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Selmac or Archtop?

What would you guys consider the more versatile guitar for playing old jazz and swing? I love the sound of both types of guitars, and hopefully will eventually have one of each. Since I like playing Eddie Lang in addition to Django style, this is a hard choice. I'm basically looking at possibly a Dell'Arte Pigalle or an Eastman Uptown 804 or 805. Many thanks.
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Comments

  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    hmm.... tough one.

    I would have to go with an archtop, but an older archtop with parallel bracing, which produces a cutting lead sound and could give you a bit more of a GJ tone if you wanted.
  • Colin PerryColin Perry Montreal, QCNew
    Posts: 115
    That's funny, I just posted a reply to this exact same question on a different forum. Here it is again:

    I play almost exclusively archtops. My main guitar right now is a 1933 Epiphone Broadway, which I will never sell. I've had dozens of different vintage archtops, and they were all interesting. That having been said, if you only want to buy one guitar, and you want to do Django style playing and Eddie Lang style playing, I would recommend getting a short scale D-hole selmac copy. I have a gitane D-500 which is a fabulous bargain for what it is. Eddie Lang style rhythm works great on it, it souns great for Nick Lucas style flatpicking, and of course it sounds great for Django style leads. If you are looking to play only rhythm, I would get an archtop. Archtops are bright and loud, but they are made to cut, like a mandolin, and they don't have much sustain. To really sound like Django, you need a more expressive instrument like a selmac. The D-hole models have more bass response, which also makes them surprisingly well suited to twenties jazz rhythm guitar. Of course I still enjoy my epiphone more, but most of my playing comes from the early 30's archtop chordal players. The fact that you mention Django specifically makes me think you should consider a sel-mac. The truth is though, you can find a good used D-500 on ebay for $500-$600, so you don't have much to lose anyways.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    so there you go - two completely opposite opinions - how can you go wrong? I have to say that if you aren't getting a vintage archtop you should probably go with the Pigalle. However, GJ guitars have a totally different (less dark, less reverby, less bassy) sound than an archtop, so eventually you will want both.
  • CampusfiveCampusfive Los Angeles, CA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 98
    I think the eastmans are pretty much better than most of the vintage archtops I've played (many of them have not been taken care of and are poor condition). Buying a vintage guitar can be like buying a used car. Of course, a friend of mine has a 1946 blonde epi deluxe that is sublime (but my 17" cutaway eastman is significantly louder).

    I've never been attracted to the oval hole eastmans however. I will say that my 16" non-cutaway 805 ($1400) is 10 times better than every archtop I've ever played (except for this D'Angelico excel that was played for 40 years by John Collins - which the store wanted $80,000 for, and wasn't even actually for sale). I played the collings 16" L-5 copy and Gibson Custom's 1934 L-5 copy ($8500 and $4000) and both were not as good as my Eastman, and the Gibson was down right pathetic and small sounding.

    By the way, I must have missed this at the namm show:
    http://www.elderly.com/new_instruments/items/LH500N.htm

    Too bad they're laminated back and sides - for $300 bucks more you might as well get an eastman with solid back and sides.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    well, I recommended a vintage archtop because you get a more cutting lead tone due to parallel bracing (newer archtops including Eastmans have X-bracing) which would be better for GJ style playing IMO. And no offence, but I haven't been very impressed with the Eastmans I've tried.
  • RKatzRKatz London✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 184
    They are expensive but I have a great, new, Hofner jazz president, that plays like a gypsy guitar and is loud acousticly. I also have an amazing Olivier Marin, who is, in my humble opinion, the best new maker of Selmer style guitars today. You really want both.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,660
    One reason Nick might not have been impressed with the Eastmans he's tried (assuming they were the models with floating pickups, which accounts for most of the ones sold) is that they come from the factory with electric strings, D'Addario Jazz Lights (12s) to be exact. The volume is actually quite impressive with the stock strings, but Eastmans, like most archtops, won't really shine acoustically until you put bronze strings on. Martin 80/20s really seem to bring out the best, although they die pretty quickly.

    Also, the brand new ones tend to sound somewhat choked at first. Give them a year of hard playing and they open up wonderfully.

    I have a year-old Eastman 16" cutaway (AR805CE). When I put bronze 13s on, it just sparkled. I've since gone back to nickel steel strings because the bronze strings sound really imbalanced through the pickup. Unfortunately, it just died acoustically by comparison when I changed.

    I've also got a lovely 1946 Epiphone Triumph with bronze strings for straight acoustic playing, which explains how I can stand to have the Eastman strung the way it is. The Epi is indeed more cutting, but the Eastman sounds more balanced overall.

    I'm not fortunate enough (yet!) to own an authentic GJ guitar, so I switch back and forth between the two archtops. There are not a lot of people in the whole province of Nova Scotia who would know the difference (Nick and his pals being among the few).
    Benny

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    Hi Ben,

    actually the Eastmans I tried did have good strings on them - I just wasn't that impressed.

    You're a fan of The Day the Earth Stood Still?

    Nick
  • MinorBluesMinorBlues New York✭✭✭
    Posts: 72
    Check out this clip of gj being played on an archtop. Sounds real good...anyone know what guitar that is...or who's playing it for that matter?

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=4u4zxGlEDc8& ... ypsy%20duo
  • Charlie AyersCharlie Ayers Salt Lake CityProdigy
    Posts: 277
    I don't know what kind of guitar that it, but it looks like the pickup is mounted to the top, so it probably doesn't sound great acoustically. It may indeed have a laminated top.

    Charlie
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