Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Why treble bleed only on master volume?


Hi folks, my first post. I just inherited a 1968 Double Anniversary. I've been doing some research, and notice TV Jones offers a new wiring harness, with a treble bleed on the master volume. I notice the guitar loses a lot of highs when the other 2 volumes are turned down a little, as well.. So why not treble bleeds on those as well?

thanks, Bill.


This is an assumption on my part but I believe it's because when you're planning on playing at lower volumes and you're going to use only one pickup, that one would be turned up and the other turned all of the way down. Other wise turn both up and adjust the master. It's the same results but using two volumes to achieve. So you could either add a treble bleed to each individual volume pot and have two or achieve the same results by putting just one in the guitar at the master and control from there.


I have treble bleed caps on the individual volumes but not on the master on my country gent. If you are in the middle position you get a lot different tones by combining the PUs at different volumes without loosing highs. If the sound has too much treble I turn down the master a bit. And I like the sound of fade ins with the master that go from dark to bright.


Thanks for the replies. I'm a one volume one tone guy (Telecaster), and while I'm loving the Gretsch, the 3 volumes and tone switch seems bizarre to me. I'd love to read some more comments on how people use or mod this setup to make it work for them.


Well, as the smart guy figured out 100 years ago, everything is relative, and there's no fixed frame of reference which is the right one. We all have our own. To someone used to a Gibson, with a 3-way switch and two volumes and tones, a Tele seems tonally limiting. (I love Teles - but I'd like the ability to change the mix of the pickups.) For that matter, the way Teles were wired for the first few years of the model's existence would seem positively baffling to guys used to newer ones.

And do we need to talk about Strats? 3-way, 5-way, what do the knobs do again? I just turn them till something happens.

So to someone used to a Gretsch, there's nothing "bizarre" about the wiring harness at all. It's the way they've been from the beginning of Gretschtime, and they've worked for ever so many players.

That said, Gretsch is offering many models now which simplify the controls so they're more in keeping with other brands' modern practice.

How you use the controls may depend on how you typically work your guitar with your amp.

If you set your amp on full dirtystunshred, then dial back the guitar's volume control to get a pretend-clean tone, you'll want the treble bleed. And to make it work like a Tele, just ignore the two pickup volume controls and ride the master volume.

You may or may not get on with the tone switch, which just pre-selects two levels of tone rolloff - with the relative "darkness" of those two settings determined by the values of the capacitors. On modern Gretschs, both are pretty useful - and all that fans of that arrangement need for tone control. (Because, really, how many of use use every shade of tone knobs, all the way down?) Note that with the tone switch in the middle, you get something that doesn't come standard on any of the Big Two's guitars - which is no tone pots in the circuit at all - so, wide open.

However. On the Anni you've inherited, there's every likelihood that at least one of the values of the tone switch cap will be useless to you. Specifically, the darkest setting (usually with the tone switch in the up position) is so deep dark and muffled it's only useful to rockers through gobs of fuzz or drive, where it gets creamy woman-tonelier than you'll believe is coming out of that guitar. The modern TV Jones harness will have values that make more sense to modern ears.

If, however, you get a clean tone at the amp with lots of headroom, usually run your guitar nearly wide open, and use pedals for gain/drive, then you may not want the treble bleed, as the volume controls in that case provide an additional level of tone control that the tone switch doesn't provide. That is, when you turn the volumes down just a little (as you've noticed), you lose some highs - to my ear, you lose more highs than overall volume. But it still has the effect of backing your guitar down, knocking off some presence, and getting less push. AND - the point of this detour - backing off a volume peels off less treble than the intermediate setting of the tone switch. So you kinda get an extra set of tone options: besides volume full up, tone switch in the middle (so, out of the circuit) and two tone switch settings, you have all those posiions with the addition of backing a bit more treble off with the volume control(s).

The idea of having a volume for each pickup, plus a master volume, is of course that you can blend whatever proportion of the two pickups you like with the individuals, then control the overall with the master. But in actual practice, given the taper Gretsch typically uses for the pots, it's tediously difficult to really adjust the proportion of the pickups much, because most of the effective range of the pot is in the upper 30% or so of its sweep - like from 7-10 on the knob (if they had numbers). Below 7, the pickup is pretty much out of the sonic picture anyway. It is possible to minutely tune the pickup balance - say, brighten the neck pickup by blending in some bridge, or fatten the bridge by blending in some neck - but it's not like there's a whole smooth panorama of options along the way.

In practice, I pretty much ignore the individual pickup volumes. In the end, I use it something like a Tele: 3-way switch, volume, and tone via the tone switch.

Setzer Hot Rod models carry the theme to its natural conclusion: no tone control at all, just a 3-way switch and master volume. Doesn't work for me, but you gotta admire the commitment.

In any case, if you come to hate the tone switch or find it limiting, you could leave it out of the circuit entirely (but leave it there to fill the hole), make one of the individual volumes a master tone, and leave the other there as a dummy. (TV could work up such a harness, I'm sure.) Or you could leave everything as is, but put a rotary master volume where the tone switch is. Might look a little odd to Gretsch eyes to have a knob up there, but it wouldn't be a permanent mod, and if it's functional for you, good enough.

I've modded one to have a blend pot for relative balance between the pickups. I never use it.


Thanks Proteus, lots of food for thought there.......

I get what you're saying about the tone switch. The TV Jones capacitor values may just give me all the tone control I really need.

I don't want to make big changes to the guitar. I've read about raising the pickups by inserting foam underneath. I would like to raise the signal level a little, but do you thing this will change the sound , as opposed to having pickups screwed to the body? I don't want to fix what aint broke.


Well, pickups-screwed-to-the-body are at least theoretically a component of the characteristic tone, as is anything that figures into how the pickups shake in relationship to the vibrating strings. But how much of a component, I don't know.

General rule of thumb is that raising the body of the pickup results in relatively more mids and lows (raise the body for more body...), and raising just the polepieces accentuates the high end. Somewhere in there is a balance of tone that will be right for you (in the context of a Gretsch).

I think TV suggests 3/16" clearance under the strings to the polepieces.

If I put appropriate strings on a guitar (on a 24.6" hollowbody, for me, thats 11s), get it set up, and find the tone anemic (or some strings overpowering others), I'll mess with pickup and polepiece height till I find what's possible and optimal for that particular guitar, for me. There's always a sweet spot - or at least the sweetest spot a particular set of pickups has. If I like the tonal balance, and the guitar seems responsive enough to my input - but is still low in output...well, that's what compressors and eqs and preamps and knobs on amps are for.

If I just don't like the best tone I can find in it, but think it's clearly on the right path and has potential, then I replace pickups. In my experience, there's no guitar (that I'm likely to have bought in the first place) that TV Jones pickups can't fix, if it needs fixed.

But you can't resuscitate a dead horse, and occasionally I do come across a guitar which, for my purposes, is a carcass. That one goes away.

You should take into account, though, that all vintage Gretsch pickups - with the exception of Dynasonics (which are another very rewarding universe) - will seem to have lower ouput by comparison to most Gibsons, Fenders, and the like. It's just in the nature of Filter'Trons and Hilo'Trons. But that's where they get their characteristic twang, chime, sweetness, bark, or whatever it is you hear in there. So you adjust the amp, turn up, or goose them a bit with other hardware. You gotta take into account that virtually every recorded Gretsch tone you've ever heard was not only conditioned by the amp in use (some of which were pushed), but also being treated by studio preamps - and likely compressors - if nothing else.

As one example, a component of Setzer's classic rockabilly revival tone is the preamp section of his Roland Space Echo - aside from the slapback. Depending on what kind of tone you're after - or just to have it in your palette - GDP member Tavo Vega's Nocturne Brain pedals replicate that preamp behavior, and lots of us use one as an always-on part of our Gretsch tones. NOT necessarily to "sound like Brian" - just because it sounds good.

All of which is not to suggest that you have to pedal up to get a good Gretsch tone; I'm just stressing that a good part of the Gretsch tone results from lower-output (but broad-range) pickups. You can make a Gretsch sound and feel like those other guitars, but to take advantage of what makes it unique, it helps to work with it as you find it, and to mod the rest of your signal chain to support the Gretsch.

It's harder to make hard-and-fast recommendations about your particular guitar, though, because we have no idea of the health of the pickups and the wiring in it, or how it's adjusted now. It could be out of original spec, and need some modding attention to bring it to life. Or it could just take some tweaking and an approach tailored to its character.


Thanks Proteus, I very much appreciate the advice.

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