Django’s Castle – Solo Guitar Arrangement and Improvisation



Django’s Castle – Solo Guitar Arrangement and Improvisation

I love playing ballads. I love playing them slowly, letting each chord ring, testing new and familiar sounds, transforming my emotions into music and my ideas into realities.

I love creating beautiful arrangements for solo guitar playing, improving my chord vocabulary, and enhancing my improvisation skills. Playing the ballads in an open tempo (rubato), helps me learn and implement new ideas in a musical way. 

In this lesson, we’ll learn the beautiful ballad, Django’s Castle (Manoir de Mes Rêves), by Django Reinhardt. We’ll start from the basics so everyone can follow and move on to more advanced topics – melody, harmony, chord melody, tips for improvisation and practical, yet exciting, advanced musical ideas that you’ll learn to implement right away (such as substitutes, inversions, superimposed chords, augmented chords, the 13b9 sound, intro, ending and bass lines).

Ballads are a perfect opportunity to practice new skills not as a dry exercise, but with a lot of pleasure. Let’s get started-

Suggested Chords
The 13b9 chord

This song includes a very special chord – A13/Bb. Bb is the b9 of A7, so basically this chord is a dominant chord – A7, with the tensions b9 and natural 6 (or 13, because 7+6=13).

If you take a look at the F# Major chord- you’ll see that it gives us those two tensions. So, a beautiful way to improvise over the A13/Bb chord is to play the major chord that sits on the 6th degree of the chord A7. That means you can play an F# arpeggio over the A13/Bb and get the 13b9 sound.

F# over A7

F# is the 6th degree of A7. A# (=Bb) is the b9 of A7. C# and E are the 3rd and 5th degrees of A7; they belong to the A7 chord.

F# and F#7 both sound good over A7.

F# arpeggio: F# A# C#

F#7 arpeggio: F# A# C# E

The Whole-Tone Scale:

The Whole-Tone scale also sounds great over the Dom7. It is a scale constructed with whole-tone steps. Let’s look at it over E7:


E Whole-Tone Scale:

E Whole Tone Phrase:

For the entire Ballads course, click here

Facebook Comments
  • Scott Moorhead
    Posted at 09:30h, 02 April Reply

    That was beautiful! You must have read my mind. I was just thinking about how to play for someone and not to have it sound like just a bunch of chords together. Especially since I am not at the stage of being able to solo or even arpeggiate. I have one question. In gypsy jazz I notice that they mostly use a very thick pick. I am use to very thin pick that has some give on the strings. When I try to use a thick pick it is very hard sounding and gets stuck on the strings. In this demonstration your chords sound very soft and light. Even you are using a very stiff pick. How to make the soft sounds so that the strings do not sound harsh and too loud. Also how to do the chords lightly so that on fast rhythm the pick does niot get stuck against the strings. Probably just practice practice practice.
    Another thing I really appreciate on your video is when you have a diagram of the chord shapes on the screen as you are playing them. It is very useful for learning new chords.
    Thank you again, Yaakov. Have a nice day!

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:21h, 23 July Reply

      I hold the pick very gently and it has an angle, so it doesn’t get in 90 degrees into the string.
      But almost floating near them.
      I demonstrate it in my videos about technique.
      Like this one-

  • Todd Williams
    Posted at 13:35h, 02 April Reply

    Thank you very much. I’ve learned more with a few of your vids than books from others. Your giving the “tools” rather than only phrases has allowed me to expand my guitar vocabulary. Love it! Thanks again.

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:17h, 23 July Reply

      My pleasure. Happy you love the lesson

  • Martin Lawson
    Posted at 18:29h, 04 April Reply

    One of my favourite recent lessons from you – partly because it’s a geat song, partly because I was about to go over it again pre Italy in July, partly because there were some great ideas simply presented!

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:17h, 23 July Reply

      Well, it was great seeing you in Italy, but you didn’t play it for me 🙂

  • Ken Brown
    Posted at 23:44h, 05 April Reply

    Measure 15
    The Whole Tone Phrase

    is ascending chromatic approach tones to D minor chord tones.

    No Whole tones!

    This will confuse your students.

    I like to include a G natural below the F# triad.
    Rather than doubling the root.

    Why not use 3rd Finger to 1 on the whole Tone Scale
    like you demonstrated.

    The picture uses 2nd to 1st Finger (Django Style I guess but much harder)

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:16h, 23 July Reply

      Can you point to the exact minute of the whole tone? Where you think it’s chromatic instead?
      And about fingering, usually I point on Django’s fingerings, but you can modify them as you wish.
      You can choose your own fingerings, no problem with that

  • Jesse Walker
    Posted at 09:50h, 08 April Reply

    Bravo Yaakov!. Learned so much from this. About to sign up for the full course,

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:14h, 23 July Reply

      Great! see you there:)

  • Tom Morarre
    Posted at 16:52h, 23 July Reply

    Very nice video lesson Yaakov. Good pace, lots of good material, and the demonstration with descriptions of what you are doing is a great way to finish the lesson. Thanks for making this available.

    • Yaakov Hoter
      Posted at 17:14h, 23 July Reply

      My pleasure Tom, happy you love it!

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