Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Hello?

1

Talk talk talk.

Talking about how a guitar sounds is like (as Steve Martin may have said about music) "dancing about architecture."What do Filtertrons sound like? Dynasonics? Hilotrons? Fat bodies, thin bodies, real f-holes, closed bodies? In hopes of helping you find the Gretsch tone that floats your particular boat, how about we give an actual listen?


What you will find in this thread is 4-5 minute (or longer) recordings of six different current Gretsch models, representing 4 model families. All were played by the same hack (being me), all within an hour early one Sunday morning, all through the same amp at the same settings. All have D'Addario strings, either 11s or 12s. (Details listed with guitars.)

I don't pretend the tones are definitive, and every time I hear myself play I'm disgusted at my slop, inconsistency, and timing. But it's one guy in a room, anyway, no tricks or post-processing. I tried to do representative kinds of things that prospective Gretsch players might want to hear, but of course I did them my own way, and there's no question that other players will get different tones.

I also tried to run through most of the pickup and switch settings on the various guitars, and cover most of the same material in the samples. They do vary some, based on the inspiration or disability of the moment with each guitar. Each guitar seems to want certain kinds of playing, and that comes out as well. I think.

I'm aware that the samples are quite long; the purpose is to demonstrate the tonal spectrum of the guitars, and not my playing - but at the same time, I didn't want to chop up halfway acceptable segments that might make musical sense. It's my hope that every section reveals more about the guitars than about my ragged toothless old man shredding.

So enough excuses. Either the exercise will demonstrate what I hear as significant differences in the voices of these Gretsch instruments, or they'll all sound the same. Enlightenment (entonement?) is in the ear of the beholder.

Production Details.
• all guitars played through 1966 Ampeg Reverberocket amp, no compression or other effects. Reverb is from the amp. Amp settings were not changed through the session, nor was the mic moved.

• mic'ed with small Sony stereo mic and recorded into Powerbook using Audacity. Pieces were edited for tuning interludes, false starts, etc - but no eq or volume adjustments were made. Tracks were NOT normalized. Volume differences reflect actual output and response of guitars.

• overdrive/distortion comes from Barber Tone Pump dirt pedal. I don't pretend this is ideal natural amp overdrive. In fact, it ISn't. It does not shade effectively between clean and dirty. But again, settings were not changed through the session, so at least the comparison is straight. (Yes, you'd adjust your pedals and amp for best tone with each guitar, but that wasn't the purpose here.)

• distortion sections of all samples were boosted by 4dB (as I had the output knob on the pedal too low while recording).

And here we go.

G6120-GA Nashville Golden Anniversary
- 2.75" x 16" open-f-hole body; 24.6" scale; TV Jones Classic pickups, tone switch circuit; bar bridge; 9.45" radius ebony fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing with sound post; D'Addario 11-49 round, plain 3rd; Catalog entry here.

G6120DSV Nashville Dynasonic; the 1957-inspired "Duane" model
- 2.75" x 16" open-f-hole body; 24.6" scale; Dynasonic single-coil pickups, tone pot circuit; bar bridge; 12" radius rosewood fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing with sound post; D'Addario Chromes 11-50 flat, wound 3rd; Catalog entry here.

G6122-1959 Nashville Classic; the modified-1959 "Chet" model
- 2.25" x 17" closed body w/fake f-holes; 25.5" scale, zero fret; TV Jones Magnatron neck pickup; TV Jones Plus bridge pickup, custom tone circuit; bar bridge; 12" radius ebony fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing, tone post, plus internal waffleboard; D'Addario 11-49 round, plain 3rd; Catalog entry here. Note: This guitar varies from stock configuration in having a TVJ Magnatron at the neck rather than the stock SuperTron; the tone pot has also been modified to be bi-directional, with both tone-switch capacitors, so that it combines the rotary functionality of the tone pot guitars with the ability to gradually engage either of the tone pot caps. Sound sample of guitar in stock configuration will be added later.

G6122-1962 Country Classic; the "Harrison on Sullivan" model
- 2" x 17" closed double-cutaway Electrotone body w/fake f-holes; 24.6" scale, zero fret; Gretsch High-Sensitive Filtertrons, tone switch circuit; bar bridge; 12" radius ebony fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing w/tone post; D'Addario 11-49, plain 3rd; Catalog entry.

G6196 Country Club; solid-spruce top model
- 2.75" x 17" open-f-hole body; 25.5" scale; Dynasonic single-coil pickups, tone pot circuit; bar bridge; 12" radius rosewood fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing with NO sound post; D'Addario 12-52, wound 3rd; Catalog entry. Note: This guitar varies from stock configuration in having a bar bridge rather than Adjustamatic; and having a Bigsby tailpiece instead of the G-trapeze

G6119-1962HT Tennessee Rose HT; "Harrison" mid-60s model
- 2" x 16" closed single-cutaway body w/fake f-holes; 24.6" scale, zero fret; Hilo'Tron pickups, tone switch circuit; bar bridge; 12" radius rosewood fingerboard; parallel tone bar bracing with sound post; D'Addario 11-49 round, plain 3rd; Catalog entry.

Same 6119HT, but with D'Addario Chrome 11-50 flatwound strings. (Note this sound clip is 14 MB, and quite long. I couldn't stop.)

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This post was edited for formatting (which caused me to find some bugs in the edit function. Thanks Proteus!)

4

where's the link to the 6120DSV? you mentioned the specifications, but the link is missing? hmm... i was able to figure it out (here it is for anyone who couldn't), but, still...

did you know that it took me 10 minutes to write the word "here"? sheesh...

anyways, the sound clips are wonderful proteus! i think they demonstrate the difference between those particular models wonderfully, although, since all of the guitars are different in nearly every way, it's hard to know exactly what differences in features caused what differences in sound. still, it's very informative, although it made me realise how little i actually like hi'lo'trons.

wait, what?

no, they're not bad pickups, and, actually, in those clips they sound wonderful, but they don't sound like anything i could do much with. i'm facing a similar problem in my relationship with stratocasters at the moment, and those pickups are very similar to hilotrons, aren't they? i guess i'm not just a "single coil guy", but very specifically a "fat single coil" guy. that sure does limit my options, huh? maybe tv jones will come out with a "power hi'lo'tron"? i don't know...

i blame rockabilly! that "devils music" set in my mind exactly how an electric guitar is "supposed" to sound, going all the way back to when i was 8, and any deviation from that is heard by my ears as a "flaw."

oh well...

why do i still like telecasters, though? hmm... well, their pickups actually are very similar to p-90s, etcetera, if you look at the specifications, so, i guess it makes sense... but it's not how you think of them, is it?

anyhow...

the two dynasonic clips were incredible. i'm still trying to decide whether or not i actually like cadillac green, but, proteus, that cadillac green country club of yours is probably the best sounding gretsch i've ever heard! gretsch should build more guitars like that one, with the solid spruce top, no sound post, etcetera. i wonder why they don't? aren't there other "historic" models with similar construction?

hmm...

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anyways, the edit thing seems a bit screwed up for some reason (there aren't any seperate paragraphs? huh?), so i'm just going to "double post", and i hope it doesn't upset anyone.

just as a test i decided to do two things:

1. cut the demonstrations up into smaller clips.

2. adjust the volume levels so that they're as close to the same as possible without using compression.

i've only tried 3 guitars so far (the country club, tennessee rose, and nashville golden anniversary), and only tried one "clip" (the pretty bit at the begining, before the first audible "switch" sound), but, i have to say, it narrowed the playing field a lot. as far as that clip goes, i actually preferred the nashville golden anniversary, then the country club, and then the tennessee rose, but the audible difference in "quality" was much less than before.

i think i'm going to try another bit that better represents my normal "style", and see how that turns out...

edit: oh, i had to edit post, and not only did i have to add in all the paragraphs, i also had to add in some words that were somehow deleted! huh?

edit 2: i tried to edit it again, and still had the paragraph problem, but all the words appear to be in tact. hmm... wierd... i do remember having the same missing word problem on another post i edited recently, though... i think... so... wierd...

i can't imagine what's going on... but, then again, i'm not into all this computer stuff, really...

edit 3: now it won't even let me edit! wierd... i wonder if this will go through?

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Proteus,
Did you use the sony --> iMic --> powerbook method? They sound pretty damn good.

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OK so now I'm beginning to understand this Dynasonic thang. They dump all over the humbuckers when clean and dirty up in pretty much the same way although IMHO for a dirty tone the TV Jones equipped Nashville Classic was way way more convincing.

My personal ideal setup would be a Dynasonic at the neck and Powertron at the bridge. Unsurprising then that the killer tone on my Surfcaster is both pickups on where the lipstick tube at the neck "tidies up" and sweetens the bridge humbucker.

Thanks Proteus for showing me the light and the effort you made to do so and big respect for your (as ever) deft touch on the fretboard.

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Tks Proteus,
You're providing an excellent service here. Very informative!

Though I love the "both pu's on" sound of the Nashville Classic (with the magnatron and plus pu's), you've helped me decide that my next Gretsch will have Dynasonics, and I hope on the Country Club!

I just love the brassy midrange and "pop" of those, especially the bridge pickup on your Country Club.
The Duane model is just a touch more subdued.

Don't diss your own playing either. It gives me a close reference and is plenty versatile for what I want to hear on guitar, which is, "Will this guitar be personally expressive enough for my own compositions, or is it more a working ax for my jobs?"

The Country Club sample answered that for me, though if I get one I'll be keeping my TR for jobs.

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Proteus,
The 59 Paul Yandell has the most throat, best overtones and a nice electric/classic sound mix. The Tennessee and the 62 Classic suprised me the most. I expected more midrange from the Classic with clearer tone from the Tennnessee high on the neck. The reverse was true. The Nashville DSV sounds like a Fender.
I like your syle of playing also.

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Guys, thanks for the comments - I'd lost track of this thread after I posted last Sunday and then went off on a Mac-install nightmare.

I did paste it from the old board into the new one here, and saw the formatting codes didn't work the same here. My heart fell in frustration - so imagine my surprise and delight to see that Bax fixed it for me.

God bless you, Bax, and don't let my sniping at the new format in other threads discourage you. I'm just trying to make this work for me, and I know you want it to work for everyone.

I'm kinda with you on the Club, dnba; sometimes when I think about my guitars I'm almost reluctant to play it, because what if it's really not as nice as I think it is and I'm disappointed? But then I play it, and it's BETTER than I remembered...

(In fairness, how much of its tone results from 12s instead of 11s?)

In most ways, my favorite Gretsch is always the one I'm playing at the moment. (Except the Tenny; with the Tenny I'm always thinking how to improve it.) But either Fred or Joe Carducci, the new product manager, asked me yesterday at the M123 Hipster Hangout promo which would be the last Gretsch I'd let go, if I could truly have only one. And that's the Club, hands down.

dnba him sez i guess i'm not just a "single coil guy", but very specifically a "fat single coil" guy. that sure does limit my options, huh? maybe tv jones will come out with a "power hi'lo'tron"? i don't know...

i blame rockabilly! that "devils music" set in my mind exactly how an electric guitar is "supposed" to sound, going all the way back to when i was 8, and any deviation from that is heard by my ears as a "flaw."


Yeah, same for me. Only I'm surprised that worked for a kid like you. Who exposed you to this music when you were 8?

My first awareness of guitar tones had to be twang and surf - before I was specifically interested in guitar-playing or pop music. Those tones crept into my consciousness before I sought them out or even thought music was cool - and they imprinted. It took me 36 years to realize where they came from...

And yes, dlurig, I find it weird that the Tenny sounds as it does from the middle of the neck up. It has an alluring Stratty sweetness there, and it will do that hollow singing vocal Stratlike tone, especially dirty. Not what I was expecting from it. It also clangs and jangles nicely on the bridge pickup. But the neck pickup, clean, by itself, just doesn't satisfy.

I still want to add a third pickup to it and make it Gretsch Strat....

DSV sounds Fendery? Can you be more specific? Like what Fender? Maybe a Tele with real fat strings?
____

Anyway, thanks to all for comments on the playing and for appreciating the sound comparisons. I thought this one had gone into some nozone; I had hoped it would be useful!

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I'm glad this survived the transporter.
Very Protean.

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Yeah, same for me. Only I'm surprised that worked for a kid like you. Who exposed you to this music when you were 8?



that's kind of an interesting story, actually, maybe. i'm not sure if i was 8 or 9, but, it was something like that, and, anyways, we had to do one of those cliched school papers on a "great american." in order to prevent students from doing papers on madonna, or whoever, the teacher created a list of "great americans" we had to choose from. in among the george washingtons and benjamin franklins, etcetera, was, oddly, elvis presley. i didn't know much of elvis beyond "hunk a hunk a burning love", or whatever, but he certainly seemed like he'd be more fun to research than the rest, so i picked him. the first thing i did was go looking for elvis recordings, of course, and found this compilation of his sun records recordings. i put it on, and, well, that was that...

before then, i had never really cared for music. i enjoyed listening to it if it was on, but i never really bothered to put it on, and never really cared if it wasn't. but, with elvis presley, and gene vincent, and the rest, well, i couldn't not listen to them! even if they weren't playing, or even if another song was on the radio, i was still listening to them in my head! i probably annoyed a bunch of people...

i got an "a+" on the paper, though... the first and last time that ever happened, i'm pretty sure...

actually, my interest in rockabilly has varied over the years, but all the great changes in my musical life were brought about by rockabilly: rockabilly was the first music i loved, and when i stopped listening to music seriously, and became a film buff for a few years (in my preteens), rockabilly is what brought me back, thanks to hearing link wray's "rumble" on the radio (does that count as rockabilly? i'm just going to say it does...), and, most recently, just this year, rockabilly is what convinced me to get off my ass and actually try to make music, and learn guitar, and all of that, like i wanted to all those years ago... (okay, it was only 10 years ago, but that's more than half my life, and, so, well, it seems like forever...)

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You seem a remarkable young man, dnba, in many ways. Thus I've just remarked on you.
_
bonedaddy him axed: Did you use the sony --> iMic --> powerbook method? They sound pretty damn good.

Me, I say yup, little Sony stereo mic, iMic, Audacity on PowerBook. Works ok dandy!

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Proteus:
bonedaddy him axed: Did you use the sony --> iMic --> powerbook method? They sound pretty damn good.

Me, I say yup, little Sony stereo mic, iMic, Audacity on PowerBook. Works ok dandy!



Gracias Amigo. May be just the method I need to start recording my mistakeage. :nice:

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Proteus -- Belated thanks for what must have been a Hurculean effort by you! As with many of you posts, this is extremely informative and helpful. (The others simply make for great reading, which also brings great value to this board). I have been spending a good deal of time working through the sound clips in order to either talk myself out of OR to rationalize adding a "new family member". Have been considering a Jet Firebird with Dynasonics.... I think I share your views on HiLoTrons -- I have an old Tenny (mine actually had no name -- a protorype that became the Tenny). I never liked its sound when compared with other Gretsch pickups.

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this is just a great post - thanks!

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" just love the brassy midrange and "pop" of those, especially the bridge pickup on your Country Club."



Yetto....that is probably the best description I've heard of the Dyna sound. When trying to describe them in the future, I will copy you and use "pop" as an adjective. Perfect !

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Thanks for that - the DSV's sound best to my ears - clarity with depth.

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These are great clips. Proteus, you are a really good guitar player too.

Neal

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Thanks to all for the compliments!

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Proteus,

I've often wondered about the actual set-up on the guitars you demo regarding action - neck relief, pickup and string height. Are they set-up the same per your preference or factory? If you could, maybe share those with us. Your guitars sound Great, and don't dis' your playing, as it is quite Amazing!

You truly provide a great service to us who don't have access to these different models. Helping us to base a decision on what we might like by what we hear through your demo's. I bought an Epi WildKat, based pretty much by what you had to say about it, and happy I did!

Thanks

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Proteus, that is really a good demo. You are the only one that could have done it as well, with the proper descriptions.

I loved the sweet tone of the G6120DSV with the dynas. None of them sounded bad, but I fell in love with the dynas, especially on the DSV.

I am curious as to why you swapped out the supertron on the G6122-1959 NC for the TVJ magnatron. It would have been neat, at least for me, if you could have had a stock NC there to compare also.

Much appreciated. Just goes to show that the Gretsch sound is super in many ways.

Thanks, Richard

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Without reading all the posts here...

It's amazing the difference between the two dynasonic clips (i.e. the nashville and the CC), the longer neck scale country club is a LOT brighter and punchier.

I personally prefer the tone of the CC myself.

All are nice clips!

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This is the 1st I had seen this, It has been said but, what a very, very, cool thing to do for your fellow gretsch buddies. Thank you. oh I had been thinkin bout a ampeg. now I HAVE to find one to try!

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Proteus, very cool indeed! I just heard your excellent work tonight for the first time and I was very impressed with all of the guitars but I think I really liked the DSV Dyna sound the most. I have wanted a 6120 for a long time and just got my first one recently. It's one of the new 1959 models with trestle bracing, which is why I decided on it and not the DSV. Even though all 3 of my Gretschs' have Filtertrons, they all 3 sound very different. The DSV will be in my distant future after hearing your clips and I am going to order a set of flat wounds for sure! I haven't used those in years I just heard what I've been missing!

btw, you had me jumpin in my seat man! You're a very good player!

Thanks for all the nice work, very informative! Steve


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