What to be mindful of when buying an old gypsy jazz guitar (help?)

Dear members,

I have been playing a simple woodland grand bouche for 8 years now(See my profile pic) It has served it's purpose of introducing me to this wonderfull music and getting me through the beginner steps.

I gues i don't have to mention this guitar has it's limitations, in sound and playability.

The time and opportunity has come to upgrade to a new gypsy jazz guitar! 😍

A wonderfull and quite difficult journey has begone. Let me give some context.

At first i thought it wise to buy an Altamira, as i thought this was a excellent upgrade over what i have. I almost did but through circumstance i could not at that moment. Then my budget went up and i could start looking at handbuild guitars around the 2500 Euro mark.

I visited Luthiers here in Holland wich were extremely nice and knowledgeable. Leo Eimers en Gerrit van Bergeijk.

But before i visited the Luthiers i had the chance to play an old Busato oval hole hanging in a guitar shop that not specializes in these type of guitars.

It was very expensive, around 7500 euro's and wayyyyy above my budget.

But this guitar and it's sound is haunting me now, this dry, wooden rolling sound that reminded my a bit of the sound of Tchan Chou Vidal.

I can not find this particular sound in the new handmade luthier guitar's(although i am sure they are excellent guitars).

To be honest, i feel out of my depth in this proces of choosing a guitar right now.

Please could you help me out by maybe answering some of my questions?

Is this sound that i heard exclusive to Old Busato's? is it possible in more brands of old gypsy jazz guitar's?

I also got the chance to try a (standard) Busato replica from Dupont priced second hand for about 1700 euro's.

This guitar sounded nothing like that Old Busato.

Also i have been told that in essence these old guitars are the lesser instruments to the newer handbuild ones of our age. Lesser wood and production.

Am i selling myself short in spending a lot of money on a vintage guitar? Would it be better to just buy a newer model Dupont around my budget?

I am also afraid these old guitar's carry a lot of hidden problems that i can not detect.

Your thoughts are very apreciated!

Kindest regards,




  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,155

    Am i selling myself short in spending a lot of money on a vintage guitar? Would it be better to just buy a newer model Dupont around my budget?

    @Majorpanda No, it's not an illusion. Even very simply made, modest guitars that have aged many decades have a magic quality that new guitars never have. This is a well documented phenomenon and the current science theorizes that changes in the cell structure of the wood as well it drying out result in the clarity, power, and tonal refinement that nearly all vintage instruments have. For example, this fairly modest little guitar has so much character!

    With that said, vintage guitars have other issues and generally will require more care from the owner. Most need extensive setup work to play well, often requiring expensive neck resets and other major repairs. Few have modern necks and more likely to have a U or D shaped neck.

    New guitars are a lot easier to deal with and still sound really good. Maurice Dupont achieves the best of both worlds in his Vieille Reserve model which has a 40 year aged top. The aged woods produce the tonal maturity and power of a vintage instrument but in a completely new guitar.


  • Posts: 4,833

    With expensive vintage guitars the initial investment is steep but the good news is that usually you'll get your money back if you decide to sell it. Of course you will probably wait longer before a buyer comes along and that's based on the assumption that the vintage market prices will keep steady.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 473

    The Busato sound is also due to a different build than the Selmer-inspired guitars. If you play an old Busato and an old Selmer and like the Busato sound better, then that points you in a direction, even if you get a newer (or new) guitar.

  • Posts: 6

    Thank you so much for your comments and insights! :)


    What is a modern neck? and they do not need resets?

    That 1950s mystery has attitude for sure :) a shame i can't get over the aesthetics(i really need it to be grand or petit bouche). It's a bit hard to hear over speakers but it's got that aged sound man. That is the sound i like a lot.

    Like Pdg mentions, it could be i like that Busato sound as well. Are there any new guitars or luthiers besides Maurice Dupont Vieille Reserve that want to capture that Busato or vintage sound?

    At what kind of price am i looking to buy a vintage guitar in good condition that is not Selmer or Busato? Say perhaps a Dimauro? (also Sicilian). Or a Sonora, i know of a world renowned rhytm player that is selling his Sonora in Holland.

    Is Sonora also discontinued?

    You are all helping me so much in this complicated proces guys.

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited June 2020 Posts: 6,155


    Modern necks generally are more C shaped with a rounder profile and less depth.

    If you want the Busato sound in a new guitar, Maurice pretty much nailed it:

    Busatos tend to have an ultra clear, bell like tone with little overtone complexity. They tend to be bright, with a deep bass, but not a lot of mids. That's what these Dupont Busatos sound like.

    A lot of the lesser known vintage guitars like Di Mauros go for under $5K. Joseph Di Mauro is considered by many to be the best maker of the Di Mauro family, with his Heart Hole models ranking as one of the best vintage models at any price:

    Sometimes "Mystery" guitars can be shockingly good, like this one which sounds as good as Busatos or Selmers that are many times the price:

  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    Posts: 467

    If you want a good Busato style guitar, check out Martin Tremblay. I have been told that my Tremblay sounds pretty similar to actual Busatos. My playing unfortunately though it not at the same level.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959

    I know it may be incidental, but one other variable to consider.

    When you tried the Busato it was in a shop right? What was the room like? Sometimes the acoustics of a room can make a big difference to the apparent responses of an acoustic guitar and I have found often guitar shops tend to have all hard surfaces (no carpets or curtains) but at the same time often a crowded space with many other guitars (all hard surfaces) hanging around.

    With something that is already regarded as one of the louder types - a Busato - played in such an environment there could well be a lot of other sympathetic resonances adding to the sound. Just guessing though......

    When Michael records his demos of the guitars on here, it appears he always uses the same room and it sounds to be fairly acoustically neutral. Many guitar shops have such dedicated rooms so the customer can get a a fair idea of the true sound.

    Just be careful you are comparing guitars in a like for like situation.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320

    Honestly, I think dry and loud and good setup/playability are paramount. You can go a long way with technique if the guitar has those basics.

    But if you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket and you find something with tone that you really love....


    I'd try to play a lot of guitars before you buy if possible. Variations in tone are pretty nuanced and subjective.

  • Posts: 6

    Another thing i was wondering about,

    If i come acros a Sonora or Dimauro with 12 frets to the body that sounds really good, how much will that hold me back with playing solo in this style? Should a solo player always have a 14 frets to the body guitar?

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