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Want to buy my first and only Gypsy guitar. Decent budget



  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    I must make a correction to my statement above.

    That wasn't a Selmer in my face, it was Selma. :D
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Scot, we are of one mind on this topic. Every word you wrote has crossed my mind a few dozen times if not more - with the exception that I've not played 20 or so Selmers :( maybe someday... with luck I'll be able to say that.

    Elliot - I hit a chord with you - sorry if I offended you. I do want to let you know that your assumption about being able to offer a guitar done 'right' (or whatever words you used) for $2,000 is not accurate unless you're assuming . Your sentiment is well intentioned, but there are a number of reasons it doesn't pan out that way, not the least of which is that really hand making a guitar - sweating the details (and I'm not talking about time spent on pearl inlays or elaborate artwork - I'm just talking about doing the basic structural and acoustic and finish things right) is between 120 to 150 hours of shop time. You can shorten this by working on multiple guitars and using drying time etc.. to make progress on the other guitars - and some things like purfling / lining / fretboard blanks etc.. can be done in batches, but there are rapidly diminishing returns when you start trying to run a luthiery like a factory because the bottom line is that every single good "working man's" handmade or small factory instrument is expected to sound and play GREAT - and it doesn't turn out that way when you start treating the process as a "cut in volume and assemble later" thing. I'm not talking about collectible $20k instruments - I'm talking about your $3,000 to $8,000 professional musician grade instruments. Greven/Doolin/Manzer/Olson/Collings/Bourgeois/Mayes/SCGC/Hahl/AJL etc.. type instrument. There is a LOT of work that goes into making each guitar sound good and play good. Moreover, there is a lot of time and a pretty decent amount of wood waste / reuse because not every piece of wood is suitable regardless of where you got it or how old it is or how much you paid for it. I plane and 'rest' each neck blank a minimum of 3 times over a couple of months before making a neck from it - why? Simple - so the darned thing will not require a truss rod and yet will stay straight. The same goes for braces... For every 10 brace blanks you cut, 7 will be pretty straight, 2 will be borderline & 1 will be a banana - and that's if you're using good wood that you've aged well. And man, it would make you cry to know how many times a person cuts a prime aged billet of good tight tone wood only to find pitch pockets or more commonly to simply find it doesn't produce tops that tap out well. so it becomes back strips / patches etc.. Guitar factories use every soundboard that doesn't have a split or knot. How do I know this? Well, because every year I get invited to a wood buying show and the source of the wood is the top couple hundred tops graded out of the couple hundred thousand tops sent to Asia for guitar manufacture. They pay $3 per soundboard and I pay $35 to $90 but hey - it's great wood. I got a piece of Engleman last year that was as stiff as Adirondack - just insane - with a tap tone like a bell. I'm a sucker for great wood.

    But... sorry... I digress and am growing uncomfortable writing this because I don't like talking business on this board - this is a group of enthusiasts and I like to come here and geek out and help people understand guitars and how they work. The point of all this rambling is to help you understand why $2,000 is not feasible. Consider that if I could cut my time per guitar to 80 hours by overlap and process improvement - and add in 400 dollars worth of wood/tuners/case etc... (decent grade of wood/tuners for this price... if you want great aged wood & DR tuners you can double it to 800 dollars) so all of a sudden you're talking about $2,000 less $400 = $1,600 divided by 80 hours = $20/hr. and if you honestly think a person can run a shop on $20/hour including wages, climate control, tool amortization, wear & tear & usage on things like blades/sandpaper/finish/hand-tools etc... well... bottom line, you can't. I don't ever expect to make a million as a luthier - I made good money in my corporate gig and this is my semi retirement / posterity gig. I build guitars to pay the bills and so that in a hundred years there's still something left of me on this planet that gives people - particularly music lovers - some happiness (no idea why this is important - but the older I get, the more it seems to be so) I wouldn't try to defend the $50,000 Stratocaster guy - that's just gouging - but I do have some reasonable expectation that when people play an instrument I've made and say: "Wow - this is great!" that they realize that it's a bit different than what comes out of a factory - even a good factory - regardless of which country it's in. There are some exceptions - I personally think that the Gibson custom shop is a very class act and about as close to a 'luthiery' as you get in a brand name instrument... and from what I've seen of Selmers - they are pretty much in that class. The veneer work is wonderful - the intonation is good (especially being that they were made before digital micrometers and computerized cutting. The binding and purfling is 7 piece wood - and if I remember correctly the rosette is ?? 19 piece?? again... in wood, not celluloid. You would not find those touches on a budget guitar prior to computerized cutting.

    Ah... I'm done blathering. You're a bright guy - you understand where I'm coming from - you just didn't know the details involved. Now you know a few of them. By the way - I never did receive your address - I've had those CDs for nearly a year now. Want em?
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • B25GibB25Gib Bremerton WA✭✭✭✭ Holo Busato, Dell 'Arte Hommage, Gitane D-500
    Posts: 170
    Bob -
    Great explanation of the extensive labor hours, quality material acquisition costs and overhead costs of producing a very high quality guitar! Nobody on this board will consider this "Blathering On"!
    Looking forward to playing your next guitar at DFNW 08.
    Cheers, Rocky
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    Hi Bob

    I'm not trying to argue or anything. Believe me I know much of what you speak - I toil for long periods just trying to make 1/8" of paint spread over 6sq.ft. nice enough for people to pay good money for - and they don't even get a guitar! How nuts is that? So I'm sure that you are committed to doing everything you can to make consistently high quality instruments, and it isn't easy. But as you know, not all Selmers, being factory line products themselves had this degree of consistency, and Django would pick over quite a few to find one up to his level, as marvelous as they are. How many were dogs? I suppose we'll never know, since logic dictates that proportionately more of the better ones are still in use. But I think it was this lack of consistency that Robert was addressing, not the overall quality of Selmers. After all, they only replicate Selmers at his company (and one archtop), so their commitment to their original qualities is on the line, and amply evidenced by their product. I know I blow their horn for them fairly often, but I love my guitar, and I know everyone who buys one goes from 'how did I end up paying this much for a guitar?' to almost a guilty feeling that they robbed the place, or at least got away with an incredible bargain. And once they realize what real quality is and that it takes some cash I'm sure they become more open to the kind of specialized treatment that an independent luthier like yourself can provide. So please give me one of your guitars. (Kidding).

    You did remind me of another situation, though. People always think that Michelangelo left one of his later statues unfinished on purpose for a more 'spiritual' interpretation, but once you look closely you can see a dark vein running right through the face causing him to abandon it, a year's work shot to hell.

    I definitely want the CDs - I'll PM you promptly with my address, I guess I forgot - thanks.

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 572
    I should admit that I have never played a Manouche guitar. So I don't really have an opinion about them either way. And Elliot did hit on something I figured out too - it's apparently not all that hard to make a guitar that has something of that "Selmer" sound. A good guitar, in other words. On the other hand, I think it must be quite difficult to make an exceptional one. I base this position on the tiny number of really exceptional Selmer-style guitars I've played over the years. I don't think that there is any great mystery to making a good guitar - Saga can do that for $600. The mystery is in the great ones - Bob did a good job of explaining this.

    Many of the Selmers that still exist are in the hands of European collectors. Who knows what these guitars all sound like? Virtually all the Selmers being used by prominent players today are spectacular sounding instruments. Every one I've played was an excellent playing and sounding guitar - for whatever that's worth. Based on this evidence I believe that most Selmers were pretty good-sounding guitars. So maybe the person who says that he hopes a Manouche sounds better than a Selmer is a person who never played a Selmer or does not know what one of these guitars is actually supposed to sound like?

    Elliot, it's too bad you did not come to this music sooner. The late and legendary John Bajo lived over in Richland Center just a few miles west of Madison. John was a great and generous character. He had seen
    Django in Chicago and had helped John Steiner record the concert. John was a great raconteur and everyone was always welcome at his house - just a great old guy. He had all the records - and I mean ALL of them - and he had a great Selmer, #163, d-hole with the double-port resonator, all intact and perfectly playable. This guitar had sound you would not believe, and even with the resonator was so light if felt like it was made of balsa wood. It had a wood contact-paper pickguard! Still can be seen on gypsyguitars.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,932
    Elliot wrote:
    But as you know, not all Selmers, being factory line products themselves had this degree of consistency, and Django would pick over quite a few to find one up to his level, as marvelous as they are.

    I've often heard this, but it's worth mentioning that in Francois Charles Selmer book he mentions that Django's Selmer #503 was built specifically for him. His was the only model to have DJANGO REINHARDT inscribed in all caps. This guitar was made in 1940 and he had it the rest of his life. I assume it's the guitar he used for the vast majority of his performances. So, he may not have been so discerning after all, if he just accepted the guitar they made for him and played it for over a decade. If he was truly picky about his guitars, one would think he'd be constantly trying new ones, asking for improvements, etc. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

    I think there may have been at least one or two others though. There was a controversy about one he may have left in Rome in 1950...and another he left in NYC with Les Paul. But overall, he seemed to have used just one guitar for most of his career.

    It's also worth mentioning that while Selmers were built in a "Factory." Usually there were only three people building them. In the beginning there were a lot, but that was quickly paired down to three, sometimes four guys. But sometimes they only had one or two. So it's really the same as the Favino workshop, which usually had three or four guys. But no one ever calls Favinos factory made.

  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    You know, I've wondered about that as well. Considering that they cared so much about product development they gave Maccaferri the heave ho early, and considering that Selmer conformed to the basic second rate workshop procedures common at the time that allowed them to hustle guitars out the door for a "moderate price" (no matter how many or how few workers), and so could most probably not do much more than that, in what way was it special? In order for it to have been specially made for Django as in with him in mind from the ground up, there would have to be some evidence, but there is next to none. We see the same guitar with the same materials, same plywood construction, same rosette, same headstock glued on, etc, etc. The only difference is that they removed a single brace. So from a skeptic's perspective for all we know he could gotten the invitation, gone over to Selmer's, tried every guitar there until he found the best one like he always did, sitting between #502 and #504, and announced "I like this one, but I wish it had a little bit more bass", whereupon they said "We can do that", then removed the brace and presented it to him a few days later. To me this sounds like a much more likely scenario.

    Oh, yes, they also stamped it with his name, and considering the childish way he was often so easily flattered, the fact that he could see his name on the headstock could very well have been what he liked about it most of all.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252

    Your post is so full of misinformation and conjecture I don't even know where to start.

    So I'll only expend as much of my time on you as your post deserves - to tell you simply this:

    We're here to understand Gypsy Jazz and revive it and give it continued life for future generations - we're not here to take cheap shots at its roots and its founders. When you speak about Django & Selmer & Gypsy jazz, do so with a modicum of f*n respect or find another place to hang out.

    Michael please lock this thread.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • Posts: 56
    Elliot wrote:
    Oh, yes, they also stamped it with his name, and considering the childish way he was often so easily flattered, the fact that he could see his name on the headstock could very well have been what he liked about it most of all.

    :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

    After all i've read this does seem likely. If he liked the way his pic of guitar played but needed a push, him coming back to the shop with the brace taken off so it had a bit more boom and with his name on i think Django would smerk and except it with flattery. But we can only presume/guess, and that in itself can go awfully wrong.
  • manoucheguitarsmanoucheguitars New MexicoNew
    Posts: 199
    Absolutely right Elliot from everything that I've read as well... This does not, however (and I know you would probably agree Elliot) take away the significance of the Selmer guitar and Djangos relationship to it... I know you love this music as much as I do and the immense influences that it has had on a variety of genres. It's amazing music and we are fortunate indeed to be a small part of it... that said, I agree many things about Gypsy jazz appears largely to be the result of accidental events.
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