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Iggick

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Posts: 215 Member Since: 24/11/2014

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Oct 30 16 6:29 AM

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It seems there might be three tiers of production.
At least in terms of pricing
And much of the "vintage" isn't really that expensive.
For a 6120 what would you be looking for?

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seth

Ruby Baby

Posts: 5,536 Member Since:26/01/2011

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Oct 30 16 8:12 AM

The issue to be concerned about with vintage Gretsch guitars is that many of them need neck resets to play well. A really good repair person can do it, but it's not cheap. On the other hand, it will be good for another fifty years. I have a Korean Gretsch 5520 that I replaced most of the hardware on (Tru-Arc bridge, T.V. Jones pickups, Grover pegs) and it's a surprisingly nice guitar. My daughter has a recent vintage top-line Duo-Jet and it's a very nice guitar. It needs seasonal neck adjustments, but other than that it's really cool.

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soapfoot

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Oct 30 16 8:43 AM

Yes, old Gretsch guitars have issues with both neck set and with binding falling off.

The thing is, as ALL of these set-neck archtop or acoustic guitars keep getting older, neck re-sets will be inevitable-- it just happens to Gretsches first. I've got a Gibson in the shop having a neck re-set this year, had one of my Epiphones done last year, and another of my Epiphones done a few years before that. Any Martin old enough to have Brazilian rosewood back and sides (pre-1969) almost assuredly needs a neck set if it hasn't had one already. Time marches forward and takes its toll... but at this point, many of the sought-after Gretsches have already been done, and the "better" guitars are just now getting to the point where they're folding in half...

Obviously a real vintage example will maintain its value and (when properly maintained) if it's a 'good one,' will very likely have 'something special' that none of the modern re-creations have. but a vintage (1950s single cutaway) 6120 will be pricey indeed, out of reach of most players. The big difficulty with vintage Gretsch is that they tended to re-design their guitars (sometimes radically) each year or every few years, sort of like car manufacturers. Even changing body styles (the 6120 went to a double cutaway at some point), adding features, etc. So the "desirable" variants tend to have only been made for a few years max, and the less-desirable variants often have little to do with the desirable ones other than the model name/number (which can get confusing).

Gretsch guitars are currently under the umbrella of FMIC (Fender) and have a similar approach to tiered cost and quality. At the top are the custom shop or "master built" guitars, which tend to be VERY nice instruments built up to the level of (or in Gretsch's case, very likely BEYOND) the level of objective build quality in the 1950s and 1960s. You buy one of these guitars, you get to learn the name of the luthier who built it (true for Fender, I think so for Gretsch as well, but not positive). Not dirt-cheap, but very often less money than a vintage example (especially for something really desirable like a 6120).

On the far other end of the scale, the "Electromatic" line are, I believe, made in Korea and are about what you'd expect-- built with mechanized precision, but to a lower price point (reflected in finish material and parts quality most of all; fit and finish tends to be pretty OK considering the cost).

With a 6120 the big decision (to me) is if you want a mid-'50s style (with DeArmond "Dynasonic" pickups) or a late '50s-style (with Gretsch "FilterTron" pickups).

Pickups of both styles are the biggest challenge for modern Gretsch-type guitars. Unlike Gibson and Fender style pickups, your options for aftermarket/upgrade are limited. TV Jones makes them (and has for years) in both styles. Jason Lollar and Curtis Novak each make a FilterTron copy. The Dynasonic is a very mechanically complex design with lots of specialized parts (and I'd assume tooling) so fewer aftermarket winders are willing to tool up and take it on.

Stepping outside of 6120 world, Gretsch also made a coupe of other pickups, the single-coil budget-minded "Hi-LoTron" (less sought after by vintage aficionados), the blade-magnet SuperTron, and some others. But the Dynasonic and FilterTron are synonymous with "Gretsch" to most, so I'd look for a guitar with one of those.

brad allen williams

Last Edited By: soapfoot Oct 30 16 8:50 AM. Edited 5 times.

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scullyfan

Platinum Blonde

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Oct 30 16 10:25 AM

Wow Brad, you sure know your stuff. I've owned four Gretsch gutars (including a beautiful 1963 6120 that I never should have parted with, an Astro Jet and an early 70s Streamliner) and I just learned more about their pickups in the past few minutes than in the many years I owned them. You should write a book or something!

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

Posts: 7,236 Member Since:04/02/2011

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Oct 30 16 10:29 AM

Those books have already been written, fortunately, by people more knowledgeable and qualified than me!

But thank you!

brad allen williams

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compasspnt

Diamond Forever

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Oct 30 16 11:42 AM


My Gretsch Billy Bo (new, custom shop build) is really fantastic, one of the best playing instruments I've ever seen.

My 60s Rally is exactly as Brad points out…the binding is cracking and crumbling all over, and I already had it fixed once in the 80s.

My 1952 RocJet is gorgeous, but I just discovered it has some rusting going on on the pups.

End of Gretsch report.


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mdm

Platinum Blonde

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Nov 2 16 1:50 PM

I had a 1963 Gretsch like lennon's orange one..

It was the worst-built guitar I have ever seen.

There is no neck joint to speak of, only a square cavity where the neck is glued in with hide glue.

The neck is slim and usually needs a reset.. When steaming mine, given that the whole base of the neck was full of glue to set it, the rest of the body came unglued.

The original neck joint was crooked from the factory

There is a screw which holds the neck in for gluing purposes in the factory. Basically they put tons of hide glue in the neck joint, screwed the neck in and then put it in a jig to set the neck angle at the factory.

Binding just disintegrated to the touch..


When it was fixed it actually sounded quite cool, though.. but still built like crap.

The new ones are built a lot tougher with thicker wood for the body (mine was 3-ply and newer ones have more layers) so they will not resonate like the old ones, but they will last longer for sure and they have longer sustain

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spiritwalker

Aqua Marine

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Nov 2 16 3:48 PM

Interesting about the binding.

I have a 1967 Gretsch Viking and the binding is perfect.
It's always been a dry climate. I wonder if it's the moisture that does the binding in?

Overall I would say that my guitar plays great but the electronics suck.
The Supertron pickups seem OK but the filters and such just go from mud to muddier.

OK it's cold here

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seth

Ruby Baby

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Nov 2 16 5:25 PM

I had a '60s Viking for a couple of months as well, Norm. Then the guy who sold it to me, an old, old friend, got seller's remorse and I sold it back to him. Never really got a chance to use it. Does yours have the tuning fork? I also had a Tennessean when I was a kid, a '64 I think, for which I paid $75.00. But when they stopped being cool I sold it for $125.00 and bought an SG Standard.

Probably 1967 or '68:

image

Last Edited By: seth Nov 2 16 5:32 PM. Edited 1 time.

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spiritwalker

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Nov 2 16 8:46 PM

Mine is missing the tuning fork. It's a player guitar, lots of finish issues but a great neck and really good for feedback. :)

OK it's cold here

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scullyfan

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#10 [url]

Nov 2 16 9:09 PM

I don't know about the new Gretsch guitars, but the 1963 6120 I had was one of the finest instruments I've ever owned. The intonation was impeccable and the tone superb, as was the fit and finish. The only real problem that I had was with acoustic feedback (yes, like microphone/PA feedback) between the guitar and my 1967 Fender Pro Reverb at gigs. I finally figured out that it wasn't the right axe for Hendrix and Steppenwolf so I got a solid body electric. I had to sell the Gretsch to afford the other guitar, one of those sad realities of being a poor broke musician

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soapfoot

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Nov 3 16 7:33 AM

spiritwalker wrote:
Mine is missing the tuning fork. It's a player guitar, lots of finish issues but a great neck and really good for feedback. :)

No great loss.

That apparatus (I think it was called the "Floating Sound", if onlookers want to research) was pretty effective at adding weight; not effective at much else.

It was supposed to increase resonance or sustain or something or other by mounting a tuning fork that was coupled to the bridge. But since a tuning fork inherently only resonates at one frequency... well, it added mass, which might've done something. But they could've used a square piece of steel instead of a tuning fork and it almost certainly would've done the same exact thing.

That's part of the charm of vintage Gretsch-- they had very imaginative R&D, and would put seemingly ANY crackpot idea on a guitar, for a short time at least. The entirety of Gretsch production in the 1950s-1970s was one wide "transition period." Bizarre ideas were always getting added on and taken off.

brad allen williams

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seth

Ruby Baby

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Nov 3 16 7:54 AM

I assume some of those wild ideas were successful like the zero fret, although I don't know if that was theirs first. Also the vinyl pad that snapped onto the back, gave access to the electronics, and resisted belt-buckle damage.

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

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Nov 3 16 8:02 AM

seth wrote:
I assume some of those wild ideas were successful like the zero fret, although I don't know if that was theirs first. Also the vinyl pad that snapped onto the back, gave access to the electronics, and resisted belt-buckle damage.

Yes, the belt buckle pad also probably had the benefit of cutting down manufacturing costs!

The most interesting Gretsch "innovation" to me were the Bikini guitars, with the aluminum neck/pickup/bridge assembly that slid into one body. Removeable and interchangeable... your guitar could be a bass, a spanish guitar, a 12-string... just "plug in" the appropriate neck! They even made a doubleneck version.

Perhaps not super USEFUL, but definitely interesting!

brad allen williams

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

Posts: 7,236 Member Since:04/02/2011

#14 [url]

Nov 3 16 8:07 AM

I also liked how, for the binding on the top-of-the-range White Falcon, they just went over to the drum division and borrowed some off-cut celluloid drum wrap in gold sparkle (actually more orange, if we're being honest!) and cut it in appropriately-sized strips!

Waste not, want not!

brad allen williams

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spiritwalker

Aqua Marine

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#17 [url]

Nov 3 16 12:08 PM

I do like the feel of my viking. But I am definitely going to do some work on the electronics.

Mine is missing the back pad, does it cut down the resonance and therefore the feedback?

OK it's cold here

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soapfoot

Ruby Baby

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#18 [url]

Nov 3 16 12:20 PM

spiritwalker wrote:
I do like the feel of my viking. But I am definitely going to do some work on the electronics.

Mine is missing the back pad, does it cut down the resonance and therefore the feedback?

I think any such impact is likely to be negligible. Its real intent was to conceal a rear cut-out that made electronics installation more expedient, under the guise of preventing belt buckle wear

brad allen williams

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weedywet

Ruby Baby

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Nov 3 16 1:02 PM

I think the new (higher end, not the "electromatic") Gretsch guitars are really good... in most ways better than the 60's originals tend to be

the exception being the pickups... the TV Jones pickups are the way to go.

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kats

Platinum Blonde

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Nov 5 16 9:20 PM

I have one of those Harrison Duo-jets, great build actually. I think Fender acquired the company no? Well whomever is running the show I thought the QC to be outstanding. I think the TV Jones pups are the bomb, and I wanted a guitar with them. I had accidentally bought a version with the "Power Trons", and didn't like it AT ALL and promptly returned the guitar. I feel the the "Power Trons" didn't have the charm of the original versions

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