By Andy Ellis The manouche guitar—the Selmer-style acoustic so central to Gypsy jazz—will be forever associated with the immortal Django Reinhardt. With his snappy arpeggios, quivering vibrato, and nimble melodies, Reinhardt set the standard for “Hot Club” fretwork. To recreate his distinctive sound, you need a specialized instrument designed to produce barky twang and cutting midrange. Acquiring a Gypsy-jazz 6-string can be expensive: Only 1,000 or so Selmers were made between 1932 and 1952, so a vintage original can run $20,000 or more. Handmade Selmer repros are readily available, but expect to pay at least $2,500 for a boutique manouche instrument. While that’s not an unreasonable investment for a gigging pro or serious devotee of Hot Club swing, the price can be a hurdle for newcomers. Good news: If you’ve been hankering to explore Django’s licks, you’ll be delighted with the Gitane DG-250 ($699 street) and D-500 ($699 street), a pair of major bang-for-buck Selmer-style guitars that are made in China by Saga Musical Instruments. These well built, toneful 6-strings will let you pay homage to Reinhardt without breaking the bank. To appreciate what the two models offer—and how they differ from standard archtop, flat-top, or classical guitars— we need some crucial context. Selmer Synopsis In 1932, luthier and classical guitarist Mario Maccaferri opened a workshop near Paris under the auspices of Selmer, the French instrument manufacturer.
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