Looking for some advice for picking a guitar!

Hi everyone,

I am looking to get my first gypsy jazz guitar and have quite a good idea of which guitar I will be getting. First being interested in the Cigano and Gitane guitars I've switched up my interest for the Geronimo Mateus Jazz B (Oval). The reasoning for this is about the tone and price. While a Cigano would be much cheaper, it doesn't nearly live up to the tone in my opinion and I feel like I could continue with my western guitar basically. Having spent a few weeks now listening on the guitars on DjangoBooks (mainly) the Geronimo took me by storm by it's rich tone and soul. Then of course if you compare it to the orginal Selmer Michael played on, it's a completely different story. However 2000$ is way above my original budget, but if it gives me something that much better than a 1000$ guitar, then I can motivate myself to getting this one in a lifetime guitar.

Now that I've given some background info, I have some questions that I have a hard time answering by myself.

D-Hole vs Oval Hole. - I know there are a lot of different threads about this. My main takeaways are how the neck are built differently for their different purposes (rythm vs lead), the hole sound capabilities (d hole sounding more for the rythm player, not having to play as loud) and the fret length (usually).

Now, for me the sound of the guitar when playing rythm is the most important for me, and this is where I feel the Geronimo Mateo Oval shines, while the D one feels a bit dry. So what I am basically wondering is how I should reason when deciding one the Oval. If the sound sounds great to me, is that what I should go for? Or are the designed features I wrote about earlier more important?

Lastly, not being able to try the guitar out in a store is something that makes me a bit nervous about doing such a big purchase. There are stores that have them, just not close to where I live. This being my first gypzy guitar I am aware that the guitars are designed differently than regular western guitars, which makes me wonder a bit how the playability will work with me. The sound of course is something I can't be completely sure by looking at videos of hearing it play, but it should probably give me quite the hint.

I am just curious on how your reasoning for this would be? Would you perhaps try to look for any model and try it out and see how it feels or maybe travel to a place that sells the guitar you're looking for and give it a spin and see if it's for you. The latter feels quite like a gamble, if it's not nice than that trip maybe wasn't worth it, unless you have bigger plans with the trip of course!

If you read through all of this, thank you! And thanks in advance for any recommendations!



  • aaooeeieaaooeeie BostonNew
    Posts: 1

    Long time listener, first time caller! As someone who just went through this, here's my (long) take.

    I've been a musician for a long time and a hacky guitarist for a couple of decades. While trapped in the house over the past two years I decided to finally take it seriously, put the bar chords away, and work on swing guitar. Putting Argentines on my old Seagull acoustic and getting a thicker pick and learning the "proper" chord voicings did a good job of getting closer to The Sound, but before long I hankered for a Real guitar.

    I live in Boston where there is usually the opportunity to hear live music but during lockdown, not so much. My experience with recorded music (and recording music) is that it never sounds like a live instrument; all I learned from watching endless YouTube comparisons is that two guitars that look the same can sound much different from each other. And from learning to play instruments in the past, I know that what an instrument sounds like when I first play it is much different than what it will sound like when I get to know it and its idiosyncrasies, the weather changes, whether I'm playing alone or with others, and most importantly, my skill-level and taste changes. Small soundhole, large, heart-shaped, whatever - they can be used for whatever you want. Plenty of pictures of Django playing guitars with different soundhole designs.

    So, don't get hung up on it! I picked a guitar based on reading descriptions of the tone by experienced players with opinions (maybe small soundholes are more aggressive; D-shaped are more open - but that always depends on the specific instrument and the player) and what I knew I'd be doing most of the time. In my case, playing mostly with a couple of friends in my dining room, knowing the style of music I like, preferring to keep the scale similar to what I'm used to, and liking how it looks, I picked none-of-the-above and bought an f-hole guitar from JB Castalluccia, sight-unseen (hearing-unheard?).

    I'm sure my skills will continue to improve and maybe I'll play at crowded jams and decide my guitar isn't appropriate for that context - fine. I can get a different guitar. Or adjust my style (or the setup, or my strings, or my pick) to make the guitar sound different. I think it's unlikely that any guitar can't be used in whatever context I want, as long as I'm willing make adjustments.

    It's an organic thing and it's far more important that you enjoy playing it than it sound exactly like some crappy recording from 90 years ago. I definitely took a gamble, but it's not really that much of a gamble. I expected it to be a well-made instrument, I expected to find it a little different than I thought it would, I expected to be uncomfortable playing it at first, I expected to be able to learn a lot from playing it, and I expected my friends to think, hey, you sound different, all of which have been true. If you buy a quality instrument, then whether it sounds "good" or "bad" will likely come down to your playing more than to whichever specific instrument it is. I can play mine so that it sounds great! Trust me, I can also make it sound terrible!

    The money is definitely a thing - I ended up paying more than I first expected to, which happens - but if you buy something of quality and maintain it, you'll likely be able to sell it if you want. Don't expect to make money, but if you lose a little but gain a bunch of skill and experience, maybe that's worth it to you.

    My guitar makes me happy every time I play it. It has been a balm for all the madness of the last few years. Go get yours and don't stress too much over it.


  • CdoufCdouf New
    Posts: 6

    Hi Aaron,

    Thank you for your long and detailed answer! We seem to have very similar background and vision of our use, so it was great reading about your experience!

    I am aware that the sound mainly lies on the player, however I believe it's hard to recreate a certain tone that you enjoy with your guitar, but I might be wrong! I have not tried for an example the argentine strings which from what I've heard makes a ton of difference! I also believe the tone would make it more fun to play as well! And with gypzy jazz it's the first time I actually know what sound/tone I am looking for, which is why the Geronimo stood out for me.

    But of course the most important thing is that you enjoy playing your instrument! As you wrote, I definitely believe that you'll always be able to adapt to your guitar with time and adjustments, I sure have with my other guitars!

    Regarding being able to sell it, is so true and it is also something I have been thinking about and something that takes the stress away a bit!

    Thank you for the encouragement!

  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    Posts: 467

    Buying a used guitar definitely helps minimize the loss. I have learned my lesson about buying new GJ guitars. Unless they are from a select few luthiers or you get really lucky (and are very patient), you will almost always sell at a loss.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited March 2022 Posts: 3,320

    If you plan to take solos rather than only play rhythm I would focus on single note volume and tone. A lot of the tone for rhythm is technique. Same with solo but if the tone is too wet it is really a bummer for soloing.

    Edit- in the last sentence I meant if the inherent tone of the guitar is too "wet" there isn't much you can do to compensate for that when soloing and it is a real bummer. A wet guitar in rhythm playing isn't as big an issue because you are supposed to be damping all the time anyway so you can somewhat control the overtones/ringing.

  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 473

    Most people nowadays choose either the oval or the D hole (14-fret) based on what they like, not whether they play rhythm or lead.

    I had a Mateos Jazz B and liked it; I tried a Mateos D hole but didn't like it as much -- I think the soundhole was smaller than typical D holes (but I'm not sure).

    Youtubes of guitars aren't necessarily reliable when comparing tone, volume, etc.

    Setup is everything -- action, neck relief, strings. The same guitar sounds very different with different setups.

    It's hard to beat trying out various guitars in similar settings to how you'll be playing.

    Buy a little string action gauge so you can on-the-spot see what action any guitar is setup with (1st and 6th strings at 12th fret). The action on any guitar can be changed to however you like it.

    Buying used guitars at a price lower than new, so you can resell eventually if you want, is a good strategy.

  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 959

    I agree with all of the above comments. The ultimate sound is in your hands more than the instrument. Guitar players have always been guilty of making up imaginary b*llsh*t to justify how much they paid for this or that guitar when it was really only the ego-boost of the name, rarity or vintage that they wanted.

    The Mateos Jazz B looks good, is a popular seller and from what I have heard, can get 'the sound'. Yes Youtube demos are not the ideal but ignore the majority and find one with a decent player.

    As with Aaron's tale of his Castelluccia I would say just buy the guitar you want and learn how to make your fingers get the sound you want out of it. I have not tried the Mateos choices but there is usually a difference in tone (if not volume too) between oval hole and D hole and most would choose the oval hole for all-round versatility but then again probably more of the opinions I have read on here come from 'home' players rather than gigging musicians on stage and the latter probably have some other amplification between the strings and the audiences ears anyway. But yes, a good oval hole can probably cover more tone choices than a D hole.

    I have only had real experience with a couple of D hole guitars. One was an old Castelluccia (same as the one Dorado Schmitt played on the Bireli DVD). That had a bent ply back with no braces and was a real boomer, probably the loudest guitar I have ever had for belting out chords but for single note stuff it had so many overtones I sounded like that one-trick pony from U2 which backs up Bones's comment about tone. The other was a Sonora, (the one some folks like to claim was made by Busato) which was similar in tone if not quite as loud.

    Scale length is another consideration but unless you have very small hands the 670mm of the Mateos should be fine and will generally get a better tone than a shorter scale guitar.

    And finally, yes, as pdg says, set up is important to understand when trying to find the sound in your head.

    I suspect that Mateos should do everything you want.

    Good luck.

  • CdoufCdouf New
    Posts: 6

    Thanks everybody for your tips!

    I will try to answer the big take aways:

    That most of the sound lies on the player and setup is something that is clear. However how the guitar is manufactured and what kind of materials they are made of also have a lot of effect on the sound I would argue for, even if the player and setup is the most important areas.

    When it comes to youtube videos, I have as mentioned before mainly looked at Michaels videos performed on this site as they are played by the same person and similar recording conditions. Which should give some hint, then of course as Aaron wrote, every guitar, even the same model can sound different. I believe the Selmer video when Michael tries both the replica and the original says a lot about how different a guitar can sound!

    I will definitely get a string action gauge as this is an area I have not tampered with before. Thanks for the tip!

    I've actually found a store now in Stockholm that sells three different Gitanes, so I will go there and try them out, to get some kind of feeling! It sounds like whatever I decide to do, I should probably be happy with a Geronimo Mateo Jazz B Oval. But I could look for used guitars, if I want to make a lesser "risk" when purchasing a guitar.

    When it comes to the argument of just buying the guitar I want. Well how do I decide that, by the looks or the sound? My guess would be for the latter, otherwise I would easily go for a D-hole guitar either an antique model by altemira or a Gitane.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,320

    In my experience the Gitanes are typically VERY wet. But there is a lot of variation even within the same brand.

  • juandererjuanderer New ALD Original, Manouche Latcho Drom Djangology Koa, Caro y Topete AR 740 O
    Posts: 205

    You might want to consider Altamira over Gitane.

  • CdoufCdouf New
    Posts: 6

    Yes, trying out the gitane was more about trying gypsy guitars.

    I tried 3 different ones (DG-500, DG 300 John Jorgensson and DG 350 Jan Akkerman signature model) and the difference between them all were quite huge! I mainly prefered the D shaped ones as the sound was more round. The oval one was one of the worst guitars I've heard, almost plastic sounding. However great to play on haha.

    From all of them the DG 350 Jan Akkerman signature guitar was my favorite. It felt good to play on and had a alright all-round sound. However can't say the difference was big from my 100$ Jason guitar except this one was around 1800$!

    All in all the experience was quite confusing. However I have some kind of info I can compare with when it comes to sizes of the neck that I like.

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