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Gypsy Theory

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by mattwells, Aug 14, 2004.

  1. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    Okay, I have been listening out of my normal Genre's lately (out of jazz, into celtic/bluegrass/gypsy) and am thoroughly intrigued by all (I love new music).

    My question is what tones give the traditional gypsy music that sound? I have not sat down with a CD and transcribed and my ear is not good enough to catch them on the fly so I was wondering if you guys knew.

    If this is a mundane and or silly question, forgive me.
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Not silly at all. My friend Tom Conway knows a lot about this subject, and is a very accomplished guitarist in the genre. He's busy getting married at the moment, but I have a gig with him tomorrow night, so I'll have him contact you.

    From my standpoint (as bassist), it's relatively simple harmonically, based on swing music. Some of the tempos are absolutely obscene.
  3. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    I love Gypsy music and am interested in knowing more about it as well...
  4. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    This might get you going. The last time I checked, this site was under construction, but maybe the links section will help you out;www.gypsyjazzguitar.com

    I gotta say, we started this gypsy jazz group as a lark, messing around in my kitchen for fun. But I've never played in a group of any kind that has gotten the positive audience reaction that this group gets. People just eat it up. And it looks as though it'll be taking us to some faraway places in the future. Funny; I've spent so many years trying to be Fake Bebop Bassist, but I'm having more commercial success as Fake Gypsy Bassist.

    Go figgah.
  5. Depends on how you define traditional. Gypsy music is as diverse as their people are distributed through the world. I'm not sure if tone would be a common thread throughout all gypsy musics but I've observed a common esthetic or attitude in my limited knowledge.
    Facile chops, odd meter, speedy tempi (not always) and a mystical attitude of controlled flamboyance seem to show up a lot, but the best I can do is generalize. I've listened to some nitty-gritty recordings of very old Rom songs and although I don't understand the lyricial content, the emotional quality comes through strongly. The singers seem to use quarter tones (as do violons and other instruments) reminiscent of Turkish and other Middle Eastern music.
    Gypsy music has understandably undergone significant cross pollination with other cultures. Gypsies have long played popular music and many families take it very seriously and regard it as a family business.
    Here's a nice article:
    There are a lot of contemporary recordings of gypsy music ranging from gypsy jazz to pop and brass bands. For contemporary "traditional" Taraf de Haidouks from Romania is highly recommended. Viorel Vlad does a blistering (literally) slap bass solo on Turceasca, apparently on a 3 string bass with homemade gut strings.
  6. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    A big part of the classic Django-era Jazz Manouche sound, from the guitarist's perspective, is the use of I6 chord for the I chord instead of the Imajor7 and the m6 instead of the m7th. There are also a lot of diminished chords and runs. Add to that a very percussive rhythm and you've got a good part of the sound.

    Manouche rhythm guitarists usually play three-note chords off a suprisingly small set of simple forms which gives them the flexibility to do complex chord-per-beat playing. The same simple form can define multiple voicings; a guitarist will play G-E-Bb at the third fret for a C7 (5-3-b7), Gm6 (1-6-b3), or various diminished chords.