Electromatics

My G5120 - now with Blacktop PU’s…

1

I'd like to introduce you to my Electromatic G5120 (bought brand new for $450 in 2007)

A while ago, I replaced the original GretschBuckers with a set of Blacktops I acquired from a friends G5420 project. The change was an improved Gretsch tone and the price was right with my budget! Other changes included my own hand-made black pick guard, and I added a jack plate for protection.

At the moment, I seem to be getting the best tone with both pickup heights set at aprox. 3/16" (distance from top of screws to bottom of the string). I have not really tweaked much with the individual screw adjustments as of yet.

As a general rule, I'm curious as to what you all found to be your "optimal setting" for your G5420's Blacktops? ...and how about the individual screws?

All comments are appreciated.

2

I don’t have blacktops and can’t comment on them, but it looks great.

3

Wow, looks great! I love the black pickguard too! I am a big fan of Blacktops. A lot of people say to crank them as close to the strings as possible. That works, but I am never looking for higher output but more sparkle. If that's your bag, try bringing up the pole screws a tad and start with the pickup body about a half inch from strings and bring up until you hear the amount of fullness you like. When you're done with that, give us a closeup of that pickguard! How did you do the decal?

4

No need to adjust the screws, IMHO. Just make sure they're up high. I love the tones I get from the Blacktops.

5

Someone on this site had me raise the poles and drop the body on my hs filtertrons to bring out more highs. If that's what you're looking for, it will do that.

6

You may get those results, if that's what you're after but I would just try this first. The Blacktops, IMO, have plenty of Jangle.

7

Wow, looks great! I love the black pickguard too! I am a big fan of Blacktops. A lot of people say to crank them as close to the strings as possible. That works, but I am never looking for higher output but more sparkle. If that's your bag, try bringing up the pole screws a tad and start with the pickup body about a half inch from strings and bring up until you hear the amount of fullness you like. When you're done with that, give us a closeup of that pickguard! How did you do the decal?

– hilosean

[hilosean] Here's the pick guard close up... the reflections are misleading because it actually looks as perfect as a OEM pick guard. Easy trick.... I lifted a picture of an existing pick guard from one of the guitars on the Gretsch website, then pasted a cropped, mirror image "Gretsch" logo to scale into a Word Doc. Took it to the local mall where a vendor makes those custom window stickers. He charges $15 a sheet (aprox. 8"x10" & your choice of colors). So I gave him my Word.doc file (via a flashdrive) and told him to cut & paste as many as fits on 1 page. IIIRC, I ended up with about 20. Take the original transparent PG (which I never liked!) and stick it on the underside (remember - they are reverse imaged). Then spray paint the whole backside of the pick guard. That's it...easy and almost mistake proof!

8

Here’s mine. I put TVJones T’Armonds in it. Waiting for some oversized spacers to hide the Gretschbucker sized holes.

9

[Bob Howard]

Is there any stock spacers that can be purchased that will do the job? Or are you having to get something special to do the job?

The 5120's were one of the most popular upgrade "project" guitars to come along! For me, I checked well in advance that Blacktop pickups & surrounds from a 5420 would cover (barely!) the original Gretschbucker holes before I even started looking for them. And, like everything I do, it's always on a limited budget. I have the patience to wait for the right price, and find a way to do it myself.

Just like the black pick guard I made. I thought a Black PG would be a natural compliment to the 5120 black headstock on an Orange 5120, but at the timeI couldn't find any Gretsch pick guards that existed so i made my own.

10

I’m waiting for Paul Setzer make me some spacers, when he gets a chance. I found this as a shell with no hardware or electronics and the sound post pushing through the back. It was cheep, so I had the budget to fix it up the way I wanted.

11

[hilosean]

Followup... Here's a better shot of the pick guard. It's hard getting a close picture without the reflections. When painting the back side of a clear pick guard., the result is that the front side acts like it has a 1/16" thick clearcoat on it !!!

12

I’m waiting for Paul Setzer make me some spacers, when he gets a chance. I found this as a shell with no hardware or electronics and the sound post pushing through the back. It was cheep, so I had the budget to fix it up the way I wanted.

– Bob Howard

I've seen some of Paul's work posted... he's good!

Guitars like yours are the best projects to work on... gives you an incentive to be more creative and the end result is something to be proud.

Be sure to post pics when you're done!

13

Just a quick update... Over the last few weeks, I've been tweaking with the BlackTops. I lowered the pickups to aprox. 5/16 -3/8 and started raising the individual poles. It improved the "sparkle" and after a little more balancing of each strings, I'm giving it a little time to settle in my mind. I've also found some improvements by slight differences in height between the rows of poles... somewhat similar what some users have suggested for the original GretschBucker pickups.

The results are positive, but gets time consuming! I do a few minor tweaks and think I found the sweet spot. Then after a few days I find myself tweaking again and thinking I found a "better" sweet spot!
.... now if I can only convince my mind to get in sync with my ears!

14

I love the sound of the Blacktops, on mine. Share your results and adjustment instructions, when you're done tweaking. I'd love to see what the difference would make as others likely may as well.

15

I took a few close up shots as best I could... no specific instructions here. It's a matter of trial & error. Raise or lower the pickups to determine what's sounding better to you. Then try lowering the pickup and raising the poles back to the same distance from the strings. See if that improves to your liking. I'm not sure if I could give a specific step by step direction because the results are subjective.

As I have it right now, the top surface of the neck pickup is aprox. 9/32 from the bottom of the string on the bass side & 10/32 on the high side. The pole screws are only tweaked between 1/2 turn on the ends to 1 turn toward the middle (kinda following the neck radius). The bridge pickup was the same except the poles are more like 1 to 2 turns. I have a hard time judging what I hear best after the tweaks. Last week the pickups were much lower and the poles were between 3-4 turns out. after a few more sessions, I started raising the pickups and dropping the poles back down. I think I'm back to where I was a few weeks ago! It gets to the point that when I'm close, I start wasting my time splitting hairs.

16

...here's a close up with the ruler so you can see the relative measurement. Kinda gives you a better idea.

17

That's helpful. What kind of results are you getting, sound-wise? I only ask because this is a first to see someone tweaking the blacktops, other than raising the entire pickup. Are you trying to get more string definition or change the sound?

18

That's helpful. What kind of results are you getting, sound-wise? I only ask because this is a first to see someone tweaking the blacktops, other than raising the entire pickup. Are you trying to get more string definition or change the sound?

– Suprdave

Hmmm...That's a hard call, and I bet you can start a whole thread of discussion just by describing ones interpretation of sound! Sometimes I question myself. You're probably right and the majority of the change comes from raising/lowering pickups. But you can adjust poles, too. I'll also add that the pickups can be tilted such that one side of the pickup is closer to the strings than the other if you find that it works for you.

I typically like a clean, somewhat defined sound and a good coverage of tonal range and balance across the strings. The high strings should have some brilliance and independence to them, yet the bass strings has that deep sound that carries the beat without booming. That's how I would describe it.

(I'll apologize in advance.... here I go.)

I'm a rhythm guitar player at heart. Rhythm carries the "feel" of a song as much as drums can establish the beat. Rhythm guitars establish presence in a song without jumping out at you. You know when it sounds right because it meshes perfectly with the rest of the band, or it actually becomes the band if you perform solo.

As another insight, I originally started on a 12-string guitar. I've always liked that full sound it can produce. It bothers me when some define a 12-string as a one-trick-pony. The same can be said for banjos and mandolins. They are one-trick only if you're covering another bands trick! If you perform "your" songs, then it's your interpretation of what you want to be heard. 12 string guitars are very full-sounding and they are not bound by rules.... they can be used anywhere a 6-string can be used! It's just a choice.

And remember, we're talking about electric guitars here! That means that the amplifier you use can change (both good & bad) what you hear as that final sound. .....just sayin'.

In my experiences, I've heard descriptions like "more crunch", "growl", "brightness", "defined", etc. from some fellow players that only meant "louder", "more distortion", "turn up the bass" or "turn up the treble". Yet I can't argue their interpretation... that's how they hear it!

The cool thing about tweaking your pickups is there is nothing that will do permanent damage, and you can raise & lower screws to your hearts' desire without physically hurting anything.

The only rules I'd enforce are...

1) Don't make contact with the strings... that never sounds good! (lol)

2) Don't loosen screws 'till they fall out. (especially pickup mounts!)

3) Just because it works on their guitar, doesn't mean it sounds the same on yours!

Other than that, have at it.....experiment and find YOUR sound!

(Ok, I'm done! ....you may fire when ready.)

19

Oh believe me. We have started entire threads around one particular pickup and the sounds that we can get from them. I have learned how to properly adjust the Gretschbuckers to get the best sound out of them based on instructions drawn out on this site and Joe Carducci adjusted my Blacktops up at the Cowtown Roundup in Kansas City (2012?) and totally changed the sound of it in just a few minutes.

Yeah, I get it. It's kind of subjective. To me, those pickups, at that height is the perfect place but your thread is peeking my interest to see if I can even get better or different tones that align with my sound better than just bringing up the entire pickup. Your example of 12 string is perfect. I play original music,mostly so it is MY sound that I try to make better. So when the G5191BK came out of the box, the pickups were a bit weak (needed more umph from the amp) and less definitive. Raising them up made them very easy to control with my amp settings. It also made them more Jangly.(more treble and wolftone inclined) Now, I really like the sound of my BT's. They give me something different than the filtertrons in my Falcon or the G-buckers in my Double cut Jet.

You're right. It is hard to describe sound even to those that have been hearing all of their lives. I even tend to use descriptions such as Muddy or Jangly or even definitive and when I write them on this site I wonder if anyone else is picking up on what I'm saying. Going to Roundups has really helped with that. We seem to get to hear each others instruments and make those assessments live and we can agree on those descriptions. That's been more helpful than anything actually here on this site and I've made some lifelong friends to boot. Experiment and find YOUR sound is probably some of the best advice I've read on here. I already know that my somewhat out of tune fingers define most of my sound and I love the quest for new and different things that I can do with that. Likewise, others may get something from our discussion.

Thanks for playing along. I hope you didn't feel I was being the devils advocate. Just curious about your results and appreciate the way you write. Click, Boom!

20

By the way. I'm a rhythm player to so I can relate to much of what you said above.

21

By the way. I'm a rhythm player to so I can relate to much of what you said above.

– Suprdave

Thanks Suprdave.... I'm glad you understand... and thanks for your interaction. I sometimes have made comments that you just know is gonna light someone's fuse! As long as people are open minded to comments, we all benefit from the experiences.

So, I'm satisfied at this point that this height is (more or less) the optimum for overall sound for me. And tweaking the poles has just given me an excuse to keep splitting hairs. I actually just tweaked the poles one last time to line up all the slots perpendicular to the strings. Better sound? ...hardly! But it looks so detailed like that finishing touch is the icing on the cake!!!!!

Since you're a 12-string fan, you might find this of interest. Have you ever messed with "Nashville" tuning? If not, look it up! I just found out about it and had no idea of it's popularity. So I started tinkering with it using a cheap Tele clone I've had lying around. It definitely adds a dimension of sound, yet feels right at home if you're use to 12 Strings!

Play on.....!

22

Hey FiveAces, just seeing this.

Glad you got the results you were looking for.

I am a fan of the 12 string but unfortunately don't own one or really even have a use for them. Actually, I'm lucky to pull of playing a 6 string with any decent results, for that matter. Don't even get me started on anything other than standard tuning. I'd be lost.

My fuses are long and my skin is like an elephant. It takes a lot to yank my chain. I appreciate the interaction, as well. Rock the hell on!

23

For what it's worth I have blacktops in my 5420 and struggled a bit with getting the right height and all.

Two things came together for me. I quit expecting them to have the jangle of TV Jones Classics or Gretsch HS Filtertons and made adjustments at the amp for the best tone.

And in spite of what I think of the tone myself, everyone who listens to my guitar goes on and on about the great tone it has, and when I say "everyone" I'm talking about fellow guitar players who are tone savvy. It sounds plenty Gretsch-y

Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to tone and such, or I could be insane. You make the call.

But work on your amp settings would be my suggestion. I don't have any "put the bass on 6 and the treble on 9" suggestions for you, amps are so different but look there for a sweet spot.

Your guitar looks great!

24

It does look great! I've had a G5120 since they first came out. I've been wanting to upgrade the Pups but can't decide which ones? First I was going to make an Eddie Cochran, then TV Classics, Filtertrons & so on.. I can't make up my mind..

I did the Pickup Screw height adjustment & it's an improvement but still not magic to my ears..

I do own a George Harrison Duo Jet so I want a different Sound but can't decided?

25

"Sometimes I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to tone and such..."

+1 on that!

Yep.... and it never works when you you're trying to imitate or sound like another guitar..... to much disappointment! That's why you make it the way you want it to sound, not what everyone is expecting to hear.

Thanks to all for the compliments on my guitar. She's a keeper to me!


Register Sign in to join the conversation