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Primer for Gypsy Jazz Guitar with Ed Dunsavage

Django fortunes told with a jazzy twist

 

by Chris Loeffler

 

 

Jazz guitarist and university instructor Ed Dunsavage held a workshop for the Britt Education Guitar Workshop this year to provide students with an overview of jazz guitar, with a focus on his current passion - Gypsy jazz in the style of Django Reinhardt. A large focus of the exploration focused on the foundation of most Gypsy jazz rhythm parts with an introduction to "La Pompe" ("the pump"), the typical rhythm guitar strumming. This simple, driving beat is often played by multiple players at the same time, which moves the progression forward relentlessly in a traditionally percussion-free genre. As simple as it sounds, mastering La Pompe requires a fairly disciplined practice regimen, but the payoff is one of the most infectious guitar rhythms in the world that is useful for much more than just Gypsy jazz.

 

The Technique of La Pompe

 

Starting below the high E string, play an upstroke, then a down stroke and then quickly rest your strumming hand above the low E string, so you’re positioned for the next down stroke. As you do this, place an emphasis on contact with the lower strings more than the high strings to create a solid bass foundation.

 

With your hand already in place, quickly fast down stroke, this time emphasizing the sound of the upper strings more than the lower strings.

 

That’s the technique, as simple as could be. That said, there are a lot of body mechanics to pay close attention to that are required for proper strumming feel and motion. You use your elbow and not your wrist to strum, so that your entire arm is working the strum and you have a more solid and consistent attack. However, your wrist should still be slightly bent to keep contact from being too stiff. The staccato pumping of La Pompe requires lots of fast jumps and pauses, requiring efficient and controlled right-hand technique.  

 

Chords & Chord Progressions

 

Here is a classic Gypsy jazz chord progression to work through that's perfect for La Pompe.

 

 

 

This is just a brief taste of what the first steps into learning Gypsy jazz is all about, and if you like where it's going, you've got a long, enjoyable musical road ahead of you!

 

  -HC-

 

____________________________________________ 

 

Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer. 

 

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