Have you ever wanted to learn to play guitar in the style of the incredible Django Reinhardt?
Always wanted to be able to play 'Minor Swing' and other Hot Club Of France classics properly but don't know where to start?
Have you been playing a while but stuck in a rut?
JONNY HEPBIR GYPSY JAZZ GUITARIST can help you achieve any swing guitar goals you have from understanding and playing 'La Pompe' rhythm through to creating your own solos.
Having taught Django-style for over 25 years and played Gypsy Jazz professionally in bands throughout this time, I've had the pleasure of coaching hundreds of guitarists of all ages and abilities, from beginners to advanced during this period.
The internet is saturated with a plethora of methods, courses, how-to's etc relating to the incredible Gypsy Jazz/Gypsy Swing/Jazz Manouche guitar artistry. It's quite a minefield if you're not used to it/just getting started.
When I started dabbling with actually playing Gypsy Swing there was very little in the way of sourcing good, reliable information. This was years before YouTube became THE medium to see good players.
Apart from listening to the master/originator Django Reinhardt, I'd seen Fapy Lafertin play live quite a few times in England during the 80's and early 90's and had Waso 4 & 5 on vinyl. I also listened to the Titi Winterstein Quintet featuring guitarists Lulu & Geisela Reinhardt on a cassette borrowed from a friend around this time too. The 'Django Legacy' documentary had been on Channel 4 in 1990 so seeing/hearing Stochelo Rosenberg was also a massive revelation in terms of a different type of playing style within the genre.
I had a 'Hot Club' style band in the early 90's but knew very little about the nuances of playing guitar a la Manouche. It was my first trip to the Django Reinhardt Festival at Samois Sur Seine, France in 1995 that really changed my playing and my life.
It was the realisation that all Sinti/Manouche/Gypsy guitarists played with the same picking technique, even though they might be from different countries and have varied musical voices, the physical act of playing guitar with a plectrum, was always the same.
This might be normal for Classical, Flamenco and certain hybrid Bluegrass forms of guitar playing but not with a Jazz flavoured style. So began my search for Gypsy Picking knowledge and understanding. Not an easy task back then, the best way to study initially was going to at the Samois Festival once a year and watching them all up close. The rest of the time it was wearing out multiple-copied VHS videos and trying to make headway by jamming with friends and doing lots of gigs.
I think I must have made headway over the years as the standard of guitarists I got to play with kept going up. Eventually I found myself sharing the stage and having jams with the gods of modern Gypsy Jazz including Stochelo Rosenberg, Lulu Reinhardt, Bireli Lagrene, Paulus Schafer, Angelo DeBarre, Fiegeli Prisor and many other awesome players.
Here's a few pics from some of these sessions over the years.
From Left to Right - Concert as part of Bireli Lagrene's group in Wrexham, Wales 2003. Playing with Stochelo Rosenberg and Wawau Adler for Stochelo's book launch during the Samois Festival, France 2007. Onstage at L'Esprit Manouche Festival Birmingham 2003 with Angelo DeBarre, Andreas Oberg and Dave Kelbie. Jam at the Samois Festival 2010 with Lulu Reinhardt, Rigo Winterstein, Wawau Adler and Rino Van Hooijdonk. After Wrexham gig shot with a sweaty Bireli Lagrene 2003. Jam at Samois, week before the festival started in 1996 with Lollo Meier & family. Concert in London with John Etheridge 1995. Hanging out with Lulu Reinhardt in Germany 2013. Jam with Romane at Ian Cruickshanks's festival 1996. After jam pic with Fiegeli Prisor, Paulus Schafer, Rino Van Hooijdonk and my buddy Jason, Holland 2013. With Stochelo Rosenberg, Samois 2007. Concert with Mundell Lowe ( Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker amongst others, and he jammed with Django!) London 1994. First ever jam with Stochelo Rosenberg and Paulus Schafer, Samois festival 2002.
These days it's easier to pick up on the playing side of things thanks to the internet but I believe that one-to-one sessions are the best way to learn this style coupled with actual playing experience jamming with friends etc.
There's a vast difference between watching videos and actually hearing a good player in the flesh. It always blew me away when I got to play with a lot of my guitar idols and could hear the power, control and tone they got from their instruments.
I can read and write music, I taught students at two schools, one state, one private for eighteen years. This involved preparing them for music exams up to 'A' Level standard and all the usual grading exams in all different styles. There were a lot of school concerts to prepare for too. I was also a College Lecturer in guitar during this time for seven years.
I'd like to add that none of the 'formal' academic style of learning was of any use when sat down playing with Gypsy guitarists. A good ear, a keen eye and a proper sense of timing were way more important.
I not a big fan of the various premeditated 'down stroke/up stroke formulas I see people use as the basis of teaching Gypsy Jazz. I went through all of those in the first 5/6 years of playing Django-style before the phrase 'rest stroke' came into existence in 2002. I believe in the long run, studying this for hours on end will actually inhibit your picking style or hold you back, especially if you're starting out.
I base my teaching on the methods I picked up from my favourite Gypsy Jazz players. Focusing on developing a strong, adaptable technique for both rhythm and improvisation.
I offer lessons at my home in Kent as either an hourly session or a full day session, which is popular when I've had players travel from outside the area.
I also teach via Skype, Facetime and Zoom and that's been great to meet players from lots of different countries/areas including Russia, USA, Tobago, Australia and Europe. Also from far-flung places around the U.K.
I'm also very experienced at holding Gypsy Jazz guitar workshops which are a lot of fun and encourage community playing. I had just started doing them locally to me when the pandemic hit. Hopefully that'll all get back up and running when things improve.
Here's a pic from my last workshop.
If you're interested in having Gypsy Jazz guitar lessons please do get in touch, I'm happy to chat about any requirements you have.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07712 332 967
For more information about topics I can cover please visit my GYPSY JAZZ GUITAR LESSONS PAGE.
If you would like to hire one of my Gypsy Jazz band line-ups whether Solo, Duo, Trio, Quartet or Quintet for an event, wedding or party, please visit my BAND HIRE PAGE. There are options for different instrument line-ups to suit your requirements.
Here's a video of 'Django's Tiger' from a fabulous jam session I had in Holland with Paulus Schafer, Feigeli Prisor and Rino Van Hooijdonk.