Modern Gretsch Guitars

Current top ply count

1

I was looking at the current Gretsch site and noticed that they described the G6122-59 (Chet's signature model) as having a "laminated 5-ply figured maple top."

I was under the impression that the FMIC models all had a 3 play top. Not that there is anything wrong with a 5 ply top.

If this has been discussed my apologies, I must have missed it.

2

Thinner plys? 3 plys plus 2 nice veneers? Are all the plys maple? Lotta questions come to mind. I'm sure they don't increase weight with 5 same thickness veneers of maple. There are lighter woods they could use beneath maple. 5 thin plys would bend and form easier than 3 thick ones. Figured wood goes further sliced to veneer and added like a top ply.( of course I suppose you could call it all veneer or all ply, I differentiate by having veneer be decorative and ply be structural) Just what is the recipe?

3

I was also under the impression that reducing the plys from 5 to 3 was one of the changes Fender brought in when the took over production. IIRC, a soft wood, Poplar I believe was one of the plys used. Part of the reasoning was it was a bit of a weight saving measure.

4

I was also under the impression that reducing the plys from 5 to 3 was one of the changes Fender brought in when the took over production. IIRC, a soft wood, Poplar I believe was one of the plys used. Part of the reasoning was it was a bit of a weight saving measure.

– Windsordave

I have had the same understanding...

5

Chet's original '59 had a 5 ply top. IIRC. Edit: No references.

6

That's very interesting lx. Makes me wish I'd counted the plys on my '64 DC gent when I had it years ago. It never occurred to me 25 years ago whether the top was carved or laminate.

7

So if Chet's original 59 CG had a 5 ply top, did he request that from the company? Was it the only 5 ply topped Gretsch during this Golden period? Interesting.

8

I believe all 50's lams were 3 ply, approximately 1/8" total thickness. The outer layers of the sandwich being thicker that the middle layer.

9

Here's an actual late 50's Annie, appears they may be equal thickness plys , the outer having been sanded a bit for finish.

10

I know one of Chet's guitars had a 5 ply top; perhaps it was the sealed 6120? IIRC all of the double cut Gents were laminate. Sorry, manuals not in hand; I'll check tonight. Oh wait, I've got better things to do....

11

If you're referring to that famous no f-holes 'red' 6120 Chet recorded with, it didn't have a laminated top at all. As Norm relates in his book on Paul Yandell, Chet asked Gretsch to make him a sealed top 6120 that had a carved top. They did and it was monstrously heavy being an inch thick!!! Paul relates that he regrets never having had the opportunity to play that guitar. Chet wanted this in his ongoing search for more sustain, and this guitar sure delivered!

12

The 50's were all 3 ply which has been documented many times.

If FMIC has decided to switch to 5 ply on proline guitars I'd like to hear an explanation.

13

Well, the '59 modern Gent is the one that Paul Yandell worked on with Gretsch, no? I think Gretsch wouldn't have arbitrarily thrown on a 5 ply top if it weren't part of the original specs. Nothing in the manuals but maybe in old threads around here.

14

"I think Gretsch wouldn't have arbitrarily thrown on a 5 ply top if it weren't part of the original specs."

Like waffle bracing?

15

Chet's '59 CG is unlikely to be 5-ply. Note also that when the 6122-59 was originally introduced and Chet's endorsement was returned to Gretsch, it was advertised as 3-ply (to my recollection), but now with the Pro Line models, it's suddenly 5-ply. Probably makes little difference, if any, but the question remains: "why did Gretsch change over to 5 plys?". My guess is that most likely thinner veneers may be more readily available, as veneers now seem to be a bit thinner than they used to be; standard veneers used to come in 1/28 inch thickness, but now are pretty much 1/32 or 1/40.

16

It's interesting to ponder the differences between three and five-ply tops. I seem to recall reading, on this site, the theory that three-ply tops are more resonant than five-ply. This makes a certain amount of sense given that there is twice as much glue in a five-ply top. Glue must surely have a damping effect on the resonance of a guitar top.

Operating on the premise that three-ply tops are more resonant, and resonance is a factor that contributes to feedback, the advantages of a three-ply top could be a topic of some debate. Over the years, Gretsch and Gibson have both taken steps to make hollow body guitars LESS resonant. Thinner bodies with a center block on the Gibson 335 was one solution. Eliminating 'f' holes and clever trestle bracing are the Gretsch answers to the dilema.

All this makes what seems like an obvious question come to mind. Why would we want a highly resonant top if we then take elaborate steps to reduce that resonance? Are we stuck in 1958 and refuse to budge?

Some players, John Pizzarelli comes to mind, have switched from expensive, carved-top Benedetto guitars to instruments with laminated tops, presumably to reduce the extreme amount of resonance built into those classy hand-carved beauties. I have to say here that my preferred guitars for (electric) gigging are are a Guild CE100, a Gretsch 5120 with TV Classics, and a Tele. The Guild has a lot of wood and, despite the lack of a trestle or sound-post, is fairly easy to control as far as feedback goes. The 5120, with its five-ply top and sound post, never gives me a problem with feedback unless I've screwed up my amp or pedal settings.

My big G400JV fitted with a Kent Armstrong P-90 floater and an Eastman with a carved top are pretty prone to feedback in certain situations. They resonate way too much to control at any kind of volume in some of the rooms where I play.

Original specifications for a 6120 certainly call for a three-ply top. Other than being true to 1950s design, is that an advantage?

Having said all that, I'd be dissapointed if I bought a 6120 and it had a five-ply top. I'm not even sure why.

17

Great post Viper. Very thoughtful.

The 5 vs 3 ply debate has been raging on lo these many years, and I'm sure it will not abate any time soon. Personally, I feel that the 3 ply models indeed do reflect a kind of natural symbiosis of design, sustain and tonality that the 5 ply versions can't quite match. Something about them just feels right (to me). Now I'm willing to admit that it may simply be no more than a kind of experiential, psycho-acoustic bias on my part, and that in a blind tone test this bias could easily fall apart. Still, I have to believe that something in me recognizes an essential qualitative difference in the playing of one design over another. Even if every other Gretsch player were to tell me otherwise. I've owned both types, and my current 3-ply George Harrison Gent is definitely the one I prefer the sound and feel of. But hey, that's what variety is all about. N'est ce pas?

18

5 plys are structurally more beneficial. 3 plys emulate more of the sound and feel of a solid top. Solid spruce tops without trestles are what we want in the studio, but necessarily on the gig. I have to say, for me on the gig, the 3 ply with light trestle goes a long way, but the heavy trestle is a close second.

19

I just looked, again at the current Gretsch web site Professional, Players and Limited Edition models. Here’s what they show;

1) G6136-55 VSE Falcon (Dyna model). No mention of the top ply count. 2) G6136T-59 VSE Falcon (Filtertron model). 3-ply maple top. 3) G6122T-59 VSE 59 Chet Atkins. In the body description - Body top – 5-ply laminated
figured maple. 4) G6122-T 62 VSE 62 Chet Atkins. 3-ply maple top. 5) G6120T-55 VSE. 55 Chet Atkins. No mention on the top ply count. 6) G6120T-59 VSE. 59 Chet Atkins. No mention on the top ply count. 7) G6119T-62 VSE. 62 Chet Atkins Tennessee Rose. No mention on the top ply count. 8) G6118T-60 VSE. 60 Anniversary. No mention on top ply count. 9) G6196T-59 VSE. 59 Country Club. No mention of the top ply count.

No mention of the top ply count on the “Players Edition models.” No mention of the top ply count on the “Limited Edition models.”

I wasn’t trying to start a feud. My curiosity was that the G6122T-59 (Chet’s signature model) was based on his original 59 single cut Country Gentleman. His favorite guitar. His close friend, Paul Yandell got Chet’s guitar and went to Gretsch so they could copy everything about it to make it as close to original as could be.

Now here’s the confusion. Weren’t all of the Gretsch guitars built with a 3 ply top during those days? Did Chet request Gretsch to build him a 5 ply top Gent, which would have been the only one they made during the Golden era?

20

Wrd, that's a good question. One might surmise that Chet's guitars were not just "off the production line" guitars, but were made with special attention. I can't find documentation of the ply count on Chet's 6122, nor can I find it for the 6122-59, but I do remember specifically that it used to be stated in Gretsch advert. material as 3 ply, now I have seen it as 5 ply. Something changed. Also, as to the 6122-59 being made "exactly" like Chet's, Paul Yandell wrote that Chet's guitar had a block under the bridge that measued about 3 inches wide--that's not the standard 1959 trestle bracing: "This guitar has a brace under the bridge in between the top and back. It's about 3 inches across the top and bottom". Perhaps those more familiar with the current 6122-59 can weigh in as to whether or not this block is present or whether it has the familiar trestle bracing.

This is really all academic, though, since we are discussing things that we may never be able to verify and make little difference in the end. That's not to say that it's not interesting, though.

21

Thanks Bill.

I agree, it doesn't really matter.

For me I find historical things very interesting and all things Chet and his guitars are certainly interesting. He was very much a tinkerer and loved to see what would happen if he did this or that. That’s what led me to the ply question. Was his the only 5 ply top made at his request? Perhaps it was.

I still have my original 1962 Tennessean and it's light, so I'm sure it has the 3 ply top.

22

3 ply tops were standard for the '50's and '60's; not to say that Gretsch didn't deviate from their norms. Sometime in the early '60's they were tinkering with thicker sides and perhaps those sides were 5 or 7 ply. This would have the benefit of being easier to manufacture ( no linings ) and being a little quieter acoustically and theoretically less prone to feedback. The early Terada Gretsches had no linings and a 5 ply top with 7 ply sides. They opened acoustically with time but the consensus is that they were "overbuilt" and too heavy although they were about the same weight as a heavy trestled '58. And it is interesting as to what makes these beautiful boxes of wood sing the way they do.


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