Will any ol' guitar do (for now)?

Hi Everyone! Quick question: I just started getting into the whole Gypsy style—I’m working on the Gypsy Picking and Gypsy Rhythm books, and I hope to master both books by the end of August (in the year 2067).

I don’t have a proper gypsy guitar yet, but I’m planning to get one by year’s end. (All my $ goes towards a Europe trip for now.) I’m currently just using a standard inexpensive acoustic guitar with steel strings.

Anyway, I’m wondering if there’s a down side to learning on a non-gypsy guitar and then switching over to one later on. Will I have to unlearn/relearn certain things, or is the switchover fairly seamless? I suspect the picking won’t be affected (I seem to be applying gypsy picking to everything I do, even on electric. Ever try to use gp on a Rush solo? Weird stuff…), but I’m curious if perhaps chords, finger pressure, etc., will need adjusting once I switch.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Recipes?


P.S. Sorry if this post appears somewhere else. I think I submitted it, but didn't choose a category, so this may show up elsewhere. Computers scare me.


  • manoucheguitarsmanoucheguitars New MexicoNew
    Posts: 199
    Hi there, I'd advise you pick up a used Gitane or an entry level gypsy guitar but I would NOT recommend you pick up an Aria... really bad. But you could get a used Gitane for a couple hundred bucks and that would be a good starting point I think.

  • mmaslanmmaslan Santa Barbara, CANew
    Posts: 87
    I'd check out guitars in Europe--at R & F Charle in Paris and/or Palm in Amsterdam, for example. Of course the exchange rate will be working against you, but you'll have a good time even if you don't buy anything. And you'll develop a basis for comparison when it comes to looking at guitars back home.

    I worked on gypsy picking on a dreadnought for the better part of a year before ordering a Selmer-style guitar and I don't think it caused me any problems. In retrospect, I might have been better off putting on some silk and steel strings. But the Selmer feel and sound is definitely quite different from a flat top.
  • badjazzbadjazz Maui, Hawaii USA✭✭✭ Rodrigo Shopis, YL Cholet
    Posts: 128
    it will definitely be a big adjustment once you get a GJ guitar, but it shouldn't slow you down that much when you make the switch. The scale length, nut width, and string pressure are all different, but after a few weeks on the GJ you will probably be used to it. It probably isn't that big of a deal to learn on a regular flat top, though like the other post said, you may want to try silk & steel strings to get used to the feel.
  • B25GibB25Gib Bremerton WA✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 164
    Dave -
    Most decent flat top guitars have too low of action to fully allow a newbie (though you seem to be picking up the proper technique quickly) to this style adequate space to learn since the wrist and elbow motion and width movement of the arm are much wider as you can see from the Gypsy Picking book. There isn't enough room for the rest stroke etc. in general on most flat tops, I used my Gibson '65 B25 for about eight months with a less than 1 5/8 nut width ( way too narrow) and way too low of action to properly learn La Pomple. However, I was able to learn proper chords, some songs etc. before buying a Saga Gitane which then opened up the area space to "work in" and now a Dell 'Arte Sitka Spruce top Hommage. If you have a removable saddle in the bridge, I'd recommend having a guitar tech make one higher from about 2.5 mm (which I like) to 3.5 mm.
    The tone, string tension, scale length, sound etc. will be different with a flat top, but I think the main factor is the string height!
  • kimmokimmo Helsinki, Finland✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 160
    Any ol' guitar will do.

    Django himself played ordirary flat-tops (and the not-so-ordinary Ramirez) until 1936, so the classic early QHCF-tracks Dinah, Tiger Rag, Ultrafox, Blue Drag etc contain no Selmers.

    When he then switched to Selmer though, he did it for good, because it was and still is the best choise for this type of playing.

    But for starters, any ol' guitar will definitely do.
  • RichRich New
    Posts: 50
    I agree.. any guitar will do. I have a Gitane and a flat top martin. I've found getting the technique down on the martin requires more precision, but once you can do it playing on the a gypsy guitar seems much easier (though obviously does take some time to slightly adjust). I've met guitarists who can only play one specific guitar.. which seems really sad to me. (Also my martin has a fishman pickup on it.. where as the Gitane needs micing.. which makes gigs a nightmare.. so I tend to just use the martin at gigs)

    Anyway.. as kimmo says.. Django would play anything.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,250
    Computers scare us all, Dave. They scare me and I worked in product design for the largest computer hardware company in the world for half my career ;)

    As for the guitar - if you have some halfway decent flattop you can get started. Try loading it with Savarez Argentine 11's and jack up the action to at least 2.5mm (take it to a guitar tech at Guitar Center or something like that - save your old saddle blank so you can convert it back to normal strings later - have the guitar tech set you up with a new inexpensive Tusq saddle that gives you a higher action without breaking your bank) The strings and action will give you the 'string feel' to help you with technique - but not the playability or tone or volume that you will need to really be able to enjoy this music to its fullest. Oh, and get a proper pick. Start with a Wegen Gypsy Jazz 2.5mm - or 3.5mm. they're pretty "standard" and again - good for technique to not use a floppy pick.

    I agree w/ Robert - look 'round for a good used Gitane when you can. But - sure... you can get going on anything with 6 strings & a sounding board.

    Welcome to Gypsy Jazz - you're going to love it.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
    Posts: 249
    You're definitely fine starting off on a flat top or archtop or electric or whatever's handy. I imagine that really the gypsy spirit is to make music out of what's handy, not what's ideal.

    Sure, if you decide to get serious about this style, then there will someday be "proper" technique which is "best learned" on a Selmac with a "proper" setup. But as a newbie, it's a bit early to think about changing up your whole picking technique to the "proper" gypsy way.

    Actually, I think there's something to be said for feeling out a new genre on an instrument you are already comfortable with. I started out on an flat top and loved it, until I played in a band with someone who played a Selmac. All of a sudden, I realized a dreadnaught was far too quiet to really hang with a Selmac. So I got a Gitane, which was an awsome starter instrument. And when I really got the Gypsy Jazz bug, I started saving for a handmade instrument.

    For now, have fun with what you've got - there's plenty of time to be proper down the road!
  • RichRich New
    Posts: 50
    But as a newbie, it's a bit early to think about changing up your whole picking technique to the "proper" gypsy way.

    I'd have to disagree.. if your a newbie to the guitar altogethor get this technique down straight away before you get into bad habits.. though if your just a newbie to this style then I guess enjoy playing the music for a while before thinking about technique (though if ur anything like me u'll find what u can play is limited).
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    Posts: 1,378
    I'm with Rich on this one...
    Get started on the right track...unless you want only a little taste of the style.
    If you're any serious start working on Gypsy Picking now.
    My two cents.
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