way more than a decade ago. (He nailed it.)

    Django was able to chord with more than two fingers when needed, though, since he could lay down the affected ring/pinky combination as a kind of half-barre, as Teddy does with his ring finger in his demo. The two (and sometimes three) finger limitation does affect comping, since it favors fewer notes-at-a-time, which lightens up the backing texture. (Remember how guitarists kvetch about overbusy pianists, with their ten available notes filling up the entire harmonic space?)

  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,173

    Err, that's Antonis Arfanis from Greece. Discussed more here: https://djangobooks.com/forum/discussion/17259/

  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    Posts: 259

    Just for fun I learned how to play the Django version of "I'll See You In My Dreams". It is a lot of fun (and pretty challenging) to play with just two fingers.

  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    edited September 2020 Posts: 1,204
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,560

    Thanks for the link nevertheless, Teddy, it was great.

    Antonis Arfanis: should you ever chance to follow this thread, many compliments to your amazing playing!


    ****

    I'm still getting into this way of playing and I occasionally fall off the wagon and use my ring finger, but it feels good.

    It gives extra volume, like suddenly I'm playing a trumpet!

    If you've never done it, guys, you should definitely try it!

    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."
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 283

    Ah--the embedded video doesn't identify the player. Who is indeed highly competent.

  • Posts: 3,055

    I learned I'll see you in my dreams with two fingers as well. It's taken me only 5 years, on and off, to record a decent take at Django's tempo which I did recently, it's out there on youtube.

    First thing that was surprising to me is, as soon as I started getting it up to speed, it turned out that right hand needed much more practice time than left. So for one it was a great vehicle for me to practice the right hand picking. On the left hand I believe it helped with vibrato. As well as realizing that simple is good, don't shy away from simple. The solo is full of straightforward shapes. The genius is in placement, phrasing and timing. Couple of arps are nearly identical but listening to it you'd never think so because of the way how they're phrased.

    It was very interesting trying to figure out ways he might have played. I changed the ways I played some of those arps more than a few times. Made me think the whole thing about him preferring to cover the fretboard horizontally is a myth. To me it looks like he could play horizontally in a very efficient way. Also I doubt his choice of notes was influenced much at all by his handicap. When you look at players playing his solos with all fingers, they don't seem to be making any unusual fingering choices.

    To really comment on your point Will, I definitely believe using the two fingers had a lot of influence on his tone.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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