Vintage Gretsch Guitars

String Recommendations

27

Judging by the lack of a "stinger" on the back of the headstock and the presence of a partially applied dark stain on the inside of the f-holes, it's highly likely that your guitar was originally a sunburst finish.

28

What is a "stinger"? and can you tell if it is laminated or carved? Also, what does the term asymmetrical mean in terms of the neck profile?

29

Unfortunately, most modern acoustic strings are designed to sound good with a pickup under the bridge....that horrible honky sound. I haven't found any that sound good acoustically. I used to like D'arco New Yorker light gauge, but then Martin bought them and moved production to Mexico and the tone didn't make the move. Any suggestions other than D'Adarrio would be appreciated. I don't like those. .012" to .053" is a good light gauge.

– Billy Zoom

exactly! that horrible rubberbandy piezo sound...but it isn't the strings, it's the piezos..they work on string vibration, not the type of string material..you could string your guitar with rubberbands or fishing line and piezos would amplify it...tho horrible sounding

if you want true vintage acoustic tone, its mics pointed at the guitar or a dearmond magnetic style pickup...if you want purely acoustic vintage tone..then 80/20's or monels...just about every string company makes bronze 80/20's...and martin and pyramid currently make monels

phosphor bronze may work with fishmans..but that aint vintage!!!..that's a sound that never existed before modern times

not for me

cheers

30

Okay.....a few things need clarifying here but I have to go out so I'll elaborate tomorrow. Suffice to say that this guitar, Ozark, IMO most likely has a carved top. Check inside the body with a mirror and flashlight and you should see a rough type surface, not smooth on the back side of the top. Also feel it with your finger to confirm this roughness.

And this guitar more than likely never had a sunburst finish. FWIW, I haven't seen one. All 100's have been blondes. That gunk on the edge of the f-hole is on my guitar too and it's dead original. When the f-hole wasn't bound, they'd put a dark shellac or other similar material on the edge to seal it.....it isn't residue from a sunburst finish! To see the original finish, slack off the strings tension and move the floating base. It should show a much lighter, almost washed out color on the top where it hasn't been exposed to any light. The finish now is the patina created from that light exposure over the years. You may want to mark the base's position with masking tape before you move it so you get it back to the right position after this exercise. Talk tomorrow.

31

Some areas feel rough and others are fairly smooth but not consistently rough. I can't make the call on that one. It's mainly rough near the ends of the f-holes. I'm going to take it to a luthier for set-up and new strings in the next few weeks. I'll ask him his opinion and check under the base as well. I appreciate your help!

33

Is this date in conflict with the "penciled" serial number and stamping ending by 1949?

34

I went back and looked at the location of that pic in 2 of 4 and then looked at other areas and I believe that pic is deceiving. There are no striations. It's where the stain has wore off in some areas that gives this appearance. I see no actual wood striations anywhere. Definitely not two striations. Having said that, I am obviously far from an expert. Just to clarify the "stinger." Are you saying that this guitar is supposed to have black paint on the back of the headstock? Back being where it is currently blonde/natural? Please clarify. Thanks!

35

lx, if you don't mind look at my thread "Gretsch Interior Lettering" and read posts 6 and 7 and see what you think. Thanks!

36

Just to clarify what a stinger is, it is a design feature whereby the entire back of the headstock is painted black, then at the volute area (where the headstock becomes the neck) the black narrows to little more than a pinstripe that runs down the centre of the length of the neck. It’s called a stinger as it resembles what an insect might choose to jab you with.

This is a stinger

37

Just looking in the Gruhn's Guide and it mentions in some of the 16" models a 3 piece maple neck (two pieces of maple adjoined with a rosewood laminate stripe). That's exactly what this looks and feels like. Again, no expert here, but this feature sure seems it's just that. Thoughts? Also, back to the laminate vs carved issue. Would it help if I lightly sanded a large area around one of the f-holes to get a better look or would that just sound down the striations and make it look carved?

38

Ozark... I know you're new to the forum (and we're glad you've joined!), so this is a respectful suggestion. Your having duplicate conversations in your two posts. Perhaps you could stay on one or the other.

39

It's a laminate top. You can see the three plywood striations on the pic in post 24, marked 2/4. This is a mid-50's version of the Synchro 100, called a Corsair for this year. Vintage blonde (natural) Gretsches usually had this black paint on the back of the headstock, (as did makers of most archtop guitars) named many years ago by Gibson fans as "stingers".

– lx

lx... you and I are on the same page on Ozarks guitar... but comparing a 40s Synchro 100 to a 50s model 6014 Corsair isn't an apples-to-apples comparison. It would be like comparing features of the Electro II and the later Country Club. As you know (more than many) the features on Gretsch guitars changed almost every model year. So a mid-40s acoustic archtop can't always be considered a germane relative to one from 10 years later, although the Synchro 100 was clearly an evolutionary pre-cursor to that Corsair model.

40

Ozark... I know you're new to the forum (and we're glad you've joined!), so this is a respectful suggestion. Your having duplicate conversations in your two posts. Perhaps you could stay on one or the other.

– kc_eddie_b

Kc, LOL, Yes I was just thinking about that last night how this has gone astray. Might as well stay on this one. Thanks!

41

Always have had good luck with these, bought a bunch years ago, not sure if they are still made exactly the same, but these are killer.

42

Just to clarify what a stinger is, it is a design feature whereby the entire back of the headstock is painted black, then at the volute area (where the headstock becomes the neck) the black narrows to little more than a pinstripe that runs down the centre of the length of the neck. It’s called a stinger as it resembles what an insect might choose to jab you with.

This is a stinger

– Deke Martin

Right you are Deke! There's also another neck manufacturing technique that produces a stinger or double stinger and here's a pic of it, which is on my Synchro. The neck in the rough stage is sawn in half (or cut twice) lengthwise and a thin strip of darker wood is sandwiched between the halves when they're glued back together, producing a stinger against a blonde finish. As you can see, the back of the headstock isn't painted black, showing the thin strip extending right to the end of the headstock's tip. I've looked at it with a magnifying glass and can see pores in the wood so it isn't ebony. With rosewood used for the fretboard on this guitar, I'm thinking this strip is rosewood too, although there's a chance it could be mahogany.

This pic also show the asymmetric neck, the stinger being offset to the high E side as it runs essentially beneath the 3rd string and not centered between the 3rd & 4th. This offset of the deepest part of the neck I found to be almost instantly able to get used to. I don't personally see it as being beneficial, but I play fingerstyle and perhaps other styles may find it has a benefit.

43

Some areas feel rough and others are fairly smooth but not consistently rough. I can't make the call on that one. It's mainly rough near the ends of the f-holes. I'm going to take it to a luthier for set-up and new strings in the next few weeks. I'll ask him his opinion and check under the base as well. I appreciate your help!

– ozarkmac

You're describing what I find with mine, Ozark....just a bit of roughness Using a mirror will really help as well.

Another test is to put your index finger in the f-hole at the edge with your thumb on the top opposite it. Move both towards the center of the top. When it's carved, you can sense the top getting a tad thicker moving towards the center. This is the normal construction for any carved top instrument. A laminate top will be the same thickness throughout.

44

No tru-believers in 13s for an archtop?

– DCBirdMan

Of course, Rob! I use .013-.056 medium D'Addario PB Flat Tops on my Synchro.

45

exactly! that horrible rubberbandy piezo sound...but it isn't the strings, it's the piezos..they work on string vibration, not the type of string material..you could string your guitar with rubberbands or fishing line and piezos would amplify it...tho horrible sounding

if you want true vintage acoustic tone, its mics pointed at the guitar or a dearmond magnetic style pickup...if you want purely acoustic vintage tone..then 80/20's or monels...just about every string company makes bronze 80/20's...and martin and pyramid currently make monels

phosphor bronze may work with fishmans..but that aint vintage!!!..that's a sound that never existed before modern times

not for me

cheers

– neatone

You've made it clear that PB's aren't for you because they weren't manufactured in '46, however the OP didn't say in his initial post that he was looking to get a '46 sound out of this guitar. I assume you're implying that our string recommendations need to emulate a '46 sound. Huh?? He wants a great sound, which this guitar should produce and only part of the time will be used plugged in. It's based on his info I made my suggestions and not with any regard for trying to produce the vintage tone you seem to feel has to be produced today. Unless the OP insists, and he hasn't, on this vintage tone you're assuming he's after, the best strings for his use today should be the discussion, no?

Round wounds make a lot of [left hand] noise amplified for certain styles of playing. Flats sound dead unamplified. The Flat Tops will be great acoustically. The Half Rounds are quiet plugged in; but while not as ideal acoustically as the FT's, will give an acceptable tone. For going between unplugged and plugged play, and not wanting to be changing strings back and forth, the HR's may be a good compromise.

46

Just looking in the Gruhn's Guide and it mentions in some of the 16" models a 3 piece maple neck (two pieces of maple adjoined with a rosewood laminate stripe). That's exactly what this looks and feels like. Again, no expert here, but this feature sure seems it's just that. Thoughts? Also, back to the laminate vs carved issue. Would it help if I lightly sanded a large area around one of the f-holes to get a better look or would that just sound down the striations and make it look carved?

– ozarkmac

I addressed that strip in my other post today, Ozark and yours matches mine - see my pic. When you look along the underside of the neck, is the deepest part of the V-profile offset to the bass side? When this is the case, it's asymmetric.

I wouldn't say to sand down a large area of the top's edge in the f-hole but a small area would be okay. The idea is to clean away a bit of the material applied to keep out moisture and even lightly wetting the sanded area to see if the tree ring lines of the top are continuous from the top surface to the back surface or whether there's horizontal line(s) indicating a laminate top.

If you do sand an area, you may want to consider applying some clear nail polish to re-seal it.

47

Okay, yes the neck is on the bass side. Very kewl. I can't get my fingers in far enough to do that (fat test) sufficiently. It feels rough in a few areas but I guess that could just be the stain. When I take it to get set-up and new strings I'll ask the guy that does it. He's been in the business since 1970 so he should be able to confirm laminate or carved. A couple folks have said they can see the striations in the pics I posted. I have sanded down several areas and don't see the striations but this is the first time I have looked this close at any f-hole. I'll try the wet test too. I guess with 3 plys of wood pressed together, you really have to know what you are looking at because the two edges of the plys will be really really thin. On another note, just clarify what you are saying about strings: 1) Flat tops= Great for acoustic 2) Half-Rounds= Quiet plugged in 3) Flat tops= Acceptable tone 4) Half-Rounds= Compromise for both I primarily flat pick and like to bend, hammer-on, etc. What size do you recommend?

48

Just had a new bone nut installed on my 48 cats eye 160 and strung with Earnie Ball Super Slinkys and I can tell you that they are plenty loud and easy on the fingers. It quite possibly projects better than any arch top acoustic I have ever owned!

49

You've made it clear that PB's aren't for you because they weren't manufactured in '46, however the OP didn't say in his initial post that he was looking to get a '46 sound out of this guitar. I assume you're implying that our string recommendations need to emulate a '46 sound. Huh?? He wants a great sound, which this guitar should produce and only part of the time will be used plugged in. It's based on his info I made my suggestions and not with any regard for trying to produce the vintage tone you seem to feel has to be produced today. Unless the OP insists, and he hasn't, on this vintage tone you're assuming he's after, the best strings for his use today should be the discussion, no?

Round wounds make a lot of [left hand] noise amplified for certain styles of playing. Flats sound dead unamplified. The Flat Tops will be great acoustically. The Half Rounds are quiet plugged in; but while not as ideal acoustically as the FT's, will give an acceptable tone. For going between unplugged and plugged play, and not wanting to be changing strings back and forth, the HR's may be a good compromise.

– Windsordave

which is why i very clearly "quoted" and was responding to bz..not the original poster!!!

use what strings you want...if you are satisfied, fine

but, it's not you im talking to...

im addressing the guy that buys a vintage archtop and wants to know how to make it sound that way!...that's all...

cheers

50

Okay, yes the neck is on the bass side. Very kewl. I can't get my fingers in far enough to do that (fat test) sufficiently. It feels rough in a few areas but I guess that could just be the stain. When I take it to get set-up and new strings I'll ask the guy that does it. He's been in the business since 1970 so he should be able to confirm laminate or carved. A couple folks have said they can see the striations in the pics I posted. I have sanded down several areas and don't see the striations but this is the first time I have looked this close at any f-hole. I'll try the wet test too. I guess with 3 plys of wood pressed together, you really have to know what you are looking at because the two edges of the plys will be really really thin. On another note, just clarify what you are saying about strings: 1) Flat tops= Great for acoustic 2) Half-Rounds= Quiet plugged in 3) Flat tops= Acceptable tone 4) Half-Rounds= Compromise for both I primarily flat pick and like to bend, hammer-on, etc. What size do you recommend?

– ozarkmac

Flat Tops: for flat top & archtop guitars. Quiet, with the same great tone as round wounds. Long lasting too. No coating to fray - which may happen with your bending.

Half Rounds: the equivalent strings of Flat Tops but for electric guitars. Compared to Flat/Ribbon Wound strings when playing an archtop unplugged, they'll have more sustain and brightness. Not as much as Flat Tops but IMO a decent compromise. I mentioned this type of strings as you said you want to play both plugged and unplugged.

Flat picking or fingerstyle - thumbpick + fingernails - doesn't matter for tone produced or how a string behaves. These strings benefit fingerstyle players particularly as they're very easy on fingernails.

My recommendation for gauge, is the 12-53's (lights) minimum for the Flat Tops but better would be the (medium) 13-56's. Acoustically, an archtop needs mediums for the optimum sound production.

When you're plugged in, the pup (and amp of course) will be producing your sound so you can get away with a lighter gauge but when you unplug, you may not get the sound volume you're after. If you choose a medium gauge you should be good either way. If you want to go with the Half Rounds, there's the (medium) 11-49's & the jazz lights 12-52, but I think the jazz medium 13-56's would be best for going between unplugged & plugged.

As a general rule, regardless of brand, I'd say go with a medium gauge.


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