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tantulus djangoligist jaccordi msullivan92 Nomadic

What would be best for me.. petite bouche or grande bouche?

I've never been fortunate enough to have my hands on either - nor even heard one 'live', so to speak, only recordings.

So, I really have no experience to go on..

My dad is going to build one (since there's no way I can afford the entry price!)

We have construction plans for the grande bouche - but also plenty of information about the build requirements for the petite bouche too..

Though I'm of course inspired by Django and sorely tempted to go in the direction of a 503 replica, I do wonder if that's wise since my main use for the guitar would likely be in an accompaniment capacity - playing rhythm in a guitar/clarinet duo.

Mainly, I want the guitar to be LOUD - to match the clarinet without the need for amplification.

Plus, I have relatively small hands so perhaps the shorter scale length of the grande bouche makes more sense??

I reach out to the brothers on this forum for sage advice!!

Many thanks :) :)



  • stuologystuology New
    Posts: 126

    Go for the 503 replica if that is what you are sorely tempted by. The convention that rhythm guitarists play grande bouche and lead play petit bouche is just that, a convention which is inspired by photos of the Hot Club after Django started playing the newest guitars coming out of Selmer. Django had a deal of some kind with Selmer so he could always play the latest model - I suspect that his backing guitarists didn't so they would have been stuck with the Maccafferi's. What people often forget is that Django was also a rhythm guitarist - he probably spent more time playing rhythm than lead - and it's not as if he switched guitars for different purposes. So I wouldn't get hung up on this idea that one guitar is better fo rhythm, the other for lead.

    People will also tell you things about the difference in sound, volume etc. between the two but I've tried many guitars and to be honest, there are many more important factors that contribute to sound, tone and volume than the size of the hole on top.

    So my advice is that the hole is primarily an aesthetic choice, go for what you want - and the real answer to the question, of course, is to get two guitars, one of each!

    BucoBill Da Costa Williams
  • edited December 2020 Posts: 9

    That's very cool your dad is going to build you your own custom guitar. I would like to offer what I know to attempt to help you.

    to clarify. 12-fret = shorter scale, 14-fret = longer scale

    From what I've experience and been told, the sound hole thing is more of a preference thing.

    The theory of what I've heard for both guitars is the D-hole is known to be better if you want to hear yourself and the oval hole is better at projecting towards the audience.

    Just like language there are always rule breakers. Joscho Stephane uses a 14-fret D-hole for lead, so go with the design you like better.

    I knew 2 people who had/have the 12 front d-hole gitane-500 guitar.

    I had a teacher who hated the 12-fret short scale design and a buddy who played rhythm that liked it so that comes down to preference to. I have my mom's hands but that doesn't stop me from playing lead on a 14-fret oval hole guitar. Technique is more important to where you came overcome that but again choose what feels more "right for you" I will say lead is a bit easier for me personally on the 14-fret but that didn't stop Django's early playing when he only had the 12-fret d-hole design before the 14-fret oval hole came out.

    The guitar design & more importantly your technique will decide the "LOUDness" volume on the guitar. Rather than competing with the rest of the band I would strongly urge you to get them to adjust their manual dynamic volume to be quieter if you're going to take a solo or something otherwise it turns into a battle for volume to be heard and unlike a rock band you can't just turn your volume knob higher.

    I would recommend your dad contact a well know luthier for tips like Craig Bumgardener. I have literally seen different people on multiple occasions try his guitars once and then immediately put in an order for one. I've heard people say his guitars are sound canons.

    If (and probably when) you do look into amplification the oval hole seems to be easier/the preference to get a magnetic pickup for. But I know for a fact that if you flip the clip on the peche a la mouche pickup, it will fit on a d-hole. For an acoustic microphone sound with no feedback, I'd also recommend a big tone Dupont pickup with a tone dexter but that is a huge financial investment.

    I hope some of this helps and be sure to post a video/demo once the guitar is done!

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited December 2020 Posts: 1,789

    I admire your dedication in building your own guitar, but the truth is that this is the golden age of cheap Asian Selmer knockoffs.

    If you look around a bit you can probably find one in the sub-$500 range, which I suspect is roughly the same as it would cost you to build one...

    Good luck!


    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,243

    either one will work. It's mostly personal preference on the tone. They typically have similar tone but the oval hole is more "focused" maybe more high end response (I'm not sure how to describe it in words, compressed???) while the d hole is a bit fatter sounding (maybe a bit more mid-low end) but guitars all vary. You need to try some if possible to see what you like.

  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Epiphone Zephyr Regent, Epiphone Joe Pass
    Posts: 262

    Bones knows what's what. I may be of little help on the subject since I own one of each & love them both equally. I tend to use my D-hole for unplugged gigs & grab the oval hole (or archtop) if the gig is with amps. But the fact that your dad's going to build you a gypsy guitar, that may be one of the coolest things I've ever read on this forum. It's a good day for me when I can talk to my dad on the phone. I'd be flipping cartwheels in the street if I were in your shoes. Maybe ask him which one he'd rather build for you & leave it at that? You're fortunate to have this as a dilemma, what a gift.

    BucoBill Da Costa Williamsbbwood_98
  • Posts: 4,018

    Though I'm of course inspired by Django and sorely tempted to go in the direction of a 503 replica

    If you don't, you'll always wonder "what if".

    billyshakesWim Glenn
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 319

    As far as I can tell, loudness and voice (the famous wet/dry distinction) are independent of the various design formulas. As are the scale/soundhole combinations--I've owned 12- and 14-fret grande-bouche instruments of varying scale lengths (Dell'Arte, Dunn, Park) and those variables have affected playing feel more than voice*. And then there's the player--those hands have a great deal to do with the sound an instrument produces.

    It's the particular build that gives a guitar its voice--the combination of materials, bracing, geometry, and builder's skill-set. I've been able to play instruments from the same shops, sometimes the same single builder, and noted non-trivial variations in voice. If you have an idea of the kind of voice you want, some design formulas might favor it, but in the end it's a matter of the individual guitar.

    FWIW, what I look for in a Selmer-style is not the dry, cutting voice that most lead players favor, and I had the good fortune to play several of Michael Dunn's before settling on a particular Daphne (grande-bouche, 14-fret). It's a great rhythm instrument that can also hold its own for solos (not mine--but I've heard Michael play it). So go figure.

    *Yes, I know about string tension and such. But my hands notice such things before my ears do.

    BucoBill Da Costa WilliamsBones
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,243

    Yes what Russell said especially for rhythm a wetter tone can be controlled and can be nice but for leads I think the dryer tone is more user friendly. And yes, both oval and D holes can be dryer or wetter.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 319

    Just an anecdote: Hand issues sent me in search of a replacement for my Dunn Daphne--I needed the same kind of voice with a different neck profile. So my ideal would be a Dunn with an atypical neck. Our host had something promising, an older Stardust petite-bouche. But when I played it, I found that what might be called the guitar's vocal center was shifted toward the conventional Selmer bark, and I just couldn't quite get the Daphne's rhythm voice out of that instrument. So I reluctantly returned it. (Our host is very understanding about such matters.)

    I eventually found a Shelley Park that works better--not an exact replacement for the Daphne's sound, but close enough, and with a neck that I can play for an entire set. It's a grande-bouche, but with a number of specs quite different from the Dunn (neck length, materials). Nevertheless, the whole package produces a range of sounds in what I think of as the Dunn-Park-Lehmann spectrum.

  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited December 2020 Posts: 1,789

    Have you ever considered having Michael Dunn replace or rework that Daphne neck for you, Russell?

    I had a similar problem with my 2006 Michael Dunn, the original neck was a real Louisville Slugger.

    I was lucky because I asked my local luthier about it and he suggested that he could shave it down for me and then refinish it.

    It worked like a charm!

    I can’t remember how much I paid for this, it was about ten years ago, but it was probably a couple of hundred bucks... well worth it to me!


    PS I should explain something to avoid misunderstanding.... Michael Dunn had deliberately made that neck that size in keeping with my request to copy the exact dimensions of Eddie Lang’s 1920’s Gibson L-4.... but with the top bracings of a gypsy guitar.

    I would hate to give Michael a bad rap for something that was basically my own fault... he’s a real renaissance man and I am very proud to play one of his instruments,

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
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