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cb1 playguitarnotes TrevJ Spaaken

Would a GJ guitar be a good choice for me?

I don't play Gypsy Jazz music. I like it and plan to get into it at some point but atm I just play in a bar band in southern Louisiana playing country and classic rock covers on my trusty Telecaster. Don't even own an acoustic guitar.

However I need one. The band wants to bring me in for acoustic duo and trio gigs to play lead. Back in the 90s I played in swing groups and had occasion to run into guys playing GJ guitars and loved the way they sounded and so I always thought one day....

Something worries me though. I have read that these style guitars have stability issues in regards to humidity. How much of an issue is this?

Here is Louisiana, well, its like living in a jungle in the summer time. 100+ deg temps with very high humidity levels are normal. Hot n sticky. We also end up playing outdoors often, some clubs like to put us on the patio at night.

I like to run a pretty low action as I am a lead player and I worry just how unstable these style of guitars really are. I have avoided acoustic guitars for 32 years now as I can't imagine not being able to adjust my string height to adjust for changes in weather but I stand to pick up allot more gigs if I get with the program. That and I still have the dream of one day doing a Gypsy Jazz duo, heck I already know a good portion of the repertoire from my time playing swing.


  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,023
    Hi Kevin,

    Welcome to the forum!

    Generally too much humidity is not as much of a problem as too little humidity. Owners of Gypsy guitars in very dry climates like the SW or in very cold climates like the Midwest have to be very careful to keep their guitars humidified as all sorts of problems occur if the instrument gets too dried out. I haven't had too many complaints from people living in humid, climates. Sometimes when a guitar first arrives in such a climate it needs some setup work, but once it's set the less drastic seasonal variations don't seem as hard on the instrument. Many people have a taller winter bridge and a shorter summer bridge which would correct any seasonal variation you may experience.

    As far as versatility goes, generally the D hole guitars are better as they have the thicker mids and bass that make them useful in other styles like folk and American swing. The oval holes tend to be more pure Gypsy machines, but these are generalizations so you may find an oval hole that works for you.

    You can see everything I have here:

    Good luck!

  • Well, I would add something, but Michael says it so well so I will just say he is a great guy to deal with and extrememly knowledgeable about gj guitars so you can trust his counsel
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • KevinKevin New
    Posts: 3
    Hey, thx for the info.
    Having a winter and summer bridge makes allot of sense.
    I didn't realize that its the lack of humidity that causes more problems. Never a shortage of that here even in winter.

    Will some more reading before making an order. Lots of info here to go through. Pickups ect.

    Thx again.
  • AmundLauritzenAmundLauritzen ✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 236
    My personal opinion is that unless you're willing to learn gypsy picking, then it will not be worth the investment. Without gypsy picking, you won't get the characteristic tone and not optimal volume out of the guitar.
    To make a guitar like that sing, you have to committ to play it with the right technique.

    Many people manage to make gypsy jazz guitars sound like dreadnoughts because they use conventional picking techniques and pick too close to the neck. In that case, why not play a cheap dreadnought instead?

    So I'm writing this because it's good to keep into consideration before you spend your money, not to discourage you.
  • Well, Amund, I have to disagree a bit. My Dunn sounds great when played normally. My buddy who is a well recorded bluegrass artist loved the sound for bluegrass even though it didn't sound as a gj guitar normally does when really picked hard.

    Like all guitars, it depends on the guitar. But from my experience a good Maccaferri or other GJ style guitar definitely has more to it than many flattops.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • anthon_74anthon_74 Marin county, CA✭✭✭✭ Alta Mira M 01
    Posts: 561
    The only danger of getting a gypsy Jazz guitar is that you may very well like it so much you won't want to play any other kind of guitar again...

    That's what happened to me.

  • hanear21hanear21
    Posts: 62
    One catch though - and it could be a deal breaker - you'll need to string it with Argentines or something similar, and they are (at least) twice as expensive as ordinary strings and about twenty-times harder to get hold of. Most music shops won't even have heard of them, so there won't be any emergency dashes to the local guitar store to fix that E string.

    I can't tell if you're joking about this or not. Michael sells Argentines here for less than $10 a set. They are literally the cheapest guitar strings I've ever bought. - Here's a set of 5 ... 510_single - Here's one pack

    That said they probably are hard to find at your local guitar shop. Just get the 5 pack so you have backups.
  • Al WatskyAl Watsky New JerseyVirtuoso
    Posts: 440
    Technique aside for some people the scale length is the largest hurdle.
    People also complain about the action height.
    Speaking very generally GJ guitars are longer in scale and therefor have more tension than a typical 25.5" scale Fender guitar. So even if you do set your action on your GJ guitar at a more or less medium height for your Tele, your going to have more tension from the scale length difference.
    Many folks on this Forum will have long since made the adjustment and will , because they are "fans" of the guitars and the music that they make, tend to soft pedal the differences; but truth be told, there are differences.
    If you commit to the instrument and gradually develop the necessary approach I think you'll find as I have that these GJ guitars can be very practical for a working musician.
    They cut through and are slightly exotic looking. So you have a form and function thing going on thats pretty special. Generally speaking they are fun to play. Why wear it out with the details. Fun is good.
    Hey, we're guitar players, we like fun, GJ guitars are fun , whats not to like ?
    The good thing is you don't have to spend a ton to get a serviceable instrument. A customer of mine bought an Altimira and by golly its good. Works just fine , sounds good , looks good and didn't cost the world.
    An unsolicited plug for MH and Altimira.
    A good bang for the buck.
  • While argies are not common, I have always been able to find one Savarez dealer in a medium sized or larger city that has at least a set or two. That said I buy em in the bulk sets from Michael. Best deal going I MO.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • StevearenoSteveareno ✭✭✭
    Posts: 349
    Teles were (and are) my primary electric guitar. Played out with one for over 10 years. The first time I tried a GJ guitar, I was immediately drawn to it and had to have one. It was the sound I had heard, but didn't.......

    realize where it came from. I also like the big necks and bendability of the strings. In some ways the tone is kind of like a Tele. I reckon you can play whatever you like on these things with no problem. There's a video of Earl Slick on YouTube saying how much he likes them for blues. Quite a few fingerpickers too. The French connection in your part of the world should make them a fit. The Gypsies seem to do okay playing outdoors around campfires, etc, but blazing sun and super high temperature is tuff on any guitar.
    Swang on,
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