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Some basic questions

Hello , I am new to this forum. I have some basic questions that maybe someone can answer. Sorry if they sound silly ... But you know you'll start from 101, isn't it.

Some background: I play jazz (standards) on a Gibson ES 335 and I have just started looking into Gipsy Jazz materials. I am curious about the guitars used in Gipsy Jazz. I know about the two main different designs, D-hole and oval-hole, the historical development and the motivations. But I have some curiosities. How those guitars sound with other styles. Fingerpicking for instance. How can be compared to a flat top guitar. Can I use any other acoustic guitar, i.e. my Gibson L-00 Studio for instance or my electric ? It's only a matter of technique or the guitar is actually an essential / non-negotiable part of this style ?

Unfortunately it is impossible to find a store where you can test one of these guitars so just listening on YouTube or records you can't really have a more precise idea about playability, sounds, comparisons, etc. I have a very precise idea about a classical guitars (I have played many before buying one) or flat top of different brands, but these guitars are not really common, they are not manufactured in series or they are not coming from traditional brands with high reputation and history (Martin, Gibson for instance). It looks like when you buy a strings instrument like a violin a cello or bass.

In fact, besides guitar, I play double bass (in a symphonic orchestra). The first bass I purchased (long time ago) was a cheap instrument, nonetheless I have tested several of them in the store before selecting one. The current bass I use, took me months of testing on multiple instruments before buying the one I liked (and could afford). I have tested dozens of different bows before selecting the one I am using now. It looks like that these guitars require a similar approach.

Any suggestion? Are there any stores somewhere near NYC ? (obviously we need to wait when they reopen).

Thank You



  • wdickersonwdickerson Austin, TXNew Holo #73
    Posts: 41

    Hi @diwa130, your questions are not silly! While these guitars do have a specific sound, it is very much possible to use any other acoustic guitar. Here is a video of Sebastien Giniaux sounding great with a Martin flat top.

    Here is a video of Antoine Boyer doing his thing (not traditional Gypsy Jazz) but on a selmer-style guitar and sounding incredible:

  • diwa130diwa130 New
    Posts: 3

    Thank You , these videos show many things I wanted to know. I have played Martin Guitars, so now I know how they can sound with this music. The second video shows the potential of the guitar. Obviously Antoine Boyer can play a broom with a rope .... The price range of the Martin 000-15M (the one in the video) can be comparable to buy a similar quality gipsy guitar ?

  • JSantaJSanta NY✭✭✭ CB #42
    Posts: 165

    You could certainly find a very good Gypsy guitar within that price range. Eastman makes a great guitar, as does Altamira. Djangobooks stocks Altamira's that have a more modern C shaped neck, versus the D on Eastman, which is something to be aware of. You can also look at the classifieds on this site to potentially find something that would work. I will be posting my Eastman DM1 up for sale soon because I've upgraded to a wonderful Craig Bumgarner guitar, but for sub $1k and just a bit over, you can't go wrong with either Altamira or Eastman. Having owned both, I liked the sound of the Eastman better, but thought the neck of my old Altamira was nicer to play.

  • Posts: 2,905

    The biggest difference in the sound of these guitars to me is incredibly strong attack usually not found in the flattops. Although I've played one Martin that impressed me with that, it was a 000 model. On the other hand my own Martin with it's beautiful in it's own way recognizable Martin dreadnought sound can't cut it as a gypsy jazz guitar to my ears. Nylon strings can provide the snap heard on these guitars better. I've heard people mistake Selmer style guitars as nylon strings instruments because of it.

    Of course you can play whatever you want and if it sounds good to you then that's that. There are top Gypsy artists that played various guitars performing in this style throughout their career.

    I think these guitars sound just fine with fingerstyle music because they're usually so responsive to a light touch. Problem is they're long scale and that can be a problem in that style. I've done a fingerstyle arrangement once that required a lot of prolonged barring close to the nut. I liked the sound but by the end of 4 minutes my hand was shot and I switched to the Martin. But in general they're much more versatile guitars than they're credited for.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    edited May 29 Posts: 1,137

    Maybe I am in the minority and this will be an unpopular opinion, but I'm just gonna say it:

    It is NOT only a matter of technique and the guitar is actually an essential / non-negotiable part of this style.

    Opinions differ but a flat top sounds bad for gypsy jazz, even a $500 Cigano is gonna sound better than the highest end Martin for the GJ style. Sebastien is a formidable player, his excellent technique and musicality will distract you from the fact that the guitar does not sound right - if you can put a selmac into his hands in this video, with all other things being equal, the difference will be like chalk and cheese.

    If you have more than a passing interest in gypsy jazz, invest in the right kind of guitar. That does not mean you need to get an expensive one, even some very cheap GJ guitars are sounding really good.

    vanmalmsteenStringsKlausUSBill Da Costa WilliamsjonpowlAndrew Ulle
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    edited May 29 Posts: 255

    I use a LES

    just kidding, really need that super long scale length of the Selmac to get the right pick attack and rest stroke.

    I do play jazz standards and BeBopish stuff on my Les Paul though But. Nothing works for gypsy jazz except a Django geeetar. (Except Bireli in his rebellious Ovation phase)

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 330

    I use a LES

    With a name like @vanmalmsteen , I would have pegged you as a Strat (copy) sort of guy! 🤣

    vanmalmsteenmac63000Bill Da Costa Williams
  • Posts: 2,905

    I agree with you a 100% @Wim Glenn My Martin is one of the nicest sounding flattop guitars and I'm super happy with it but cringed when I had to use it a few times because my GJ guitar was in for repairs. Nothing else has the snap and volume that comes out of these acoustics (though I never played exceptionally good acoustic archtop...). Except this other Martin I mentioned but that was $4,000 000-28 Eric Clapton custom shop model and one of the first they made. I tried a few more over the years but they didn't have the same mojo.

    By the way even the most playable of these guitars will still be stiffer than say a Martin set up with low action.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    Posts: 255

    Dang, I actually have a really cool Japanese Malmsteen prototype Stratocaster. Lol

    gotta change my name to Django Jimi

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    edited May 29 Posts: 267

    The "right" guitar is the one that makes the sounds you want, even if some portion of your listeners insist that that sound is wrong. Of course, if enough listeners don't accept the guitar's voice, then the player might want to inquire into the cause. . . .

    Which is to say that while there is certainly an historical-stylistic center to the "gyspy" sound, there's also a fuzzy periphery that extends even beyond the range of voices one can find within the traditional build/sonic formula families found in Selmer-style building. The preference for the "dry," edgy, fast-attack, rather nasal quality of the petite-bouche guitar is rooted in the realities of live acoustic performance in the 1930s and constantly reinforced by access to the original Hot Club recordings and the loyalty of gypsy practitioners over the decades. And there is something to that conservatism, just as there's something to the conservatism of old-school bluegrass players who insist on Martin dreadnoughts (preferably D-18s rather than D-28s) and Gibson resonator-back banjos as their bedrock instruments. But both modern GJ and newgrass players have opened up the sonic and stylistic palettes.

    As for the flexibility of Selmer-style guitars: It depends. I've owned three good ones, and each was chosen for its ability to work as a standard swing-rhythm or fingerstyle guitar. All have been grande bouche models--an early Dell'Arte Sweet Chorus, a Michael Dunn Daphne, and lately a Shelley Park Elan 12. (Another builder whose work has tempted me is Bernie Lehmann.) The Dunn (which I can't play for long now thanks to some left-hand problems with its neck profile) is one of the most flexible guitars I've ever owned, and for a while it was the single guitar I could take out and play through all the genres that my partners called. The Park has a very similar voice, but I'll have to wait out the pandemic to gig-test its flexibility.

    An overlong answer to the question--but I have a lot of time on my hands (and keyboard) these days.

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