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Need a good setup for my Gitane

skiski Boston, USANew
Hi All,

I have a Gitane DG-255 that is in dire need of a good setup. It has the "proper" Argentine strings, but the action is ridiculously low. I want to bring it into a shop but I don't know if the local places will know how to setup a guitar for Gypsy Jazz. How high should the action be and should the bridge on the DG-255 be replaced with one that is higher?

Also, if anyone knows of a good place to get this done in the Worcester MA area that would be helpful. Thanks in advance and Happy New Year!



  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    work with the guitar instead of against it. gitanes aren't made for high action. try to learn how to get a good sound from it with the low action. learn how to control the buzz etc. try a dupont bridge, 1 or 2. those are the best.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • bertonebertone Morristown, NJNew
    Posts: 46
    If you go with a Dupont bridge, get a #2 if you want the action higher. I got a #1 for my DG255, it helped the sound a lot but I found it necessary to use shims to raise the action a bit.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    About the lowest action you would want for your DG255 (assuming the neck doesn't have a rise over the body and has and acceptable amount of relief and the frets are leveled and everything is generally OK)

    ... in other words, assuming the neck is in good condition - you could probably go as low as 2.5mm on the low E & 2.0mm on the high E.

    You measure this as the distance between the top of the 12th fret and the bottom of the string... IE - get some picks and add them up. If you want 2.5mm... put a 1.5mm and a 1mm pick together and see if the tip fits under the low E string at the 12th fret...

    If you're raising the action by shimming - remember that you raise the action by half the height of the shim because the measurement point is 1/2 way between the nut and the bridge... so if you shim the bridge 1mm your action will rise by 0.5mm. If your shims are too thick, they may not conform well to the top for a number of reasons - but on Gitanes there is generally not a problem because top arch is not as pronounced and it reduces these problems so you should be able to shim quite a bit (maybe 2mm) But to be on the safe side... stack shims... in other words, if you're shimming 2mm... use 2 1mm shims of redwood or ebony or some other sufficiently hard wood (Oak, Myrtle, Pau Ferro, Maple, Bubinga... etc..)

    Be aware that when you do this you're changing the intonation of your guitar because you're lengthening the string paths. So.. play a note at the 12th fret and then play a harmonic at the 12th fret. Do this both on the high and low E strings. The harmonic of the string and the fretted note should match. If the fretted note is higher than the harmonic then move the bridge back (doing this increases the string path of the fretted note by a higher percentage than the harmonic note because the same increase in length is applied to the full string in the harmonic - but only to the fretted portion of the string (1/2 the string) for the fretted note. This is how you set intonation on floating bridge guitars. You will never get a Gypsy Jazz guitar to be perfectly intoned on all 6 strings because the bridges are not compensated (the individual strings are not compensated on the bridge as they are on many other instruments like better quality archtop guitars) But if the high E & low E are intoned properly, then the guitar will be "close enough". I think the new style Gitane bridges may actually include a little compensation. It looked like it from Josh's picture anyway. The old Gitane bridges were sectional so they looked like they were compensated though they weren't or at least they didn't measure that way.... I could never get my old-bridge Gitane perfectly intoned on all strings though I got it darned close.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • skiski Boston, USANew
    Posts: 86
    Thanks for the advice. I have had my guitar hanging on a wall hanger and I think the dry weather has had a pronounced effect on the neck relief. First thing I need to do is adjust the truss rod, although I can't tell what type of wrench or screwdriver to use - access looks a little tight. A truss rod adjustment just might solve my problems.
  • skiski Boston, USANew
    Posts: 86
    Update: After bringing my DG-255 to my local guitar tech, I was told that the guitar is defective. He said the neck angle was not set correctly and that the neck had a hump at the 12th/13th fret. While a truss rod adjustment helped a little with the action and string buzz, the fretting out issue due to the hump could not be fixed. He suggested returning the guitar if possible. :cry:

    I bought the guitar over a year ago. I sent an email to the dealer from whom I purchased the guitar to explain the issue and inquire about Saga's warranty policy. I'm hoping I can get the guitar replaced under warranty. Has anyone had to deal with a similar situation? Is a replaced guitar wishful thinking on my part? Is it more likely that I will be stuck with a "bad" guitar? :?
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    Not all is lost if you can't get another one. Most 255 need allot of neck work. It's not just yours. The wood on the neck is very thin so the neck relies on the truss allot. So your frets have to be leveled. All guitars, even high end guitars, need a fret level most of the time. Your 255 is not defective it's just the nature of the beast. One thing to know about most guitar techs... And in no way to put down our guy... They just don't understand these guitars. They are not even guitars... I say this because everything you learn about setting up a guitar does not apply to a Selmer style guitar. So don't let this news get you down. All you need to do is find some one that will work with you. Go in knowing what you need done and tell them to do it.

    You need a Major fret level / re crown and then a set up. The neck angle is low on the 255 but you just have to work with it. I do it all the time.

  • skiski Boston, USANew
    Posts: 86
    Thanks Josh!

    That sounds like a lot of work. How much does that type of repair work cost on average? It also sounds like I should try to find a tech who specifically knows how to work on this type of gutar....

    I was thinking this might be the push I need to upgrade to the next level of GJ guitar. I've been considering a Manouche brand guitar. Do you think the same issues would apply to that guitar? If so, I wonder if I just need to factor that cost into the purchase decision....
  • sockeyesockeye Philadelphie sur SchuylkillNew
    Posts: 415
    He may well be right about the hump at the neck/body joint, but with high enough action you can probably get around it. Use Argentine 10s and shim the bridge (credit card pieces work well, at least in the short term) until the action is about 3mm (between bottom of low E and 12th fret). It will seem monstrously high to most guitarists, but in the low range of normal for these guitars. I bet that will make it, if not perfect, at least playable.

    Assuming that works, get a properly made bridge of the proper height & it will really help the sound!

  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    It sounds like you are at the point where you are moving beyond the 255. They are good guitars. But when your ear is not hearing what you want it comes to set up Vs. tone. High action might fix one problem but give you another. When you start upgrading guitars what you pay for is getting both a good set up and good tone. You don't have to spend allot (in the world of guitars) to get this in a GJ guitar. Manouche is a good guitar but there are many options. The DG-330 is amazing. Plays great and sounds great. The 300 is great as well. It just comes down to how much you want to spend. If, for the most part, you are happy with the 255 then it will take less to have it set up then to get another guitar. But if you don't want to put the cash into a lower lever guitar then the only thing to do is move up. The best thing you can do if you do get another guitar is have it set up from the start. It's far better to have it done right off not only for you but for the guitar as well. If there are any issues a good tach will catch them at the time of set up. Of course I would like to do your set up but if not me find some one that knows a bit about setting up a Selmer style guitar. It will make a huge difference.

  • CalebFSUCalebFSU Tallahassee, FLModerator Made in USA Dell Arte Hommage
    Posts: 557
    Hey Josh as a person who has played these guitars longer than I have been a tech (I am still learning man, I do mostly work on electrics but I am learning the acoustic guitar stuff fairly rapidly from a good tech) What are the idiosyncrasies associated with these guitars that say wouldn't occur to someone more adept at working on flat tops and arch tops? The tech I am apprenticing under is great!!! but I am afraid he hasn't seen many of these guitars. Maybe you could give me some techy pointers of stuff to check and look for. You can send it in a PM if you don't want to clutter up this thread or post for everyone thanks man.
    Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard.
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