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dialing in a good archtop tone

MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Altamira M-01D, Epiphone Joe Pass

I'm determined to start using my archtop at some of my weekly gigs. (My trio plays outside on a patio, 2 guitars & an upright bass, through amps at low volume). I love Django's electric stuff, and I'm trying to honor his tone by approximating it a bit, while not trying to copy it. I'm fairly happy with the sound I'm getting, but feel it could be better. Any advice will be appreciated. I'm playing an old Epiphone Joe Pass through a tweed Fender Blues Jr. I'm using the neck pickup with the tone on 10 (so my chords wont be too bassy) and the volume at around 5. I've got the master volume on the amp at around 4 and the volume at about 2.5. The tone settings are all around 2 or 3, with a touch of reverb. If anyone has a suggestion for how to make it sweeter, I'd love to hear it.



  • Posts: 65

    Man, I cut my teeth on an Epiphone Joe Pass, played all my first gigs with it years ago through a Polytone mini brute. So yeah, neck pickup, tone wide open, high mid and bass about halfway up, reverb on 2, and I had the volume on the amp half open on 5. For rhythm, I would turn up the volume on the guitar until I could just start to hear it through the amp, then dial it up for solos. Also, where I picked made a difference. On my Joe Pass the sweet spot for lead was just above the neck pickup, between the pickup and the start of the finger board. For rhythm it was sometimes nice to actually pick on the finger board itself just above the neck pickup. Now none of this is particularly Django, but a long time ago in galaxy far far away I made a Joe Pass sound pretty good. Let me know what you think.

  • Posts: 65

    I forgot strings! I played Tomastik Infeld 13 gauge flat wounds, but they also make a round wound series called the bebop that are way brighter.

  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 114

    It would be interesting to use a many-band graphic equalizer on your rig and experiment with it, to see if you can approximate the Stimer/Selmer sound. I think there's a certain nasal quality that you might be able to hone in on, certain frequency ranges that get peaked.

  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Eastman DM2
    Posts: 27

    I personally find that old-school guitar tone is mid-heavy, very little bass, very little treble. Lo-Fi, powertube distortion a bit. Try this:

    Guitar neck pickup: tone, all the way up

    Neck volumne: rolled off, so you can roll up a bit for soloing and to get a bit less treble

    Blues Junior: Bass 3-4, Mid 10+, Treble 3-4, fat switch on, volume low, master high.

  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Altamira M-01D, Epiphone Joe Pass
    Posts: 54

    Good advice on the settings and pick positioning Matthew, I'll experiment with it. And I'll try the Tomastik bebop round wounds you mentioned. I forgot to mention that I'm currently using D'Addario Nickel Wound 11's. I tried flatwounds initially but didnt like the way it felt when my 2.9mm pick attacked the strings for my la pompe. It made a swishy sound that I found annoying. Thanks for your help.

  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Altamira M-01D, Epiphone Joe Pass
    Posts: 54

    Definitely an interesting idea, pdg. I find it funny that we have all this technology at our disposal, and yet we cant truly recreate the beautiful tones created by Django, C. Christian, etc. They had such limited technology & in many cases, just plugged in & played. It makes you believe what many say, that most of the tone is in the player.

    vanmalmsteenBill Da Costa Williams
  • Posts: 2,853

    I often hear that Boss GE 7 is the secret weapon of pros.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • edited July 10 Posts: 2,853

    Well yeah you're totally right haha, but maybe he would if he lived long to see it. As Mike said, it's not so easy to nail that tone today as basic as it was back in the day. Peche amp and a pickup will set you back only about $2,000 but that's one way to do it if you want to get as close as possible. I have a cheap Traynor solid state amp that can break up very close to the tube amp and with Krivo pick-up I was very happy with the "electric Django" sound I was getting.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • vanmalmsteenvanmalmsteen Diamond Springs ,CANew Latch Drom F, Paris swing, Altamira m30d , Altimira Mod M
    edited July 10 Posts: 234

    Listen to Django’s final recording of Nuages. It is such an incredible jazz guitar tone. I always wonder if he was playing his Selmer on that recording? It was recorded in 1953

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