DEVOTED NEWBY NEEDS HELP. A Gretsch Origin Story. BIGSBY Problems, among others. Guitar Choice?

Discussion in 'New Member Intros' started by Lance Young, Nov 24, 2021.

  1. Lance Young

    Lance Young Electromatic

    Nov 8, 2021
    My apologies in advance for the humble need of assistance --

    I'm one of a few fingerpickers in a pretty good band.

    We decided one day we needed a bit of "Umphhh" for our act. Specifically a bit of electricity combined with necessary vibrato to fill a few dead moments and glue the space --

    Bein' the leader and such, I lingered on over to my local guitar store(s) to find a Gibson 335, 33o or even one of Leo's Tele's. Then I saw a Gretsch something or other. Honestly, I had always thought you folks were from a different planet. Chet Atkins and his bright orange guitar and all that. Really? Well the 335 in my hand was a bit dead, so I thought what the hell? Damn. I can't remember the name or model of that, there Gretsch, but it totally possessed me.

    When I returned the next day, the guitar was gone. Sold to a sailor the chap said.

    So I started doin' all the reading about Gretsch in the 50's and 60's and the sale to Baldwin and then to Fender. And it all had important meaning to me and even Chet and his orange guitar suddenly made sense.

    And then I went on a search for a genuine Gretsch guitar with all my many requirements (good ergonomics, great playability, massive tone variability, etc.). Being a newby, I sauntered over to Wildwood Guitars and other such hifalutin on-line establishments. A few peeked my interest. A G6120CS (yeah, one of Chet's Guitars), a "Super Broadkaster" with 10,000 controls, a "Madriga" magic machine ...

    But one really caught my eye ... and this is where I need your serious help if you can.

    It fits all the needs. It is a Masterbuilt so it surely has the playability, it has solid ergonomics: a body depth under 2" and a lower bout under 16", and it is a tone machine for sure. And a fine looking gentleman named "Koch" is online playin' one almost just it ... just like I knew for sure I would ... And it has the finest Southern pedigree with a fine name like "G6120 Nashville Doublecut ..." It is, seriously, the perdiest guitar I have ever seen.

    So far so good.

    But then I noticed the Bigsby on it ...

    I have to digress, again, for a moment.
    At that same ol' guitar shop ... that I had spent the whole day playin' looking for the Gretsch grail ... I became more and more baffled the more I played. Some guitars played nice and easy with an easy, even slinky vibrato from the Bigsby. But others, with the same scale length (24.6), had taut strings with the Bigsby also feelin' taut and limited.

    I asked the salesman and he promised me it was all in my head.

    I scratched my head for a few more hours and decided it was time to drink. On my way out, a young and liberal man t0ld me he overheard my quandary with the taut strings. He told me there was a good reason for the difference. He explained that the Bigsby's with a "tension bar" create a good deal of more tension than ones that don't. Both the downward angle created by the bar and the additional string length create more tension.

    I felt vindicated but was undeterred until I noticed that the aforementioned G6120 Nashville Doublecut of my dreams had the dreaded tension bar!!!

    I am not sure why the mythical "Mr. Stern" would commit such an atrocity? Here was the perfect guitar with the perfect scale length that all Gretsch players love (and me too) ... totally blighted by a Bigsby (B5CVT) with a tension bar when a V-shaped one with no such bar without would have sufficed?

    But then there is one other thing I noticed about the Bigsby on that G6120 Nashville Doublecut.

    Maybe it wasn't so bad????
    The Bigsby, which was bolted to the body, was actually a lot closer than the V-shaped alternatives.

    Could it be that the shorter distance to the bridge compensates for the dreaded tension bar?

    So I humbly ask all the Gretsch Gods to advise me. I am a fingerpicker and I intend to do fingerpicking leads on this beast 'til I die so the 24.6 and lower tension is quite important. I am not a fan of longer scale lengths.

    Darn thing is on the other side of the country so I can't play it before buyin' ... as is so often the case these days ...

    Am I making too much of this tension bar? Will it not be a big deal????

    Or should I continue my search?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!!!!!!!

  2. new6659

    new6659 Country Gent

    If you're thinking of getting a Gretsch, why not get a good looking one? Just kidding and welcome to the forum.
    BatmansGretsch likes this.
  3. BatmansGretsch

    BatmansGretsch Gretschie

    Dec 3, 2019
    Whenever I talked to guitar buyers who spend the sort of money you are talking about, even for custom, they seem to curb their expectations if they don't have an exchange with the manufacturer and will even take that very expensive custom guitar to a luthier for more adjustments and set up so that it works for them. If I was in your position I don't think I would just pop into a shop and walk out the door with whatever is in stock at that sort of money unless I was satisfied with everything making me very happy.

    This is just me, but I would probably want to at least have an email conversation with someone on the manufacturing end to sort out any problems I might have. How about that guitar you loved that was sold to the sailor? Why not get Gretsch to help you track another down? What's a little waiting time for that sort of lifetime guitar?
    Duo Slinger and mrfixitmi like this.
  4. Ricochet

    Ricochet Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    Welcome to GT.

    It’s a trade off. More string angle equals more tension equals better tone and sustain at the cost of a heavier string feel and challenged Bigsby use.
    These thing can be adapted to your playing style by set up and mods, but at this price point you really shouldn’t have to.

    Also what the heck is going on with the skewed placement of the Bigsby? That doesn’t just look like a bit of Perspective distortion from a studio camera?

  5. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    Welcome to the forum ..... here's a few thoughts .......
    Find a new salesmen
    For the money their asking ....I'd play one if I could
    As per my above statement
  6. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    Don't fear the tension bar, there's alot of jive talk goin on about them but I have two now and have owned six total, i have been able to make them all operate very smoothly and lightly, mostly by just adding a softer spring. The B5 on my DeArmond weirdo is one of the nicest feeling, most responsive Bigsby's ive owned.
  7. Bertotti

    Bertotti Friend of Fred

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    Personally not a tension bar fan but I could live with on on a tele. Strings make a diff, the Bigsby string an make a difference and there is the after marker thingy that replaces the tension bar to lessen the angle, some one here knows the name I am sure. But I am also a fan of Jets and Penguins so I would suggest checking them out as well. When I walk into a store I basically ignore anything with a tension bar, just personal preference, and that mirrors some comments above. If you haven't bonded with them on the guitars you tried why buy one just to mod it later. The perfect Gretsch for you is out there.
    mrfixitmi and thunder58 like this.
  8. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016

    I've never gotten along with tension bars on Bigsbys. They do make for a stiffer feel, and they can cause tuning problems by putting too much downward pressure on the strings at the bridge, preventing them from returning to pitch smoothly. If anything, I think the shortened distance between the Bigsby and the bridge on this guitar would make any tuning problems worse: with less distance, the string break angle will be steeper, putting more downward pressure on the bridge.

    There is a good solution for this problem, though: our fellow forum member @Setzerhotrod makes and markets a product called Brick's BiggsFix. It's a replacement tension bar that sits a little higher and rides on high-quality bearings, improving the string break angle and giving a smoother Bigsby experience. If you love everything else about this guitar, the BiggsFix should solve the tension bar issue.

    That said: I think a V-cut B6 is a better Bigsby with a classier look, and at custom shop prices, I tend to think that a guitar should be perfect right out of the box. What was it about this guitar that spoke to you? If you're prepared to pay, it should be possible to find the features you love in a guitar that doesn't require any compromises.
    Archtops, mrfixitmi and thunder58 like this.
  9. Dana Rudd

    Dana Rudd Country Gent

    Nov 26, 2019
    Greybull, WY
    Hello Lance and welcome to GT, good to have you with us.

    For a guitar at that price I would have to have a chance to play it before purchase. Good luck on your quest.
    mrfixitmi, section2 and thunder58 like this.
  10. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    Oh, one other thought: as far as I know, all center block Gretsches come with tension bar Bigsbys. (They usually use a B7 or B70 rather than a B5. The B5 is really made for flat-top guitars.) The center block models tend to have shallower neck set angles, which they can get away with because the center block allows them to screw a tension bar Bigsby into the top. Without the tension bar, the string break angle would be too shallow on a guitar with a shallow neck set angle. So if you're looking for a centre Block model, you're likely stuck with a tension bar Bigsby.

    There are some workarounds, though.

    1) You can buy a center block model with a tension bar Bigsby and add a BiggsFix.

    2) You can buy a center block model with a stoptail instead of a Bigsby, and then add a B6 and a Towner Down Tension Bar. The Towner bar mounts into the stoptail bushings and allows you to set just the right amount of tension. I did this on my first Gretsch, and it was a great setup.

    3) You can buy a center block model with a tension bar Bigsby, replace the Bigsby with a B6, and live with the extra holes.

    I have a G5620T (another Center Block model). I didn't like the tension bar, so I replaced the stock B70 with a B6C. The string break angle is a little bit shallower than ideal, but it doesn't bother me—my strings aren't popping out of the bridge saddles, and while the lower tension is probably costing me a bit of tone and sustain, I can get it back with a bit of EQ and compression. I could get a slightly steeper break angle if I used a B3, but the B6 looks better on a 16" guitar.

    The B6C almost covers the holes in the top left by the original Bigsby. If you look closely from just the right angle, you can see about half of the hole peeking out from under the spring cup, but I never notice it. It wouldn't cover the holes from a B5, though.
    mrfixitmi likes this.
  11. Tele295

    Tele295 Country Gent

    There are a lot of little factors that go into a less stiff playing action with a Bigsby, in addition to the tension bar (which can be bypassed by restringing over the bar).

    Many switch the spring out for a “soft” or “squishy” spring.

    Bridge friction and, of course, string material will also affect the action/playability ease.

    You just have to find out what parts suit your playing. Happy Bigsbying!
    Archtops, mrfixitmi and section2 like this.
  12. Lance Young

    Lance Young Electromatic

    Nov 8, 2021
    You folks are more awesome than I even thought you would be. The BiggsFix does feel like a solution if I can't stand it and stompin' on the spring doesn't help. And yes I can play and return the guitar in three days but I will pay a boatload of shipping and insurance costs. And the price is truly insane as my wife surely knows I am.

    Big thanks to Ricochet! The Bigsby does appear to be off angle! Curious what the custom shop thinks of that.

    And thanks to you all for letting me know I'm not crazy about the tension bar. Now I know!!!!

    Best, L
    Archtops, mrfixitmi and section2 like this.
  13. Lance Young

    Lance Young Electromatic

    Nov 8, 2021
    UPDATE: Slightly embarrassed, they pulled the guitar and are sending it back to Gretsch. Thanks again to Ricochet et al --
  14. section2

    section2 Country Gent

    Dec 21, 2016
    Sounds like you dodged a bullet. Good catch, @Ricochet!

    One more thing: whichever guitar you choose, a Brick's Super Squishy Spring will be a great addition. I have them on two of my Bigsbys, and a Reverend Soft Spring on the third. They're all fantastic (but I like the Brick's springs best, because they're made by a fellow forum member).
    Archtops, mrfixitmi and Ricochet like this.
  15. Ricochet

    Ricochet Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Nov 13, 2009
    Monkey Island
    I can’t believe it’s a $9000 Masterbuilt. I looked at the other pics. Definitely not “camera angle”. The Bigsby looked like it was eyeballed… by an apprentice. Crazy. o_O
    Archtops, mrfixitmi and section2 like this.
  16. Back in Black

    Back in Black Country Gent

    Jun 22, 2020
    Ontario Canada

    Rightly or's the problem I have with this guitar.

    The double bar Bigsby, in combination with the T-O-M bridge creates too sharp a break angle, the static bridge creates drag, both of these issues in combination, will cause quick ''out of tune'' conditions.

    Forget all about ''master-built'' , with this guitar in particular, all master-built means is a higher price tag, and with the design issues this guitar is ''money for old rope''. Not to mention a guitar of this caliber should not have to be fixed/modded in order to function properly!

    Why anyone in their right mind would want to cross-pollinate the perfection of a Master-Built, with the design flaws of an Electromatic is beyond me.

    My recommendation would be either a Vintage Select Country Gentleman, G6122T-62, or the Vintage Select Tennessee Rose, G-6119T-62. With the $$$$ you'll save over the cost of the Master-Built, you could probably strike a deal, and buy both.

    These two models have stood the test of time, and played by greats such as Chet Atkins, and a fellow from Liverpool named George Harrison.

    Just me, but that guitar at Wildwood Guitars, wouldn't garner a second glance. I wonder who aligned the Gretsch branded B5.


    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
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  17. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Country Gent

    Feb 17, 2020
    Everyone here knows I am cheap and have to squeeze every penny. And I am an anti-snob but that's just me.

    Paying three times as much as you need to, for a guitar that is likely not any better, is not my style.
    I understand there are people who will do that and that is OK if they can afford it, I don't care.
    But for a guitar you will gig with you have got to check out the regular MIJ models (and maybe buy three?).
    Professional Collection (

    This is probably my favorite, I love the Dynasonics: Hollow Body :: G6120TG-DS Players Edition Nashville® Hollow Body DS with String-Thru Bigsby® and Gold Hardware, Ebony Fingerboard, Roundup Orange (
    Archtops likes this.
  18. JC higgy

    JC higgy Gretschified

    Jun 6, 2008
    Belfast Norn Iron
    Welcome to GT Lance!

    Try a Brian Setzer "Smoke" 6120 and save a few Bucks sir.:)
    sgarnett, Bertotti, mrfixitmi and 2 others like this.
  19. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Country Gent

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    I second batmansgretsch in saying maybe head back to the shop you tried that other gretsch that got you hooked and get them to tell you the model number, then try and find another one locally and have another try at it, or just go and give as many gretsches as you can a go locally until you find one that follows you home.

    Either way let us know what you end up with.
    mrfixitmi and section2 like this.
  20. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    Welcome to the forum, Lance! Only speaking for myself, I refuse to buy any guitar that has a tension bar Bigsby installed. They should have named this the B666.
    Welcome mat 50.jpg
    section2 likes this.
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