Considering to buy my first Gypsy Jazz guitar - question about upgrades and pickups

Hi Everyone,

I've been learning Gypsy Jazz music on my Taylor acoustic guitar for a few years and finally decided it was time to buy a guitar that is made for this style.

After some research on this site I've decided that the Altamira M30 is what I want to go for since it offers great tone for the price, and I'd plan to keep this guitar for a long time. (solid woods will only sound better over time) I plan to use this guitar mostly for recording and playing at home, but eventually I'd consider playing out with it. I play other styles of music with a band now, but would like to develop my skills in Gypsy Jazz and start adding this sound to my music eventually.

I was looking at the options for the M30 and I see that there is a setup special offered which includes fret dressing, upgraded bridge, etc. ($215) This seems to be a worthwhile option since it could only help the tone and playability.

I was also considering getting a pickup for it although I won't be needing this right away.
Is it better to go ahead and buy a pickup and have it installed with the purchase rather than buy one later and hire a local luthier to install it? My only concern is that the local luthiers may not be as familiar with this style of guitar and how they should sound. Any recommendations on the various pickup options offered would be greatly appreciated. Which one is the best for the money, and for the overall tone? (probably separate choices for each of these criteria, but would be nice to know)

Any feedback on these questions is much appreciated!
Thanks, --Jim


  • Hi Jim. I'm by no means an expert and have only been playing GJ for a couple of years. I started with a Gitane 250 M, a nice enough guitar that I bought from a friend for $500. It had barely been played. While shopping and researching, Michael and others recommended the Altamira over Gitanes. If you're into GJ like I am and have been playing it for a few years, I'd actually suggest instead of spending $1200 plus $215.00 plus a a couple of hundred for a case and a couple of hundred for a pickup, which comes to close to $2k, spend $2100 and get a real handmade French Dupont Nomade.
    I do believe the Altamira's are good for price. Nomade would be better.
    I also think you might outgrow the Altamira pretty quickly.
    I have K & K Definity pickups on both my guitars and play live with drum, bass, and violin. Love them!
  • edited November 2014 Posts: 3,707
    I think your decision is sound (pardon pun). Definitely the setup is worthwhile. If you have the money and are certain of your addiction to this genre, talk to Michael at Djangobooks. He's very approachable, a great guy to deal with and get his opinion. He might also have a great deal on a used guitar in a similar price range and he is not a pressure guy at all. He wants happy customers.

    I bought my DuPont sight unseen based on Michaels description and it was as described.

    I have used mics for my guitars and even though my DuPont came with a pickup I much prefer the sound of a good mic. The mic vs pickup issue is a personal preference re convenience vs sound feedback problems can be more prevalent though lots of guys play large venues with mics. Takes more skill in knowing what mics and how to control feedback and sound levels.

    It isn't a lot more to have one installed after the fact if there is someone in your area who can do the work.

    Welcome to the forum.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Like @stuart says:
    "I bought my DuPont sight unseen based on Michaels description and it was as described."
    No setup needed on any DuPonts. Also probably come with case. Better resale or trade value if you want to upgrade.
    K&K Definity is very easy to install and temporary so can be undone simply. I like the sound better than Bigtones.
  • Another thing to consider is that if you are not using the pickup in the near future technology is changing pretty fast in this area now. Who knows what's going to come in the next year or two.

    If you can afford to move up its something worth giving serious thought to.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • jwpfeiferjwpfeifer Phoenix, Arizona✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    Posts: 21
    Thanks so much for the advice on considering the Dupont Nomade instead as it's is only slightly more expensive than my first option, given the cost of a setup (which might not be needed at all on the Dupont Nomade). Maybe this is a better choice overall. I'll give Michael a call to see what he would recommend.

  • You'll probably be happier with it and it will ultimately be a better buy in the long run!
  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465
    The Dupont Nomad is a WAY better guitar than the Altamira. If you can afford the extra money, this is a no brainer.

    For a pickup, go with a clip on mike (the best sound for a Gypsy guitar) if you do not need to be very loud or a Krivo stick-on if you will be playing in a noisy room (The most cost effective solution for loud rooms).
    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • MandobartMandobart ✭✭ Mandolin, Octave Mandolin, Mandocello, Fiddles
    Posts: 100
    I'll just throw out my pickup/jack/preamp combo of choice. I have no financial interest in any of these companies, but I've installed JJB PPS 200 twin head pickups on over a dozen instruments, from fiddles to mandolin, mandola, octave mandolin, guitars, mandocello and upright bass. These can be installed fairly easily and don't alter the acoustic sound at all. They are piezo elements, so I highly recommend an impedance matching DI or pre-amp. I've used several, and have recently settled on the Red-Eye. It gives me a good natural tone on all my instruments, no matter what sound system I plug in to. A well-placed mic sounds better, but many of my playing environments are too cramped, crowded, or feedback-prone to use a mic. I also like not having to haul around a mic and stand.

    For a large bodied instrument I use a switchcraft switchjack at the endpin (except on the bass of course). For the violin, I use a screw-in jack (strap groove works great for the tail gut) as there is no way to get the switchjack inside those f-holes.
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    The Red Eye is great !
  • jwpfeiferjwpfeifer Phoenix, Arizona✭✭ Dupont Nomade
    Posts: 21
    I just placed my order for the Dupont Nomade after talking directly with Michael, and also discussing pickup options. He highly recommended the Bigtone pickup, so I went with that option also, even though this was a little pricey. I'm thinking that it might be best for me to invest in this now so that I have great sounding setup that I'll be happy with for years to come. Can't wait to get the guitar. It's my first Gypsy Jazz guitar, and I've been wanting one for several years now. I'll finally be able to get that sound, ... now I need to go into learning mode and get to work on my technique. I'd already transcribed one of my favorite Django tunes, "Django's Tiger" ... can't wait to learn more things. As I've found so far, studying Gypsy Jazz can help your right hand technique for so many other styles of music, not to mention giving you tons of cool lines that you can use in Country, Rockabilly, Western Swing, Jazz, etc. ... I'm thrilled to be starting this new area of study.
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