Over the past three years, my musical journey has been led by a string of guitars, and documented here for you in Boles Blues. You’ve traveled with me from the Blues and the Black Cat Bone to Jimmy Bruno Jazz and now into the whole new realm of “Gypsy Jazz.”
The patriarch of Gypsy Jazz Guitar is Django Reinhardt who played his way into history despite a fire accident that crippled two fingers on his left hand. Gypsy Jazz guitar uses a unique and athletic playing style and requires a special guitar, strings and even picks if you want to be historically correct!
I have done a lot of guitar pick reviews, and I know different picks create unique tones and influence playing style. One thing I noticed studying Gypsy Jazz guitar videos on YouTube is that many of the performers use the same white guitar pick. Deeper investigation led me to learn those picks are made by Wegen especially for Gypsy Jazz:
Since Wegen is based in the Netherlands, I wanted to find a more local place to purchase a couple Wegen Gypsy Jazz guitar picks, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon Michael Horowitz’s outstanding Django Books online portal, store and meeting place based in Seattle.
Michael sells all kinds of fantastic Gypsy Jazz stuff on his site. You can buy cheap and expensive Gypsy Jazz guitars, strings and picks. The Wegen Gypsy Jazz picks cost $15.00USD each, so you’re making a bit of an investment in a pick if you decide to go Wegen. Here’s the Gypsy Jazz pick sales blurp from Michael’s website:
Michel Wegen began his pick making career by fashioning the best possible picks for Gypsy jazz guitarists. His “Gypsy jazz pick” was his original creation and remains a bestseller to this day. It is very similar in shape, size, and sound to picks that Django and other Gypsies make themselves.
This pick is one of the best choices for achieving a traditional 30s/40s era Django tone. The thicker dimensions and bevel allow the pick to slide over the string to create a warm, smooth sound that is synonymous with Django’s classic tone. It has just the right amount of “click” or pick noise to give each note the desired clarity and attack. 3.5mm thick, 30mm long, 26mm wide.
I ordered two Wegen Gypsy Jazz picks from Michael Horowitz last Friday — and had my shipping confirmation in three minutes! — and the picks arrived in my mailbox Tuesday morning. Now that’s fast service! I immediately ripped open the package and started to strum La Pompe on my L5. I was purely delighted and satisfied as a whole new musical realm was now open to me.
The Wegen Gypsy Jazz pick is amazing. The picks are specifically machined for the right hand or the left hand. You have to decide which version you want when you buy, because the thumb and finger grip ridges cut into the picks won’t “hold” tight enough during percussive strumming if you order the wrong hand and the pick will end up flying out of your hand.
The Wegen pick is fat and nasty — in a great way! — and loud. You don’t have to think about volume or precision because the Gypsy Jazz pick preternaturally does it all for you by design and intention.
Before the Wegen picks arrived, I had been trying to play La Pompe with a Dunlop Delrin pick and a D’Andrea Pro Plec — my Jazz Tone picks were too small for a proper La Pompe — and I was having a hard time rightly hitting all the strings in rhythm and at the right volume. I was discouraged.
With the Wegen Gypsy Jazz pick in hand, everything changed! I could strum La Pompe all day long without getting tired or discouraged. Every string was sounding. The 3.5mm thickness of the Wegen pick made a huge difference in power and control that I did not expect. I could exert less effort and less concentration and get a sharper and more concise sound. It was a relaxing revelation!
Here is the great online Gypsy Jazz School instructor Yaakov Hoter playing the classic — J’attendrai — using a Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick and the guitar player next to Yaakov is performing the “La Pompe” percussive strum:
If you’re looking to experiment with some Gypsy Jazz Guitar, the easiest place to start to get a feel for the music is making sure you practice the up|down|down of the La Pompe strum — and having a proper pick in hand. The Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick is just the right tool you need to bring out the Gypsy in your Jazz guitar.