Who Are Gretsch Guitars?
Gretsch are one of the oldest surviving guitar companies in the world. Their legendary guitar history began with the production of hollow body archtops designed specifically for jazz musicians. The Brooklyn-based business then transitioned into the semi-hollow and solid body market during the '50s and '60s, as Leo Fender and Gibson kicked on with their own iconic creations.
Many guitarists have always considered them the first-choice alternative to the “Big Two”. But in truth, they offer so much more than that. You'll discover drastically different tones, construction, and of course, an instantly identifiable New York style. Gretsch have never lost touch with their roots.
Gretsch guitars are vintage to the core. That means curvy bodies, classic-sounding 'Tron pickups and Bigsby tremolos wherever you look. Although their solid body selections are highly sought-after, it's their semi-hollow guitars that really take home the prizes. These are some of the best in the game and are true to Gretsch's '50s golden age.
Who Plays Gretsch Guitars?
Gretsch rose in stature with signature guitars made for Chet Atkins and Bo Diddley. The former guitar was adorned with a large “G” on the body, belt buckle tailpiece and a new pair of DeArmond pickups. Bo's guitar was rectangle in shape and kitted out in gold hardware – quite the spectacle even today.
Then they cemented themselves in the guitar hall of fame with an endorsement from The Beatles' George Harrison. Noted as his “first real decent guitar”, the '57 Jet he'd bought second hand featured a chambered body and Bigsby B3C tailpiece. Other guitarists around the time also playing Gretsch included Pete Townshend, Rolling Stone's Brian Jones and Duane Eddy.
The guitar builders have gone on to issue signature instruments to Malcolm Young, Bono, Brian Setzer, Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson and The Cult's Billy Duffy, just to name a few.
Gretsch Custom Shop
Those who have had experience with the Gretsch Custom Shop will gladly tell you it's where some of the best guitar in the world are made. The relatively new project began in 2004 with their debut at the NAMM guitar trade show. Master builder Stephen Stern took over the reigns the next year.
The Custom Shop has only progressed since, recreating some legendary Gretsch guitars such as the Penguin, the White Falcon and Chet Atkin's 125th anniversary signature, as well as plenty of other new outstanding builds.
What Are The Best Gretsch Guitars?
Gretsch order their guitar catalogue into three groups: Streamliner, Electromatic and Professional. Each series works to increasingly high standards and more impressive specs.
Streamliner guitars are perfect for those who want their first taste of Gretsch magic. There's nothing to turn your nose up at here, as these dreamy numbers are built to the same high standard as their bigger siblings. Next up are the Electromatics – the workhorses of the range. All round superstar instruments with dashings of premium features. And finally, the Professional collection. The very best of what Gretsch have to offer.
Did you know Gretsch also make acoustics and bass guitars? Yep, there's something for everyone! Both tow the line in NY style and glorious vintage features.
The Jet family covers two unique body types. The first is a single cut with an elongated chambered body. The other is a more aggressively-styled parallel double cut. Each guitar's features are determined by the Collection. One notable feature that runs through all Jets is the short 24.625” scale length, making it a supremely fast guitar to play.
Streamer models are stripped back to the very basics. Rocking a raw punk look, these Jets consist of a staple “U” shape neck, nato gloss body and the outstanding Broad'Tron humbuckers, which produce a hot, glazed tone. Electromatics take a step up in woods, using mahogany for the body and walnut for the fretboard. There's more choice too, with the option of either a hard tail or Brigsby bridge and Broad'Tron or Filter'Tron pickups.
The Professional Jet rivals any vintage-inspired guitar. Along the premium attention to details in constructions, the Jet is equipped with Gretsch's latest Broad’Tron BT65 humbuckers, as well as a rosewood fingerboard, GraphTech TUSQ nut and those irresistible pearl inlays.
The closest you'll get to an old school Gretsch without buying a real '50s guitar. Broadkaster semi-hollows are strikingly beautiful in every colour, be it a bright solid top or flamed maple. They're made primarily for Nashville country and western but can easily transition into blues and rock thanks to the modern Full’Tron pickups. They deliver a balanced amount of power and fidelity, covering a broad range of frequencies of chime and drive in equal measure.
All are kitted out with Bigsby bridges to get smooth vibrato action. It's a part of the Broadkaster look you simply couldn't be without. The spruce centre block ensures a brilliant, direct natural resonance. Like the Jet, there's the option of either a single or double cut – whatever takes you stylistic fancy.
A Gretsch Falcon is easily recognisable by the great big falcon on its pickguard! Falcon's are only appointed the very best in hardware and pickups, and as always, are made to Gretsch's high standards.
These large body semi-hollow electrics rock classic specs. Each model in the range is unique, be it the woods, pickups or stylistic choices. You'll find a mix of High-Sensitive Filter’Tron and TV Jones humbuckers. The former produce unrivalled articulation, while the latter TV Jones are slightly chunkier with a PAF character.
Other outstanding highlights include timeless maple back and sides, an ebony fretboard and Grover locking tuners. Undoubtedly one of Gretsch's classiest ranges.
The Gretsch acoustic range is quite unlike any other. It's split up into three distinct groups: the archtop hollowbodies, the Roots Collection, and your more familiarly-shaped guitars.
Archtops are where Gretsch started on their guitar journey, and it's where plenty of their modern day expertise remains. These gorgeous antique replica instruments are suprisingly versatile, able to produce inspired tones acoustically or from the neck position single coil pickup.
Roots acoustics are small body parlour guitars. Parlour shapes used to be the common choice to accompany band settings because of their louder, higher frequencies. The Roots Collection takes on the old fashioned characteristics of the early 20th century guitar.
Gretsch Rancher acoustics take a more contemporary approach to acoustic design, but by any means are no less unique. Glitzy from top to bottom, you'll find a choice of Falcon dreadnought and jumbo shapes and the Penguin parlour. All bear a striking triangular soundhole and are constructed using high quality woods such as solid spruce tops.
When Gretsch settle on a look, they keep it. Gretsch basses have an air of vintage glamour around them, from the sumptuous body shapes to the chrome hardware. The G2220 is a particular highlight as it's a short scale bass. That means the neck and fretboard are shorter in length than the average bass. This one stands at a relatively small 30.4-inches.
There are a couple of ideas behind a shorter scale. One, it's less of a jump between frets, so it's more in line with how you'd play an electric guitar. And two, the sound it creates is more aggressive and more direct and in-your-face. Check out Royal Blood to get an idea of what a short scale bass can do.