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Setting Up a Maccaferri Jazz Guitar

Typical modern Maccaferri (Django style) guitars include

  • Saga Cigano GJ-10 Oval hole
  • Saga Cigano GJ-15 D hole
  • Acoustic France Gallato Django
  • Saga Gitane D-500 D hole
  • Saga Gitane DG-255 oval hole
  • Saga Gitane DG-300 Jorgensen oval hole
  • Acoustic France Gallato RS 1939 Oval hole DeBarre
  • Acoustic France Gallato RS 1939 D hole DeBarre Maple

These guitars often require some setting up. These are a few quick tips covering neck relief, intonation and string action.

Bridge Ends

Most but not all of these guitars have 3-part bridges: the central arched bridge is the important component and then there are the 2 "moustache" bridge ends are usually supplied unattached to the guitar.

It is a fact of life that the bridge ends rarely if ever match the bridge in terms of height.

The bridge ends are not attached to the guitar for good reason - you may well adjust the position of the bridge when setting the guitar up. If the ends had been permanently fixed then they would be left behind when the bridge was moved!!

Some models have a 1 piece bridge with moustache ends and the central arch combined.

Setting Up

To set up the guitar you will need a standard 4mm Allen key.

Setting up

  • tune the guitar
  • check the relief on the neck and adjust if necessary (there are many guides on the internet to adjusting relief, please follow the instructions carefully as permanent damage can be caused; pay an expert to do the job if you are not completely confident in your own skills); the truss rod adjuster is inside the soundhole underneath the top of the fingerboard.
  • check the intonation
    • look at the bridge and make sure it is at right angles to the strings
    • tune the guitar with a digital tuner or an app on your phone unless you have exceptionally good natural pitch
    • fret the 1st string at the 12th fret and check the pitch;
      • if it is below E, move the treble side of the bridge slightly toward the neck and repeat until it is exactly E
      • if it is above E, move the treble side of the bridge slightly away the neck and repeat until it is exactly E
    • fret the 6th string at the 12th fret and check the pitch;
      • if it is below E, move only the bass end of the bridge slightly toward the neck and repeat until it is exactly E; make sure you keep the treble end of the bridge fixed during this process
      • if it is above E, move only the bass end of the bridge slightly away from the neck and repeat until it is exactly E; make sure you keep the treble end of the bridge fixed during this process
    • retune the guitar, retest and readjust if necessary
  • check the action
    • It is best to check action by raising and lowering the bridge and not by adjusting the relief
    • It is often possible to change action by moving the bridge toward the treble or toward the bass. This takes advantage of the fact that most bridges are sloped, higher at the bass end and lower at the treble. The amount you can move the bridge depends on how much free space there is at either side of the strings. This is not possible if the bridge ends of 3-piece bridges have been attached to the soundboard.
    • If the string action is too low, then put some packing under the bridge - thin strips of hard wood are best; do not glue them into position until you are sure you have the action you want; I have heard of people using coins to raise the bridge and they even say it improves the tone !!!
    • If the string action is too high, then sand the underside of the bridge to reduce its height; if you do not have good woodworking skills then enlist help at this stage as it is easy to spoil the fit between the bridge and the soundboard on these guitars because of their arched soundboards.
  • recheck / adjust relief
  • recheck / adjust intonation
  • When you are completely happy with your set up then glue on the bridge ends; I use double sided tape to fix the bridge ends to the soundboard so that they are not permanent. As mentioned, the supplied bridge ends are rarely the same height as the bridge and so you may need to sand them down or raise them with packing. Some people will glue the bridge ends to the soundboard. Yet others glue them to the bridge itself.

To repeat, if in any doubt about your skills, particularly when adjusting the neck relief, enlist the help of an expert. Serious or even permanent damage can be caused.

Strings

Saga, the makers of the Cigano and Gitane guitars (Saga www.sagamusic.com) have the following to say about strings -

"To get the best tone out of your new Gitane guitar, it is important to use "Manouche" specific strings. Manouche strings are made of silver-plated copper, wrapped over a steel core. This reduces the tension needed to bring the string to pitch and makes the guitar extremely easy to play. More importantly, when combined with the percussive tones of Gypsy Jazz guitars, the strings add a softer side to the guitar that is evidently clear in the music. Check out the New Parisian Gypsy Jazz Guitar Strings by Gitane."

I would only add that there is a choice of good strings available from several makers including Savarez, D'Addario, John Pearce, and others.

Any comments or questions

Please call Classical Guitars PLUS 01363 881174

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15 December 2018