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Gretsch- why so many switches and knobs?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Schroedinger, May 17, 2011.

  1. Schroedinger

    Schroedinger Member

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    As a long time admirer/imitator of Chet Atkins, I've always wanted a Gretsch hollowbody. I think the sound would work very well for my playing style. For years I've been on the lookout for a Country Gentleman, Tennessee Rose, or 6120 that grabbed me.

    Most of the old ones I've tried have had issues. They all have the binding falling off, super skinny necks, neck angle problems, warped necks, etc.

    I played a few newer ones last week. They seemed to be well made, and sounded OK although I couldn't really crank it up. But what is with all the switches and knobs? They are randomly strewn all over the face of the instrument, seemingly without logic or reason. After 30 minutes of fiddling, I simply had no idea what the controls did. The guys in the store were just as clueless as I was.

    As a long time Tele player, the controls are a distraction. I just want to play the darned thing, not launch the space shuttle. For you guys that gig them- what the heck do the controls do, how are they useful, and how often do you actually adjust them?

    Also- is there a model with a fatter neck? My other guitars have fatter necks, the Gretsch necks didn't feel right in my hands.
     
  2. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Member

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    They are there to dazzle and bewilder. Likewise the back pad. I would hate to screw up my rodeo belt buckle with the back of a gtr!
     
  3. SGNick

    SGNick Member

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    They have a rather intuitive arrangement.

    The lower bout has 1 knob. That's Master Volume.

    The top bout has 1 switch, pickup selector.

    If it has a 2nd switch on the top bout, (Tone switch) this replaces your tone knob, and the bottom bout will only have 2 knobs, a volume control for each pickup.

    If it doesn't have a 2nd switch, you have 3 knobs on the bottom, 2 volumes and master tone.

    Some have a kill switch on the bottom by the individual volume knobs.

    Some country gents have a mute assembly controlled by knobs or switches by the bridge.
     
  4. vbf

    vbf Supporting Member

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    Gretsch found a way to incorporate all the features of the famous 'Talent Booster" pedal into their guitars via knobs and switches....very cool. I especially like the new knob that allows you to dial in whatever guitarist you're trying to emulate. Sadly for me, when I set the dial to "Eric Johnson" my fingers couldn't keep up and I now have a permanent case of "Ericjohnsonepicfail-itis". Based on my experience I would not recommend a Gretsch model with that feature. :)
     
  5. jerrycampbell

    jerrycampbell Silver Supporting Member

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    I have a Setzer 6120. The two switches on the upper bout are the three-position pickup selector and the three-position filter control for the Filtertrons. In the middle position the filters are off, giving you the straight pickup sound. In the up and down positions the sound is darkened by filter caps, one position darker than the other. These tones are not terribly useful in most applications, YMMV.
    The knob on the lower bout is a master volume. The two knobs further back are individual volume controls for each pickup.
    I made the following mods: replaced one of the filter caps with a Cesar Diaz Filtertron mod, which gives an almost acoustic sound; disconnected the individual volume controls completely, using only the master volume.
    The neck on my 6120 is not too thin. I have a Gatton Tele, and the Gretsch is no where near that fat, but neither is it as thin as my '61 SG/Les Paul Jr. I find it very comfortable. Great guitar.
     
  6. Hulakatt

    Hulakatt Supporting Member

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    I'm pretty sure some of the Setzer Hot od 6120's have just a pickup selector switch and a master volume
     
  7. foppy

    foppy Member

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    My Country Club has a pickup switch on the upper bout, a master vol. on the lower, and volume controls for each pickup and a master tone at the lower back.

    I am not a brilliant man but it didn't take me long to get comfortable with the arrangement, and now it seems just as intuitive as anything else. Admittedly a little printed explanation came with the guitar, which unclouded my understanding quickly enough.
     
  8. Help!I'maRock!

    Help!I'maRock! Member

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    some of them do. others have the full compliment.

    personally, i like more tonal options. at least if those options are ones that i would use. i don't play strats because i'd have to re-wire the 2 and 4 positions. On a Gretsch, i'd rather have the tone knob than the switch. but that's just me.
     
  9. jayn

    jayn Member

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    Former Tele gigger, now mostly Gretsch. First of all, figure out which switch is the pickup selector. Sometimes it's the first one (it is on my Anni), sometimes the second. Put the other switch in the middle position. Put all the knobs (volumes) all the way up. Play. Only touch the pickup selector.

    Forget about riding the knobs like a Tele. I only touch the master volume once in a awhile to do volume swells.

    The fattest Gretsch necks are at best a medium shape with a touch of a V feel.
     
  10. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Member

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    Gretsch guitar design was driven by marketers who thought a lot of bells and whistles would sell more instruments. Chet Atkins said that he didn't like a lot of the features on the Country Gent, but he was happy to have an endorsement deal so he didn't say anything to Gretsch. I owned a '63 Country Gent from 1982 until four years ago, and it was a pretty good guitar. Mine had intact binding, but the pots froze up and the neck needed a reset by the time I switched to a Les Paul. Both were, believe it or not, MAJOR issues: the only access to the electronics was through a small oval hole in the back of the guitar. The pickups sat on top, so you couldn't even get inside that way. The neck was pinned with a large dowel that was placed in the base of the heel and extended up into the neck block, making disassembly an expensive project.

    Another annoyance that finally led me to Gibsons was all those knobs and switches. There were THREE volume knobs, but only a three-way switch for the tone; TWO mute buttons (and what guitarist uses them?) and a rotary pickup switch (no doubt to differentiate themselves from Gibson). The result was a lot of damn knobs and very little actual control over your sound.

    Of course, it was very pretty. But so's my 335.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  11. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Member

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    I would definately choose the latter! I would know how to run the controls on it too!
     
  12. dodona

    dodona Member

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    Gretsches are too expensive and somewhat exotic not to say strange. TV Jones sells Pickups fitting very well in a Gibson.
     
  13. tbonesullivan

    tbonesullivan Member

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    Let's not forget that lots of other companies put tons of knobs and switches all over the guitar. Anyone ever messed around with a varitone switch on an ES-355? Or a Les Paul Recording model with the switches, buttons, and knobs? And don't forget the fender jaguar! String mute, floating trem, lots of weird switches.

    In the end though most guitars have gone back to Volume, Tone, pickup selector. Gibson and Fender had it pretty good on the first try, before many other companies were even making electric guitars.

    Anyway, Gretsch really does need to try making something with Volume, Tone, pickup selector. The Setzer guitars with just volume and selector are a bit minimalist. The tone switch does allow quick access to a pre-defined tone setting, which can be useful.

    Of course, I'm one of those who usually rarely messes with the tone control. I do volume swells and use the volume to control the overdrive level, but I haven't really found much use for the tone knob.
     
  14. Drew816

    Drew816 Member

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    Just ignore the 'distractions' and play your guitar! :omg ;)

    I've had a few over time and I just ignored the tone switch, use the main pickup selector switch and the master volume and there you have it. IF you're interested, the other options are there but all this is really a non issue and a distraction that shouldn't be fixated on...

    Mute switches and mute setups under the bridge; yeah, again ignore and remove the later as far as I'm concerned. But it is cool to use the Mute/Kill switch for fun too but again it's just another added thingie that you can ignore.

    Vintage Gretschs, lots of threads on this subject but they can be a challenge. As for the pickups on the Country Gent above, you just pull the pickups and wiring out from the top just like a 335 Gibson, nothing unusual there. Neck resets and binding rot, that's another story but not all vintage Gretsch's have these issues but you do have to know what you're looking for.

    Newer Gretschs, no issues besides the ever inflating cost so look used IMHO and look for a mid-2003 model and beyond to insure you're in the Fender era so you don't have to deal with electronics issues or added fat on the guitars from this era unless you're getting a hell of a deal! I've owned a few pre-Fender Gretschs and they were good guitars once you replaced the electronics and refreted as those tiny vintage frets kill me; and they're often times not lightweight either. Fender era, pick your poison and get crazy, watch the body width and learn about all the model variations (some with F holes, others without, Zero Frets, Trestle Bracing or Sound Posts, etc, etc). But they are rock solid and very well built guitars; frankly they're worth the asking price new too but I'm cheap so...

    I now own only two Gretschs, a '55 Round-Up that had it's neck replaced by Gretsch in the early 60's (see neck reset issue above!) and a '62 Duo Jet (no issues but refinished a long time ago killing collector value and who cares as this guitar is AMAZING!).

    Good luck!
     
  15. jay42

    jay42 Member

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    Towards the end of his life, Chet Atkins got in bed with Gibson. Those guitars are simpler - basic Les Paul wiring/knobs, iirc?
     
  16. Drew816

    Drew816 Member

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    In quick and incomplete fashion: Chet wanted a center 'beam' like a 335 in the body of his Gretsch's, Gretsch refused and came up with the Trestle Bracing which helped control feedback but it wasn't exactly what Chet was looking for. Baldwin bought Gretsch and the quality started to go downhill, as the Baldwin years grinded on the goofiness coming of Gretsch increased and eventually Chet had had enough and pulled the plug I think in '79. Gretsch failed and shut down totally calling it quits in '81 but they'd really stopped building any real number of guitars before that and of course Chet moved over to Gibson.

    BUT Chet added more switches and knobs and gadgets to guitars than you can imagine; ever seen a 70's Super Chet? Those things are crazy, he didn't switch because of the added stuffs as he was adding them all himself! He switched because Gretsch lost their way and quality control...

    I'm not sure about the later history but I think Chet was happy with what he was seeing from Gibson and had no real reason to move, plus the next generation of Gretsch's were made in Japan and not even vintage correct let alone they still had no center beam so... And those Country Gent Gibsons are really nice guitars if you've ever gotten a chance to play one; too big a neck for my tastes but WOW!
     
  17. tsar nicholas

    tsar nicholas Member

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    ^ I have a Gibson Chet Atkins Tennessean, wonderful guitar. The wiring isn't complicated, but is a little different than a Les Paul :

    Upper bout : Pickup selector (3-position), master volume

    Lower bout : Bridge volume, neck volume, master tone


    Love that axe, they really got it right
     
  18. Guitar Whiskey

    Guitar Whiskey Member

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    I've never really thought of Gretsch's being that complicated. Strats can sometimes be much more challenging.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. kbphx

    kbphx Member

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    There are two families of Setzer 6120's...the 'regular' and the 'hot rod.' The Hot Rod is so named because of it's 'hot rod' approach to the electronics and finishes: cutting the fat, simplifying, etc. and using cool paint (rather than stain) finishes. Old school hot rods were built the same way: remove parts that add weight with no performance benefit; paint it to look cool.

    On the regular Setzer models, the locations of the pickup & tone selector switches are reversed from the normal 6120 layout.

    I have a cool "pickle green" Setzer 6120. If one takes the time (and it's not that difficult) to LEARN THE CONTROLS on the instrument, there are several cool tonal options waiting. That guitar will cover everything from Wes Montgomery to Rush. The neck, although admittedly small, is very comfortable to my hands; I string mine with 11's whereas I put 10's on all my other axes. Playability is stellar...as long as you don't do a lot in the uppermost frets. Interestingly, my other 'favorite' neck is the big fat one on my 52RI CS tele.
     
  20. Jon C

    Jon C Silver Supporting Member

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    excellent, concise summary. the entrance/qualifying exam is initially confusing but pretty easy to master ;)
     

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