D-hole vs. Oval Hole - advice please

Hi everyone. I'm starting to shop around for my first gypsy jazz guitar and can use some advice. I plan on studying rhythm playing almost exclusively. I've heard two opinions so far, both from very experienced players:

1. When playing rhythm, you have to be very careful with an oval-hole guitar with regards to acheiving a good tone. With a D-hole, a good rhythm tone comes more naturally.

2. I should get an oval-hole guitar because they have the extended range and I'll want that if I choose to take a solo.

Contrasting opinions. What are everyone's thoughts. Thanks in advance. - Greg


  • Posts: 597
    I play a Gitane D-500, a grande bouche, and have no problems playing rhythm or lead--in fact, I'm usually the guy that takes most of leads. Great tone, plenty of range (how much extended range do you think you need?), loud and punchy.

    I think another concern is nut width. The D-holes I think tend to have a wider nut than oval holes. Although I don't have giant hands, I like the wide nut width on my git.

    But ... I've never really bought into the whole "this guitar for rhythm" and "that guitar for lead" mentality. There are probably good arguments for it, but it never seemed to matter to me as a player. I'd rather play the guitar I liked--that felt right in my hands and on my lap and against my body, rather than the guitar that the experts declared worthy of this or that function.

  • Posts: 56
    D holes work damn well for lead playing, and oval holes can work just as well for rhythm playing. As stackabones said, it's really all about personal preference. I too have a 12fret D hole (Cigano); while it's certainly not a 'great' guitar, it's works as well for lead playing as it does for rhythm.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    Greg. I go back and forth between my oval and d-holes. I play the oval hole most often, but sometimes I will only play the d-hole for 2-3 weeks, because I love the sound of it so much. I'd be happy to let you play both guitars sometime to see if you have a preference. Just send me a PM if you want to do it. We can hook up when I come up for a lesson.

    Hope you are well. Haven't seen you since Django in June, and am looking forward to Django-a-go-go this spring.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 6,146
    It's not so much the hole, as the scale length. A 12 fret guitar (like the D500), won't give you the cutting power of a 14 fret guitar (like the DG-320.) Both have D sound holes...but it's the scale length that makes the biggest difference.

    If you look around, you'll notice that it's almost impossible to find a pro-Gypsy player who uses a 12 fret guitar for lead. Angelo Debarre did briefly, but other then that it's pretty hard to find. Nearly all lead players use the 14 fretters for the cutting power and higher fret access.

    With that said, I'm sure there are some lead players who will do better with a 12 fret guitar. Everyone is different of course....but it's worth considering the very strong trend towards 14 fret guitars for lead.

    Rhythm can go either way. Plenty of rhythm players use oval holes successfully. Both 12 and 14 frets too. So it's really just personal choice for rhythm.

  • djangologydjangology Portland, OregonModerator
    Posts: 1,018
    I own a 14-fret favino shaped D-Hole Cedar top and a 14-fret selmer shaped Oval hole spruce top. Two totally different guitars depending on my mood. The are equally as useful.

    Michael is right. THe 14-fret guitars have more string tension (by about 20-30lbs) and so they have better cutting power. When playing fast, the string rebound speed can make a difference to some people and so lead players generally dont play 12-fret-to-the-body guitars.

    The 12-fret d-holes probably have a lighter touch than any other acoustic guitar made. Only a nylon string guitar would be gentler on the hands.
  • GregHBGregHB New YorkNew
    Posts: 47
    Thanks for the advice everyone.

    Michael, thanks for that offer. I might take you up on it. I guess it'll depend on whether I could find a store that stocks these things in my area. I'll keep ya informed. Looking forward to Django-a-go-go! See ya there.
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