Posted by: kubiakl | June 23, 2011

That Gretsch Sound

That’s not a stock photo.  That’s the picture my friend sent me of his brand new Gretsch 5122.  After his wife found out she was hired for a teaching position he was allowed to buy it.

And then wait.

See, stores don’t typically stock the 5122.  You can find the 5120, which is a single cutaway with a deeper body (but similar in all other aspects), but there’s some policy that the 5122 has to be ordered.  The good news – no one has had their grubby hands on it.  The bad news – a wait, and it hasn’t really been set up.  Fortunately his wait wasn’t too long.

Last night I went to his place to help him with the setup (and put my grubby hands on it for a while).  The fretboard took quite a bit of cleaning – I went through two or three of the Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes and was still pulling up dirt.  After letting the conditioner soak in while we ate I wiped it down and started stringing it up.

Which brought up a unique problem – the bridge on these style Gretsch guitars isn’t attached, it rests on the body and is held in place by the strings.  With the work I was doing I had to remove all the strings, and therefore the bridge.  Which meant guessing at its placement when putting it back on.  He read that some people pin the bridge down, which might be a good idea.  When the fretboard doesn’t need such an intensive cleaning it would probably be better to change one string at a time.  Once I had it back in place and strung up I checked the intonation and adjusted it a bit before working on the action.

It was low – too low, you couldn’t really grip the strings for a bend, and there was a buzz on a few frets.  I raised the bridge a little and loosened the truss rod a bit, retuned, readjusted, retuned… until it was about right.  It’s a little lower than my personal taste but I think it will suit his style more.  Then I checked the intonation and made a few saddle adjustments.

Then we played.

I have to say I am incredibly impressed.  Chords, single notes, solos… they all sound beautiful.  I lowered both pickups a little and balanced the outputs, but even straight out of the box it was nice.  The setup he has isn’t stellar – a Crate solid state amp (he’s looking at getting a Vox AC15 at some point) – yet you could tell the guitar has great tone.  Playability was excellent as well.

The knobs aren’t labelled, so it took a few seconds to figure out what’s what.  The pickup selector switch works the same as most – the top position is neck, the bottom is bridge, and in between is both.  The knob on the lower horn is a master volume, the lowest knob on the lower rout is master tone, and the two close to the bridge are individual pickup volumes.  An interesting method, but I kind of like it (although separate tone knobs can be nice).  The master volume means that when playing with both pickups on you don’t have to turn two knobs down to lower the output – you just hit your handy master volume.

I actually had to call another friend on my way home and make them tell me I don’t need another guitar.  If you’re looking for a semi-hollow bodied instrument, I don’t see how you could go wrong with one of these.  The price is higher than similar Epiphone and Ibanez models, but so is the quality.  Check ’em out if you get a chance.


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