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Our French Cousin: "Le Pompe"

"Le Pompe" - Django-style Rhythm

I do not claim to be an expert on the vast expanse that is gypsy rhythm. There are numerous historic and regional styles among gypsies and other gypsy-jazz guitar players, which they're own variations and ideosyncracies. I suggest Michael Horowitz's book Gypsy Rhythm, available at

However, I think I can cover the difference between the basic Pompe and Swing Rhythm Guitar. Again here is the notation of Swing Rhythm Guitar:

Now compare to this notation of Le Pompe:

Think of it sounding like this: "a-short, long, a-short, long."

In playing Le Pompe one of things to keep in mind is that the upstroke note shouldn't be thought of as an offbeat eigth note, but rather as a grace note. You should make a very, very small upstroke, and then in the same motion, turn the pick back down for the downstroke. That downstruck chord should be played short. The next downstroke is played long. Among gyspies in different locales there are some varying approaches, but this is a pretty standard "Le Pompe."

Try expirmenting with "Le Pompe", but remember, four-to-the-bar is essential to the rhythm of Swing music, so "Le Pompe" is more of an accent flavor, and not to main dish, unless of course you are playing in a Django-type hot club band.


Here's a sound sample I quickly recorded of "Minor Swing" in both styles. 1st chorus is 4-beat, 2nd le pompe, and then half a chorus of each. Also, try soloing over each to see the differnce in how they make you play. 

 4beatvslepomp by campusfive 

Reader Comments (9)

C'est si bon! Jonathan I enjoy reading your blog because now I am starting to understand better from a musical standpoint what makes swing music. Before I couldn't explain why I liked certain songs except by saying, "You would have to tie me down to make me not dance to this song." but now I can explain from a musical standpoint why songs like "The Caricoa" have such a drive to them.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterApache

Huh, I always thought it was "long short" a la "boom chick". Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you mean by short and long.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjulius

It's definitely NOT "boom-chick." I always thought it was too.
It's "ah-short, long, ah-short, long." The ah being incredibly short.

July 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Stout

So is it "chi-chick boom" instead? Interesting. It's pretty hard for me to hear the "long" part, because all of the notes are so percussive and short.

July 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLMAO

Many many thanks for the resourceful site, but can you post an example of this kinde of "pompe"? I've been playing gypsy jazz for quite a while, but I have never intended la pompe to be like you say. For example listen to this:
It's clearly a "boom-chick" feel, even with the "grace-note" thing you were talking about and the "boom" part emphasized by the bass (gypsy is almost always 2-beat). The big difference for me is the time feel, more "ahead of the beat" than in swing music.
What do you think?

July 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwatermelonman

FYI-Not all la pompe has an upstroke, and the inclusion of the upstroke does not make it la pompe either. In fact if you look at most Gypsy Jazz players today most don't do the upstroke at all, (there are exceptions of course like Fapy Lafertin)...that being said I wouldn't say that they are playing a Freddie Green straight four to the bar rhythm either, you gotta make sure you get that scrrrraaapppe in there on the 1!

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbaro bar

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