Meet & Greet

New to forum and new to owning a Gretsch guitar

1

Hi everyone from East Yorkshire UK. I'm Tony and new to the forum. Briefly I was a full time pro singer/guitarist from around 1968 to 1980 touring the UK for up to 40 weeks each year. I specialised in country and pre-white 50s R & R.

When I retired to take up a 'normal' way of life to be with my wife and kids, I'd achieved most of what I wanted including buying my first home outright by the age of 22 and decided not to pick up a guitar again as the temptation would have been too great not to return to the road and so I threw myself into the business I built up and I never picked up a guitar from 1980 until 2014.

Just as I'd decided to go back to music for pleasure and record some tracks for posterity on a 24 track and other gear I'd bought including a telecaster and other gear, the Grim Reaper came knocking and it was touch and go from then on whether or not he took me with him but I'm still here.

I still wake up wake each morning and more to the point I've just today bought myself a G5120.

I saw it advertised last night on an internet selling service. When I went to view it today I found it was owned by the late husband of the lady who was selling it. He'd died two years ago and had been in bands all of his life and when he found out he was terminally ill, he bought the Gretsch from a friend as it was a guitar he'd always aspired to owning.

It was in absolutely mint condition and still had the covering on the scratchplate but over the past two years since her husband had passed away, unfortunately she had propped the guitar leant back against a wall instead of on a stand and together with strings so thick that they could be used to tow a Jeep out of a ditch, the neck was quite concave which meant the action was really far too high for me.

I was going to let it go but she found the truss key etc and I had a go at adjusting the string height and adjusting the neck relief via truss adjustment for her so that it would at least be more appealing to the next potential buyer as I personally have always preferred my guitars to have perhaps unrealistically low action but some people quite like medium/higher actions and I eventually got it adjusted to where it was even playable for me but not enough for to tempt me to buy it.

However the lady and her daughter were so sweet and we got on really well that got it set up as best I could and I advised her what to put in the advert in order to make it appealing to potential buyers as her asking price was already very reasonable but all she wanted was for it to go to someone who appreciated it and they determined that because I'd tried to help them and initially offered a very fair price, I was that person and so they discussed it and offered me it at such a low price that even though it wasn't to my playing taste I couldn't possibly refuse and I must have got the bargain of the year.

I explained to her that even with the adjustments I'd carried out, it was going to fetch far more money than she offered it to me but she was adamant that I should have it and so I thought what the he**, even if I don't like playing it, at that price it will make a great decoration for my home studio. I quite enjoy restoring and setting up guitars...I particularly love fret levelling and dressing and I'm sure if I take off the strings and allow the neck to relax for a few days and then give it a full set it up I'll possibly have a really nice playable guitar at some point.

I'm sure I'll gain much valuable advice and information here so I'm looking forward to finding out the various details and adjustments such as optimum neck relief, string action heights and pickup heights, optimum string choice etc which I'm sure are available and will get me into the ballpark so that I can fine tune it for me and my playing style.

2

Welcome and congratulations on the G5120. Great story, and I know with the correct setup, that guitar will grow on you.

3

Welcome and congratulations on the G5120. Great story, and I know with the correct setup, that guitar will grow on you.

– Steeple923

Thanks for the welcome....I'm sure it will grow on me eventually as it's the guitar I've always wanted and it will be perfect for the country rock/rockabilly numbers I want to record if I get it set up right. I'm going strip off the strings tomorrow, adjust the truss rod to relax the neck and let it settle for a week or so and then set it all up with some medium gauge strings.

I just love the colour...this is a stock photo but the guitar is identical and apart from the protective plastic film being a little ruffled on the scratchplate, there's hardly a mark on it as it was only ever used in the home and never gigged.

4

Welcome to all things Gretsch, JTC! Keep us up to date on how the setup goes.

6

Greetings, and welcome. If it will help, GDP member Mal Barclay wrote a setup guide that, while pretty general, does have some initial numbers for things like neck relief on Gretsches.

Mal's Setup Guide

7

welcome to the forum. as John said, make yourself at home.

9

Quite a story and as you say wake up each morning and thankfully still kicking a treasured bonus.As said by others Gretsch are quite unique in sound, feel and playability and have to be set up well for your needs, like all players we have personal preferences.Im now 72 and lived in Liverpool back in the 60s and played with a number of bands, the Gretsch thing got to me when I was about 60 after a very long time looking at a Photo of Chet Atkins and his red Gretsch and Duane Eddy, my brother was in to that and got me briefly, R&B was my bag in the bands. Eventually I got a 5120 first had some TV Jones pickups fitted and set up with 11-48 pure nickel and that was it. I stupidly sold it and bought a Pro Line Gretsch 6119 and a 6120 when I retired again specific set ups to suit me, I have never had a very low action like my Strat and Tele . I now use 10.5 to 48 and they fine with a medium action. Best of luck and enjoy the Twang.

10

Welcome, Tony. Nice story. Setup is basically the same process as any other guitar.

11

Once again thanks for the welcomes...I've just spent the past 15 minutes gazing at the guitar like a schoolboy with a crush on the prettiest girl in the class.

The guitar is absolutely gorgeous and positively flawless and from what little I've learned about the model so far, it was made in 2011 in the Samick factory. Hopefully with a bit of TLC in the set up department it should be fully playable once again.

The strings currently on there are like towing ropes and could even be the first string change as they are so tarnished. I don't know which string gauges are a popular choice with G5120 owners as I know almost nothing about the model but I would have thought a set of either 10 or 11- 49s would get me in the right ballpark as a starting point for my playing style but I'm sure the more knowledgeable owners will point me in the right direction if I'm heading the wrong way.

I'm used to fixed bridges and hadn't realised that the bridge is not fixed on the G5120 and needs to be intonated after each string change which explains why perhaps the previous owners were reluctant to change the strings though with today's electronic tuning capabilities it isn't particularly difficult but I can see me spending a bit of time on it as I can't bear any instruments out of tune as my ears are drawn to the result.

I also did a little further research in the early hours and managed to find the information on setting up the neck relief so that's a good start. As for string height/action the answer there for me is to get it as low as it can be played without fretting out which will be what I will be aiming for.

I'm really looking forward to the challenge and hopefully including it on the recordings I'm intending to make as even with the terrible action and dreadful strings it still sounded great when I played it through my own amp

12

Update ....I've just pulled off the old strings and when comparing the old strings to a pack of new 10-52s D'addarios which I have among the many sets in my drawer, I reckon the old strings were maybe a set of 12 or 13-55s or something in that region...no wonder the action was awful.

The strings were so thick that they were actually sticking in the nut! You could hear the release ping when tuning the guitar. I think I'll give it a try later today with a set of 10-48s or even a set of 10-52s to see if that improves things as with my style of playing I like a bit of a 'chunky/beefy' bass end so I'll maybe see how it sounds with a 52 on the E string.

One thing is certain, it can't possibly play any worse!

13

Great story. Welcome and enjoy your first Gretsch.

14

Welcome to the forum. Lots of great people here who know their Gretsches! Tip for the next stringchange: do one string at a time. It will leave the bridge in position.

15

Welcome to the forum. Lots of great people here who know their Gretsches! Tip for the next stringchange: do one string at a time. It will leave the bridge in position.

– Limuz

Thanks for the welcome and advice. I sort of figured that it was similar to some of the old old arch tops which required repositioning of the bridge if completely de-strung but I was a little surprised that a guitar of the quality of the Gretsch would not have a fixed bridge mount or at least location pins.

I've had to destring the guitar to relax the neck but I'll certainly remember not to remove all the strings at once in any future re-stringing! So that tip will stick with me.

When I was on the road and my guitar was ready for restringing, if I was working every night for a full week, I'd simply renew one string each night after the show and play it in the following day and continue replacing another string each night until they were all replaced so that I wasn't on stage with a guitar loaded with all new strings at once which was a pain due to stretching pitch shifts. It was bad enough in warm venues under some of the really hot stage lights which made the guitar go flat without the extra burden of stretching strings. Also by changing only one string each night, I didn't have the usual issue of readjusting my guitar amp to compensate for the change in sound that new strings invariably make. I was always a bit anal when it came to consistency of sound etc and I absolutely hated working with new strings so I found that the best way to replace them was one per night. Of course if I had a few days off I'd do the lot in one go and play them in before the first show but I didn't often get much time off.

One question you may be able to help with right now with the Gretsch is regarding the white washer that lies under the Bigsby arm ...does it sit on top of the spring? When I de-strung the guitar today, the Bigsby arm tipped back and the washer fell out. I haven't put new strings on yet but I'll need to know about the washer which I'm assuming sits on top of the spring. Is this correct as I don't want to re-string and intonate them only to find the washer in the wrong place!

Cheers.

16

I believe the washer goes in the cup, that's the way I remember mine in the past. I raised the arm with a penny and put the washer on top.

Quick edit, some Gretsches come with a pinned bridge to keep it in place. I prefer it floating around, you can get it intonated better if you happen to switch to a different style bridge.

17

Make sure to pay attention to the pickups. They are very sensitive. Adjusting the pickup height will provide more body to your tone and raising the pole pieces will add clarity. I had a 5120 for a while and it is a great guitar. I only sold it because one of my friends fell in love with it and had to have it!

18

Jasper welcome aboard, mate. I'm James from the US in Southern California. Congrats on your 5120.

19

Welcome to the nut house Sir!

Congrats on the new geet too.

20

Welcome, Jasper! I also own a 5120 (mine was made in 2006) and like it a lot. I use .011 strings on mine, and the action is quite low and easy to play, so I'm sure that with a bit of tweaking, you can get yours to play to your satisfaction. They are very versatile guitars, capable of a broad palette of tones.

I'm a long-time player of archtop hollowbodies --- Gibson, Gretsch, Epiphone, et al --- and learned early on to simply use a bit of masking tape to mark the position of the bridge base whenever I change out a set of strings or want to do a thorough cleaning. Makes it easy and quick to return the base to its original position when you're done.

21

Welcome, Jasper! I also own a 5120 (mine was made in 2006) and like it a lot. I use .011 strings on mine, and the action is quite low and easy to play, so I'm sure that with a bit of tweaking, you can get yours to play to your satisfaction. They are very versatile guitars, capable of a broad palette of tones.

I'm a long-time player of archtop hollowbodies --- Gibson, Gretsch, Epiphone, et al --- and learned early on to simply use a bit of masking tape to mark the position of the bridge base whenever I change out a set of strings or want to do a thorough cleaning. Makes it easy and quick to return the base to its original position when you're done.

– Parabar

Thanks for the info Parabar. I've always loved the sound of Gretsch guitars as I like to play a fair bit of Rockabilly/Rock n' Roll and country music so it's a really perfect guitar for me. I prefer the Gretsch sound to Gibson for the stuff I would be recording too.

I just hope I can get the neck to relax back into its former position. So far I've loosened off the truss road and removed the strings to give it a chance and I've treated the fretboard with lemon oil as it was perhaps a little too dry which won't help.

I had a glance at the neck earlier tonight and it had definitely visually improved in only about 12 hours so fingers crossed if I leave it sufficiently long enough, it should maybe settle back to where it once was.

The tape idea really makes sense...that's another tip I'll follow.

If I can get the neck back to something like decent I'll maybe start with a set of 9s or 10s just to allow the neck to take the strain and then once I've got it settled I can experiment with differing strings. When I was on the road, I preferred my guitar to be loaded with the low three strings to be heavier gauge while the high three were light gauge.

Do you by any chance have the figure for the recommended string height ie: the string action?

22

Well I have some really good news to report!

This morning as soon as I woke up, I decided that I'd look in on my new acquisition and check out how its poorly neck was coming along and when I put my 16 inch dual sided fret rule on it, the bow had clearly relaxed quite a bit so I thought I might just give the truss rod a tweak to see if I could actually get it adjusting somewhere the way I'd want it and low and behold the neck positively responded to the adjustments, so much so that it seems good enough for me now to probably pop on a set of strings and actually give the guitar a play.

However, I'm going resist the temptation for the moment and let the neck settle for a little bit longer in order to let it fully relax before setting the relief, restringing and adjusting the action. I don't want to put too much of a load on the neck too soon as it will probably have a bit more relaxing to achieve so I have in my drawer doing nothing a set of 8s that I won't use so I might pop them on just to put light tension on the neck initially before loading it with 10s or 11s.

The frets show virtually no sign of wear and look as though they could do with a really good polish which I'll do properly while the 'next' set of strings are off. I would also dress and level any high frets at the same time if it's required which I always do to my guitars to get the lowest possible action so I'll wait until the strings I put on this time around need replacing and then do the work on the frets when the neck and the rest of the guitar have had time to settle.

So two days ago I bought what I thought was possibly an ornament only good for hanging on a wall albeit a beautiful piece of art and last night that was still my thinking when I went to bed but this morning I'm now thinking that I have might just have found the exact guitar I was looking for and with a bit of patience and TLC it could be absolutely perfect for me.

23

This is great! I hope that you get many years of enjoyment out of it. My 5120 had really low action so it is possible.

24

Hi Tony, welcome. That was a great story, it sounds like you are on your way to sorting out the neck issues. Good luck with it, I hope it turns out to be everything it can be. Those are very nice guitars!

25

This is great! I hope that you get many years of enjoyment out of it. My 5120 had really low action so it is possible.

– BuddyHollywood

I hope so too.

I am really trying my hardest not to put on a set of strings right now and give it a whirl and the temptation is really killing me but I'll try to hold out for another day to let the neck bed in to the adjustments I've given it before stringing it.

I need to find out what figure Gretsch recommends as the standard action height and also the height of the pickups in relation to the string height as it looks as though the previous owners possibly hadn't much idea of how to look after it and may have messed with the pickup adjustments so a sort of factory re-set would be a good place to start.

I've found what I believe is Gretsch's recommended neck relief figure so I'll adjust the neck to that recommendation and try and get the starting point action height to allow the neck to settle to that before I adjust it lower if it's possible.


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