Gear Review: The Iconic Gretsch Electric Guitar Sound
Producer Essentials

Gear Review: The Iconic Gretsch Electric Guitar Sound

12 min

Looking to understand the heralded charm of a Gretsch electric guitar? Renowned for their crisp, twangy sound and forgiving playability, Gretsch guitars have become a staple in the music industry. From the bright acoustics of the hollow bodies to the punchy dynamics of the Filter’Tron pickups, each guitar is a blend of historic craftsmanship and sonic authenticity, favored by musicians across genres. This article will guide you through the allure of the iconic brand, dissecting key features, model comparisons, and pro player affiliations, helping you choose or simply appreciate the fabled Gretsch electric guitar.

Key Takeaways

  • Gretsch electric guitars are renowned for their bright, twangy tone and hollow/semi-hollow body designs leading to a unique sound signature favored in genres like rockabilly, country, and rock and roll.
  • Distinctive Gretsch features such as Filter’Tron pickups, Bigsby vibratos, and iconic designs like the White Falcon and Penguin models contribute to the brand’s reputation for quality and playability.
  • Gretsch offers a diverse range of electric guitars across Streamliner, Electromatic, and Professional series to suit different levels of expertise and budget, with a strong heritage of famous players like George Harrison, Chet Atkins, and Brian Setzer.

The Allure of Gretsch Electric Guitars

Gretsch electric guitars have earned a distinct position in the music industry, recognized for their:

  • Vibrant and twangy sound that has become popular in musical styles like rockabilly, country, and classic rock.
  • Their hollow and semi-hollow body models which boost resonance, thus adding to the rich warmth and fullness of the Gretsch tonal signature.
  • Striking aesthetic details including elaborate finishes, detailed inlays, and iconic body shapes.

Each guitar from Gretsch is a testament to the brand’s dedication to meticulous craftsmanship coupled with high-quality materials ensuring exceptional tone quality and durability. With distinctive elements such as various elements such as various elements. Jet family body designs or shorter scale lengths that improve playability. These features set apart Gretsch electric guitars in a crowded marketplace making them an attractive option for those seeking out their next guitar.

Iconic Designs and Finishes

Gretsch electric guitars stand as a pinnacle of design excellence. The White Falcon model exemplifies this with its radiant white finish and luxurious gold hardware, complemented by the glittering gold sparkle binding that renders it an exceptionally attractive instrument. Similarly, the Gretsch Penguin showcases their unique approach to guitar aesthetics, which underscores their identity in the market.

These eminent designs are more than just visually appealing. They embody Gretsch’s commitment to crafting instruments that represent a harmonious blend of superior sound quality and striking beauty.

Filter'Tron Pickups

Filter’Tron pickups, which made their debut in 1957, are integral to the iconic sound associated with Gretsch guitars. Designed to eliminate the electronic buzz and interference that often plagued single-coil pickups, these innovations deliver a warm timbre along with strong output and exceptional sustain duration. The tonal characteristics of Filter’Tron pickups can be recognized by their rich resonance, timeless chime-like quality, and enhanced definition—factors that all play a role in defining the distinctive audio profile for which Gretsch is renowned.

In top-tier models like those from the Professional series Falcons lineup, Gretsch incorporates superior-quality Filter’Tron pickups celebrated for their heightened sensitivity. These specific components excel at producing characteristic semi-hollow electric guitar sounds infused with authenticity that truly reflects Grenstch’s storied musical heritage.

Bigsby Vibratos

Gretsch guitars boast a distinct playability, partly thanks to the inclusion of Bigsby vibratos. A prime example is the Gretsch G6122T-62 Vintage Select Edition ‘62 Chet Atkins Country Gentleman model, which sports a Bigsby vibrato that captures the quintessential sound and flair associated with renowned guitarists such as George Harrison. Proper bridge placement is crucial for models featuring both a Bigsby vibrato and floating bridge. Hence, these guitars require a specialized method of restringing.

The rigorous care put into each detail reflects Gretsch’s dedication to delivering an optimal playing experience. Such devotion has rendered these instruments highly favored among numerous players.

Choosing Your Perfect Gretsch Electric Guitar

Choosing the perfect electric guitar is a personal journey, shaped by your unique playing style, musical preferences, and financial considerations. Gretsch offers a trio of series for their guitars - Streamliner, Electromatic, and Professional, all designed with specific characteristics to cater to various skills and economic ranges.

If you’re at the starting point of your guitar journey and require a cost-effective option within the Gretsch family, an intermediate striving for an adaptable tool in your musical arsenal, or if you classify as an expert aspiring to obtain the epitome of what Gretsch craftsmanship has on offer – rest assured there’s a model tailored just for your needs.

Streamliner Series

The Streamliner collection by Gretsch provides an affordable entry for those wishing to embrace the iconic style and essence of the brand. Launched in 2016, this series is dedicated to maintaining reasonable prices while still delivering on both high-quality craftsmanship and visual appeal. These guitars are recognizable with their white plastic binding, pearloid block inlays, a ‘U’ profile neck, and shiny nato bodies that resonate with a raw punk flair. They incorporate pragmatic elements like streamlined master volume and tone controls, Adjusto-Matic bridges, die-cast tuning machines, as well as design innovations such as the compact G2655T model’s spruce center-block which improves handling and curtails feedback when playing at louder volumes.

These instruments are robustly built, allowing for effortless customization opportunities. Players can easily modify them or introduce optional enhancements from available stock to make it uniquely theirs.

Electromatic Series

The Gretsch Electromatic Series, acclaimed for delivering the iconic Gretsch sound at a more accessible price point, stands next. With designs that hark back to the stylish visuals of the 1950s and ‘60s yet updated with modern improvements, the Electromatic Classic Hollow Body series embodies timeless Gretsch appeal. Regarded as multifaceted champion instruments, these guitars come loaded with high-end attributes that render them an excellent option for guitar aficionados of all stripes.

Professional Series

The Professional series represents the quintessence of Gretsch guitars, highlighting exceptional artisanship and superior quality components. Instruments like the Broadkaster semi-hollow are equipped with Full’Tron pickups that deliver an even blend of strength and clarity suited for a variety of musical genres.

Catering to a range of sounds, the Broadkaster model within the Professional series shines across country, western, blues, and rock music styles. Its adaptability has made it a favored option for guitarists with expertise in their field.

Famous Gretsch Players and Their Signature Models

Over the years, a multitude of celebrated musicians have favored Gretsch electric guitars, cementing their esteemed reputation in music history. In the 1950s, artists like Chet Atkins were instrumental in elevating Gretsch’s prominence and by the time George Harrison played them in the 1960s, they had become emblematic. To honor these iconic players, Gretsch has unveiled tribute models as well as limited edition series that augment the charm of these distinctive instruments.

In a nod to those who’ve mastered their craft on its strings, signature models dedicated to Brian Setzer and Malcolm Young have been crafted alongside special offerings such as the George Harrison Tribute Duo Jet guitar—each serving as a testament and salute to their musical prowess.

Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins played a critical role in defining the legacy of Gretsch guitars. His partnership with the firm was initiated in 1954, and from that point onward, he had an unmistakable effect on how Gretsch guitars were designed. The inaugural guitar to showcase Chet Atkins’ endorsement was the model 6120, signifying his profound impact on the company’s direction.

Atkins contributed to democratizing access to Gretsch models by introducing the 6119 Tennessean—a cost-effective alternative to the more lavish Country Gentleman. Without question, Chet Atkins’ touch has been instrumental in sculpting what has become known as distinctive about Gretsch guitars.

George Harrison

In 1961, George Harrison initiated his relationship with Gretsch guitars when he purchased the 6128 Duo Jet. He maintained his affinity for their instruments by later embracing both the 6119 Tennessean and the Country Gentleman from 1962 as part of The Beatles’ arsenal.

The Chet Atkins Country Gentleman guitar saw a significant rise in fame following its prominent use by Harrison on TV, securing its place as a quintessential rock ‘n’ roll guitar amidst the fervor of the British Invasion.

Brian Setzer

The unique blend of boogie-woogie, blues, and jazz that characterizes Brian Setzer’s music is inextricably linked to his preferred instrument, the 1959 Gretsch 6120 guitar. This particular model is a constant presence in his musical performances. To pay homage to Setzer’s impact on music, Gretsch has created signature editions for this artist. Among them stands the renowned Brian Setzer Hot Rod.

In honor of Setzer’s emblematic role as a prominent figure within the roster of Gretsch musicians, a special limited-edition tribute guitar was crafted with only fifty-nine models made available. This exclusive production underscores Setzer’s profound association with the iconic guitar brand.

Gretsch Acoustic Guitars: A Brief Overview

While Gretsch is acclaimed for its electric guitars, the brand also boasts an impressive collection of acoustic instruments. The Roots Collection by Gretsch includes a diverse assortment of acoustic guitars, resonators, and folk instruments that pay tribute to classic styles and provide genuine acoustic tones.

As you delve into the variety available in Gretsch’s acoustic selection, discovering the unique features of their acoustic guitars becomes apparent. Keeping records of your observations can assist you in making a well-considered choice when it comes time to make a request throughout your search process.

Roots Collection

The Roots Collection pays homage to the rich heritage of Gretsch in the realm of acoustic guitars, mirroring an era when the brand cemented its status within the sector. These instruments epitomize a bygone time while providing contemporary players with authentic renditions of classic Gretsch acoustic models. This collection not only acknowledges but also celebrates Gretsch’s storied past by capturing and reviving their iconic significance for today’s guitarists.

Rancher Series

Gretsch’s Rancher series stands out in the acoustic guitar market with its atypical triangular soundhole, which sets it apart from the typical round soundholes seen on most acoustics. This series presents an assortment of body styles and finishes, providing guitarists a spectrum of visual and tonal choices.

Within this diverse range, specific models such as the Falcon Rancher showcase unique design features including gold sparkle binding that enhances their allure. These guitars are adorned with specialized pickguards that add to their distinctive look—making them a crucial addition to any guitarist’s gear repertoire.

Tips for Maintaining Your Gretsch Electric Guitar

Just like a valued instrument requires, maintaining a Gretsch electric guitar is essential for upholding its tonal excellence and visual appeal. Maintenance includes:

  • Periodically cleaning and shining
  • Changing strings frequently
  • Correct adjustments
  • Storing with attention to maintain the condition and functionality of the guitar.

Examining the details shows that taking proper care of your Gretsch electric guitar guarantees its optimal operation well into the future.

Cleaning and Polishing

Preserving the breathtaking look of your Gretsch guitar and enhancing its longevity is as simple as ensuring it remains clean and polished. To safeguard gloss finishes, you should opt for a polish that’s free from silicone and apply it with a gentle dry cloth after each playing session.

When caring for satin-finished guitars, one ought to employ a soft polishing cloth designed specifically for drying. Instruments featuring hand-rubbed finishes demand attention with a mildly dampened soft cloth before being finished off with another dry one. Adhering to this routine upkeep will ensure that both the aesthetic appeal and acoustic excellence of your Gretsch are upheld.

String Changes and Setup

It is essential to change your guitar strings regularly to maintain optimal sound quality. Professional musicians are known to replace their strings before each gig. For those who play often, it’s recommended that you swap out your guitar strings at least once every month. Many tuning problems can be resolved by properly stretching new strings and ensuring they’re correctly seated while also applying lubricant where the strings make contact with the instrument’s hardware.

When replacing the strings on a Gretsch guitar, certain steps should be taken for adequate maintenance and to secure stable tuning.

  1. Light machine oil should be used on bridge saddles for decreased friction.
  2. To improve tuning stability Dust nut slots lightly with graphite powder.
  3. It’s important to preserve even neck tension during string replacement - achieve this by restringing and fine-tuning one string after another.

4.Should you decide to switch gauge sizes of your guitar’s stings, consulting an expert technician would guarantee proper modification of nut slots which helps in avoiding issues like string binding while assuring a snug fit of the new strings.

Humidity and Storage

Ensuring that your Gretsch guitar is stored correctly is crucial to protect it from damage related to fluctuations in humidity. Instruments made of solid wood, like many guitars, are particularly prone to this kind of damage and thus necessitate vigilant control over their moisture content. The optimal conditions for preserving a guitar involve maintaining the temperature at about 70°F and the humidity levels within a range of 40 to 50 percent.

To achieve these preferred environmental parameters for storing your guitar, room humidifiers can be quite effective. Proper storage will not only safeguard the structural integrity of your instrument, but also maintain its sound excellence and extend its usable life.

The Gretsch Custom Shop: Crafting Dream Guitars

For aficionados who envision their ideal guitars, the Gretsch Custom Shop specializes in bringing these fantasies to life. Launched in 2004 through a partnership with Fender at their Corona, California facility, this workshop is under the guidance of Master Builder Stephen Stern and prides itself on producing exceptional custom guitars.

The expertise of the shop spans from reproducing iconic models such as the Penguin, White Falcon, and Chet Atkins’ commemorative 125th-anniversary signature guitar to constructing one-of-a-kind tribute pieces for artists. These instruments represent the zenith of skill that defines Gretsch’s approach to guitar craftsmanship.

Master Builder Stephen Stern

Stephen Stern, renowned for his extraordinary skill in creating custom guitars, serves as the Senior Master Builder at the Gretsch Custom Shop. He oversees a committed group of craftsmen within a dedicated workshop located inside the Fender factory in Corona, California. His reputation is built on an unwavering commitment to precision and quality.

Throughout his time with Gretsch, Stern has played a pivotal role in establishing what sets their Custom Shop apart: superior craftsmanship and distinct products that reflect excellence.

Signature Models and Limited Editions

At the Gretsch Custom Shop, Signature Editions are made available to guitar enthusiasts, granting them privileges such as being among the first to experience newly launched products, entering exclusive contests, and benefitting from unique deals. The 15th Anniversary of this esteemed workshop was celebrated with a new tribute model guitar launch that continues their legacy in producing bespoke artist-driven and limited-edition instruments.

Demonstrating its innovative prowess and adaptability in manufacturing, the Custom Shop’s skill shines through in their singular creations like the custom pink Penguin guitar crafted for Martin ‘Boz’ Boorer who is known for his work with Morrissey’s band. These guitars underscore both artistry and customization—a hallmark of Gretsch’s instrument production excellence.


In summary, Gretsch electric guitars are a testament to meticulous craftsmanship, innovative features, and distinctive designs. Whether you’re attracted by the iconic designs and finishes, the unique Gretsch sound, or the various series tailored to different playing levels and budgets, there’s a Gretsch guitar that’s perfect for every guitarist. From the legendary musicians who’ve chosen Gretsch, to the brand’s commitment to quality evident in their Custom Shop, Gretsch’s legacy continues to inspire musicians around the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Gretsch a good brand of guitar?

Indeed, Gretsch guitars are esteemed for their rich and mellow sounds, which contributes to their popularity among musicians who play blues and jazz.

Is Gretsch guitars owned by Fender?

While Fender has been granted exclusive rights to develop, produce, market, and distribute Gretsch guitars globally since a business deal in 2002, ownership of the Gretsch guitar brand remains with the Gretsch family. It is not owned by Fender.

What's special about Gretsch guitars?

Gretsch guitars boast a nostalgic charm, featuring voluptuous contours, iconic ‘Tron pickups with vintage tones, and Bigsby tremolo systems. These characteristics render their semi-hollow models particularly desirable to collectors and musicians alike.

Is Gretsch guitar good for beginners?

Yes, Gretsch guitars are versatile and suitable for beginners as well as seasoned musicians, offering a quality instrument for learning.

What makes Gretsch electric guitars unique?

Due to their distinctively bright and twangy sound, innovative designs, and precise construction, Gretsch electric guitars stand out. Their signature tone and playability are enhanced by special features such as the Filter’Tron pickups and Bigsby vibratos.