Level Guides

Guitarists might want jump right to the various Level Guides by using the links below. Non-guitarists who are new to Django in June, please have a look at the comments below those links for a little explanation about class levels.

Facilitated Jam Levels (All Instruments)
Lead Guitar and Improvisation Levels
Rhythm Guitar Levels
Picking Technique Levels

Note to non-guitarists regarding levels


Photo: Jeffery MacMillan

Most of the organized activities at Django Camp—both classes and facilitated jams—are organized by the level of ability of the participants. The only time this is not the case is when we have too few participants on any given instrument to hire more than one teacher. (Our target student/teacher ratio is 9/1.) If you need one more reason to register early, there you have it: if we know 15 clarinetists are coming far enough in advance, we’ll hire two teachers. If not, we’ll probably guess one teacher is enough.

Because there are so many guitarists in attendance at Django in June we have to be more explicit in the guidance we provide them so they can decide what level of classes to attend. That’s why we have prepared the Guitar Class Level Guides you would find a further down this page. For non-guitarists, however, this level of detail is generally not necessary. We’ll assign all the violinists, for example, to a group of meeting spaces close to one another and your teachers will sort you out in whatever way works best for the activity they have in mind.

Non-guitarists will want to have a look, though, at the level guide for facilitated jams, as those are open to all. For that, read on…

About facilitated jam levels


Photo: Jeffery MacMillan

While most of the classes at Django in June are instrument-specific, during the third class period of the day (4-5:30) everyone has the opportunity to participate in facilitated jams that are open to all instruments. These are organized by level of ability as follows:


Photo: Jeffery MacMillan

Guitar Class Levels

Lead Guitar and Improvisation

Level 1a and 1b: In response to feedback we’ve received over the years, in 2016 we’re going to try subdividing our Level 1 classes into 1a and 1b. In either class our teachers will assume that you either consider yourself more or less a newbie to lead guitar in this style or that you are choosing to start afresh. You have few, if any, melodies under your belt, and the same could be said of arpeggios, licks and other tools of the trade. That’s where our teachers will meet you. If you want or need to be sure to be in our most intro-level offering, opt for Level 1a; if you think maybe that will move too slowly for you, try Level 1b.

Level 2: You’re not be a total newbie, but you do not yet have a strong foundation in improvisation. If you are looking for a rule of thumb, try this one: can you play smoothly through the chord progression of our Tier 1 Core Repertoire, at performance tempo, using only arpeggios of the chords themselves? If not, here’s a good place to firm up that foundation.

Level 3: At this level we will assume that you are comfortable in a typical GJ jam with amateur enthusiasts and can solo at performance tempos on all but the fastest tunes. You not only know your arpeggios but can voice-lead through them confidently, adding tasteful embellishments as you do. You quote the occasional Django solo. Each teacher will have his/her own approach to helping you take the next steps as a soloist, but that will be their starting point.

Level 4: Here, the teachers will assume you are already an accomplished improviser. You can dive right into playing lead comfortably and competently in a GJ jam, even on faster tunes. You probably perform and/or teach Gypsy jazz at the local or regional level. You have a deep bag of tricks, but you’re always on the lookout for new ideas, approaches and opportunities to stretch out. We only offer two Level 4 class sessions, so they are intended for the top 10% of players among us. That you? Welcome!

Rhythm Guitar

Level 1a and 1b: At this level we will assume two things. (1) You want a sound introduction to playing rhythm in this style, including both idiomatic chord voicings and strumming techniques. (2) You don’t want to be rushed. Still, there are beginners and then there are beginners: if you are really, really new to this style and want to be in our most intro-level offering, opt for 1a.

Level 2: This level will work best for those who have already had a good intro to the style and don’t want to start from scratch, but who still need to work on fundamentals to get the sound and feel right or pick up the pace. It may also work well for experienced players of other styles who think they can pick up the basics fairly quickly.

Level 3: You have a strong foundation in the style, but want to work on whatever our teachers regard as more advanced skills: faster tempos, rhythmic fills, chord substitutions, relaxation/endurance, etc.

Level 4: Let’s say one of our teachers was going to be passing through your town and needed a rhythm guitarist for a serious gig with other pros. You’d be the person to get the call. Are you ready?

Picking Technique (“Gypsy Picking” )

Intro Level: For people who are still quite new to Django-style right hand technique. Expect a focus on fundamentals, with very little emphasis on speed.

Intermediate Level: Intended for players who’ve had a good intro to the technique and been at it for a while, but who are still not entirely comfortable with it. The focus will be on drills, exercises and licks you can use to help you get over the hump.