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First post, lots of questions

Hi there! I've gotten interested in GJ guitar over the past six months, mainly from seeing John Jorgenson and Robin Nolan in concert. I've bought a few instructional books/dvds and am really having fun with the music. I also bought a Dell Arte Pigalle that I'm enjoying quite a bit. I have a bunch of questions, but they are pretty diverse, so I wasn't sure which forum to post them in.

1. What is the best source to learn a lot of the GJ repertoire? Is there a fake book of GJ tunes?

2. I bought a set of the Argentine Savarez strings and had a bad A string. The shop gave me a replacement string, but that one was bad as well! We ended up putting a GHS string on the guitar, which worked fine. Is this common with Argentine strings? There seem to be several brands: Dell Arte, Savarez, John Pearse, GHS, etc. Do they all make their own strings, or are some just branded versions of the others? Who has the best quality control?

3. I'd love to play with other people. Do GJ guitarists have jam sessions? Are there any in Los Angeles? (the closer to Santa Monica, the better)

4. What are some of the best instructional books to get? I'm a fairly advanced guitarist, so I'm looking for more than the basics. I've got the Jorgenson books/DVDs, a book of Django solos, as well as a DVD on GJ rhythm techniques, but I'm looking for more.

5. I do a lot of recording of acoustic guitars and was wondering if there was a "standard" way to record a GJ guitar. I usually put a microphone at the neck/body joint, somewhere between 6 inches and a foot away. What do you guys do?



  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Hey - welcome.

    1.) The standard Gig book (if one exists) is the Robin Nolan Trio Gig book. It contains 75 classic songs with heads and simplified chord structures that will stand you in good stead at a Gypsy Jam. (sold on this site for about $75) Also - the Collin Cossimini books - there are three of them with 50 songs each. The chord changes are a lot more complex which doesn't sound like it will be a problem for you - but start with the RNT gig book. Advanced gypsy chord voicings use some unorthodox hand positions - stretches - thumbover etc... Use the RNT to get your repoirtoire going - then add the Gypsy chord voicings through Cossimini etal...

    2.) Strings can be a hotly contested topic but a huge swath of players play Savarez. Dell Artes seem (to me) indifferentiable from Savarez. As for single string substitutes - whatever works - go for it :) If you're getting that many bad A strings - are you sure it's not a guitar problem? If the GHS string has a higher tension by virtue of its construction/mass it may mask a minor fret bulge issue?? Maybe you need a fret dressing - that's not uncommon w/ new factory made guitars)

    3.) I don't know - but I LOVE Santa Monica... start one... I may someday show up with a Martin Backpacker under my arm. (decided a while back that I just couldn't do business travel without a guitar anymore)

    4.) Horowitz' Gypsy Picking so you can get the right hand sorted out. Your experience will work against you unless you're familiar with rest/stop picking. There are lots of other books. This site could probably be called the epicenter for buying Gypsy Jazz learning tools in America so just browse around it. The guy who runs the site is a pretty hardcore GJ player and doesn't stock any fluff, so you're unlikely to get something here that won't help you in some way. Also visit It's full of tips / licks / links / etc.. it's a "must bookmark"

    5.) Don't know that there is a right way - you'll bump into several piezo pickups that are popular - some also use Stimmer/DeArmond type pickups. For mics, I've heard AKG C1000s used to good effect with standard placements (one on the fretboad & one on the soundboard) but I'm no expert on recording; I only do it as a hobby and anymore I only do 2channel ambient recording (cardioid ORTF or omni Jecklin depending on how loud the background noise is) because I hate carrying lots of equipment and spending hours mixing tracks... life's too short. I've gone very minimalist wrt recording - two years ago I converted to a laptop w/ outboard D/A and this past year I went totally portable (MP3 player w/ a 9v outboard micpre). My serious recording equipment is gathering dust and will likely get sent to my brother for his home studio - but that's just me.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • ronzoronzo AnacortesNew
    Posts: 21
    Regarding your string problem, I have had the same problem with dead A strings from Savarez, about 8 sets of them in fact.

    Michael was kind enough to provide some single strings and two of the four or five were bad as well.

    It's easy to blame the guitar and spend some bux chasing the problem, but it's happened to several folks in the area on many different guitars, so probably a bad production run.

    You might find the twisting technique found in this forum to work for you, but I've never been able to hear much difference.

    You might try Gallis, Michael sez that many in europe use the V-26 folk strings. I've been very happy with GSL 10s and the folk strings.

  • Bryan TBryan T New
    Posts: 10
    That's strange - I'd posted a reply, but it vanished.

    1. I'd looked at the Robin Nolan book, but wanted to make sure it was a good one to get. $75 seems pretty steep, but I'll order it.

    2. I'm pretty sure it was the strings. The open string distorted, as did every fretted note on that string. Two bad strings in a row sas annoying and puzzled the guitar tech for a while. I'll try the Dell Arte strings and the John Pearse strings next.

    4. My right hand actually seems to follow a lot of the gypsy jazz technique. I think it comes from working on picking efficiency - lots of sweeps between strings, so I'm always starting on a down stroke when I go to a higher string. The only problem is starting on a down stroke when going to a lower string can feel awkward if it is something I'm used to doing on an up stroke.

    ronzo, thanks for the confirmation that the strings are probably at fault.

  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    almost all argentine As are unwound a little. that is where the buzz comes from. the cure: put on a new A string. tune it up a little to see if the buzz is there. if it is, untune the string until you can unloop it from the tail piece. after removing string from the tail piece, twist it counter-clockwise (i'm pretty sure that's the right direction) about the three times. that will wind it up a little. loop it on to the tail piece and you should be good to go.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    Welcome aboard!

    Just wanted to mention the links area, which you'll find here:

    Have fun,
  • djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
    Posts: 249
    Welcome to the forum, Bryan. I've tried are the Savarez and the Pearse strings. The Pearse ones were good, but Savarez sounded noticeably better on my Gitane DG-250M. Can't comment on any others though.

    I had one such A-string incident recently... I thought it was my guitar at first, but changing the string fixed it. I tried the winding trick with no luck. Hurts to bust open a second pack for one string.

    As for the Robin Nolan book, it's great and definitely worth owning, but it sadly doesn't include standard notation, which makes it worthless for sharing charts with non-guitarist bandmates.
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    Welcome Bryan,

    On the A string thing... The twisting thing does work but you might have to twist it more then 3 or 4 times. I have had to twist as many as 10 or 12 times to get the buzz to go away. However if you find other strings you like to play then just do that. It's all up to you and what you like.

    As for learning DJ. Listen to Django if you want to learn the real stuff. Take a song you like and transcribe the head, solo and out. That will teach you more then you can get from many books. From there take the runs you learn from the transcription and learn them in other keys so you can play them when you solo in other tunes. It is good to get a book of songs to accelerate learning but you can never beat listening to the greats. Django at this stage in your learning will be the most beneficial.

    If you can't find people to jam with and you like to record then lay down some rhythm tracks and then solo over them. It is good practice for both lead and rhythm. That is what I did for the first year of my learning until I found a jam community in my area. Also like other posters have said... Start a jam. All you need is one other parson! It will catch on in a few months. If you are buying GJ strings at your local music store there has to be some other GJ jammers in the area. Ask the store if you can put up a "Call to GJ Jammers!" Poster and put your number on it.

  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,911
    Josh Hegg wrote:
    Start a jam. All you need is one other parson!

    Me, I think this is taking the Gyspy Jazz Religion idea too far...

    Seriously, though, I think just listening to (and hopefully transcribing) as much as you can is the perfect way to go, especially as you're already an experienced player. Doing that while reading some of the instructional stuff in the downtime often seems to lead to moments where you make the connections, as opposed to just running patterns from books.

    Another thing that's really helped me in the past is listening to gypsy jazz players playing American standards I was already familiar with on the guitar. Comparing what I was used to playing with what they were playing was an eye-opener, harmonically, and led me to a lot of the subs and turnarounds common to the style.

    The jam idea is good, too, though I've found that unless you have at least one player who's at least fairly knowledgeable about the style (or at least dedicated to learning it well), it can be a bit of the blind leading the blind, without much progression to your progressions. When I started turning my friends on to this, I ended up doing a lot of running around-copying charts, making complilations of tunes, etc.-to keep them up to speed, and it's all been worth it, as now they're hooked.

    Good luck,
  • Bryan TBryan T New
    Posts: 10

    Thanks for the tips on the strings. Somehow, it seems silly to have to work around a manufacturing flaw, but the Savarez strings do seem really popular with you guys, so they must be doing something right.

    Thanks also for the tips on learning the style. Part of me is strongly opposed to just learning licks and applying them in different keys. I've never really done that with my other pursuits on the guitar, so why start now? Can anyone recommend a book that has more discussion of theory or finding your own voice within GJ guitar?

    An example of what I mean on the theory side. From the Jorgenson books I've noticed that the minor 6 arpeggio is popular in soloing. My ear hears that as the Dorian mode. So, over A minor, I hear A Dorian, which leads me to playing Dorian sounding things, but stressing the sixth more than the seventh - not something I'd typically do when playing other styles. Books that take an approach with more of a theory basis rather than a lick basis would be more helpful to me.

    I'll ask at my local shop to see if there is a GJ jam that I might attend.

    Thanks again,
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,379
    Hi everybody!
    Bryan wrote: Thanks also for the tips on learning the style. Part of me is strongly opposed to just learning licks and applying them in different keys. I've never really done that with my other pursuits on the guitar, so why start now?
    Bryan: I think that learning a Django´s solo and taking bits from it that you like, transposing them and using them is the best way to go about learning the vocabulary that defines this style. Later you can modify these in your own way. In the end you´ll always sound like you no matter what, I think.
    Can anyone recommend a book that has more discussion of theory or finding your own voice within GJ guitar?
    I don´t know if there is such a book, you could transcribe Django´s solos and analize them though.
    About finding your own voice:
    do study those that came before you and use them as models, but don´t forget yourself.
    By the way the melodic minor scale also features the major sixth so it´s also and option against min 6 chords especially the I.
    Another thing: min 6 chords are enharmonic to half diminished (-b5) ones that are located a minor third down, so you can think of A-6 as F#-b5 ( ii in E minor) and the same scales (F# locrian, locrian natural 2, etc.) would work for both (a cool option is playing F# minor b5 pentatonic [F#, A, B, C, and E] over A-6 it gives you the 6th, root, 9th, b3rd, and 5th, try it! May not be used too much on GJ now, but you want to be original don´t you :wink: ). A-6 and F#-b5 are enharmonic to D9 except for the D ( it´s in their scales anyway) so you can use the previous idea with D9 too.
    I hope you find this helpful, please let me know what you think.
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