Django's left hand - new BMJ article

ibradburibradbur Halifax Nova Scotia✭✭✭
edited January 2010 in Welcome Posts: 55
New article in the British Medical Journal examines Django's hand and injuries. Thought it might be of interest..


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,154
    I read this...interesting but I'd have to take them to task on some of the claims in this article:

    The last technique particularly suited ninth or minor sixth chords rather than the more conventional major or minor chords of the time, and introduced his audience to a new range of tonal colours.

    I don't think Django really had much to do at all with introducing the 9th or 6th chords to swing era jazz. Everyone was using those color tones already in both the US and Europe. It was just part of the harmonic aesthetic of that era.

    It is difficult to play standard scales with just index and middle fingers, so Django adopted an arpeggio-based rather than modal approach to soloing.

    Django did use a lot of arpeggios but he clearly had no problem playing scales as there are plenty of examples were he does. Again, I think this was more of an aesthetic choice and didn't have much to do with his disability. American swing players were also more arpeggio oriented in the swing era as well. The scalar approach became more important in bebop, and pretty much dominant in post bop styles.

    Django’s technique was only possible because of the remarkable length and span of his index and middle fingers.

    Maybe, but I personally haven't had too much trouble learning some of Django's solos using only two fingers. We all know Gypsies love to do this it doesn't seem like one needs any sort of anatomical advantage to pull of Django's two finger technique. The amazing thing is really that he figured out how to do it and make it musical! But once he set the precedent, I think most people can do it if they put in the time.

    Anyway, I'm probably just nit picking but hey, I've written numerous books on this so I can't help but be a little obsessive about the details! Otherwise a great article...

    I think that Django's unusual technique overshadows his true accomplishment which was that he elevated the guitar to the status of a true solo instrument in jazz. And he did this mostly before the invention of the electric guitar which is pretty amazing! Overcoming a life threatening injury was a huge accomplishment in of itself, but I often feel that people dwell too much on that.

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