I just received my Dell'Arte Pigalle, and wanted to share a few quick thoughts on this guitar and see if anyone else has given the Pigalle a go. Tonight I'll get to play it in the band context, so this is merely first thoughts on solo noodling and the like. I don't claim to be a gypsy guitar expert, just an arts journalist who likes this stuff! Take, therefore, with several grains of salt if you're so inclined...
I played one of the prototypes at last year's Django in June here in Massachusetts, and I remember thinking it was extremely cool to have a top-notch Dell'Arte neck on a lower-end body. Unfortunately, the production version has a different neck. That one had a fairly chunky neck and very large frets, both of which I like. This one has a skinnier neck and medium-sized frets. Not what I expected, but I will say without reservation: This neck is fast! Right out of the gate, I found myself like a skier with newer, longer skis, overshooting everything. The guitar responds beautifully and loudly to even low-effort picking. It's a real pleasure to play, responsive and easy.
It also seems built for .10-gauge strings -- strung with my usual preference, Galli V27s, it lost volume and tone.
Now the not-as-good news: As one of my bandmates also noted, it does, in the end, sound more like a Gitane than a Dell'Arte. It's most noticeable to me in the high range, especially on the high E -- a Gitane-like, clacky brashness (brought out more by the .11s than the .10s --which reminds me -- it came with .10s with black wrappings -- what on earth is that? Dell'Arte John Jorgenson strings?). That sound is not as pronounced as on the Gitanes I've heard. The midrange is where it seems to excel -- the G and D strings have a woody, powerful midrange. The lower strings don't possess a great deal of bass, quite noticeable when playing chords.
For contrast's sake, there's Dennis' statement that the Pigalle is the best Dell'Arte he's heard! I respect his opinion, since he's heard, I am sure, many more of them than I have. But to my ears, my bandmate's Dell'Arte Dark Eyes possesses a more complex and pleasing tone.
The Gitane-like sound, given that the body is apparently made by Gitane (though I think it is not simply a DG-250 body -- anyone?), is clearly to be expected, but I'll admit I had high hopes that it might possess a bit more of that tasty Dell'Arte tone throughout its range (as I believe the prototype did, though it may be wishful thinking coloring what I heard a year ago!). To my ears, its sound seems to reflect precisely where it is priced -- clearly ahead of Gitanes, clearly behind high-end Dell'Artes and custom luthier jobs. I got it in order to have something that would help my playing while I spend a good while saving up for a Collins or something else in that price range. It will do that trick very well.
In the end, I think I got myself an extremely playable, pleasing guitar that I merely wish had a bit more tone than it quite delivers (at least in my less than virtuosic hands). It is, that said, an impressive value in a guitar that doesn't disappoint if you know what to expect.
Of course, I may play it with the band tonight and have to revise this whole thing!
This also raises a question: Is this guitar ahead of the Gitane John Jorgenson model? I played one recently, though with bronze strings, and quite liked it. So far, I like the Pigalle better. I'd love to hear opinions from anyone who's played both of these sort of "Mach 2" Gitane-based guitars.
I'd love to hear concurring or dissenting opinions on any of this!
The hardware on the Pigalle is good stuff -- Grover tuners, DR tailpiece, and a bridge that's significantly better than the Gitane bridges. The only reason I could imagine for needing to replace anything is if I ended up wanting a different size bridge. The finish is uniform and high quality and compares favorably to high-end Dell'Artes I've seen. Everything fits precisely as it ought, and the intonation is dead-on -- I think that's the result of its being assembled and set up by people who have a great deal of experience with gypsy jazz guitars. Though there are some similarities in the high-end, it sounds much better than a DG-255, IMHO. After playing the Pigalle with the band last night, I'd say it more than holds its own.
How thin is the top plate? Does it look thick like some of the Gitane tope plates?
Would you describe the overall tone of the guitar to be mellow or is it more on the brighter sharper side?
Does yours have the dot on the 9th or 10th fret?
I don't remember precisely what the DG-250 neck is like, 'cause it's been a while. I remember that one as being an extremely shallow, very rounded neck. The Pigalle neck is not as shallow as the Gitane -- it's got a fairly flat center, and might best be described as an extremely smoothly rounded rectangular shape, chunkier than the Gitane, but not by a lot. It's also got a lot of varnish -- again, not my preference, but it really seems to work well on this guitar in terms of speed and ease. My bandmate Jack just got his Dell'Arte Minor Swing yesterday, and this neck seems to be very similar in shape to its neck, only the Pigalle's is thinner.
The dot is on the 9th fret (gods be praised).
Again, I'm better able to compare to the other Dell'Artes, but that should give you some idea. It's slightly thicker than Jack's Minor Swing, but only barely -- his has little finish, whereas the Pigalle is heavily finished, and it's almost attributable to that alone. As best I remember, it's quite close in thickness to the Dark Eyes. Wish I could remember better in comparison to the Gitane, but it's been a good few months since I played one.
The overall sound:
It's very loud. It's bright and cutting, but not overly harsh or sharp. It was bordering on harshness with brand new strings, but now that I've played them for a few days, it's mellowed noticeably (and taken a lot of that Gitane-like brashness away). Did I say loud? Other adjectives that might apply: elastic-y, snappy. It's a great lead instrument, extremely responsive and with so much projection I may be able to rehearse at Jack's house without ever leaving mine!
It was quite interesting to hear this guitar next to Jack's newly acquired (used) Minor Swing yesterday, since that seems to be the next rung up on the Dell'Arte ladder. It was, surprisingly, apples and oranges. Minor Swing: really quiet, with a narrow, midrange-y, AM-radio tone. (Much quieter than the Dark Eyes and, if I remember rightly, the Homage. Because of mahogany back and sides, maybe?) Not as much projection and presence as the Pigalle. The two were remarkably different. For my needs -- playing more relaxed and with a lighter touch, but needing to play leads with more effectiveness, facility and volume -- this is the better fit of the two. In terms of pure sound, the Minor Swing may well have the edge, but it's certainly a matter of preference with such different tones.
In the meanwhile I can start acquiring books, picks, CDs, DVDs, and other accessories to get me started (I'll be practicing on an archtop Gretsch). By the time I'm ready to buy I should know if I really want to take the plunge.
Thanks for the review. I hope others who have acquired the instrument will pipe up to give you useful comparisons to your Pigalle!
P.S. If you have questions PM me
I am aware of the Patlenotte. There are two for sale at gypsyguitars.com, clocking in at $900.00. I haven't completely ruled them out, but my "jury" has more than enough time to idle and flip a coin when the time comes. Still, where are they made? As you said, they look different and I agree I would change out the bridge if I had one. Considering that site, and of course E-bay, choices are many.