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What was Django's Tone REALLY Like?

I decided to try some Galli Silk and Steel strings on my Latcho Drom last night. I've been using Argentine MFs. So after stringing up and tuning, I noticed a big difference in volume and tone. The guitar's volume was significantly reduced, and the timbre was much rounder and softer -- it didn't have that bright, clacky/glassy sort of overtone/timbre. But the tone was nice -- warm. I missed the volume, so I'll likely restring soon with Argies 11's.

But it got me thinking... what was Django's tone really like? On the recordings, which of course are not full frequency, he gets a warm, round sound -- I don't hear any of that glassy brightness. Do you think Django's tone was really warm and round, and maybe not super loud -- or more like a "modern", bright, loud Gypsy style guitar sound?



  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,223
    Ken Sykora, the English guitarist and critic who had heard Django playing live, said that he thought the tone on the recordings made in London in 1946 at Abbey Road and Broadhurst Gardens was very close to Django's actual sound. I think he may have been particularly impressed with the Abbey Road sound quality ("Echoes of France", "Coquette", "Django's Tiger", "Embraceable You").
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,991
    It's really pretty tough to know exactly what Django sounded like. Even with today's high quality recording technology the same person/guitar can sound very different depending on a million different factors including mic placement, recording space, mixing console, etc, etc. There are plenty of recordings where Django sounds like he's playing really hard and has a bright, crisp, sometimes even harsh sound. Others, like the 46 sessions in London he sounds more laid back with a warm, round tone. I wouldn't obsess over it too much...we don't even know what guitar he was playing on most of these sessions. On the 40s and later stuff people always assume it's the 503, but who knows? He owned other Selmers and a Busato, and probably borrowed guitars all the time. He clearly played an archtop on some recordings...

    One thing I will say is that when we had Selmer #520 here it was one of the few guitars that just screamed "Django" in tone. It was a rare four brace Selmer, just like Django's so if you're obsessed with the Django's tone I guess a four brace Selmer is the way to go.

    Also, for some reason this Busato we just got in makes everything sound like Django which is a little weird for a Busato as usually they are very distinct from Selmers. But for some reason when you play a Django piece it sounds like the recording is playing along with you! ... ele-2.html

    RE: Silk and Steels....I have had the same experience as you. They don't really work on most new you said they take away too much high end and volume. But vintage guitars are infinitely louder than anything made in the last 20 years...and they also have a very mature high end, so much so that new guitars sound very dull and lifeless by comparison. So many people (i.e. Stochelo, Fapy) will use silk and steels on old Selmers and Busatos because they are easier to play and add some warmth to the tone. Vintage guitars are already so loud and bright that you don't notice the loss of volume or high end that much.

  • Posts: 45
    Thanks Michael. Great point about variations in guitars, recording techniques and environments. I wouldn't say I'm obsessed with Django's tone, but the thought occurred to me after the string change, and the resulting darker sound, that it seems there is an ideal tone that many Gypsy jazz lovers strive for, yet that very tone may not be what the main man himself sounded like or was going for. Just a thought.

    That Busato looks lovely... maybe you'll post a video?

    Too bad about the silk and steels -- they felt wonderful, but I didn't think I could live with the volume drop -- I'd estimate the guitar was almost half as loud. The Argies really bring the LD alive.

    Thanks Teddy -- I have those recordings and listened to them last night. The man was a rainbow with a pick! So may colors and shades of light and dark in his playing.
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