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What affects a gypsy guitar's projection (volume)?


I purchased a gypsy guitar in France and brought it to Canada. Unfortunately, due to the change in humidity, I had to take it in for a setup. The setup work was well done, but it feels as though the projection (volume) and/or sustain has decreased. Fret re-dressing and neck relief change (less relief than before) were part of the repair. I kept the action pretty high (3.9mm) after trying a lower action briefly due to some buzzing (I have an agressive picking style).

What can affect the projection of the guitar? Could this be my imagination or could the change in the neck relief possibly affect it?


Peter K.


  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
    Posts: 1,005
    If you took the guitar to someone who doesn't know anything about gypsy jazz, thereby not understanding how these guitars are supposed to work (being very different than a flattop), then all kinds of things could go wrong with the setup work they do, IMHO.

    One thing that I would imagine would go wrong in such a scenerio is that the repair person might lower the neck angle and lower the bridge a little so that it gets a low action (like a Gibson archtop guitar), which would be a serious misconfiguration for a gypsy guitar.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    So many things could be going on...

    Which brand of guitar is it - and which model?

    Generically - here are some classic tone/volume killers

    1.) Guitars sound different when the humidity changes - if you are experiencing very high or very low humidity - do what you need to do to get somewhere in the range of 40% to 60% This is also a 'safety' issue for the guitar.
    2.) Dead strings?
    3.) Properly cut bridge slots? Floss them lightly with guitar strings the same size or one size bigger than the intended string. Floss lightly - you're only looking to 'buff' the slot - not deepen it. You want the string to ride on the bearing surface only - not sunk deep in the slot or pinched by it.
    4.) A nut that doesn't have enough drop in it to let the strings bear properly on the zero fret (actually the nut is only a string guide on zero fret instrument but you know what I mean)
    5.) Just... dead frets (not solidly seated) or a hump over the body that is causing fret-out. (get someone who knows what they're doing to look at your neck to see if it's properly flat over the body.
    6.) Setup is too high and/or strings are too heavy. I know that common wisdom is that the bigger the strings and higher the setup the more volume you'll get - but this is just horse pucky. Every GJ guitar has a setup that it 'likes' ... some guitars like high & heavy - and some don't. If your guitar is built lightly - you may be overloading the top.
    7.) Technique. When you fret, do you fret on the leading edge of the next highest fret for best clarity? Is your picking hand doing a proper rest-stop? etc...
    8.) Bridge material and weight: In general, the lighter the bridge, the more pop you'll get out of your instrument. Rosewood is lighter than Ebony and not as dampened - so it rings better - more overtones etc... If part of your new setup was a big huge tall heavy Ebony bridge... that alone would kill tone. A friend recently went from a 15 gram Ebony bridge to a 6 gram rosewood bridge... big increase in volume & tone - maybe the lightest bridge I've ever seen. Josh, who made it, called it a "bridgelet" but it was what the guy wanted and it worked brilliantly.
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • aa New York City✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 800
    i think these guitars sound louder when it is more humid.
    Learn how to play Gypsy guitar:
  • Craig BumgarnerCraig Bumgarner Drayden, MarylandVirtuoso Bumgarner S/N 001
    Posts: 795
    Is there any down side to a lighter bridge other than the possibility of structural failure?

  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,252
    Structural failure is the only real downside I've ever heard of for a bridge that's built too light. That's not to say there aren't others - I'm just not aware of any. But there are tonal nuances that you may consider upside or downside depending on the basic character of the instrument to begin with and where you want to take it from there. I'll let Josh comment on this further if he's on the thread - which he may not be as he's doing a restoration on a rare instrument now and so his focus is on that project (as it should be)
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • HereticHeretic In the Pond✭✭✭
    Posts: 230
    I find it interesting that you Yanks are obsessed with putting paper-thin bridges on good instruments. By inductive reasoning alone, you can see that first-class luthiers in the UK , France,and in North America are using rather substantial bridges of ebony and rosewood,not only for structural integrity, but also because of the sound they produce.
    It can be over done.
  • Josh HeggJosh Hegg Tacoma, WAModerator
    Posts: 622
    I'm leaving this one alone.
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 613
    I find it interesting that heretic finds us Yanks "obsessed" with light bridges when he lightened the bridge on his own guitar - and raved about how much he liked it.

    I made lightweight bridges for two of my guitars several years ago just to see what the result would be. As it turned out, I liked the results a lot and the new bridges are still on the guitars. Pictures of these bridges are available on other posts in this forum. The lightweight bridge on my Saga lightened and refined this guitar's clunky tone without sacrificing any volume. It does not sound nearly as strangled as it used to. The new bridge on my Favino aired out it's tone without changing it's fundamental dark character. That's my point here - setup (whatever that is) and a different bridge and so on might slightly change the tone of any guitar but it's not going to change it's fundamental character.

    Personally I am a big believer in the lightweight bridge. I think it significantly improved the sound of both the guitars I installed them on.

    Here's the photos.

    Scot ... piece1.jpg
  • HereticHeretic In the Pond✭✭✭
    Posts: 230
    Guilty as charged, Scott.

    I was trying to point out that it's a matter of degree. My own modifications were to take a Gitane JJ DG-300 ebony bridge and lighten it by routing out the inside to the same degree as a Dupont bridge. And yes, it is an excellent improvement.

    It's curious, though, that Dell Arte bridges are ebony, and have substantial mass, and yet sound fine, as do other makers bridges.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    edited November 2007 Posts: 1,252

    I can see how you could get that impression - but bridge design is a very important area because it directly affects one of the most significant design weaknesses of the acoustic guitar - its low efficiency. If you're interested - google around a bit or peruse the Catgut Acoustical Society or the American Institute of Physics or the American Acoustical Society. You'll find a lot of interesting material on it. (guitar efficiency)
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
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