Tag Archives: GretschTech

GretschTech: the Zero Fret

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Zero fret on a G6122-1959 Chet Atkins Country Gentleman.

What’s the deal with the zero fret found on some Gretsch guitars? What is it, why is it there and what does it do?

A “zero fret” is an extra fret located directly in front of the nut. You don’t often see them these days, although they were once fairly commonplace. Regarded today as an antiquated feature, they nonetheless still appear on a small number of instruments as an item of vintage-style authenticity.

Nonetheless, a zero fret isn’t merely a cosmetic touch—it does serve a subtle purpose appreciated by discerning players. In effect, it takes over the role of the nut in determining string height above the fingerboard. A zero fret can even out string action even more uniformly than the nut.

It’s easy to understand how the zero fret achieves this. On most guitars and basses, the nut serves as the anchor point for the vibrating length of the string at that end of the instrument (the bridge saddles serving the same function at the other end of the instrument) and as the string “spacer.”

The slots cut into the nut are of a generally uniform depth, but there can be very slight variations, which in turn produce very slight variations in the height of each individual string above the fingerboard. Guitarists with a discerning fretting hand feel may be able to detect such small variances.

The zero fret eliminates these variances and uniformly evens out string height even more finely because all the strings rest on it as they pass over it, with the nut relegated solely to its role of spacing the strings apart evenly across the width of the fingerboard.

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GretschTech: Tailpieces

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One of the things that makes Gretsch guitars stand out from the rest of the pack is the unique tailpiece options the company has utilized over the years.

Of course, not all guitars boast one of these metallic accoutrements, but the ones that do seem to suggest a souped-up elegance. Both utilitarian and aesthetically-pleasing, here is a look at the main tailpieces you’ll find on a Gretsch guitar.

Bigsby Vibrato Tailpieces

Developed by Paul A. Bigsby, these vibratos allow the player to bend the pitch of notes or chords with their pick hand with the help of a spring-loaded arm called a whammy bar or tremolo.

Available on Gretsch guitars since the 1950s, the device also makes sure the instrument stays in tune while adding those bending effects. Bend the arm down toward the guitar and the strings will loosen, lowering their pitch. Release the arm, and it’s back to normal.

You can see Bigsby Vibrato Tailpieces on the 1958 Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, the G6118T-LTV 130th Anniversary Jr., the 1959 Chet Atkins Solid Body and the Duane Eddy Signature Hollowbody, among several others. (more…)

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GretschTech: Picking the Pickups

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DynaSonic. HiLo’Tron. Filter’Tron.

No, those aren’t the futuristic names of a new group of superheroes.  In fact, they are three of the main types of pickups that are used in Gretsch guitars.  Whether you’re looking for twang, bite, jangle, or chime, chances are one of these babies will do the trick.

In the latest edition of GretschTech, we take a look at some of the pickups that were found on the Gretsch guitars of years past. (more…)

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GretschTech: “G Arrow” Control Knobs

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One of the most distinctively stylish features of Gretsch guitars past and present is the “G arrow” control knob. If you already own a Gretsch, you know what we’re referring to—the volume and tone knobs on your instrument, which are in most cases adorned with an engraved later “G” pierced by an arrow. This was an early but not original development.

Gretsch’s earliest electric guitars of the late 1940s and early 1950s—mostly Hawaiian lap steel and arch-top Electromatic models—had plain control knobs. When the original golden age of Gretsch electric guitars began in earnest in 1954, a much more distinctive control knob style was adopted, quite unlike that of contemporaries such as Fender and Gibson. 1954 saw the introduction of gold- and chrome-plated brass knobs with plain unadorned tops and a crosshatched pattern around the circumference. (more…)

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GretschTech: Switches Everywhere …

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How does the switching work on Gretsch guitars?

Of the approximately 100 Gretsch electric guitar and bass guitar models available today, about half of them have a single switch on the upper bout. The other half have two switches on the upper bout. A dozen or so models even have a switch on the lower bout.

Welcome to the wonderfully idiosyncratic world of Gretsch switch configurations, which can differ quite substantially from other guitars. Once you fully understand what’s going on under your Gretsch guitar’s hood, we think you’ll agree that the switching layouts are really quite sensible. Ingenious, even. Here’s the deal …

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