For the last few years, I've been a huge Django Reinhardt fan. Like many non-jazz listeners in this country, I was introduced to his style of playing in Woody Allen's very enjoyable movie Sweet and Lowdown.
But as interesting as the guitar playing was, I was even more entranced by the look of this guitar. I had never seen anything like this. First or all, there's that crazy D-shaped soundhole. Then there's the fact that it's a cut-away decades before Gibson was producing similarly shaped guitars in any great numbers. And 24 frets? It was just wild.
That movie got me both interested in the instrument and the music it was played on. Naturally, I had to have both.
Piece of History
This guitar was originally designed by Mario Maccaferri and produced by the Selmer music company in 1932. Supposedly there were only around a hundred of these produced originally before Maccaferri left the company and produced the oval-hole version in greater numbers, both of which were featured in Django's original band, The Quintet Hot Club de France.
Before I bought it even, I had planned to add a piezo pickup and a microphone combination with a pre-amp. It might have been costly to get a set-up custom installed (and there's no way I'm doing the woodwork myself!), but I've since reconsidered.
For one thing, this guitar is already quite loud enough. I don't know that I would be able to hear an amplified/processed sound over the natural sound it produces... at least, not without cranking up the amp to unreasonable decibles.
Another factor is that this is not a deeply resonant guitar. It is designed for the staccato playing of gypsy jazz. That might sound okay with a piezo pickup, but I wanted versatility that this guitar isn't especially designed for. Now, don't get me wrong. This is a great playing and sounding guitar, but it was designed to sound like Django Reinhardt, and I don't know that I want to risk losing the acoustics of this acoustic guitar by adding electronics.
Yes, this is still the guitar electronics site, but I think sometimes I've just got to let things be.
The simple headstock is incredibly nice. I like that it isn't ornate or particularly showy like some guitars. I especially like the streamlined look of a slotted headstock combined with the fact that the tuning keys are turned backwards toward the player as one usually finds only on classical gutiars. Why doesn't every guitar maker do this?! Obviously, the answer is aesthetics. There's nothing like the regal display of a 3x3 on the headstock of a Les Paul or the elegant cascade of 6 in-line on a Strat, but for sheer utility, the rear-facing arrangement is the best!
The "moustache" bridge and the tailpiece are signature elements of this guitar. I think these and the wide-open sound hole contribute to the characteristic sound of this instrument and give it a unique voice. You just can't play gypsy jazz on anything else and have it sound right.