Modern Gretsch Guitars

Dead-Spots using bar bridge


I've got 3 Gretsch's, all with bar bridges, and they all have this issue, so I'm sure it's common - the high strings just go plink plink plink at the 22nd and to a lesser extent also at the 21st frets. I'm using Tru-Arcs but it's a bar bridge design issue I'm sure, not a Tru-Arc issue. Even swapped one out for the serpentune version and was expecting the higher break angle of that to help, but nope. Not that I play those notes a lot or ever lol, but it still bugs me. Just the nature of the beast with bar bridges? And no it's not the frets, I jacked the action way up high and it didn't help. And like I said, same issue on 3 guitars.


Have you checked the truss rods? Just a thought.


Some guitars just do that, but guitars on which there's a fretboard extension and flat-top acoustics can be more prone to it.

It's not a bar bridge design issue, although can be caused in part by the string being choked as it leaves the saddle. Sometimes it can be cured by filing the slot so that it's a bit more open at that end. You run the risk of moving the intonation point if you do that, but it may already be intonating sharp because of the angle. You can do that with a folded piece of sandpaper if you don't have files. I've had good results just putting a piece of 1000 grit under the string at the bridge and pulling the paper back and forth a few times while pressing the string down between the pickups, so that it's lower than the highest fret.

It's more likely that you need to create a slight fall-away on the upper frets. The frets are very close together and close to the bridge there; raising the bridge won't necessarily tell you that there's nothing wrong with the frets.

You can create a slight fall-away quite easily with nothing more than tape, sandpaper, and patience, but it's better to use the right tools. It might be easier to have a qualified tech do it. I'd think $25 would be a reasonable cost, $40 would not be outrageous.

The last possible cause, and the easiest one to fix, is too much relief in the neck. That can create a "ski-jump" on the highest frets. Sometimes the truss rod will do something similar when it's too tight, too; it just gets stuck and makes the neck act weird. Don't just automatically tighten it if you think it's too loose. Check how tight it is. I hope that's what the problem is; if so, you'll be back in business in a matter of minutes. Most people will loosen a truss rod when there's buzzing, but it can make it much worse if it's high on the neck.

The very best and most permanent fix would probably involve a little bit of each of the above.


They say a picture's worth a thousand words. Headstock on the left, tailpiece on the right in all images.

The enlargement on the neck side of the slot is VERY exaggerated, btw! You only need a smidge.

BTW, I've hand-carved bridges out of bicycle cranks, solid chunks of square-cut brass, and aluminum rod stock. The problem you're experiencing is definitely not just "something that happens with a bar bridge"!


I just can't imagine how specifically the 22nd and 21st frets on three guitars have the same problem.

As Tru-Arc is my product, I immediately went to every Gretsch in the room with a Tru-Arc on it and checked the high frets. I get nothing like that problem. Zilch nada zip. They could all owned by Johnny B Goode, because they ring like bells.

I can imagine fret problems causing something at those two frets - but it seems unlikely it would happen on three different guitars in just the same way.

But I don't know if we're going to get anywhere without defining what, specifically, "plink plink" describes. It's a vivid word to characterize a sound - but I'd need to know more to diagnose possible sources.

Does the tone simply and suddenly change at those two highest frets? Its timbre, its sustain? The string is reaching its shortest vibrating length at that location, and naturally takes on a drier, plunkier, "smaller" tone. (Higher, less energetic frequencies.) Is it possible that the gradual change in the brightness and the "ringiness" of the string, which happens incrementally as you climb the neck, just crosses your threshold of tolerance at that location?

Or does it happen suddenly and dramatically at that location, and you hear nothing like it elsewhere on the neck?

Can you characterize the sound (other than plinkplink) as fret buzz/rattle, choking out - or more of a resonant sitar-like effect? Can you localize the plink? Does it come from the frets - or from the bridge itself?

In some situations, a string can certainly contact the side wall of a string groove in a bridge, whether on the pickup side or the tailpiece side - in which case you should get some combination of sitarring and choking out. Very quick decay and failure to ring/sustain.

But if the bridges have that issue, it should affect other notes than just the two highest frets. It is true that a fretted string is deflected from the rest plane it occupies when open: that is, it drops slightly closer to the top of the guitar (easiest to see relative to the pickups) when fretted than when open. And the higher up the fretboard, the more it's deflected. Following that train of analysis, it dips lowest toward the guitar top at the highest fret.

I can imagine a hypothetical situation where that greater deflection at those high frets is just enough to move the string's entry patch into the bridge groove by enough that it comes into contact with metal it doesn't touch otherwise, potentially leading to sitarring or deadening at the bridge. The solution would be something like dressing the entry path to the groove as seadevil describes.

But if this was happening, I would have expected raising the action to keep the string from contacting that hypothetical possible problem area at the front of the bridge slot. So I'm not ready to conclude that it's time to file away at the bridges (which could do more harm than good).

What you're describing is far from common. I've never heard of so specifically localized a behavior, across three different guitars, with three different bridges. Generally, if a bridge sitars or chokes strings, it's both obvious and pervasive up and down the affected string.

So...I need more info. What models are the Gretschs? What model bridges? What gauge strings? Any further description of the nature of the plink, and the area from which it comes (if you can ascertain that)?

A recording would go a looooong way to helping me understand what might be going on. Audio or video, doesn't matter.


My SerpenTune Tru-Arc actually FIXED any and all nonsense on my 5420T. It plays like a $3K pro-line guitar now.

The Electromatic lines are really good nowadays, but drop about a hundo on a SperpenTune bridge and they are stellar performers.


Prorteus, thanks for the clarification of my advice above. My recommended procedure does indeed entail risks. Besides the danger of messing with the intonation, it's easy to deepen the slot and choke the string more, and one deeper slot requires lowering the rest, which could make the Tru-Arc less tru. Dressing the frets to create fall-away is also pretty easy to screw up. I also failed to register the OP's statement about this happening on more than one guitar. That is pretty odd.


What Suprdave said. I had a luthier in Cleveland that set up all mine with considerable relief. That was his thing. Curt has since shown me that setting up flat is the way to go.

Did the same luthier set up all three guitars?


Is the string perhaps hitting the pole piece of a pick up when playing up that high?


Great reminder, Danman. And it wouldn’t have to hit the polepiece to be affected. Pickups with magnets as pole pieces - especially DynaSonics - can have a strong enough magnetic field to suck the vibration right out of a string coming too close, damping it and choking off the sustain.


Definitely something worth considering! The neck pickup is a lot more likely to exert meaningful magnetic pull on the strings, unless the bridge pickup's really close.


Have you ever had your hearing checked?


Great reminder, Danman. And it wouldn’t have to hit the polepiece to be affected. Pickups with magnets as pole pieces - especially DynaSonics - can have a strong enough magnetic field to suck the vibration right out of a string coming too close, damping it and choking off the sustain.

– Proteus

I guess touching or not touching would depend on the kind of 'plink' he means.... ; )


Plinkety plink plonk twink bong twang
How many sounds y'get outta that thang?


Swap the bridges out with a TOM or Melita and tell us what happens. Maybe shoot a little video.


By 'plink' I mean sounds similar when you pluck a string behind the bridge, in-between the bridge and tailpiece. No sustain at all, there's no ringing out of the note at all. I should clarify that it's not every string between the 3 guitars, but on all 3 guitars the B and G strings are the worst


Uneven fret heights? Warping on the fretboard overhang? Things can sometimes go a little wonky past the neck/body joint.


I had a guitar with this problem. My luthier found that my neck had just a wee bit too much bow.

from “Big Mal’s Guide...” For Gretsches and Gibsons with a neck joint around the 14th fret, use the method described above. The truss-rod on these guitars only affects the neck between the nut and the body joint, not the fingerboard extension.

Once the truss rod was tightened (less than a quarter turn) the problem went away.


Right, Bob. Seems like I remember my buddy Curt saying this is usually a truss rod adjustment issue. cheap, easy and worth a try.


I would also have guessed truss rod if it was lower frets. But I don't think the truss rod affects the neck that high up, so that's why I was thinking frets or overhang. Then again, guitar geometry can surprise you. I can see how maybe removing a little bow could result in a little more clearance at the end of the neck.


I'm just having a hard time getting my head around three guitars with exactly the same behavior. Even if a guy tried to keep all adjusted exactly the same, he couldn't. Guitars are just too individual for that.


Maybe the same guy set up all three and he had a penchant for putting a smidge too much bow in the neck.


22nd fret...... isn’t that the land of Mu, a mythological place that some speak of yet none have been able to dwell, at least not for any length of time?


Does anybody play those frets? I never get beyond the 15th


Tommy, have you tried a different type of bridge on the guitars yet?

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