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  • Andrew Ulle 9:31PM
  • Chicago 9:31PM

A Manouche Guitar for Starters: GJ-15 or D-500?

Hi everyone!

I've recently started playing gypsy jazz and have finally decided to buy a decent manouche guitar to further my growth. Excited! I've been following this forum for a while now, and have read wonderful reviews of the GJ-15 and the D-500. I was wondering, would either of these guitars be ideal for starters and, if so, which do you guys prefer? I'm aware of the price difference and that the D-500 has a bit of reverb, whilst gypsy jazz is typically meant to sound 'dry'.

Also, how do they compare with the Selma BM300? This is my only real-life reference to a gypsy jazz guitar, as it's not quite common both in clubs or in stores here in the Netherlands.

Thanks in advance, and am looking forward to starting this new adventure in my guitar playing!

Arifin
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Comments

  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    I've never heard or played a Selma BM300. I've played several D 500's and GJ 15s and own both.
    I wouldn't recommend one over the other. They're both good, and your right: The 500 is wetter but not so much and both will do the trick.
    The neck on the 500 is a little wider and the finish is a lot nicer. The lack of a thick finish on the 15 means that the top is freer so the difference between the sound of each string is more pronounced.
    I'm assuming you already know that these are short neck guitars so there's a little less room at the high end of the neck.
    Both of these guitars represent a terrific value. Either gives you a powerful guitar that is capable of great variety of styles as they aren't as specifically "gypsy" as their long neck cousins. Both also have wider necks than the long cousins, something I prefer.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆVirtuoso 503
    The D-500 is wet and the GJ-15 is boomy. The former is more annoying, personally.

    Recommend the GJ-15, a good choice for a first gypsy jazz guitar.
    It's a superior instrument to the D-500 despite being at a lower price level, so that's a win-win.

    Never heard of the other one you mentioned, so can't comment on that.
  • Hi Jeff and Glenn,

    Thank you for taking your time in helping me out. I appreciate it. I've been thinking about my own style of play and would like to share the following thoughts.

    I've been playing the guitar for about 15 years now and feel lucky to be able to come home and play my José Ramirez 4CWE, Martin HD-28e Retro, Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster and Rickenbacker 330/12 each day. All wonderful guitars. Having said that, I must say that I started with beginners' guitars and gradually 'went up the ladder' (for a lack of a better description). Now that gypsy jazz has sparked my interest, I wonder if a similar approach would be best when learning the genre. The idea of starting off with a decent manouche guitar for long-term playing also attracts me, and has, I think, my preference.

    Also, of the guitars just mentioned, I feel most comfortable with the Martin and Fender, as their necks feel slim and offer easy access to the upper frets. If I'm correct, manouche guitars with an oval hole generally have a slimmer neck. Would it, therefore, be wise to stick to the necks I prefer and, thus, purchase such a guitar? I tend to think so.

    Thanks in advance, and feel free to suggest guitars. I will look them up.
  • I think you are right on the mark with choosing one of these entry level guitars. They are both on the lower end of cost (for these guitars) and you can figure out if this is something you are going to stick with before you go full bore with a higher end instrument (at higher end prices). Just get the guitar set up nicely and you might find that you don't even need a higher level guitar. Good luck!
    Arifin
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆVirtuoso 503
    Now that gypsy jazz has sparked my interest, I wonder if a similar approach would be best when learning the genre. The idea of starting off with a decent manouche guitar for long-term playing also attracts me, and has, I think, my preference.

    No, I don't agree. Gypsy guitars are worlds apart from all the others you mentioned. And since you've already been playing guitar 15 years, it's almost certain you're going to play a gypsy guitar with some weird technique at first, and not be able to get "the" sound right. That will be the limiting factor here, not the level of your instrument.

    Learn to play the style of rhythm first, and learn the broken wrist picking style, because you won't even know what qualities you value most in a GJ guitar until you've been playing the music for a year or so.
    Also, of the guitars just mentioned, I feel most comfortable with the Martin and Fender, as their necks feel slim and offer easy access to the upper frets. If I'm correct, manouche guitars with an oval hole generally have a slimmer neck. Would it, therefore, be wise to stick to the necks I prefer and, thus, purchase such a guitar? I tend to think so.

    From what you've said, you might prefer a GJ-10 to a GJ-15. It has a slimmer neck and better access (also a better sound) on the upper frets. Similar price.
    Arifin
  • jonpowljonpowl Santa Cruz, CA✭✭✭ Dupont MD-100, Cigano GJ-10
    As I recall, both the Gitane D-500 and Cigano GJ-15 have only 12 frets to the body, which could limit your lead play. I haven't played the Cigano GJ-15, but I own a GJ-10 (14 frets to the body) and it is a nice guitar with a thin neck. The GJ-10 has a nice sound for lead, but is a bit muddy on rhythm, compared to to my Dupont (of course).
  • Thanks guys. Good point, I think I'll stick to a student model then. Is it possible for me to order a guitar on Djangobooks for the Netherlands? If so, I'd like to add a pickup for recording. Which do you prefer?

    I read an article about student gypsy jazz guitars on Reverb.com I think (which I can't find unfortunately), and the writer mentioned the following guitars: Gitane DG-255, Cigano GJ-10 and Paris Swing GG-39. The Gitane was described as 'darker sounding' than the Cigano. Not much was said about the GG-39. I'm currently in the process of recording an album and would like to add some gypsy jazz rhythm parts to the upright bass and vocals. The guitars just mentioned have oval holes and are preferred for lead; are these capable of handling rhythm parts as well or would the sonic space be too crowded with the addition of vocals?
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    edited June 8
    I also have a Cigano GJ-10. It's ok, but I like the Gitane long scales more, and the Altimira long scales a lot more! Yes the oval hole guitars all have a slimmer neck. The width of the neck at the 1st fret goes: 1 7/8" - Gitane 500, slightly less - Cigano GJ15, and 1 3/4" for virtually all of the oval regardless of the maker. Neck thickness varies on all of these regardless of width.
    On the other hand the GJ - 15 and Cigano have a 25 1/4" inch scale (slightly shorter than your martin, and all of the oval hole guitars are a whopping 26 3/8" scale length - longer than anything you have by an inch or more.
    So with the ovals you get a slim - loooong neck with really good access to the top frets. You'll get used to it but it'll take a few hours or more.
    Fancy lead playing, way up the neck, makes that long scale great because your fingers have room to romp and the long scale makes playing at the higher frets a easier.
    I've got medium size hands, I'm 5'11", and no trouble, after a few years, making big stretches low down on the long neck, where its a "disadvantage".

    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • jonpowljonpowl Santa Cruz, CA✭✭✭ Dupont MD-100, Cigano GJ-10
    @Arifin I have owned all of those guitars and the best of the bunch is the Cigano GJ-10. It certainly isn't perfect, but all things considered, it is a very nice "student guitar", plays well, and sounds somewhat authentic. The Gitane DG-255 had very annoying overtones and the Paris Swing GG-39 wasn't as loud as the others, and was slightly larger, making it less comfortable to play for long periods. The GG-39 did have an authentic sound. Buy the Cigano, and keep it for travel when you finally buy a luthier made guitar.
  • ArifinArifin New
    edited June 28
    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for all the wonderful feedback. I'm back, and have tried out two different guitars at a mate. He has both a D-hole and an oval-shaped guitar, both pretty decent and in the €1500 price range used. (As a reminder, my preference goes to a guitar that's not per se world class but decent enough to record with, as my budget is around €500, which is slightly less in dollars.) I must say the feel is different, and I really prefer the thinner neck. However, when it comes to sound, the warmth of the D-hole is what I need.

    Which D-hole guitars in the market have both a slim neck and a decent warm rhythmic sound?

    Thanks in advance!
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