Modern Gretsch Guitars

Noises after Tru-Arc Serpentune bridge install

1

Hello everyone,

I recently bought a 2015 6120SH Brian Setzer Hot Rod model that was a wall hanger in need of a new home. I polished it up, and put on new strings and made a few minor adjustments - the guitar was setup to Gretsch specs (.008 neck relief at the 8th fret and 4/64" string height at the 12th fret.) When I bought the guitar, the owner mentioned a little bit of buzzing which I correctly diagnosed as being the bridge and he even suggested I look into Tru-Arc bridges as a replacement. I played it for a few weeks until the buzzing drove me crazy and ended up buying a Tru-Arc Serpentune bridge and installed it yesterday. I had to lower the posts to get the action back to 4/64" and the neck relief is still set the same, but now there are some unwanted string noises occurring between the bridge and the Bigsby. I sent an email to Tim Harman asking for advice, but I wanted to see if anyone here had any suggestions/opinions. I am able to make the noises go away with rubber grommets/foam, but is there a more elegant solution? I've been doing setups on my Strats for years, but this is my first Gretsch. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

2

Sounds like wolf tones, is it like an extra ringing behind the bridge? Ive had this happen before and I found that just raising the bridge and adjusting neck accordingly solved it. Basically I think a steeper break angle over the bridge is what helped for me since it makes the vibration of the strings stop at the bridge and not pass over it.

3

Dollar bill or grommets is what I've seen to stop wolf tones.

4

Yeah, what you are describing sounds spot on. I guess my main issue is I love the action as low as I can get it - I will try raising the bridge slightly and tightening the truss rod. Are there any other Serpentune owners out there with this issue? Is this common with tru-arc bridges? I suppose I just need to find the sweet spot on my setup - will switching to a heavier gauge of strings make any difference? I'm pretty sure the previous owner had 10-46's on this guitar.

5

Turn your amp up louder and you won't notice those wolf tones.

6

Heavier strings should help. Though Brian uses 10s, and they work fine on the guitars, I generally find that 11s or heavier get more resonance from a deep hollowbody. Especially on a short-scale guitar, which doesn't have as much string tension in the first place.

And what others have diagnosed is what I would have answered in the email (which came last night at 12:46 AM). To a certain extent, "wolf tones" are just part of the package on any guitar with an extended "harp" section (the dead area of string between tailpiece and bridge). But the lower the break angle over the bridge, the more energy escapes from the live part of the string across the bridge to the harp.

Which is why raising the action should minimize the ringing - more break angle. But, at the same action height, there's no reason the SerpenTune should produce more ringing than the stock bridge - UNLESS the strings were hitting the body of the Adjustamatic beHIND the saddle, as well as the saddle, which would further damp them.

Yes, you can kill the ghost resonance with anything that damps the strings in the harp area. It's well documented that Chet Atkins (and other players of guitars so equipped) sometimes damped this area, particularly for recording.

But the question is whether you hear these tones through the amp, at your usual playing volume - and, of course, whether they bother you. Since you mention them, I assume they do.

They don't bother me, though. If you pluck each string across the harp, you'll hear they have distinct pitches, though they're packed with confused overtones and not harmonically pure. Of course, when you're playing the live part of the string and the harp is just responding sympathetically, they're not as loud as when you pluck them.

So, to the extent they're audible during normal playing, they contribute a little low-amplitude harmonic haze over the proceedings. Sometimes their vague pitches are more in tune with what you're playing at the moment, sometimes they're more dissonant. I call them "enharmonic."

I think they contribute to the unique tone of guitars so equipped, providing some free and interesting (to me) additional harmonic complexity.

How much that complexity is appropriate for any given playing purpose is open to judgment. For a saturated lead, where I'd like to avoid any harmonic content which detracts from the fundamentals I'm trying to play - and which impedes sustain - I'll damp the strings. Likewise for any chordal situation where it annoys me. High volume very crunchy rhythm might be an example. Then I'll shove a rag under the harp, or do what it takes. Most of the time, I either like the effect or it doesn't bother me.

Not trying to sell you on a sound you don't like - just pointing out another way in which an archtop with a Bigsby (and thus a relatively long harp distance from bridge to tailpiece) fundamentally differs from a Strat (which effectively has NO string length behind the saddle which can vibrate) or a guitar with a stop tailpiece, where the harp is so short as to be almost irrelevant.

Some guys do put a permanent dampening solution in place, and that brings the guitar closer to a guitar without the harp - essentially emphasizing the fundamentals of each note and its natural overtone series. Harmonically, a "purer" tone.

I usually like the ghostly clouds of enharmonic suggestion.

But the Tru-Arc shouldn't contribute to that more than the stock bridge - unless the stock bridge was just deadening the strings in general (perhaps absorbing the string energy in rattles rather than ringing).

7

Sympathetic vibrations. There’s nothing wrong with your guitar. Your old bridge most likely didn’t sustain as well and was dampening the vibrations. It probably makes a similar sound to a lesser extent between the nut and tuners. It’s normal. It adds to the character of the tone. Plug it in, crank it up, you won’t notice it.

8

I suppose I should have mentioned this in my post - I was playing the guitar acoustically when I noticed the noises (it was too late to plugin to an amp.) I'll tweak with it a bit today to see if I can dial it in. Thank you everyone for the help! This bridge is amazing!

9

Buy three 3/8" rubber grommets at the hardware store. Simplest fix ever.

11

Ive totally eliminated wolf tones by putting on a melita with bakelite saddles, now I just get loud, direct notes. I know people are pretty divided on the melita bridges though.

12

Well there you have it. Perfect intonation, substantially better sustain and no more noises. Thank you everyone!

13

I have a Power Tenny with a Tru Arc, strung with 10-46's, relatively low action (4/64 low E @ 12th; 3/64 high E @ 12th) and a Tru Arc and no "wolf tones".

15

...or 5. But yeah, what Wabash said.

– Rhythmisking

Show off!

16

3 grommets does the same job as 5. I don’t though. I like my wolf tones.

17

I just started getting this on my Ric 330 after I got it back from the shop (the nut was too high). With the lower nut, they then lowered the bridge, of course, so the string angle is now less than it had been. But I'm just getting it on the treble strings (most pronounced on the G string) above the 12th fret or so. I think it's mostly acoustical, but if I find it annoying I'l try the grommet solution.

18

If everything on your guitar is adjusted correctly those wolftones add some kind of a natural chorus to your guitars tone, part of the typical archtop tone. Just my 2 cts.

19

I suppose I should have mentioned this in my post - I was playing the guitar acoustically when I noticed the noises (it was too late to plugin to an amp.) I'll tweak with it a bit today to see if I can dial it in. Thank you everyone for the help! This bridge is amazing!

– MattEyde

20

Speaking of Wolf Tones - this is a fun workout for any Gretsch enthusiast!

– vibrotwang

In all this wulf tone talk, a little Sadies goes a long way. Thanks!!

21

With a better bridge, like the Tru-Arc, you will hear sympathetic notes. I use rubber o-ring they grommets. This does it on my 62 & 64 Country Clubs & on my D’Angelico EXL-1. The 62 has a vintage Gretsch Bigsby, the 64 has a newer Gretsch Bigsby and my D’Angelico has their “stairstep”, solid gold plated brass tailpiece!

22

I heard wolf tones on my 6119 prior to the Truarc, they are common amongst guitars, violins, cellos( to name a few more) that have a significant distance from the brdge to the stop piece.

Google wolf tone and you’ll find a good deal of information on this phenomena.

23

I just started getting this on my Ric 330 after I got it back from the shop (the nut was too high). With the lower nut, they then lowered the bridge, of course, so the string angle is now less than it had been. But I'm just getting it on the treble strings (most pronounced on the G string) above the 12th fret or so. I think it's mostly acoustical, but if I find it annoying I'l try the grommet solution.

– Jimbodiddley

On Rickenbackers the fix is easy and you don't see it.

My Rics occasionally give off those wolf tones and I was certainly not going to do grommets or dollar bills between the strings. Simple fix. A thin black piece of felt. Look at the R tailpiece below. You'll see there is enough room to thread a thin piece of black felt through the strings where the top of the R tailpiece itself will hide it. That's all you have to do. Thin strip of black felt, thread it through the strings, then slide it down under the top of the R tailpiece. No one sees it, it stops the wolf tones.


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