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Posts Tagged ‘gretsch’

The other day, I had about an hour to kill while I waited for my daughter to finish her appointment, and being near one of my favorite guitar shops (Guitar Showcase in San Jose, CA), I decided to swing by…

Being a Les Paul guy, I of course went to where they hung the LP historic models, and salivated over a gorgeous tea burst R8 (the burst was lighter than my own, and it had a subtle, but fantastic flame maple top). I picked it up, picked at it a bit, and smiled. What a guitar!

But then I thought about what I really “needed” – that’s a relative term, by the way – and thought that I’ve been after a bit heavier of an acoustic sound that bordered more along the lines of an electric; something that I could bring to my solo acoustic gigs in addition to my acoustic for those songs where I do a lot of chord comping (which I’ve been doing a lot of lately without really thinking about it).

So I asked myself, “Dawg, what about a Gretsch?” But I sold my last Gretsch, which was a thin body, 5120 Electromatic. Great guitar, but I just wasn’t playing it because it just didn’t have enough oomph for my solo gigs. Frankly, while I loved the guitar, it still sounded really electric, and would only work in my solo gigs at specific times.

So I figured that perhaps a thicker body Gretsch would give me a fuller tone. Now they had other hollow bodied guitars there, but for hollow bodies, I’ve always gravitated towards Gretsch. There’s a certain magic in the tone. So, perusing the Gretsch rack, I saw this orange guitar with dice knobs. I immediately knew that it was a Brian Setzer model.

Before I go on, one thing that kept me from getting a fuller sized Gretsch in the past was the weight. I almost sprung for a Country Gentleman a few years back, but it was heavier than my Les Paul, and I didn’t want a lot of weight; especially with my solo gigs. But all that changed when I picked up 6120SSLVO. It was amazingly light – apparently under 8 lbs. – and that put a smile on my face. I knew then that I had to take it out for a spin. So I asked the salesman for a strap and a cord, then hooked up to a PRS combo set to clean.

From the first chord I played, I thought to myself that I could do an entire solo gig with this guitar alone! It played like butter (the guys in the shop must’ve set it up). The neck was absolutely perfect, and the action was nice and low but not so low that there was a sting buzz.

And the sound? Wow! At first I was a bit concerned that the tone was controlled via a simple three-way switch. But I realized as I played that I didn’t need an analog sweep knob to set the tone. The three positions worked just fine, and I could get a brighter tone simply by switching pickups. Strumming the guitar with just the neck pickup produced a deep, gorgeous, natural, woody ringing tone that I felt was perfect for many of the folk-rock numbers that I do. And for the more contemporary tunes where I do a lot of chord comping, I could easily flip a couple of switches and twiddle the pickup balance in the middle selector to get that classic hollow body tone. Simply wonderful.

As for playability, I’ve seen online that there were concerns about the 9.5″ radius nut and the bridge saddles set up for 12″, which would make the outside strings a bit higher than the middle strings. Frankly, I had no idea about this issue when I played the guitar, and quite honestly, I didn’t notice any string height issues when I was playing. At least for me, there was no noticeable impediment for me to work my way up and down the fretboard.

To say I’ve got GAS is an understatement. I’ve been trying to figure out what I have to sell to get this guitar; certainly none of my Les Pauls. I probably should hold on to at least one Strat. Or… maybe I’ll just suffer the GAS and save my pennies until I have enough to buy it. But it’s definitely my next target.

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I gotta tell ya… I’ve got a new love, and it’s in the form of my new Gretsch G5122DC Electromatic. I’ve been playing it at my solo acoustic gigs, and I’ve been playing it at my church gigs. It’s an incredibly versatile axe! Clean, it has a very natural, acoustic tone, and even though the pickups have enough gain to push an amp into overdrive, it helps to use a drive pedal to give it that extra oomph. Of course, I use the Timmy that retains my guitar’s tone, and I just LOVE the overdrive tone this guitar produces!

Which brings me to the title of this article: Why have I avoided hollow body guitars for so long? It’s probably because I always equated them to jazz guitars, and I was always pretty much a straight-up, four-on-the-floor rock and folk guy. So it was either an acoustic or a solid- or semi-hollow body guitar for me.

But then I completely overlooked one of my very favorite rock guitarists: Ted Nugent. I forgot that back in the 70’s, that madman used a Gibson Byrdland, and he totally ROCKED THE HOUSE!!! The sounds he could get out of that guitar were incredible!

After having used my own Electromatic for the last few weeks, like I mentioned above, I’m totally in love! Clean, dirty, you name it, the guitar can do it. It is definitely going to be a part of my arsenal from now on.

What about my Les Pauls? Don’t get me wrong, they’re not collecting dust. I’m still playing them, and to be honest, while the Electromatic sounds great in overdrive, the natural┬á sustain and the balls-out power of my Les Pauls just can’t be matched. But the Gretsch has a completely different sound than my LP’s, and when I need that particular sound, that’s what I’ll play. But to be frank, I probably won’t be using it too much for my rock gigs; that’s what I have the LP’s and my Strat for. But the Electromatic has completely replaced my acoustics at my acoustic gigs. It has an acoustic enough sound to pass for an acoustic guitar, but the tone is so much more smooth and mid-rangy.

If you get a chance, try one out. Its sound will blow you away! And at less than $700, you get a gorgeous-looking and -sounding guitar.

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I’ve had two Gibson ES-335’s in the past, and I never kept them. It’s not that I didn’t like them; I actually loved my first one, Rusty, and even though I have remorse over parting with Rusty, I suppose I didn’t love either ES-335 enough to hold onto them. And frankly, I didn’t even have an interest in any hollow body or even semi-hollow body guitars until I laid my eyes upon and played my beautiful “Rose.”

There’s really something special about her; especially in the tone department as she can cop natural-sounding acoustic tones to really rockin’ out crunch. To demonstrate this, I created a few clips. Before I go on, personally, I love her clean tones, and I will be using her mostly for this. And note that her pickups are not very high-gain at all. In order to get overdrive, I had to use my Timmy pedal with the gain knob at about 3pm, which is close to wide open. But she plays VERY well with OD pedals as you’ll see. So without further ado, let’s get to the clips!

Bridge Pickup – This is a quick song that features the bridge pickup, which really sounds like an acoustic guitar. Even the lead sounds like an acoustic lead, but it plays like and electric – well, it is an electric. ­čÖé

Middle Position (both at equal volume) – This gives you the deepness of the neck pickup and the spank of the bridge pickup. With this clip, I copped the Police’s “Message in a Bottle” riff, and added some light chorus.

Neck Position – This by far is my favorite pickup position, though I will probably use the middle position more often. This has an eery, ethereal sound! In this clip, I just closed my eyes and started playing after hit the record button. This tone really inspires me!

Short Song (Rhythm: Middle position, Lead: Bridge position) – Here’s a quick song I put together. Again, both parts are clean, and I played the lead fingerstyle. This is just a purely fun guitar to play!

Rockin’ It – As I mentioned above, the Electromatic needs help to overdrive an amp, but hey! That’s what overdrive pedals are for! Here I’m playing my song “Strutter.” Just before the chorus, I stack my Tone Freak Effects Abunai 2 on top of my Timmy for some serious sizzle. Then I activate my wah pedal just for shits and giggles. Rose can handle it!

By the way, I played all the clips through my trusty Aracom VRX22.

What can I say, but “Wow!” This is an absolutely impressive guitar, and one that I’m so glad that I added to my stable. I’ll be using her mostly in my solo gigs, but she’ll also see some band time as well.

Rock On!!!

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It pays to be a good customer of a local, independent retailer. When I first saw the Electromatic at Gelb Music in Redwood City, I fell in love with it; unfortunately at the time, I didn’t get it. I came back a few days later wanting to by it, and Jordan (the guitar gear manager) reported that he had sold it. ­čśŽ In fact, he hasn’t been able to hold onto any of the walnut finish Electromatics for more than a couple of days. So I told him that as soon as he got one in to contact me. Well, after a couple of months (which was good because I could set aside some money for it), Jordan finally got one in, sent me an email, and I put a down-payment on it over the phone on Thursday. I picked it up yesterday and immediately used it at my weekly restaurant gig.

Jordan had even set up the guitar for me knowing that I might gig with it on Friday, and set the action and intonation perfectly! But that’s a testament as to why I’d rather deal with small-box retailers than big-box ones like GC. The folks at the small-box retailers get to know you, and over the years, you establish a great relationship with them, if not a friendship. I’ve gotten to know all the great folks over at Gelb, and if you’re in the area, you owe it to yourself to get to know these guys. They won’t steer you wrong! Anyway, enough of that, let’s get on to the guitar, shall we?

So, so pretty…

Usually, I’m less concerned with looks than I am with tone, but the finish on this guitar immediately drew me to her when I first saw her hanging on Gelb’s Gretsch rack. By the way, I’ve already named her “Rose,” for her rose-wine-hue, walnut finish. As with any Gretsch, it’s all about classic styling, but the finish on Rose is simply incredible, as it takes that classic styling and dresses it up with a gorgeous finish that immediately draws your eyes to it. The picture I’ve provided does not do her justice at all. Suffice it to say that the translucent walnut finish gives her a red wine hue that is so alluring – sexy, you might say. Last night, several customers commented on her beauty. I gotta tell you, it was like showing up to a party with the prettiest girl hanging on my arm! ­čÖé

In any case, I shot a few pictures of her this morning. Rose is AMAZING!!!

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…sings like an angel…

Playing a G5122DC at Gelb made my decision for me. While it doesn’t have the deep tone of a standard body Gretsch, it still has lots of depth, and as with any Gretsch, the tone is as smooth as silk, no matter what pickup you’re playing. I love the scooped, ringing tones (but not twangy) of the bridge pickup, and the neck pickup has an eery, ethereal, three-dimensional tone that’s perfect for finger-style. I used the middle selector last night quite a bit as well to blend in both pickups for certain songs.

Last night, I was plugged directly into my DigiTech Vocalist Live, that adds some reverb and chorus, then goes directly into the restaurant’s PA board. While it sounded great, coming out of the PA speakers, monitoring was an issue, as the restaurant only has a single 6″ monitor that just doesn’t give a good representation of the sound. But hearing it in the house, I was just blown away! The tone was rich and full, and seemed to fill the room, even at a lower volume. That kind of three-dimensional sound is inspiring! It floats in the air, and feels so close that you can almost touch it.

I’ll be recording clips really soon!

…and I could hold onto her all night!

Rose’s neck is very much like a 60’s Les Paul neck, so playing her felt immediately familiar. I had her set up with 10’s, which are on the light side for “acoustic” playing but provide a real versatility – and heck, with a four-hour gig, lighter strings are just easier to play. ­čÖé The guitar is fairly lightweight – probably in the vicinity of 7 to 8 lbs., so prolonged gigging will not be an issue with Rose. Last night, everything about her felt so great. I love the position of the master volume, and with the pickup switch being in a similar position to a Les Paul, switching pickups mid-song was a breeze!

I didn’t quite like the action that Jordan had set on Rose originally, as it appeared to increase towards the bridge, so once I set up my rig, I made a couple of adjustments to the action on both sides of the floating bridge. What a different that made! It actually took me a few minutes to get used to how easy Rose was to play. And being that I’ve been playing this gig with an acoustic, I had to remind myself to really relax my left hand and not dig in. ­čÖé That’s actually a good problem to have, and a testament to just how easy this guitar is to play.

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Gretsch Electromatic G5122 GuitarSummary: Big hollow body Gretsch tone in an affordable guitar. This is one impressive-sounding axe!

Pros: Unlike higher-end Gretsch models, this guitar is pretty basic and straight-forward. But that’s okay because it has tone for days! And for the price, it just can’t be beat.

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Laminated maple hollowbody 16″ W x 2.2″D
  • Laminated maple top
  • Laminated maple neck (24.56″ scale)
  • Rosewood fingerboard
  • 22 medium jumbo frets
  • 1-11/16″ (43mm) nut width
  • Vintage style machine heads
  • 2 Gretsch chrome-covered Dual-Coil humbuckers
  • #1 tone pot control setup
  • G-Arrow Knobs
  • Adjusto-Matic bridge on rosewood base
  • Bigsby┬« B60 vibrato tailpiece
  • Gretsch knurled strap knobs
  • Chrome-plated hardware
  • Urethane finish

Price: $675-$699 Street

Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~I’m all about value, but when you get value along with fantastic tone, I’m all over it! This is a SWEET guitar that also feels as good as it sounds!

I’ve never been one for pure hollow body guitars, but the Gretsch Electromatic that I just played during my lunchtime has completely changed my mind about hollow body guitars. I literally was blown away by the sweet sound that the guitar produces, and also by its incredible playability. For me at least, this is one guitar that I’m going to have to take a real serious look at.

Fit and Finish

There’s a reason why this guitar is so affordable: It’s made in Korea. But that shouldn’t stop you from considering a non-USA made guitar. Both PRS and G&L use Korean manufacturers for their affordable lines and for good reason: The quality of the workmanship is excellent. The Electromatic line from Gretsch is no exception. The finish is incredible, with the poly coat evenly applied over the body with no bubbles or gaps. I played the walnut stain model, which is a reddish-brown, and the thin, translucent stain brings out the gorgeous grain of the wood, producing and almost wine-red effect. Very sexy.

The Bigsby trem bar finishes the look to give the Electromatic that classic, vintage Gretsch look. Truth be told, I’ve never been into Bigsby trems, but it just works for this guitar. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

For a Gretsch, the Electromatic Double Cut is quite simple. Not sporting the filter knobs and switches that you normally see in the higher end models, the Electromatic has a pickup selector, a single tone knob (next to the bridge pickup), independent volume knobs for each pickup, then a master volume knob. That’s it. If you’re looking for simplicity, then this is a great guitar to have!

How It Sounds

Most reviews of the guitar’s sound are very good, though there are some who don’t like it. I think it really depends on the amp you play it through. I played it through a Mesa Royal Atlantic at a local shop, and it sounded absolutely gorgeous! In fact, the tone was incredibly acoustic. The G5122DC is generally known for its “twang.” But dialed in correctly, I could see using this guitar in my acoustic sets. Really. The neck pickup was definitely my favorite, with the middle pickup, which allowed me to blend the two, coming in a close second. The bridge pickup’s tone is definitely twangy. Overall, tonally, this guitar is very versatile. I could see using it in a variety circumstances, not just limit it to blues and rockabilly. I love it! I’m going to get it! ­čÖé

Update May 13, 2011 – Since I’ve been seriously evaluating this guitar (and am picking it up today, as a matter of fact), I played it through a few amps and also directly through a PA board, and my Fishman SoloAmp. It’s going to do the job and then some for my solo gigs!

Playablity

Gretsch’s have always been known for their playability, and the G5122DC is no exception. Didn’t matter where I was on the neck, I could get great tones out of this guitar, and it always felt incredible. The action was perfect on the guitar I played, and frankly, I just don’t have a single complaint about the guitar; not a one. I love the thinner profile of the neck, and the gentle “C” feels like a 60’s Les Paul neck. Not sure what kind of rosewood they used, but it’s very smooth to the touch, and digging in feels amazing!

Overall Impression

Here I was all GASsed out after getting my Les Pauls, but this Electromatic G5122DC is a clean machine. Add a little ‘verb and some slapback delay, and you’ve got a great rockabilly tone. Take out the delay and add just a touch of ‘verb and back off the volume knobs, and you’ve got an incredible acoustic tone. How incredibly versatile!

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