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How musically educated was Django?

djangoprodigydjangoprodigy Charlotte, NCNew
edited April 2011 in History Posts: 19
How musically educated was Django? It seems like some articles I read says he new nothing about theory at all, he didn't even know the chords he played, he just did everything by ear. Also I have heard that he did know some musical theory and stuff. Does anyone know for sure?
Relax, I'm only 14


  • He didn't read and I am certain from what I have read had no training in theory but he had a formdable ear and would have heard lots of music.

    People learn to speak fluently usually before they have any speech training at all. Some speak very well in spite of not having learned to read or write
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    Posts: 763
    "I don't know music but the music knows me". Ninine quoting Django...
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    It's a good question in as much as you have to wonder how he moved guitar playing forward and wrote beautifully for orchestra as well, but the question implies that pen and paper IS "education". I guess he proved otherwise. He was of course magnificently educated if by that you mean able to surpass virtually everyone else in his time in playing and composing to create a new style and sound.
    Perhaps any education he did have was not enough to hold him back.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • thickpickthickpick ✭✭✭
    Posts: 142
    I highly recommend the Dregni biography, "Django: The Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend". It's a great read filled with fascinating details of, well, Django's life and music. ... t_ep_dpi_2
  • I second the book recommendation. It's very entertaining.
  • djangoprodigydjangoprodigy Charlotte, NCNew
    Posts: 19
    When he is improvising though do you think he's thinking about arpeggios and all of those modes and stuff or is he just playing what he feels?
    Relax, I'm only 14
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    Dregni's book is dynamite. However it is biography. I don't recall much about music from inside Django so to speak. Certainly I may have forgotten.
    In response to djangoprodigies question, anything we say is speculation. I think I know why you ask, because knowing an answer might help us learn. But what can you say that isn't imposing some kind of framework from the outside.
    I would think there's a limit to what any of us could say that would summarize "my" music and how "I" play it, because even Django's stuff is partly collective (borrowed).
    In my own head, I try answer your (my) question so that I can imagine how to proceed, but only if someone tried to play literally like Django could that person speculate as to what kind of thinking is going on when he's successful at sounding like Django and maybe more importantly inventing in a manner that sounds like Django might have invented. But even then, I think someone might arrive at the same "destination" from a different route and never know much more accurately than anyone else, "what was Django thinking"?
    There's no god damned way to know! But I think its really useful to imagine you know just to borrow some thunder!
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • jmcgannjmcgann Boston MA USANew
    Posts: 134
    He knew exactly what he was doing. I think he may not have been able to describe it verbally, but he didn't have to. There's nothing random or hit-and-miss about it. The man had a hotline to God (IMHO), or if you are an atheist, The Truth.

    "Musically educated" is a funny phrase- I'd say he was musically educated by being alive and paying attention.

    I've never heard Django play a note without commitment.
  • The book I found most insightful on Django is by Charles Delauney.

    After all he knew him, hung with him, pretty much launched his career etc.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    Posts: 476
    You ask: When he is improvising though do you think he's thinking about arpeggios and all of those modes and stuff or is he just playing what he feels?

    I'd add a third choice to your suggestions (thinking or feeling). I'm pretty sure he'd practiced to such an extent that he had tremendous confidence in the language of his improvisation. So much greater because he was likely inventing "phrases, words, technique, counterposition of key, etc...." (extending the language metaphor) as he practiced and as he played. I'd guess that just as english (or other) comes out of us without us having to think about verb conjugation, a good improviser will not take the added time during performance to do that kind of background thinking. I suspect that great improvisers are enough immersed in all of this, irregardless of "education" or lack thereof, that they are "in the moment" when performing. They are somehow (and here's the rub) not likely "thinking" in the terms and symbols that we probably associate with music education. I think improvisation has to happen more as a combination of a trained body (finger muscles?) combined with the willpower in the mind pushing through the possibilities, the emotional, cultural, and viscerally exciting choices of this moment in this tune.

    Some good improvisers describe the sensation of "channeling". Thinking as a linear process seems to cease, and time stretches out, and the ability to compose on the spot is set free. Some have the experience of the improvisation not even coming from themselves but somewhere else.
    This is distinct from having 50 or 1000 different licks to choose from and sequencing through all your licks in a new order or not.
    But who knows what Django was "thinking" or even how to define "education" in regards to improvising.
    I love to "practice" but then its not really practice in the end. I want to believe that I'm preparing my fingers for doing something I haven't done before, and I don't have a word for that.

    Someone once told me that Zappa said: "It's as useful to talk about music as it is to dance about architecture." Describing music in english is much more difficult than translating from english to Hindi. No less so when we use words like thinking and education. They're relevant and useful when talking about music, but when performing, I suspect these words lose their usual context because we're using the brain differently when we're playing music than when we're talking about it.
    I think Django wasn't much of a talker, nor educated in the usual sense, and this has little to do with what we're hearing when he plays guitar, and not much to do with what is written in a biography, though the biographies certainly give us lots to think about.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
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