A lot of new guitarists in the Gypsy Jazz genre have the same dilemma



A lot of new guitarists in the Gypsy Jazz genre have the same dilemma

A lot of new guitarists in the Gypsy Jazz genre have the same dilemma:
Should I learn the Rest-Stroke picking method (The Gypsy traditional picking technique) or not?

There are two main sides to playing music:

How to play– right hand technique

What to play – Your notes and chords

You decide whether you want to take the “what to play” and improve your improvisation, knowledge and skills from Django’s beautiful music, or add the “How to play” and get that special sound as well.

Gypsy Jazz Technique

I have loved Django since I started playing at the age of 13. I played his solos, and was influenced by his improvisations. but I only got into Gypsy Jazz technique much later in my career, and I had to make the change from my previous technique to the traditional Gypsy Jazz technique.

I LOVE this technique – the sound it produces and the feel of the strings under my pick. But what if you already have a good technique of your own? Is it really worth the trouble to learn the unfamiliar Gypsy Jazz technique? Or maybe it’s enough to learn the special phrases, licks and Django’s ideas for improvisation and add them to your playing without the specific technique?

The answer is that it’s entirely up to you.

There are a lot of benefits to Rest Stroke Picking: 

Sound – you’ll get the best sound from your acoustic guitar (not your electric guitar).

Presence – You’ll sound sharp and the dynamics in your playing will stand out.

Health – this method fits the natural position of your hand. So, you will probably have less pain when using it.

Speed – well, you’ve heard the Gypsies – you can play pretty fast with it….

BUT- Learning a new technique is like learning a new instrument. It requires daily practice and a few months to nail it down. I based my daily practice on Arpeggios, and it is a great way to master the technique!

Here are a few guidelines to help you make the first steps in the Gypsy picking and decide for your own.

Fundamentals of The Rest Stroke Picking

Rest stroke picking movements.

We have three important movements- down-stroke, sweep and upstroke. Please note to the sighs I use here to mark each pick movement.

 The down-stroke – uses your elbow to move between strings. It’s like each string has a different elbow position. When you play the down-stroke, you should come to rest on the string below. For example- if you hit your 6th string, you should “lean” on your 5th string with your plectrum. This down stroke is very important and every first note on each string should be played as a down stroke.

 The Sweep –  When you play down-stroke and then a note on a string above, you need to continue with the same movement from your elbow to the higher string. For example: if you play a down stroke on your 6th string and then move on to the 5th string, you just have to push your hand further down from your elbow.

The upstroke– uses your wrist. Imagine you have a card inside your hand that you want to quickly glance at and then immediately hide it again. The upstroke is fast and short- a flick of the wrist.


Dim7 exercise exaggerate your movements to make sure you use your elbow when you play the down-stroke and the wriest when you play the up-stroke:

Gypsy Jazz Ending etude:

Click here to learn how to get that Gypsy Jazz sound, technique and style!