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  • nomadgtr 8:49AM

Today's Birthdays

pkather Kavika

A plethora of guitars

Hello, Newbie here, first post. (may be long)

As I have tried to make an informed educated decision regarding which guitar to purchase, it has become painfully apparent that I would have better luck herding cats.

It seems that somewhere in China there is an 8 million square foot facility that pretty much pumps out most of the guitars (not only gypsy jazz) on the market. For someone new to gypsy jazz style of playing, this is frustrating.

I recently bought a scratch 'n dent Cordoba O-5 from MF with which to get my feet wet. Very cheap, but it arrived with a pickup which I did not expect. That's the end of the good part of the story. What follows involves files and sandpaper and.....well, I'll stop there. This Spring, it will become firewood for camping.

However, as I search for a replacement, it seems these Asian-made guitars all look the same....including Arias, Ciganos, Gitanes, etc. It appears that at one table, Tchan is making a DG-255, and at the next table, Tchou is making an Aria or a Cordoba. Is there actually any difference other than the appointments and the head stock stencil?

No sellers ever seem to focus on the interior of the guitar in question, nor the grade of woods used. I would love to read about the differences in the bracing, finishes, etc. I could care less about fancy tuners, tail pieces and the lot. They can be upgraded. Add to this that most sellers provide a full frontal shot, and little more.

I believe most of us have limited physical access to this type of guitar (I certainly do not) as they just are not mainstream guitars, so I guess it boils down to this: What am I getting, really, from a DG-300 versus a Cigano GJ-10 or an Aria MM-20 for that matter.

My wife says I'm always clear as mud, but I hope I've made some sense here.


Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.


  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20
    Posts: 391

    My experience is that each guitar is different, even if they are made by the same maker, whether or not we are talking factory or an individual. I have played Gitanes that I thought were decent (Though I have never played a great Gitane, all have been flawed in some way) and Gitanes that I thought were lousy.

    BTW, I have never played a Manouche brand guitar that I liked. I understand they are made in Korea, not in China like the Gitanes.

    Paying a lot of money is no guarantee of getting a good guitar. I have played (and even owned an example...that will teach me to try a guitar in a noisy bar before buying) some pretty crappy guitars that bear the name Dell Arte on the headstock and were built by hand in the US.

    A Cigano or Gitane seems like a good place to start. You can see if Gypsy jazz is a good fit for you (Its not for everyone..this music is pretty damn hard to do well!). The Chinese guitars will need some dialing in to work right (new bridge, set up etc.). If you decide that you are your money and trade up. My advice at that point is to buy a Dupont or Favino. Everything else is a compromise. Even there, be careful. I have played some Duponts and Favinos that were not the very best (Though I have never played a Dupont or Favino that was downright lousy). It also bears looking at Park Guitars (Not traditional sounding, but some are quite good and they have a "North American" playability that works well for many), Dell Arte's US guitars (The Homage is the best of them), Dunn guitars (perfect for the classical guitar player, though again, not a traditional sound) and some of the other Euro makers (though with the lousy exchange rate...just go for the Dupont, a good one of those is all the Gypsy guitar you will ever need in this life)may be an OK choice as well.

    It is my understanding that the big Asian factories do make products for different companies, but also make them to each of their customers specs. I doubt that the bargain brand Asian Gypsy guitars are built the same way as the Gitanes. They are the best I have seen in that segment of the market.

    Good luck with your search and with the rest stroke!


  • TomThumbsTomThumbs NebraskaNew
    Posts: 68
    Thanks for the reply Stringswinger (Marc).

    I understand what you're saying, and I think I've learned enough to know moving up to a Dupont, etc. would be the way to (somewhat) insure a good playing guitar, however, I certainly cannot justify the expense at my current level. Neither can I justify spending less on another crap guitar.

    What gets me, is that if I'm shopping for a flattop guitar or a hollowbody jazz box (both of which I've done), one is able to readily separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were. This seems to be a lot harder to do with gypsy jazz guitars at the price level I'm pursuing ($1000 or less). Information regarding the actual building of these guitars is scarce. What I've seen, seems to tell me that there really is very little difference from model to model and brand to brand other than appointments.

    Having said that, your comment about Asian producers building to customer's specs is indeed encouraging and something I should have considered...and will in the future. That's something I can cling to anyway.

    Thanks again.

    Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.
  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    Posts: 763
    TomThumbs wrote:
    No sellers ever seem to focus on the interior of the guitar in question, nor the grade of woods used. I would love to read about the differences in the bracing, finishes, etc.

    Gitanes' interiors are, from a traditional point of view, extremely well made: not only some of them are varnished but the linings are made of laminated veneers (not kerfed) like on original Selmer guitars.

    As for woods, that's becoming a sore spot. I've seen some real disappointing examples in the recent Gitanes production. First batches were different in my opinion, but they're making sooooo many guitars a year now!
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    edited January 2009 Posts: 1,378
    Of what I've seen it's either a Cigano or a 300 series Gitane at the other end of your price range.

    They are different guitars really, both sound good, the Jorgenson 300 has a much fatter neck profile which I prefer. The woods are better looking too and the hardware it's one notch above the other Gitanes. I think it's sounds better as well.

    The Cigano is great for the money and it's not the same as a Cordoba or Aria, that's for sure.

    I'd avoid the 200 series Gitanes, they are ok, but have very thin necks and many have said they don't sound as good as the Cigano oval.

    I like the D500s, short scale D-holes, they are loud and comfortable to play, pretty cool guitars, they lack some punch, have too much bass and are very reverby, but for the first 3-4 years or so it's a good choice.
    Good luck!
  • TomThumbsTomThumbs NebraskaNew
    Posts: 68
    Thanks all.

    Between you guys and Michael's input, I've learned a lot more about the intimate details regarding gypsy jazz guitars. I realize I'm looking at the bottom rung of what's out there, but for now I have to keep it (relatively) cheap.

    I'm sure that in a couple of years I will move up. For whatever reason, I've been quite smitten by this style of music......enough so to change my whole approach to playing the guitar...with Michael's Gypsy Picking book, of course. :-)

    Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    Tom, I agree with Stringswinger about Gitanes. Most of them are fine, nice looking and a bargain in price, but I have never played or owned one I absolutely loved, and I have found that many of them have intonation problems to some degree above the 10th fret. If you do buy a Gitane, have Josh Hegg make a bridge for you. Josh likes Gitanes, and has a real gift at making bridges that bring out the best in them. It will be the best $50 bucks you ever spend. I can personally attest that it transformed my Jorgenson.

    I friend of mine here in Philly has a Cigano D-hole, right out of the box, and when we jammed, I thought it sounded terrific! I have never heard the oval hole Cigano, but if the d-hole is any indication, you might want to really have a look at them. Dennis Chang has one, I think, for banging around, and he loves it.

    Oddly, I've also never met a Dell Arte, including the hand-made ones, that I liked even a little, and that includes the 503 model I played at Buffalo Brothers a couple of years ago.

    Unlike Stringswinger, I love Manouche's and own two of them, both early ones. No intonation problems, great tone, quality construction and great customer service. I bought both of them used, and my oval hole had originally been sold with an unfitted case. I recently loaned my Manouche Jazz to Manouche for Samson Schmitt to use at Djangofest in New York. When they returned it, they sent it back in a properly fitted case, even though I bought it second hand. I think Manouche's (at least mine) come closer to a Selmer sound than any other factory guitar, and short of a better hand-made instrument, can't be beat. But you can see some others disagree, so keep my opinion in perspective. They cost more than Gitanes, but need less work and no upgrades. I was told the tops are made by hand, even though the rest of the guitar is factory made. I have a Favino and a Dupont VRB, but I have still held onto the Manouches, and play them both alot.

    I think in the end it comes down to budget and personal taste. For me it was Manouche, for others it was Gitane, Cigano, or Dell Arte. Good luck in your search.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • Tele295Tele295 San Buenaventura (Latcho Drom), CA✭✭✭ Gitane DG300, D500
    Posts: 629
    Lacking the opportunity to play one in person (and they are amddeingly hard to find, as I am experiencing), your best bet would be to speak to a dealer who is knowledgeable in the area of GJ guitars and get an in hand review and recommendations. Inquire as to a return policy if the instrument just doesn't work out.

    While I have been on this board only a short time, it appears that our host, Monsieur Horowitz, be able to assist you in this fashion. I have not had any dealings with Michael or Josh personally, but it certainly sounds like the good deal.

    I had a similar situation when I purchased my cello in 2002. The examples locally were junk. I contacted a reputable dealer (, if you're interested) who offered a rent-to-own program. I spoke with her on the phone and by email, explained my skill level and the tone I sought, and she selected a wonderful Doetsch cello that suited me perfectly and still gets compliments today.
    Jill Martini Soiree - Gypsy Swing & Cocktail Jazz
  • TomThumbsTomThumbs NebraskaNew
    Posts: 68
    Thank you all for your insights. Very much appreciated!

    To cap this off, last night I got very lucky on eBay and bought a JJ DG-300 w/case......a 2008, for one heck of a price. I'm still pinching myself.
    'Course, once I tell my wife, she may be pinching me too....ouch!

    So thanks again all around for the help. This has been, and will be, a great resource.

    Why do they call it a rest stroke......I get tired every time I try playing like that.
  • fraterfrater Prodigy
    Posts: 763
    Good move: I bet you will be surprised how good that guitar is...
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