Modern Gretsch Guitars

The Triple Tenny, featuring the sound of Hilotronic Max

27

From the Bachman-Gretsch collection... 1956 wackiness.

28

I’m not a huge fan of three pickup guitars, but I did go a bit further with the only strat left in my collection since I wanted more selection.

The neck and bridge pu’s are wired to a four way switch like a tele (for both series and parallel) and the first volume. The middle pu just blends in with the middle volume. The tone is a master tone. No extra switches or knobs.

I found this to be a somewhat simple way to get more options on one guitar.

29

This was a very fun exercise. Having said that, I have to say that the clearest sound for the slower notes was the neck pup - by itself. I think the advantage of triple pickups is as a performer's guitar where you can switch instantly. The full 3 on sounds less clear than any of the 1-2 pickup configurations, which (since I can't play strats) is why I think Leo must have gone with his particular switching system. I never understood that before; thanks.

30

I don't disagree that, on this guitar, the N-M and M-B positions are "less clear" than any of the pickups alone, or the classic N-B. "Less clear," as in more lower mid content that can gum up and obscure the clarity we naturally expect from those positions on a Strat.

Again: more evidence that the Fullertonians really did their homework on the Strat. Or maybe, as they were already conceptually and structurally committed to a slab 25.5" guitar with bolt-on neck - and no doubt slapped existing narrow-bobbin Tele/Broadcaster pickups on it before anything else - the magic just happened. I don't know if we have recorded history in the form of first-hand reports from Leo, George Fullerton, Freddie Tavares, and Bill Carson as to how and why they developed the unique pickups that appeared on the original production model - or how they chose the switching system.

Joe C may well have that information in his head, as he knew all four to some extent - and Bill Carson particularly well. Carson and Tavares were both stellar guitarists, mostly in the Western swing genre - and I do recall from conversations with Joe that both used the pre-production Strat prototype(s) extensively on their gigs, then came back and made changes based on that experience.

I don't know if they even tried all three pickups on at the same time - or any of the 2-pickup combinations - though how could musicians working with engineers resist that temptation? At any rate, when the guitar came out, you had the choice of any of the three pickups alone, but no combinations. Players soon discovered the N-M and M-B positions by carefully pausing the blade switch between the detents; I don't recall having heard that on recordings from the 50s or early 60s, and it wasn't till 1977 that Fender officially recognized those positions with the now-classic 5-way switch.

So I guess it isn't crystal clear to me that the inventors chose the configuration wisely to make those positions sound good - it's more that their choices turned out to do so. I realize there's still some dissension in the Strat ranks about whether those in-between positions are sufficiently manly (or something) and legitimate uses of the instrument - but for me, they're among the principal charms. Pretty much everything else a Strat does you can get elsewhere (if not in exactly the same way) - but 1-2 and 2-3 are unique to it, and I find both clean and dirty uses for them.

As noted, even on a Strat, all three pups together gets a bit cloudy - but I like having that option (it can be very FAT when properly handled), as well as the bog-standard (for every other guitar) neck & bridge together. All my Strat-type guitars - except the now-vintage '82 '62 reissue - are modded to get all 7 tones.


But back to the muddiness of N-M and M-B (and, of course, N-M-B) on the Triple Tenny. The recorded sound-clips were intended simply to demo the sonic choices as plainly as possible, with no changes in settings to compensate for the differences in response among them, and with all knobs wide open.

In actual use, individual volumes can be varied to affect those balances, with useful results - and post-guitar eq settings make all the difference for the 3-pup combinations. Back out low mids, and it cleans up and sounds very much like a hollowbody Strat (with HiLo spikiness). Even without such treatment, though, I find the alternate pickup positions very useful in combo situations (if not so much solo); they can be used for diverse textures in accompaniment, and can fit into arrangement holes where the bridge might be too bright and cutting, the neck too resonant and recessive, and neck and bridge together just too much guitar for the part.

They're also very sweet for overdriven soloing.

I don't really use all-three-on frequently - but there have been occasions when it surprised me with its fatness and complexity of overtones. Room has to be left for it, of course, or it turns to mud, and it favors slower playing over fast.

Anyway, none of these characteristics really surprised me after my experience with the Peerless-built Carlo Robelli ES-5 sortalike. (Out of deference to the real thing, I won't call it a clone - though it is a laminated maple 17" archtop with Venetian cutaway, three P-90s, three vol knobs and a master tone. I guess it's as close as Korea in 2002 could come to Kalamazoo in 1947.)

It was on that guitar I learned that the N-M and M-B positions (much less all three together) can be muddy, and don't quite have the clear quacking charm they have on a Strat. Because you know how a Strat sounds, you can listen to the fatbody hollow triple-pupper and hear the cues in there - but they don't jump out.

As Walter said, the middle pickup is most useful on the ES when blended in only slightly with one or both of the other pickups. Oddly, at least on the Robelli, blending the middle in just a touch actually lends brightness to the neck or bridge pup, rather than mudding them up. Since the guitar has individual vol pots for each pickup, it's easy to adjust these blends - if unpredictable on the fly. But the couple times I've gigged with that guitar, I've been amazed at just how effective and useful those adjustments are. If the later ES-5 was called Switchmaster (in honor of its control panel), the first version might have been called Blendmaster.

So...again...what I was expecting from those pickup combinations on the T3 was behavior and tone somewhere between what I knew from the Robelli, a Strat, and a previous experiment with a centerblock semi. And it's what I got.

Those positions (N-M, M alone, M-B, and NMB) aren't the primary charm of the guitar for me - classic Tennessean tones are still found in the original three positions - but they definitely enhance the package.

31

One of the earliest Strat with 'out-of-phase' pickup selection must be this Eddie Cochran blues warmup from 1959. Mike Deasy played rhythm guitar with Eddie in this period and used a Strat. The mix is rough, the honk is unmistakable.

33

Personally I love triple pickup setups, I play alot of slide guitar and these two are my faves...

Supro Lexington

Greco/Zemaitis Disctop with custom wound Tom Short Humbuckers.

On both of these guitars it's the combination settings I like the best!

34

I just downloaded Proteus's roundwound clip and I really liked all the tones.

35

Roland Janes was a fairly early strat adopter, and he had what people now refer to as "Memphis wiring" in his strat (Reggie Young as well).

Stock three way switch, but it's wired like a tele for bridge/bridge and neck/neck, what used to be the master volume just controls bridge and neck, and the middle pickup is on its own volume pot so it can be added to any pickup selection or used on it's own with the other volume turned down.
Pretty clever, and it allows for every possible pickup combination on a strat.

Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and Ike Turner were using the "in between" positions on their strat's five way switches pretty early on too.

Tim, next time you change strings on that Robelli ES-5 wannabe : take out the middle pickup, loosen the screws that hold it together, slide out the magnets, and flip them so the insided of the magnets that face the pole screws becomes the outside. And your middle P90 is out of phase with the other two. Blending that in will be much more dramatic.

36

I'm no longer sure how that guitar is wired. I determined at one point that the neck pickup was hotter - had higher output - than the bridge. I reversed those two pickups without rewiring the pots...so my vol knobs are now "wrong" to the layout of the pickups.

Did you play that guitar when you were here, or know independently how Peerless wires that model? How do we know the middle pickup is wired out of phase? Or are you saying that when I flip the magnets, it will be out of phase?

37

I did play it for a minute, and I don't recall it being wired out of phase. (still, it might be, and I might just not remember it right)

But yes, if it's in phase, flipping the magnets will reverse the phase. As for how do you know the middle pickup is out of phase or not - select it with one other pickup, if it's out of phase, you'll know, the effect is not subtle. Gets very nasally and honky, volume drops with both pickups full up is substantial too.

38

Oh yeah, I know the sound of out-of-phase. Got lots of late 70s and 80s guitars where that was a thing. I'm sure mine's not.

I'm with you now - I caught up after I posted last. If I make the middle out of phase, the guitar will match the way Gibson wired (at least some of) the originals, per your earlier post. Got it. I'll try it next time and see if I like it.

39

yes, that's what I was saying. It's so easy to reverse the phase on a P90 it's worth a shot. Don't know if you'll like it, but it will certainly make for more dramatic tonal variaton than all three in-phase, and the neat thing is you hàve two pickups that are in phase on the outsides, so being able to blend in a little bit of that typical nasally tone is at least more useful than an out of phase option on a twin pickup guitar.

40

Roland Janes was a fairly early strat adopter, and he had what people now refer to as "Memphis wiring" in his strat (Reggie Young as well).

Stock three way switch, but it's wired like a tele for bridge/bridge and neck/neck, what used to be the master volume just controls bridge and neck, and the middle pickup is on its own volume pot so it can be added to any pickup selection or used on it's own with the other volume turned down.
Pretty clever, and it allows for every possible pickup combination on a strat.

Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and Ike Turner were using the "in between" positions on their strat's five way switches pretty early on too.

Tim, next time you change strings on that Robelli ES-5 wannabe : take out the middle pickup, loosen the screws that hold it together, slide out the magnets, and flip them so the insided of the magnets that face the pole screws becomes the outside. And your middle P90 is out of phase with the other two. Blending that in will be much more dramatic.

– WB

That is basically what I did though I had no idea that there was a history of it. The only difference on mine now is that I have a four way switch so I can have neck and bridge in series or parallel (which happened mostly because that was the switch I had left when the five way broke the week of a gig).

Thanks for sharing.

I typically prefer the pickups soloed or the neck bridge combo more that those iconic quacky positions.

41

I have a 2003 Gibson Firebird VII. I wired the pickups as a 2-pickup guitar and then took one of the pots and made a Master tone and the other tone pot is the volume for the middle pickup. You have to wire the pot so the pickup comes in on the middle lug and the output of it is the outside lug otherwise it will interact with the other two. I love it like this. I have a 2004 R-7 Custom Shop LP Custom and it's wired normally with the switch up is neck only, mid is middle & bridge and down is bridge. I'd probably jut going to leave it as I'm trying to sell it..

42

I have a 2003 Gibson Firebird VII. I wired the pickups as a 2-pickup guitar and then took one of the pots and made a Master tone and the other tone pot is the volume for the middle pickup. You have to wire the pot so the pickup comes in on the middle lug and the output of it is the outside lug otherwise it will interact with the other two. I love it like this. I have a 2004 R-7 Custom Shop LP Custom and it's wired normally with the switch up is neck only, mid is middle & bridge and down is bridge. I'd probably jut going to leave it as I'm trying to sell it..

– Don Butler aka: Toneman

Oh, Don...lets see this.


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