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Play the Violin Like Stephane Grappelli
The show of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt playing in the 1930’s is a really rare video album, one of the few recorded films of Hot Club De France (Jazz band of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). The song J’Atendrai (I Will Wait) is a popular song of the day and is played in a ‘Hot’ Jazz style. This is the only example where the audio and video match, so what you see is what they play.
So what do I like about this clip?
Stephane’s acting is confident, rich, sweet and a little cheeky! Even sitting up in bed smoking he can play with amazing voice and tone. It’s interesting to see how his technique has developed over the years, if you watch later footage of him playing he seems to be comfortable with a relaxed, almost ‘folkie’ feel. In this clip, recorded sometime in the 1930’s, you can see that he is still using the ‘old fashioned’ or slightly more traditional style (probably a few years earlier when he was learning the violin).
So what makes Grappelli, and this clip, so great?
His voice (beat) is inspiring, I don’t think I’ve ever heard him play without a song (no seriously he’s that good), he’s developed the most amazing ear for vocals, all the way down to his musical development (which we said. ‘That’ll come later). Look closely at his left hand, his elbow is under the violin, the wrist and right hand are vertical and his right hand is slightly forward and the fingers of the right hand are on the fingerboard down to the strings at the fingertips. The right hand and thumb are free at all times. Without this he is nothing.
The bow arm is equally impressive, at 3.17 you can see the elbow and left hand and wrist level, especially when he goes to the bow draw. Just like his left wrist his right wrist is free and flexible. Look at how he uses every bow (later he always sits in 3rd position), putting the bow on the string before pulling the trigger. Not to mention the free syncopated swing he gets, but that’s another lesson!
Another characteristic of Grappelli’s playing that I like is the wonderful vibrato he gets, especially in the high notes, you can see it coming out of the hand and the arm and it’s short and fast, just mocking the delicacy of the instrument.
His drag lick at 2.07, right at the end of the main song is fantastic, I’ve been trying to play this in my Hot Club for years! It’s the combination of syncopation, slides, drag, brilliance and amazing Jazz intuition that blew me away.
How did you come to this?
How to do this shouldn’t be surprising, it takes a surprising amount of practice and effort! However, I believe in short it comes down to these 5 Simple Things Anyone Can Do-
1) Practice, practice and more practice – Grappelli started playing in the streets of Paris, collecting money, then, when he was old enough, he moved to Jazz Bands, movie theater groups, Jazz clubs and campfires with Django, sometimes playing everything. night. They say you have to practice 10,000 hours before you can master a musical instrument, I think he easily covered this in his youth.
2) Listen/watch and copy – in his bio he mentions many times he watched, got tips/lessons, and listened to many other musicians, not only Jazz but also classical players and copied what he saw.
3) Have some lessons – really obvious but helpful! I believe he studied at a conservatory in Paris for a time.
4) Learn piano – no doubt this will help his voice and understanding of chords/keys with his Jazz improvisation.
5) Listening to music – he would have been surrounded by jazz and classical music at that time, this meant that the music he was playing was new before he tried to play it himself. This is important for vocal development and focus on the 20% that needs to be improved (the 80/20 rule) when practicing anything.
So I hope this gives you a little taste of Grappelli, I will write more about him on my website as he is a great inspiration. Remember to download great violin sheet music and mp3 backing tracks here – http://www.funkyviolins.com/violin-sheet-music/
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