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D-hole for lead???

Django NewbieDjango Newbie Fort Worth, TexasNew
I've just recently been infected by the Gypsy Jazz bug. Since I can't find any local stores that carry the unique type of guitars used in this style, I'll probably buy one without ever playing one first.

I noticed that many of the videos on youtube.com show lead being played on 12-fret, D-hole guitars. The sound is very nice. If I went with a 12-fret model, would I run into a lot of trouble playing lead? Do many of the songs require reaching beyond say, the 15th fret?

I know it's a dumb newbie question, but I will appreciate any guidance I can get.



  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    Hey Gene,
    Playing a 12 fret d-hole for lead has many advantages. for one, the bridge is closer to the center of the lower bout. i believe this provides a larger sweet spot, and allows you to pick closer to the bridge (Which gives a beautiful hot tone). the other advantage is that the shorter scale length makes the neck easier to play.

    here's a link to a vid of me playing some lead stuff on a d-hole that i'm selling.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • Posts: 597
    I play lead on a 12-fret D hole and love the sound. No problems playing lead on it.
  • Posts: 597
    Gene, I just noticed that you're out in FW. I'm just north of Dallas! Howdy, neighbor!
  • If the neck meets the body at the 12th fret, you can expect about 110lbs of total string tension. If the neck meets the body at the 14th fret, you can expect about 130lbs. (for reference, a bluegrass guitar is strung with bronze strings at 150-160lbs)

    So, therefore, the difference is big. If you want to be a soloist, I would recommend the 14-fret to the body style. It doesn't matter if it is a d-hole or not.

    With the super light tension, the dynamics of picking are slightly different but you wouldn't noticed unless you are a very good player. As gypsy jazz evolves, the 12-fret guitars are losing their favor.
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
  • Django NewbieDjango Newbie Fort Worth, TexasNew
    Posts: 13
    a wrote:
    Hey Gene,
    here's a link to a vid of me playing some lead stuff on a d-hole that i'm selling.

    I've seen the video. It is very inspiring. I'll reply separately to talk with you about possibly buying your guitar.

    Thanks for the input. I really like the sound of the 12-frets. I've seen a couple of videos of Leigh Jackson playing a 12-fret and it sounds great. Also, I think the shorter neck is more comfortable.

    Glad to see I'm not the only one in Texas that likes this style. I had heard of Django Reinhardt, but knew nothing about him. I developed an interest in jazz and stumbled upon a video on youtube of someone playing in the GJ style. I was immediately taken by it.

    I'm looking for an instructor with background in this style. If you have any suggestions in the D/FW area, I would appreciate a contact.

    Thanks again to both of you for the response.

  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    I have been asking myself this same question lately. I have a Manouche Jazz, but recently bought an Orchestre, which is the D-hole model. It takes a little getting used to the shorter neck, but the sound of the Manouche D-hole is just stunning! It is louder than the oval hole, and has a richer tone. I know Moerman made a career on D-holes, but Djangology is right that they seem to be going out of favor, even as rhythm guitars.

    There was discussion in a thread awhile back about the wider sound dispersal of a D-hole, which gives more feedback to the player, but, it was argued, projects less sound into the crowd. In these amplified days, I'm not sure that matters anymore.

    I think the D-holes are really sexy looking, especially with the 12-fret neck. The fingerboard extension, to me, is just too cool!

    For now, I am sticking with the oval hole Manouche, but I spend more and more time playing the Orchestre, and am tempted to make the switch. If you like the D-hole, play it I say. You'll find your own voice, and you sure won't sound like everyone else. I heard Alphonso Ponticelli play a 12-fret Patenotte, and believe me, he made it sound like the be all and end all of solo instruments. I was so impressed by the vintage tone, I'm obsessing about getting a vintage GJ guitar now.

    And while Django switched later, he made the D-hole Selmer sound pretty good while he played it.

    And Stackabones, my parents live in Richardson, TX, and I am down there from time to time (maybe next month). Are you near there? Might be fun to hook up.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • BluesBop HarryBluesBop Harry Mexico city, MexicoVirtuoso
    edited September 2007 Posts: 1,378
    Hi everyone,
    I've been thinking about this too lately, as I've been offered a great deal on a very high quality 12 fret D-hole.
    I thought I share my opinions.
    I'm used to playing in a Gitane DG-250, oval hole 14 fretter, and I was worrying over losing the ability to play in the higher register.
    As my father owns a Gitane D 500 I was able to compare the two scale lenghts.
    From my own experience and help and advice from good friends I've come to the following conclusions.
    The shorter scale does limit playability, a little, on the high frets but allows for far bigger stretches of the left hand in return, it also makes playing certain chords easier, and the looser string tension takes less finger pressure to fret notes, makes legato and bends easier, as well as a faster and wider vibrato.
    It's been suggested that shorter scale grande bouches are consistently good sounding and petite bouches not so much.
    I also found my father's D-hole to be much louder than my Oval, both from the player's perspective and at a distance.
    As mentioned before, a lot of Django's early recording, up until '37 or '38, were done on a 12 fret D-hole, and I can find fault with his lead tone, so...
    There is a compromise but in the end it is really not an issue for most players, it's just become more fashionable in later years to play with 14 fretters, and mostly oval holes.
    After you get used to it I don't think you'll ever miss those two frets and the lead tone of a Grande Bouche is just as good as that of an Oval.
    Just my opinion, I hope it helps.
  • The LosThe Los San DiegoNew
    Posts: 71
    Of course, you could always buy a Gitane DG 320 which has a D-Hole body with a 14 fret neck. The monkey wrench has been thrown...
  • Django NewbieDjango Newbie Fort Worth, TexasNew
    Posts: 13
    First, let me just say that I am overwhelmed by the response from you guys. Your thoughtful replies are very much appreciated.

    2nd, I think I picked a bad user name. 5 years from now, Django Newbie may no longer be applicable. However, since my playing stinks, it probably will.

    Do you know any shops in the D/FW area that carry the Gitane guitars? I can't find them locally.
  • djadamdjadam Boulder, CONew
    Posts: 249
    It sounds like it might be a challenge where you are, but I highly recommend finding some guitars to get your hands on before you make a decision. Feel is so important and it is so unique to the individual... maybe you can email Saga and find out about what dealers they might have in your area.

    Personally I really like the longer scale, usually associated with the small oval sound holes. The D-hole does provide nice reference to the player, but these gypsy-style guitars are so frigging loud (relative to every other acoustic I've played) that I don't find that particularly important. It can be a longer stretch in certain situations, but I just find the longer scale to be more comfortable.

    Another thing you might consider at this point is the thickness of the neck. Many people (myself included) find thicker necks to be more comfortable, as they give you more leverage. Many Gitane models have very thin necks and thus give you less leverage, although some Gitanes have thicker necks than others. My 250M's neck is ridiculously thin. I recommend finding out which Gitanes have the thicker necks and considering that as a factor in your search. I'd bet someone here can tell you which ones do - the one Jorgensen model I played was thicker than most by far. I love my old 250M, but the neck on it stinks.
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