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Old 03-08-2021, 10:18 AM
nightchef nightchef is online now
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Default Which Gretsch?

I'm experiencing serious GAS for a Gretsch hollowbody, and wondering which line/model I should focus on.

The pro (6000-level) guitars may be beyond my budget reach, but if someone convinces me that anything less will disappoint me, I might find a way to go there. My initial leaning is toward the Electromatic (5000) guitars, but I'm not necessarily closed to the Streamliners (2000).

My main priorities are, pretty much in this order:

1) Tone. I have a Strat and an old Ibanez Steve Lukather Roadstar, which plays roughly the role of a Les Paul in my toolkit. Both great, versatile instruments. So I don't need a balanced/swiss army knife tonal palette from this guitar -- I need rootsy, twangy, airy mojo.

2) Playability. This is hard to scope without trying them, but I've read that with Gretsch guitars the necks get chunkier as you get cheaper. This would be important since I have small hands and like shallow necks.

3) Durability/Stability. This would be my first guitar with a Bigsby, so I'm a little apprehensive about whether it would turn out to be a temperamental kind of instrument in terms of tuning stability etc. If spending more would help on that front, that would matter to me too.

I'm also open to Gretsch alternative suggestions, but as far as my research so far has indicated, most of the alternatives are more expensive (at least more expensive than the Electromatics -- I'm talking Eastman, D'Angelico, etc.).

Thanks for any advice!
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Old 03-08-2021, 10:41 AM
bfm612 bfm612 is offline
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I love the tone of my Gretsch 5420T, but I've found it to be a little tricky when it comes to keeping it in tune, especially the G and especially due to the trem. The problem's not been so pronounced, but I haven't played it in a while. Granted, I haven't brought it in lately to the shop and may just require some pretty basic maintenance that will fix it, but it got annoying. I also don't love the floating bridge. I'm not the best when it comes to setting these things up, so it may not be a problem for others.
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Old 03-08-2021, 11:22 AM
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Money no object? Gretsch Roundup all the way! With the Dynasonic pickups!

Money definitely an object? Just play a bunch and pick the best guitar. Places like GC usually have a wallfull of $1000 and under models. Start pulling the syle you like off the wall, and one WILL stand out.

Personally, I'd look for used one of these. Love the Georgia Green, and love the Cats eye soundholes. https://reverb.com/p/gretsch-g5622t-...yABEgLe4fD_BwE They seem to hover between $700 and $800.

As to Bigsby equipped guitars it's just like any other whammy bar. Whammy friendly nutwork is critical. Also reducing the friction over the nut by having as few winds on the posts as you can while ensuring no string slip is step two.
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Old 03-08-2021, 11:22 AM
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For around $1k I would look at the Korean Made (MIK) Electromatics.

I have a MIK 5422TG, and I love it.

It punches WAY above it's price point

Tuning is very stable and the MIK equipped bigbsy is smooth and responsive.
(I do make sure the witness points get lubed -- Big Bends Nut Sauce, and as mentioned, I did tend to the nut with a set of nut files)

The Chinese imports are (IME) not quite as solid.
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Old 03-08-2021, 11:48 AM
nightchef nightchef is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blue View Post
Money no object? Gretsch Roundup all the way! With the Dynasonic pickups!

Money definitely an object? Just play a bunch and pick the best guitar. Places like GC usually have a wallfull of $1000 and under models. Start pulling the syle you like off the wall, and one WILL stand out.

Personally, I'd look for used one of these. Love the Georgia Green, and love the Cats eye soundholes. https://reverb.com/p/gretsch-g5622t-...yABEgLe4fD_BwE They seem to hover between $700 and $800.

As to Bigsby equipped guitars it's just like any other whammy bar. Whammy friendly nutwork is critical. Also reducing the friction over the nut by having as few winds on the posts as you can while ensuring no string slip is step two.
Thanks! About the guitar you linked to -- looks great, but I'm definitely looking for a full hollowbody rather than a center block version.
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Old 03-08-2021, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
Thanks! About the guitar you linked to -- looks great, but I'm definitely looking for a full hollowbody rather than a center block version.
Aaah! The definition of Hollowbody tends to get a little wobbly, with the different ways to brace the top. I'm really intrigued by the Shecter Coupe and it is certainly not a Centerblock like a 335. It's a lot of guitar for the money. I played a black and gold "penguin" style one.

https://www.schecterguitars.com/guit...d-green-detail
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Old 03-08-2021, 01:28 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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Hi Nightchef!

I, too, have been lusting after a Gretsch hollowbody. I thought this Jack Fossett video comparing the MIK 5420 to a USA 6120 was quite informative. It may be helpful to you. I thought the 5420 sounded great, though I could hear what the other $2500 would provide.

Also, he is a good player so he does a good job of letting you hear the differences.



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Old 03-08-2021, 02:45 PM
phcorrigan phcorrigan is online now
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I have a G5420TG and I'm very happy with it. The Korean-built Gretsch guitars are very well made, and the fit and finish is excellent. If you buy used, I'd suggest a 2016 or later model.

BTW, I have had no issues with staying in tune.

Here's mine, with a Chet Atkins vibrato bar and D'Addario chrome flat wound strings:

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Old 03-08-2021, 03:23 PM
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I have owned several Korean 5420T models, and they are great guitars! I now only own three Gretsch guitars, one is a Korean made 12 string, the other two are Japanese Player models. Oh, and I own a Korean made Gretsch bass as well. They are all very good instruments. I think the Japanese models are a little better, but the Korean models are very good and if you get a really good example, they really are all you could ever need.
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Old 03-08-2021, 03:26 PM
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Gretsch semi's (double cut and single cut in particular) were my introduction to GAS and the only electric outside of guitars I own, that I would opt to have. (I still feel pangs of GAS every time someone posts a picture of their Gretsch semi).

White Falcon, 6120 in particular, Country Gentleman or just about any of the modern Gretsch semi's (Electromatic versions) because to me, they're all fantastic.

Good luck!

Last edited by Steel and wood; 03-10-2021 at 02:53 PM.
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Old 03-08-2021, 07:53 PM
Street Glider Street Glider is offline
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This would be about the only way I'd go if I were buying as Gretsch:

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Old 03-08-2021, 08:22 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightchef View Post
I'm experiencing serious GAS for a Gretsch hollowbody, and wondering which line/model I should focus on.

...My initial leaning is toward the Electromatic (5000) guitars...

My main priorities are, pretty much in this order:

1) Tone. I have a Strat and an old Ibanez Steve Lukather Roadstar, which plays roughly the role of a Les Paul in my toolkit. Both great, versatile instruments. So I don't need a balanced/swiss army knife tonal palette from this guitar -- I need rootsy, twangy, airy mojo.

2) Playability. This is hard to scope without trying them, but I've read that with Gretsch guitars the necks get chunkier as you get cheaper. This would be important since I have small hands and like shallow necks.

3) Durability/Stability. This would be my first guitar with a Bigsby, so I'm a little apprehensive about whether it would turn out to be a temperamental kind of instrument in terms of tuning stability etc. If spending more would help on that front, that would matter to me too.

I'm also open to Gretsch alternative suggestions, but as far as my research so far has indicated, most of the alternatives are more expensive (at least more expensive than the Electromatics -- I'm talking Eastman, D'Angelico, etc.)...
Quote:
Originally Posted by blue View Post
Money no object? Gretsch Roundup all the way! With the Dynasonic pickups!

Money definitely an object? Just play a bunch and pick the best guitar...

Personally, I'd look for used one of these. Love the Georgia Green, and love the Cats eye soundholes. https://reverb.com/p/gretsch-g5622t-...yABEgLe4fD_BwE They seem to hover between $700 and $800.

As to Bigsby equipped guitars it's just like any other whammy bar. Whammy friendly nutwork is critical. Also reducing the friction over the nut by having as few winds on the posts as you can while ensuring no string slip is step two.
As a lifetime Gretsch guy I'll add my experience to the above, in order:
  • If money were no object I'd look for a (discontinued) MIJ Professional Series G6136DC, loosely based on the 1963 double-cutaway White Falcon but with a few updated features (18th-fret neck joint, no built-in double mufflers/zero fret, different tone-switch cap values); original '62-64 Falcons have always been underground favorites, rarer than their single-cutaway counterparts (FYI Neil Young used a '62 Project-o-Sonic stereo version in the early days of CSNY, before switching to the '61 single-cut he got from then-bandmate Stephen Stills), and it's no different with the current double-cuts - they've been off the market for several years, NOS is drying up (I located mine in 2018), and IMO prices are only likely to increase. Here's an example:


  • If you're on a budget, one of the Korean 5400/5600-Series E-Matics (as rmp states, the Chinese models aren't anywhere near as good) may be all the guitar you'll ever need: solidly-built, fully-gigworthy pro-quality instruments that just happen to sell for intermediate/step-up prices, give away nothing in terms of tone or playability to their pricier compatriots (the Pro Series hardware is slightly better-quality), and all the iconic Gretsch models - White Falcon (single- and double-cut), Viking, Country Gent, "Nesmith" 6076 12-string, 6120, Nashville, Double Anniversary - as well as a few skunkworks models that were never produced during the Brooklyn days (or saw very limited production) are represented in an equivalent E-Matic version. Among the latter are the (discontinued) 5620 and 5622 cats'-eye semis, the first being a dead-ringer for the rare 1964-66 6117 cats'-eye which, as one story goes, was intended to be a Beatles endorsement model (FYI a former bandbud scored two back in the mid-70's - one black, one red, both with OHSC - when nobody wanted them and they were selling for $50-75), the latter being a 3-PU 16" variation on the Viking which is IME the most versatile regular-production Gretsch in their near 140-year history; if you're a one-gun player who loves "That Great Gretsch Sound" (which it has in spades) but also needs to call up a broader variety of tones in the course of a gig, unless you go through the Custom Shop you're not going to find a better instrument - here's mine, alongside its single-cut 5620 counterpart:


  • On the durability/stability front, these babies are rock-solid - I've owned a sunburst Double Annie since May 1964, played several hundred Gretsches of every vintage/manufacture (Brooklyn, Baldwin, Kustom, three generations of Japanese, two generations of Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, and US Custom Shop), and I'll state without reservation that the Korean E-Matics are among the finest instruments ever to bear the Gretsch label, equaling or surpassing many of the Golden Era 1955-66 originals in terms of QC. That said, a Bigsby on any full-hollow guitar - especially one made from lightweight woods, as is an original Gretsch or its Pro Series equivalent - is potentially problematic tuning-wise, and although it's not your first preference I'd strongly recommend a 5600 semi if you're going to be doing anything beyond subtle flutters and accents: although it'll be slightly heavier the characteristic Gretsch tone is all there, and the added benefits of tuning/return-to-pitch stability, feedback resistance (a full-hollow 5400 or Pro Series will howl if you push your amp's input gain or stand/sit at the wrong angle ), and added sustain compared to the 5400's...
  • Finally, if you're looking specifically for those elements that make a Gretsch a Gretsch you're not going to find them in an alternative instrument at any price: Gretsches are very much sui generis, never a plug-&-play guitar like a Fender or Gibson (much less Eastman or D'Angelico) and never intended to be, and frankly I've always considered that part of their allure. If, however, you're seeking a variation on the theme - lightweight woods, full-hollow construction, tonal clarity - speaking as an owner I'd highly recommend a Godin CW II; similar in price to the E-Matics (~$1K street) this one's an idealized early-50's jazz/blues/rockabilly axe in the mold of the Gibson ES-175 and Epiphone Zephyr Regent, that combines the drive of twin P-90's (some of the best non-Gibson OEM versions I've heard, BTW) with the "rootsy, twangy, airy mojo" of a Brooklyn Gretsch (in contrast to the "thud-&-mud" of a typical laminated Bop-era jazzbox) - a highly-seductive combination through a good low-/mid-powered tube amp, and one of only three guitars I've owned in the last six decades that needed no setup whatsoever (the other two being the White Falcon and 5622 - a testament to the high construction/QC standards of both manufacturers)...
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Last edited by Steve DeRosa; 03-08-2021 at 09:55 PM.
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Old 03-08-2021, 08:50 PM
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Don't know what to say about some of the other models in the Gretsch line but I will say that the Black Falcon PE that I bought has exceeded all expectations. I'm flat out in love with it. I really don't think you can go wrong with the line.

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Old 03-09-2021, 08:31 PM
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+1. I own both a Japanese version and a discontinued Korean 5620T-CB. Both fantastic. Both well built. Both equipped with quality parts. I loved the older Korean 5600 series (the 1st run with blacktop’s/hi-lo’s and a rosewood board) so much that at one point I owned 4 others plus my Japanese.

Is there REALLY that much diff in price? Yes...and no. In subtle ways the Japanese series is better. It has TV Jones Power-trons...which I LOVE. It’s tuners are better. My Japanese has ebony. Subtle difference...but the law of diminishing returns always applies.

In a perfect world you could own one of each. Personally, I’d start with an older 5620 or 5622. Something as described above. If you fall for “That Great Gretsch Sound” then you could always move into a Japanese version.

Either way...around here...Steve is the man on anything Gretsch.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
As a lifetime Gretsch guy I'll add my experience to the above, in order:
  • If money were no object I'd look for a (discontinued) MIJ Professional Series G6136DC, loosely based on the 1963 double-cutaway White Falcon but with a few updated features (18th-fret neck joint, no built-in double mufflers/zero fret, different tone-switch cap values); original '62-64 Falcons have always been underground favorites, rarer than their single-cutaway counterparts (FYI Neil Young used a '62 Project-o-Sonic stereo version in the early days of CSNY, before switching to the '61 single-cut he got from then-bandmate Stephen Stills), and it's no different with the current double-cuts - they've been off the market for several years, NOS is drying up (I located mine in 2018), and IMO prices are only likely to increase. Here's an example:


  • If you're on a budget, one of the Korean 5400/5600-Series E-Matics (as rmp states, the Chinese models aren't anywhere near as good) may be all the guitar you'll ever need: solidly-built, fully-gigworthy pro-quality instruments that just happen to sell for intermediate/step-up prices, give away nothing in terms of tone or playability to their pricier compatriots (the Pro Series hardware is slightly better-quality), and all the iconic Gretsch models - White Falcon (single- and double-cut), Viking, Country Gent, "Nesmith" 6076 12-string, 6120, Nashville, Double Anniversary - as well as a few skunkworks models that were never produced during the Brooklyn days (or saw very limited production) are represented in an equivalent E-Matic version. Among the latter are the (discontinued) 5620 and 5622 cats'-eye semis, the first being a dead-ringer for the rare 1964-66 6117 cats'-eye which, as one story goes, was intended to be a Beatles endorsement model (FYI a former bandbud scored two back in the mid-70's - one black, one red, both with OHSC - when nobody wanted them and they were selling for $50-75), the latter being a 3-PU 16" variation on the Viking which is IME the most versatile regular-production Gretsch in their near 140-year history; if you're a one-gun player who loves "That Great Gretsch Sound" (which it has in spades) but also needs to call up a broader variety of tones in the course of a gig, unless you go through the Custom Shop you're not going to find a better instrument - here's mine, alongside its single-cut 5620 counterpart:


  • On the durability/stability front, these babies are rock-solid - I've owned a sunburst Double Annie since May 1964, played several hundred Gretsches of every vintage/manufacture (Brooklyn, Baldwin, Kustom, three generations of Japanese, two generations of Korean, Chinese, Indonesian, and US Custom Shop), and I'll state without reservation that the Korean E-Matics are among the finest instruments ever to bear the Gretsch label, equaling or surpassing many of the Golden Era 1955-66 originals in terms of QC. That said, a Bigsby on any full-hollow guitar - especially one made from lightweight woods, as is an original Gretsch or its Pro Series equivalent - is potentially problematic tuning-wise, and although it's not your first preference I'd strongly recommend a 5600 semi if you're going to be doing anything beyond subtle flutters and accents: although it'll be slightly heavier the characteristic Gretsch tone is all there, and the added benefits of tuning/return-to-pitch stability, feedback resistance (a full-hollow 5400 or Pro Series will howl if you push your amp's input gain or stand/sit at the wrong angle ), and added sustain compared to the 5400's...
  • Finally, if you're looking specifically for those elements that make a Gretsch a Gretsch you're not going to find them in an alternative instrument at any price: Gretsches are very much sui generis, never a plug-&-play guitar like a Fender or Gibson (much less Eastman or D'Angelico) and never intended to be, and frankly I've always considered that part of their allure. If, however, you're seeking a variation on the theme - lightweight woods, full-hollow construction, tonal clarity - speaking as an owner I'd highly recommend a Godin CW II; similar in price to the E-Matics (~$1K street) this one's an idealized early-50's jazz/blues/rockabilly axe in the mold of the Gibson ES-175 and Epiphone Zephyr Regent, that combines the drive of twin P-90's (some of the best non-Gibson OEM versions I've heard, BTW) with the "rootsy, twangy, airy mojo" of a Brooklyn Gretsch (in contrast to the "thud-&-mud" of a typical laminated Bop-era jazzbox) - a highly-seductive combination through a good low-/mid-powered tube amp, and one of only three guitars I've owned in the last six decades that needed no setup whatsoever (the other two being the White Falcon and 5622 - a testament to the high construction/QC standards of both manufacturers)...
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Old 03-10-2021, 11:05 AM
nightchef nightchef is online now
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Wow, thanks for all the detailed and thoughtful responses! This is why I love AGF.

Steve, thanks for pushing back on my no-semis preference. I was aware of the feedback issue, and have been OK with it because I'm not thinking of this as a guitar I'd be likely to use in high-volume situations. But we all know how once you fall in love with a guitar you start wanting to use it everywhere, so I probably need to keep that in mind.

I wasn't aware of the issue with tuning stability being more of a challenge without the center block, though it makes intuitive sense. That seems like more of a concern.

I think I was leaning toward the full hollowbody because my sense is that there's an extra layer of 3D complexity and character there, but that's based solely on hearsay and internet videos. Basically, I don't want to compromise on tone if I can help it. The videos I'm seeing of (for instance) the 5622 make it seem like a Gretsch hollowbody and an ES-335 had a baby. Which would be a beautiful baby, I'm just not sure if it's the baby I'm looking for. But you've complicated the equation helpfully. Thanks!
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