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  • DeuxDoigts_Tonnerre 9:26PM

Vintage Gypsy guitars vs. Modern makers

Hey,
Just curious. With the rise in availability of modern Selmer/Mac style guitars, what are your thoughts on the older vintage instruments found, for example, on Jacques M.'s site. Are there many 'vintage gypsy guitar collectors' out there, aside from the interest generated by orig. Selmers and some Favino/Busatos? When looking at a guitar in the $2-4000 range, are you tempted by the older Anastasios and DiMauros in light of the Dell Artes, Parks and Duponts? This is curious to me because of the collectability/awareness of older archtops/teles/strats in the US -- perhaps the collectors of vintage 'gypsy instruments' have yet to hit their stride? I realise that the older GJ instruments aren't that numerous to begin with, but it seems that so many players here opt to have guitars built for them, or at least purchase new or newer hand built instruments as a next step beyond Gitanes, etc., instead of going the route of purchasing vintage ones.
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  • Hi Pete,

    You've seen me go through my ?? two or three ?? year quest for a Gypsy Jazz rig.

    I've played a couple dozen vintage GJ guitars at festivals and here in Portland - and probably twice that of new handbuild guitars. I haven't found a greater percentage of inspiring guitars among either group... maybe some extra "cool factor" for the vintage - but not worth the 2x price multiplier. Some vintage rigs - like Billy's Favino & Jason's Busato are incredible - but then again - your Dupont & Chuck's Park are in that same category. (and having played Troy Chapman's new Park for only a couple of strums... I have to say it may be in that class as well)

    So... what I'm trying to say is that I've found that guitars from good makers (made then or now, made in Europe or not) are good guitars - and a small percentage of these good guitars are truly amazing... and guitars like that usually don't change hands till the guy who owns them passes away... so the conclusion I reached was that if I wanted a truly inspiring GJ guitar I needed to go with a new handbuilt. That was just my thought process.

    By the way - I've always found it odd that vintage electric (Strats/Teles/SGs) go for so much... I'm sure to invite flames by saying this but... sheesh... it's a neck on a block of wood with old pickups whose wire and capacitors and resistors have degraded with age... IE, a 50 year old electric guitar doesn't sound today like it sounded 50 years ago and there is nothing on an electric guitar that improves with age. I'm guessing that the prices fetched by "collector" electric guitars are more a factor of midlife crisis spending by corporate retirees engaging in vicarious living than the actual pursuit of tone by gigging/touring musicians. Kevin Spacey's line in American Beauty summed this up well. The day after he quits his job and goes into full-blown midlife crisis his wife comes home from work and says something like: "What's that old car doing in the driveway?" and he replies: "That, my dear, is a 1970 Pontiac Firebird, it is the car I've always wanted and now I have it - I rule!"

    :)
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    I've owned many vintage flat-tops over the last 30 years and there are a couple of things I learned from these guitars. One is that old guitars that sound good were almost certainly excellent guitars when they were new. The other thing is that guitars tend to mellow as they age, they lose some of their attack. The tone gains a certain richness or complexity - that's the trade off that comes with age, not unlike with some humans...

    I have not played all that many older Selmer type guitars so maybe it's not the same. The old Selmers I've played did have a fairly relaxed attack - but I have no idea what they sounded like when they were new. I think that Selmers probably had a slightly softer attack than what we are used to hearing today. Django's tone was dense and fat, nothing snippy about his tone at all - though he was almost surely one of those people who got the same tone from any guitar. Many modern players like that sharp and snappy attack a la Tchavolo or Moreno, so if this is the tone you want and you are mostly playing near the bridge, then a mellow old guitar is probably not what you want anyway.

    I suspect that very few of the many dozens of older Selmer style guitars that Jacques Mazzoleni has sold over the years are in the hands of the kinds of players who inhabit this forum. I expect that most are in the hands of wealthy collectors. It's too bad, as recently as 1986 you could get a Selmer at Mandolin Brothers for $3k.

    I don't play electric guitars and don't know much about them, but I agree with what you say, Bob. The cost of a vintage electric guitar has more to do with the market itself than the guitar.
  • pmh425pmh425 Middle Island, NY✭✭✭✭
    scot wrote:
    .... Django's tone was dense and fat, nothing snippy about his tone at all - though he was almost surely one of those people who got the same tone from any guitar.....

    I have found this as well in listening to Django's recordings. Far less harsh than you hear with many of the contemporary players.
    -Peter
  • BohemianBohemian State of Jefferson✭✭✭✭
    I have played only one Original Selmer and one hammered Busato.. both had "vibe" but I would not buy either.. thought the Selmer wasn;t for sale and the Busato was, and reasonably priced..I walked.

    I have played a few newer Sel Macs and it is my belief that they are more playable owing to the years of evolution and players input.
    S to tone.. it's already been said... some good some not so good and the good old ones were probably good new and the dogs are still barking

    I have owned over 100 guitars... many highly collectible.. players guitars when I bought them.. those have included pre war Martins and Gibsons and vintage classicals and flamencos quasi vinatge Guilds such as my 59 M-20..

    I also own an all original 1977 hard tail strat one piece ash body in a 9 plus condition.. why this slab is worth $2K plus is a total mystery to me..
    it also baffles me that a production line guitar can bring $100 K ..pre war herringbones fall in this category ,but a truly handmade genuine Santos Hernandez will bring not even half that.. that too is a mystery

    Unlimited budget.. and looking for a Sel MAc... I would not buy vintage for purely practical reasons.. and I would not custom order a new one without 100% right of refusal for any and all reasons...
    Michael Dunn would be on the top of my list if not simply for character..

    Age is no guarantee to quality .

    Luthiers are a s good today as yesterday...if not better..
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    scot wrote:
    The old Selmers I've played did have a fairly relaxed attack - but I have no idea what they sounded like when they were new. I think that Selmers probably had a slightly softer attack than what we are used to hearing today. Django's tone was dense and fat, nothing snippy about his tone at all - though he was almost surely one of those people who got the same tone from any guitar. Many modern players like that sharp and snappy attack a la Tchavolo or Moreno, so if this is the tone you want and you are mostly playing near the bridge, then a mellow old guitar is probably not what you want anyway.

    Hi Scot,

    I wonder what your opinion is about the difference in recording standards today, and how much the technology of Django's era has affected what we hear today as his tone. So many recent recordings are, like you say, "sharp and snappy"...do you think the recording technology itself has played a part?

    Best,
    Jack.
  • pmh425pmh425 Middle Island, NY✭✭✭✭
    Jack wrote:
    Hi Scot,

    I wonder what your opinion is about the difference in recording standards today, and how much the technology of Django's era has affected what we hear today as his tone. So many recent recordings are, like you say, "sharp and snappy"...do you think the recording technology itself has played a part?

    Best,
    Jack.

    When I listen to Django, I hear something in the tone that I do not hear for the most part in modern recordings/artists. I think, if something were lacking in Django's sound, it could be attributed to the recording technology but I don't think the tones that I hear would be added in. Unfortunately, since we can't go back in time and hear what he sounded like, it's anyone's guess.
    -Peter
  • CampusfiveCampusfive Los Angeles, CA✭✭✭✭
    I've found with archtops that time and owners are not always kind. I've seen any number where the top has caved in a bit, where the neck is just not right, etc. Of course I've seen some really wonderful guitars that have only grown better with age.

    I think an absolute statement that vintage guitars are better than new ones is simplistic are doesn't give enough credit to either side.

    However, there is one exception: where they don't make them like they used to! I don't think most modern pick ups sound remotely like pickups form the 40's. Good luck trying to find an amp that sounds like a 30's gibson.
    I think you can find a new tweed amp that gets pretty damn close to a 50's tweed fender - the original just has leaky caps. That's why I'm happy to play a new Eastman archtop, but with a 40's Dearmond and a '36 EH-150 amp.
  • At DFNW a guy named Whit Smith closed the show along with a great session guitarist from New York whose name escapes me now - and a fantastic upright bassist from Seattle named Matt whom I know from a gig he has with my brother's traditional jazz band. (IE, Louis Armstrong/Bix Beiderbeck jazz)

    Whit & trio knocked the crowd's socks off - took this exausted "partied-out" "last show of the festival" crowd and put them up on the edge of their seats.

    And...

    Whit Smith was playing through some sort of antique (Epiphone?) amp.

    It sounded unreal - just fantastic - the second coming of the Grand 'ole Opry right there in the WICA auditorium. My level of respect for vintage amps went up significantly from that show. That amp hat just the right "bite" and broke up at just the right times and in the right ways and Whit Smith knew how to use it to good effect. Wow!
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • JackJack western Massachusetts✭✭✭✭
    Bob Holo wrote:
    At DFNW a guy named Whit Smith closed the show...

    It seems like Whit's old band (Hot Club of Cowtown) is on semi-hiatus; he seems to be splitting time between a few projects (that, Hot Jazz Caravan, etc). I play with a cousin of his here; she always raves about his sound...

    Best,
    Jack.
  • CuimeanCuimean Los AngelesProdigy
    I believe that other guitarist was Matt Munisteri (http://www.mattmunisteri.com/).

    The thing that I notice about modern amps (or at least the way most players use modern amps) is that there's a pretty big frequency range. On older recordings, it seems like the guitarists have carved out their own little slice of frequency. The electric guitar sound on those George Barnes Octet recordings is as distinct as any of the horns.

    There's a company called Vero that makes amps that are supposed to replicate this sound: http://www.veroamps.com/ They look cool and I'm sure they sound great, but dang, they're expensive.
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