Modern Gretsch Guitars

Flat wound strings and an aluminum Tru-Arc

1

I've had my ups and downs with my Terada 6120 DSV since i first got it 14 years ago but a DE Bigsby handle, an aluminum Tru-Arc and shimming the OEM Dynasonic pickups got me pretty much where I wanted to be but something still never seemed to be quite right.

I gave up trying flat wound strings in 1967 but about a year ago I tried a Gibson L-4 CES that had flat wounds and was quite surprised how much I liked them and the sound of the guitar. It seemed that string technology really had changed over the intervening 50 years! So, I tried a set of D'Addario Chromes on my Gibson Memphis ES-225, which is kind of a thinline ES-175 with an ABR-1 bridge and really liked the sound.

Today, my 6120 was due for a new set of strings so I tried one of the "Chrome" sets that I'd bought for the Gibson and the guitar just came to life. It was a real surprise but I'm sure that the aluminum Tru-Arc along with the string tone has made this happen.

Tim, have you or anyone else had this experience? If I play this guitar enough tonight and tomorrow, it might well be the one for Saturday's gig.

2

My New Yorker came with flat wounds and I was impressed. I put them on my 5422 and my Penguin. Both have Tru-Arcs and they just came alive. Now most of my guitars have D'Addario Chromes.

3

Also a fan of Chromes. If I had time to play more consistently I’d splurge on Tomastiks, but I can’t justify the expense considering how much time my guitars spend in their cases.

4

JOM,

I hear you! Been there but in the last few years I've been playing a lot more. Really interesting that you guys have experiences with "Chromes" similar to mine.

Tim? Where are you?

5

This is very interesting - and there's some defensible reason in it, at least superficially - Chromes tend to be darkish, aluminum lifts and separates and cleans up midrange. They should be good for each other.

I don't think I've ever actually tried it. But I have plenty of Chromes and at least a couple of Tru-Arcs. By golly, I'll give it a shot!

Thanks for the heads-up.

6

Will love to hear your opinion ol' son!

7

Ha! First time I've heard anyone else here mention that they have a Memphis Gibson ES-225. I had intended to install a Bigsby and TOM on mine but fell in love with the sound and feel of the stock wrap-around bail tailpiece. How cool would an intonated bar be on a guitar like this? You know, like a, oh, I don't know - Serpentune bar? A nice big heavy steel bar made to fit the tailpiece but intonated for Ernie Ball 10-52 strings with a plain G?

Gosh, that would be the stuff of dreams!

8

Dreams can come true.

9

Jimmy,

I liked the tone of the Bail tailpiece but it was just impossible to keep in tune. A Tru-arc did occur to me a couple of years ago but I settled for an old ABR-1 that was in my parts box and got a nice matching rosewood base for it from Gregg Rogers up in Washington. Such a shame that due to ill health he's stopped selling those hard to find parts.

10

Tim,

I'm open to suggestions. Here's the original "wire coat hangar" bridge!

11

Well the funny thing is that even though I didn't get on with the wrap-around bar on a Gibson '54 style Les Paul (used a Pigtail bridge) I don't really have many issues with the 225. Obviously intonation isn't great but for some reason (maybe it's age!) it doesn't seem to be a problem. I never got on with straight bar bridges on Gretsches either but the Compton I had before I got the Serpentune was fine. Now of course intonation on my two Gretsches is perfect thanks to the Serpentunes.

I am scared to change the tailpiece on my 225 because I love the sound so much. I'm not sure but I think the bridge itself is just nickel plated steel. One day if I am rich enough I would like to get another ES-225 to have with a Bigsby, but I'm not changing from the steel bridge on this guitar (unless somehow I find a compensated version of exactly the same thing) because it's probably the best sounding guitar I have ever played. It may not be THE guitar for everybody but it's so perfect for me it's crazy.

How do you like yours, Yavapal?

12

I bought my 56 ES225 with a later style trapeze tailpiece and ABR-1 bridge - with the original wrapover/trapeze broken in the case.

I subsequently fixed the original tailpiece and having heard the guitar with both types, I can report that the original ES225, ES295 and early LP tailpiece is fabulous for tone.

No doubt it's crying out for a Bigsby and a Tru-Arc, but I'm just going to have to work on my finger vibrato instead

13

Jimmy,

I've actually had two as the geometry of the first one was all wrong with the strings hanging off the treble edge of the fingerboard but Gibson did replace it with a new guitar in about 10 days back in 2014.

I liked the bluesey tone of the guitar with the original tailpiece and factory light gauge strings but prefer the intonation of the ABR-1 or even just a regular rosewood archtop bridge both of which, as I mentioned above, turn the guitar into a thinline ES-175. The ABR-1 definitely sounds better with the "Chromes" but, on reflection, I've never tried flat wounds with the Bail bridge.

Next string change, maybe, although these Chromes last so long that could be some time away.

I am enjoying these strings on the Gretsch though.

14

O.K. Tim. Here's an "exploded" view of the Bail bridge/tailpiece combination.

This thing never intonated properly or stayed in tune for me and, in addition, I could never get the guitar's action right, as the bridge bar has a 14" radius.

15

Is it what you're using on the guitar now?

17

No, I changed out the Bail bridge/tailpiece, first for a regular trapeze and rosewood floating bridge but preferred the sustain of an ABR-1.

18

So...are you wondering if we can make a Tru-Arc to replace the bridge at the end of the long trapeze, or just to fit the rosewood base?

The latter, we got'em. The former - it can probably be done. I'd have to see the existing bridge/tailpiece in much more detail.

19

It was actually JimmyR that came up with the idea of an intonated bar for the Bail earlier in this thread.

I know that you can do a Tru-Arc for an ABR-1 rosewood base, or any floating base I'd guess but a bar for the Bail struck me as a great idea too if it would work.

I haven't used the Bail for a few years so I could mail it to you to check out.

21

Yavapal - I haven't noticed a huge difference in radius between the bridge and fretboard but I think you may be right. I suspect the bridge maybe a little flatter than the 'board.

It was a little embarrassing reading that old thread. No the ES-225 doesn't exactly sustain like a Les Paul. Now I have a great Les Paul I can state this with certainty! But it does sustain way more than I would have expected. I put it down to enthusiastic hyperbole.

I do think a intonated bar (of correct 12" radius) would make this guitar perfect. I spent some time recently comparing the sound of the 225 to my Les Paul and it was a lot of fun. They can sound surprisingly similar but the 225 has more definition, more detail and more overtones, especially on the wound strings. And of course the Les Paul is more compressed and smoother overall, although it can get pleasingly aggressive too. I am very, very lucky. The 225 is just amazing and my Les Paul is unusually good. I've played plenty of Les Pauls which come nowhere close to this one.

Anyway, do we have you intrigued enough yet Tim?

22

Oh yeah. Send me that piece and I'll see what we can do. I have an idear or two. (The shop will shoot them down - then come back with something that will actually work.)

23

Sounds good. Just the bar bridge or the whole contraption?

25

Seriously though, I was so impressed with that blonde ES225, I pestered ATB Guitars until they had a couple more in stock and bought one.

Since it was a review guitar, I couldn't dismantle it, but having bought my own I soon discovered the substantial maple block glued to the top in between the braces. IMO it's that, plus the original bridge/tailpiece combo that makes ES225s so different from ES330s and later ES125s.

Perhaps I'm lucky, but I have no issues with intonation or playability. Our own Proteus schooled me on the link between board and bridge radius and when the two are matched, I find that guitars tend to play better and intonate well. Well enough for my cloth ears anyway.

My buddy Patrick made me some bar bridges for my 6120 conversion - only because I wanted to use the original space control bridge base and it would have been complicated for Tim considering we're on different sides of the planet.

But if a compensated Tru-Arc for trapeze tailpieces somehow materialises, I'd be very interested to try one.


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