My Cigano GJ-10 arrived today and it is simply fantastic!
It feels nutty to be posting this next to threads on Benedetto's, Slamens, etc., and maybe part of my reaction is because this is the first time I've even held anything like a Selmac, but the Cigano looks great, plays very very easily, and sounds very good. It is feather light.
Even my children - who are 80 and 89 years old - said, "Gee, that sounds so much better than the other guitars you've been playing on." Hmm, well a compliment for the guitar, anyway. I've been practicing Mike's Gypsy Picking for two weeks on a Jazzica (expensive for me) and an Epi Howard Roberts (admittedly cheap, but mine's been customized by a good luthier and sounds delicious). Both guitars strung with flatwound 12s.
I did have Josh give it the full treatment and it shows - the neck, frets, bridge, and action are flawless. But I've been looking at guitars for 38 years now and you can tell the Cigano is well made. The arch is there on top and back, and the top falls away nicely towards the tailpiece. There is a tailpiece saddle. The nut is neat, well cut, centered, and perfectly perpendicular. String spacing is even - I checked with a micrometer - and the Es are not too close to the edge of the fretboard. There are no gaps or globs anywhere. Nothing seems poorly thought out (like an Eastman pickguard and pickup attachment) or poorly executed. The thing is just clean!
A feature I think may be different from the 200 series Gitanes, the strings pass through the pegs on the tailpiece at a very low height, making less of a lever arm to bend the tailpiece. Just guessing from pictures on that. Tuners are also open and seem fine (thanks, Tele!). You can tell they could be used for slot head or peg head guitars, but they are not scalloped as on the Cordobas so they are well supported by the wood. The outer wood also seems to provide good support, there are no over-size holes that look like a bushing is missing.
At the head, the High and low Es and the B do contact the wood as they enter the slots in the head, so maybe in future versions Saga will cut the slots slightly longer towards the nut, but that is the only minus I can spot.
Playability is far beyond my wildest dreams. I was dreading the high action and long scale, but with Argentine 10s on it the Cigano plays effortlessly. Even with the action where it should be, it is just a breeze to play. Maybe that's just the string guage working for me, but I have the customary Fenders and Gibson and even a Hofner Very Thin Classic set up as gunslingers and the Cigano is more like them than an archtop.
Thankfully, I think I can manage the scale length. I have only 8 inches between tip of thumb and pinky - so Jamie Boss (who does the Gypsy guitar set up video) would put me on a short scale - but I can stretch from fret 5 to 2 for arps on the high strings and across the fretboard from B at fret 7 to E at fret 12 so I think I'll be okay.
None of that matters if the sound isn't there, right? That's your call. I'm no expert, but I did get my first Django record about 1971 and wore it out (you used to be able to do that!) and I'm satisfied. So are my folks, who are the only people who hear me since unlike most guys here I don't play out.
The Cigano is loud, I've been told that's because the top is too thin. I don't know, the volume is there. The top eyeballs about 2mm with a ruler.
Okay, more of a rave than a review but if you've been thinking about actually learning to play this great music and been worried about buying a guitar you haven't touched I don't think you'll be unhappy with the Cigano. This guitar is much, much better than I expected!
Spend the money and get Josh's setup. Sooner or later we all learn the value of a good luthier.
Thanks Mike and Josh, I'd never have gotten started with this if not for you and I've wanted to do it for decades!
Gracias a Enrique and Dennis for your comments on the Cigano. Enrique, si yo puedo tocar la guitarra tan bien que tu hablas ingles yo estare muy feliz!
"Sing unto Him a new song, play skilfully with a loud noise." Ps. 33:3
Seriously, I appreciate your review - rave or not. I'm in the "deciding" and have been leaning towards the 10. I think you just helped me decide.
You are just the type of person I hoped to encourage!
You can sure spend a lot of money on a nice Gypsy box but since the technique and characteristics of the guitar are so different from what I normally play it made sense to me to go easy at first.
You've probably found them, but Elderly has some pics of the Cigano here: http://elderly.com/new_instruments/items/GJ10.htm
The pics don't do it justice, though, it looks a lot nicer in real life.
For the sound, check out Simon's clips at MySpace - he really plays well: http://www.myspace.com/koningsimon
Also, a young man who plays nicely has posted a good video at YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LpKOUshknw
In the video the young man is just messing around so he doesn't pick as close to the bridge as he could. The tone really opens up as you move toward the bridge, there is a definite sweet spot.
And in general for what you can do with a Cigano, Goregantuan's clips are out of this world! TH plays a GJ-15, but you've just go to love his personality. I get the impression he probably wails equally well at just about everything he does - a talented and intelligent young guy.
Tom also has a clip of Joscho Stephan sitting in with Frank Vignola on Tom's GJ-15.
I think you'll like the Cigano, especially if you have Josh put it on his bench for you.
Just finsihed checking intonation all over the neck and it is perfect. That's Josh's hard work to get the bridge perfect.
Also, the sweet spot is right behind the sound hole, when you find it you almost need earplugs. It is difficult to hear the metronome doing the diminished sweeps of 3.2 in the picking book.
Closer to the bridge you can get the right sound for some of the intro stuff in Django's unaccompanied work.
The only thing that cheapens the guitar is the fake rosette, which appears to be a decal. With upgraded hardware (tuners & tailpiece) and a setup, it'll be a sweet guitar for very little money.
Anyway, the first time around, I had a much "nicer" (read: more expensive) guitar, which I sold when clearing out some unplayed guitars a few summers ago...so when I got the urge to get back into it, I went cheaper, and ended up with a GJ-15 that I bought a few months ago, and I gotta tell you, it's a flat out better guitar in every way. Really makes practicing enjoyable...and it's gonna take some PRACTICE for me to get back out there!