How to fix low action (and fretbuzz) on a gypsy jazz guitar?

So, I bought a gypsy jazz guitar last week, a Gitane DG-340 Modele Stephane Wrembel. All in all it is in good shape but I think it needs some setup. The bridge on my guitar is already high but the action is too low (I hope that makes sense) which causes a lot of buzzing especially when playing single notes, and just a little when playing chords. I moved the center bridge a bit and it is now alligned with the moustache (when I got the guitar, the center is a bit higher than the moustache) but it still buzzes. What should I do to make the action higher given that the height of the bridge is already high? Should I move the bridge a bit more? Maybe some adjustments on the truss rod? Or should I buy a new nut? I'm thinking of bringing it to a guitar luthier to get it fixed but I don't think we have a guitar luthier that specializes on gypsy jazz guitars. Would a regular guitar luthier work for getting the job done? Thanks in advance!


  • Lots of folks shim the feet of the bridge with rosewood strips, guitar picks, credit cards, etc. Frets may need leveling as well. Hard to tell without seeing it. Any luthier could likely assess cause and fix.
  • wimwim ChicagoModerator Barault #503 replica
    Posts: 1,445
    stuart wrote: »
    There's nothing wrong with low action for gypsy jazz -- it worked for Django!

  • @stuart has a point. I had forgotten that my Gitane also buzzed some, never really bad, but it came and went randomly. I never quite figured it out but it did eventually go away.
  • edited March 2015 Posts: 4,707
    Gitanes have a steep neck angle, that's what accounts for the high bridge.
    I think most GJ guitars are prone to change the action with seasonal changes, not just Gitanes necessarily. Of course that depends on the local climate too, the same guitar is not going to have the same needs in San Diego as in Chicago.
    Definitely, like others said, give it some time to acclimate to your local weather and then, after a couple of months perhaps, take it to a guitar tech for a setup. A good tech will be able to handle it, GJ guitar doesn't differ that much from other acoustics when it comes to setup. Meanwhile if it's buzzing to the point it's producing a dead note just shim the bridge.
    There are a couple of really good posts on the forum regarding setups, look them up to get familiar so you can talk to the tech about your expectations.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Franz MoralesFranz Morales Philippines✭✭
    Posts: 85
    I saw the guitar for myself, and compared it to my own. Now, this is only the second gypsy guitar I've seen in person, and while there are differences in setup between our two guitars, I cannot say which is "correct." These are my thoughts:

    - the bridge was super high compared to mine. We didn't measure it, but I estimate the height difference to be double,or at least 1.5x. (it was high enough for me to be reminded of the bridge of a double bass)
    - the action on mine is about 3.5mm (my 3mm pick slips through between the 12th fret and low E-string with space to spare.) Nathan's guitar's action is almost "electric" in height and feel. This is odd since the bridge in mine is significantly lower.
    - because of the low action, volume is less and tone is different (but strings may have something to do with it as well)
    - the pliage, I notice, is different too. The gitane's pliage encompasses the whole top. Almost dome-like (at least to my eyes and feel). Mine only about half (when you view it at a certain angle, the Oval hole of mine seems skewed because of the pliage). But since the gitane is a signature model, I reckon it's according to Stephane's specs?
    - the neck of the gitane lies at an obtuse angle relative to the body. So while the bridge is high, the neck's angle compensates for it, thus keeping the action pretty much equally low throughout the length of the neck. To compare, the neck on mine is more level or flat, so the action starts low on the first fret then gradually rises towards the bridge.

    I eyed the gitane's neck and the frets were level and parallel, so no twisted neck issues.

    Me and Nathan surmised that maybe the first owner wasn't used to gypsy guitars so had it set-up (first owner never played gypsy jazz. He was just a collector). But since there are no known luthiers here who are expert with Selmer-type guitars, maybe the luthier who worked on it set the gitane up as he would a flat-top?

    Could it be that the neck was made to slant at an angle to lower the action, and give the guitar a more modern and electric feel? Or is this the normal way gypsy guitars are set-up and mine is the one that needs a little slanting?

    The sound of the gitane is vastly different from mine (again it may be due to the strings), with the gitane sounding more modern. It was strung up with argies, mine with a generic Chinese brand. The gitane had mild buzzing (as does mine actually, but only with certain chords), and has virtually no overtones. But I wouldn't describe the sound as dry. On the other hand, my guitar sounds more 'boxy' with mild overtones (but with new strings, the overtones are all over the place). Both our guitars have no leather strip between the tailpiece and body btw. I assume the sound difference is due to different designs?

    With the buzz, maybe it's because of the lack of leather?

    Again, my guitar and Nathan's guitar are the only gypsy guitars I've ever held and played. So whatever differences I've seen or heard, I cannot say which is more 'correct,' which is right. I'm aware different guitars have different characteristics, so the difference in tone is not an issue. I am wondering about the neck angle though in relation to the bridge.
  • edited March 2015 Posts: 3,707
    If one measures the height on both sides at the 12th fret that gives someone knowledgeable enough info to comment. Without knowing that it's pure speculation. If you sight along the neck one can see where and how much relief there is that is useful too but takes an experienced eye. Another way to get some idea of the shape is to press down on the 1st fret and the body fret and see where and how much space there is between the straight edge (string) and the frets.

    Every spring and every fall, my Dunn, which has very low action, goes through an adjustment period of a few weeks to a month where it can get buzzy on a few frets. This goes away once the guitar has settles. There is not a lot of seasonal RH difference here.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,318
    Start with checking your humidity if it has been very dry where you live. If so use a case humidifier for a couple days and see it that helps. Is the top sunk down?
  • AndrewUlleAndrewUlle Cleveland, OH✭✭✭ Cigano GJ-15
    Posts: 541
    Also note that moving the bridge relative to the mustache ends will change the intonation more than it will the action height. And as anyone here will tell you, different guitars have different neck angles, which require different size bridges, even for the same action. I doubt the nut is the issue.
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    The highest bridge on a GJ guitar that I have in my possession is 22 mm , which is rather high. If your action is low which would be below 2mm on the treble side and 3 mm on the bass side you will have to raise the feet of the bridge. If you need to raise more than .05 mm you should glue the shim in place , as its better for the sound and stability. If you have no idea of the instruments stability due to atmospheric variation , excess humidity or dryness , you can watch it for a few weeks. High bridges are not that unusual on floating bridge guitars. Its a result of the neck angle, a high bridge can be an advantage due to its effect on tone and response , its not a bad thing at all. I would advise you to make sure your action is at least 2mm on the high E and 3mm on the low E .
    On an arch top jazz guitar its not unusual for a bridge to be 30mm tall.
    Its all relative to the neck angle. Cheers from New Jersey USA
  • Thanks for all the informative answers. I can see my Gitane has a different neck angle and other things about my guitar were already mentioned in Sir Franz's comment. I think I'll just leave it for a couple of weeks or months, and if the buzzing is still there then I'll bring it to a guitar luthier. About the humidity issue, I can't be really accurate about it but I always put my guitar in its hardshell case, inside my bedroom. I think the humidity in my room is somewhat dry because of the climate here in our country (which is freakingly hot), but my room's temperature is neither too hot or too cold, just in the middle.
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