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Old 12-30-2020, 03:43 PM
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Default Gypsy jazz guitar vs archtop for cowboy music

For playing more country western swing or Marty Robbins cowboy songs, would you think an acoustic archtop would be best or a Gypsy jazz guitar? Eastman has the DM1 and DM2 gypsy guitars, or I could get something more like the Eastman AR610, etc. Or Godin, Loar, etc. The DM2 looks intriguing to me, but I would appreciate any thoughts.
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Old 12-30-2020, 04:05 PM
JoeYouDon't JoeYouDon't is offline
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Pretty sure that the lead guitar work on Gunfighter Ballads is a small bodied archtop, and generally speaking I think that approach would better capture what you describe.

With that being said, you could go the gypsy route too, but I think that's a road less traveled.
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Old 12-30-2020, 04:28 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Originally Posted by JoeYouDon't View Post
Pretty sure that the lead guitar work on Gunfighter Ballads is a small bodied archtop...
I recall reading that Grady Martin used a small-bodied Epiphone archtop to play the iconic "El Paso" solo, possibly the same circa-1953 Zenith Marty is playing in this 1965 video:

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Old 12-30-2020, 06:28 PM
Dave Richard Dave Richard is offline
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Originally Posted by BoneDigger View Post
For playing more country western swing or Marty Robbins cowboy songs, would you think an acoustic archtop would be best or a Gypsy jazz guitar? Eastman has the DM1 and DM2 gypsy guitars, or I could get something more like the Eastman AR610, etc. Or Godin, Loar, etc. The DM2 looks intriguing to me, but I would appreciate any thoughts.
Have you been able to try both types? While I love my varied collection of vintage Epiphones, I got to play a boutique Selmer copy two summers ago, and it was fine. Very good for leads or rhythm. I also rented an Eastman briefly, and while nice enough, could not compare to the Bumgarnner Selmer copy.

I have small(14-3/4") to large(17-3/8") Epiphones, and any of them would work well, too.
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Old 12-30-2020, 08:00 PM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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I have one of each - an Eastman archtop and an Altamira Sel-Mac copy. The Altamira has the classic punch for gypsy jazz. Its incredibly light and incredibly loud. Its definitely twangier. Cost me about the same as my Eastman, about $1400. You can get a student modelish Gitane for under $1 k.

The Eastman has a modern archtop tone. With a carved top and back its heavier.

I'd recommend a gypsy jazz guitar.

I'm lucky to live a 3 hour drive from Michael Horowitz of d'jangobooks, the largest dealer of gypsy jazz guitars on the west coast. I've never seen any at a music store.
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Old 12-30-2020, 08:35 PM
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I have one of each - an Eastman archtop and an Altamira Sel-Mac copy. The Altamira has the classic punch for gypsy jazz. Its incredibly light and incredibly loud. Its definitely twangier. Cost me about the same as my Eastman, about $1400. You can get a student modelish Gitane for under $1 k.

The Eastman has a modern archtop tone. With a carved top and back its heavier.

I'd recommend a gypsy jazz guitar.

I'm lucky to live a 3 hour drive from Michael Horowitz of d'jangobooks, the largest dealer of gypsy jazz guitars on the west coast. I've never seen any at a music store.
The Altemira is one I'm considering. The solid back version with D hole is $1200. If I get a pickup installed, it pushes it into the price range of an all solid Eastman archtop.

If you listen to the song below, I'm shooting for this sort of tone:

https://youtu.be/rPXH6W91MUg

Honestly, I think either would get me there, but I wonder if the Gipsy Jazz version might get me there more easily?

Anyone have additional thoughts on this instrument?

https://www.djangobooks.com/Item/altamira-m30d
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Old 12-30-2020, 09:40 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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...If you listen to the song below, I'm shooting for this sort of tone:

https://youtu.be/rPXH6W91MUg
Sounds like the Epiphone once again, and while a Gypsy guitar will give you the volume I think you'll find it lacks the warmth in an ensemble setting...

On that note (pun intended), here's some stuff that should be right up your alley both price- and tone-wise:



https://reverb.com/item/36560930-epi...-sunburst-1945



https://reverb.com/item/36002308-his...ne-zenith-a622



https://reverb.com/item/35263977-epi...r-1930s-blonde



https://reverb.com/item/37936144-epiphone-zenith-1957
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Old 12-31-2020, 12:24 AM
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Steve, I appreciate the links! I've never been into vintage so much due to not being as easy to maintain. Is there anything you would recommend new? Thoughts on the Godin, Gretsch (100), or Eastman archtops?
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Old 12-31-2020, 10:04 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Personally, I always found vintage guitars easier to maintain than the new stuff: IME they were built to a far higher standard than most of what's available today, in addition to which the seasoned air-dried woods used in their construction were more stable from the get-go (and even more so after seven decades of aging) and less likely to develop humidity-related gremlins as a result - not to mention that "tone you could eat with a spoon" you'll only get from a well-used/well-played Big Band-era veteran...

As far as the current stuff you mention, the now-discontinued Godin 5th Avenue acoustic is a latter-day iteration of the old student-level Kay and Harmony archtops of the 1950's, albeit with better materials/QC/playability; tone is what you'd expect - surprisingly good for what it is, quite versatile (I often fingerpick mine - sounds much like a 000 but with the characteristic archtop immediacy and midrange-forward projection), capable of a fair bit of volume (you'll need 13's or heavier - I'm using Martin Monels on mine for some authentic '40s vibe), but ultimately no real competition for a true carved-top instrument. If you must have a Gretsch, I'd avoid both the Synchro 100 and New Yorker 9555 (or its all-acoustic predecessor 9550) - neither of which is made to the structural/tonal standards of the Korean Electromatics (much less the MIJ Professional Series) and, in spite of the solid top on the latter, thin and strident-sounding to my ears - in favor of the discontinued 17" non-cut Synchro 400 (think George Michael); be advised that these are an underground favorite and, when/if available, can vary widely in price - that said, I've played a few and they're well worth the search...

If you're looking for a brand-new, all-solid/all-carved instrument at a reasonable price Loar and Eastman are the only real options, and each has its adherents - Loar has the vintage visual/tonal vibe (including an authentic '20s style thick deep-V neck, which I personally find daunting), whereas Eastman is a modern instrument in the post-Benedetto mold (broader frequency spectrum, more "polite" and less in-your-face, with modern neck contours and playability). IME Eastman's QC is also generally higher (Loars can have iffy neck geomatry - extremely important in an archtop), and if you gotta have a 17-incher they're the only game in town under $4K; since you're looking for the Grady Martin "Gunfighter" tone in a new instrument (I'm still partial to the vintage stuff) I'd focus on a maple 16-incher, either the Loar LH-600/700 or Eastman AR805 - check out both and see which one suits you best...
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Last edited by Steve DeRosa; 12-31-2020 at 12:32 PM.
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Old 12-31-2020, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
Personally, I always found vintage guitars easier to maintain than the new stuff: IME they were built to a far higher standard than most of what's available today, in addition to which the seasoned air-dried woods used in their construction were more stable from the get-go (and even more so after seven decades of aging) and less likely to develop humidity-related gremlins as a result - not to mention that "tone you could eat with a spoon" you'll only get from a well-used/well-played Big Band-era veteran...

As far as the current stuff you mention, the now-discontinued Godin 5th Avenue acoustic is a latter-day iteration of the old student-level Kay and Harmony archtops of the 1950's, albeit with better materials/QC/playability; tone is what you'd expect - surprisingly good for what it is, quite versatile (I often fingerpick mine - sounds much like a 000 but with the characteristic archtop immediacy and midrange-forward projection), capable of a fair bit of volume (you'll need 13's or heavier - I'm using Martin Monels on mine for some authentic '40s vibe), but ultimately no real competition for a true caved-top instrument. If you must have a Gretsch, I'd avoid both the Synchro 100 and New Yorker 9555 (or its all-acoustic predecessor 9550) - neither of which is made to the structural/tonal standards of the Korean Electromatics (much less the MIJ Professional Series) and, in spite of the solid top on the latter, thin and strident-sounding to my ears - in favor of the discontinued 17" non-cut Synchro 400 (think George Michael); be advised that these are an underground favorite and, when/if available, can vary widely in price - that said, I've played a few and they're well worth the search...

If you're looking for a brand-new, all-solid/all-carved instrument at a reasonable price Loar and Eastman are the only real options, and each has its adherents - Loar has the vintage visual/tonal vibe (including an authentic '20s style thick deep-V neck, which I personally find daunting), whereas Eastman is a modern instrument in the post-Benedetto mold (broader frequency spectrum, more "polite" and less in-your-face, with modern neck contours and playability). IME Eastman's QC is also generally higher (Loars can have iffy neck geomatry - extremely important in an archtop), and if you gotta have a 17-incher they're the only game in town under $4K; since you're looking for the Grady Martin "Gunfighter" tone in a new instrument (I'm still partial to the vintage stuff) I'd focus on a maple 16-incher, either the Loar LH-600/700 or Eastman AR805 - check out both and see which one suits you best...
The only ones available to me at this time locally are a Godin 5th Avenue with no pickup, a Synchromatic G100, and an Eastman AR610CE. The latter is the only new one.

https://www.eastmanguitars.com/ar610

Thoughts on the Eastman. It played and sounded nice, but it's also $1700. There is also a used Kay.
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Old 12-31-2020, 01:26 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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My thoughts:
  • Skip the Kay - most of the ones I've seen either needed a neck reset and/or had other problems requiring the intervention of a professional tech (which I generally don't find cost-effective on what was/is a student-level guitar), and for the cost of a no-issues example of any model really worth having you could start thinking in terms of a Loar LH-600;
  • Pass on the Gretsch Synchro 100, for aforementioned reasons;
  • If you're a good haggler, try to get the Godin for around $300 - set it up with 13's and a slightly higher action than you're probably using right now, use a heavier pick, and IME it'll serve you well as a "fun" guitar that just happens to punch above its weight (and costs less than similar vintage entry-level Harmonys/Kays);
  • Try to get that Eastman down into the $1500 bracket - beg/borrow/steal the money or put it on payment/layaway if you have to - set it up as per the above (use Monels for full acoustic-electric versatility) and you'll have a lifetime keeper...
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Old 12-31-2020, 01:54 PM
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Thanks Steve. As of right now, I'm leaning toward the Eastman. It's more than I'd prefer to spend, but I think it would serve me well!
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