Being immersed in the worship guitar world for over a decade now I have fell in love with the tone of Gretsch guitars. From Hillsong’s United We Stand to the current Elevation Worship Albums Gretsch guitars have been at the center of nearly every worship record in the last decade. Loving the tone and loving the guitars is a completely different story I came to learn.
From the moment I laid eyes on Michael Guy Chislett’s White Falcon in the United We Stand Live DVD I have wanted a Gretsch White Falcon. The gold flake binding and hardware with the creamy white finish comes to mind as my favorite over the years. But when one of the worship leaders at our church got one and I finally got to hold it in my hands and play it I was extremely disappointed. I disliked the Bigsby and the floating bridge shifted while strumming. On top of that it always seemed out of tune when I played it. After doing research I decided that I just was not a fan of the Bigsby and that I needed to stick with hardtail guitars.
A few months after our worship leader got his White Falcon I ran into a great deal on a Gretsch Power Jet with Trapeze style (no tremolo) bridge. I played it a bit and the deal was so good I decided to grab it up. Much to my dismay I got it home, plugged it into my Matchless SC-30 and the tone was fantastic, but again I thought it played like a jagged 2×4. The neck was larger than what I was used to, the action could have been improved and the guitar itself just didn’t resonate well. I was able to fix the action but the neck size and low resonance I couldn’t get over. Additionally the Power Jet’s pickups were a bit too hot for me. They didn’t have the glassy chime that I was looking for. Needless to say I ended up selling that guitar.
Fast forwarding nearly 3 years I have literally played every type of guitar under the sun in an attempt to get a great playing guitar that sounds like a Gretsch. I just couldn’t find one. At the same place I found the Power Jet I found a brand new Duo Jet. Upon first strum the guitar had much more resonance than the Power Jet. The bridge did not shift back and forth while strumming and the tone was exactly what I was looking for. I purchased it.
After getting it home I dialed in my entire rig to the guitar in preparation for that week’s services. When I got to rehearsal on Thursday night however I fell into the same issues of play-ability that I had, had before. The neck felt to large and I just couldn’t make the guitar sing. Frustrated I sat the $2000 piece of lumber on my rack and grabbed my trusty Washburn WP-50 Les Paul copy. Over the next week or so I lamented getting another Gretsch and wondered if I was just searching for something that didn’t exist. Then it hit me. Maybe it’s not the guitars problem. Maybe you are just a crappy guitar player.
I started pouring over my technique and only used the Gretsch to rehearse and play with. The tone was un-matched and slowly I found myself falling in love with it. The Bigsby began to be one of the cornerstones of my playing style in ambient swells, the chimmey bridge pickup with tone cut switch disengaged became the centerpiece to my overdriven solos and rhythm tone. I also found that I was able to leave my Telecaster at home because the bridge pickup had enough sparkly and spank to do that. With the tone cut switch down I was able to get great Les Paul tones so I ended up leaving my Washburn at home. The guitar had become my go to guitar and I had initially hated it.
The funny thing is that when I went back to the other guitars they felt odd. The lack of Bigsby, almost dead feeling string resonance and thicker neck has become what is comfortable to me.
I write this review and story to perhaps push you to not always judge a guitar upon first impressions. We as guitarists should always be evolving and looking for new ways to push our tone and playing ahead. Had I have sold that Gretsch I would not be playing the way that I do now and I would not be the guitar player I am now. I will always love my Washburn WP-50 and any Telecaster but this Gretsch has given me swiss army functionality, the tone only Gretsch can get, and has improved my playing.