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Thread: I woke up one morning with one thought on my mind: I need a Gretsch hollowbody guitar

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    Supporting Member Steve A.'s Avatar
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    I woke up one morning with one thought on my mind: I need a Gretsch hollowbody guitar

    "I need a Gretsch hollowbody guitar!"

    This was about 5 years ago and I went down to GC to check out their selection of 6120's and 6122's. Meh. I really don't like Bigsby's and for the life of me I could not figure out what all of the darned switches were supposed to do. And I was not excited about how it played unplugged (always a high priority for me)...

    Switching gears a bit I decided to go in a different direction: buy a PRS SE Custom 24 Semi-Hollow and put a set of TV Jones Gretsch-style pickups on it. I had already worn down the frets of one of those guitars as it had been my favorite for many years.




    In 2013 those PRS SE guitars were selling new for around $525 and with the TV Jones pickups the total would be less than the $800 pricetag for the cheaper Gretsch. A great idea but after changing out the pickups I was underwhelmed by the results... a resounding Meh!

    Well, at that time I could not appreciate the sound and response of the TV Jones Filtertron-style pickups so the guitar had been sitting in its gig bag ever since then.. until tonight! It took me a little while to get the bridge, truss rod and pickup heights set properly, and hot damn, it is definitely a keeper!

    My playing style has changed radically over the past 5 years which was when I was finally able to switch back to regular guitar from lap steel (the ring and little finger on my fretting hand had gone numb due to ulnar nerve damage.)

    It has been 4 years now since I started learning the art and science of luthiery and after doing professional quality setups on my guitars they play like a dream. Throughout the 50+ years I have been playing guitar they all had fairly high action which made playing chords a bit painful for me so I had always focused on lead guitar which can be very limiting. While the lower action has helped my left hand immensely it was during the years I played lap steel that I learned how to fingerpick so I now play mostly with my fingers and thumb which is how most of the great Chicago blues guitarists in the 50's and early 60's played (not to forget Jeff Beck today.)

    Unfortunately the ring and little fingers on my picking hand have been completely numb for 11+ years due to ulnar nerve damage in my right arm so with just two fingers and a thumb I can't do Chet Atkins- or hybrid-style picking, but what the heck- I am happy with what I can do.

    BTW I have always held a pick between my right thumb and middle finger because my index finger got smashed by a pickaxe when I was about 7. For some reason I decided to set the pickaxe against a tree with the heavy head up and it slid down the handle, smashing my index finger. My index finger seems okay otherwise but it does not meet my thumb at an angle appropriate for holding a pick. (Hybrid picking has you holding your pick between your thumb and index finger with the middle, ring and little finger available for fingerpicking, thus giving you the benefit of both techniques.)

    In any case I now enjoy playing guitar rhythms as much as guitar leads, and quite often switch back and forth between the two more like a solo guitarist than a guitar soloist.

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    Steve A.

    P.S. Sound sample of my "PRS SE 6122" to follow.

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  2. #2
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    Here's what I thought when I saw
    I woke up one morning with one thought on my mind:


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    I had a similar itch last December. Needed a jazz guitar. Needed to be full hollowbody. Local place had Gretschs on sale but didn't love them that much. Was seriously considering an Aria that a local pawn shop had. Was checking out Guitar Center's used section because they had a couple Aria's and saw this Arbor AJ137 and just fell in love with it. $275 shipped and I get more compliments about the sound I get with that guitar than I ever have about anything. And I suck at playing guitar!

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    Same model this guy is playing here. My tone is the same. My playing is not.

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    Old Timer olddawg's Avatar
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    I know what you mean about playing through physical limitations. The first joint of my right index finger is frozen and the second joint isn’t super stable. But you make due with the hand you were dealt... no pun intended!

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    Gretsch hollow-body guitars always sound good to me when someone else is playing them, but I haven't picked one up that really made me want to buy one. I always thought it would end up being an occasional player rather than my main guitar. Whatever I buy, I keep coming back to my Tele, which isn't anything special at all but is the guitar I always reach for first. I did a build for a customer with a couple of old US Gretsch pickups in an unrouted blank 'Tele' body. He wanted a rotary switch for the pickups and a single volume control - no tone control. The tone was done using a few rotary positions that used fixed caps like an Esquire. That was a really nice player and sounded very Gretsch-like. So that's a back-burner project to build myself one of those but I'd route out the body like a Slimline Tele to get closer to a hollow-body sound.

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    Supporting Member Steve A.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by olddawg View Post
    I know what you mean about playing through physical limitations. The first joint of my right index finger is frozen and the second joint isn’t super stable. But you make due with the hand you were dealt... no pun intended!
    So I would guess that you hold your pick between your thumb and your middle finger... just like me and Carlos Santana! I never thought of it being a problem — the pick just didn't feel right between my thumb and my index finger so I had always used my middle finger instead. It was much later that I figured out it had to do with that finger getting injured when I was a kid (I think that the fingernail might have turned black and eventually fallen off, but that was a LONG time ago...)

    Steve A.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve A. View Post
    So I would guess that you hold your pick between your thumb and your middle finger... j
    And if thy right index finger offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee... (Jerry 5:29)

    -rb

    PS - While we're kvetching about physical limitations... I have congenitally anomalous index and middle fingers that curve away from the thumb- effectively reducing my left hand "reach". The first joint of my left index finger is particularly weak, and the fingertip bone is too short; the fingertip flesh is not backed by bone, and no matter how short I cut my fingernail, it hits the fretboard preventing the finger from applying enough pressure to cleanly fret a note. And forget about "butterfly vibrato". I'm sure that is the only reason I am not a rock star today.

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    Last edited by rjb; 05-31-2018 at 05:18 PM.
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    Django Reinhardt and Jerry Garcia both played pretty well without a full complement of fretting fingers.

    Regarding the ulnar nerve problems, I had numbness in the pinky and ring fingers (but only on the pinky side) from ulnar nerve entrapment because of something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are some pretty effective physical therapy exercises that can be done to alleviate this, I would recommend it for anyone with numbness there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glebert View Post
    Django Reinhardt and Jerry Garcia both played pretty well without a full complement of fretting fingers.
    <whine>Yea, but at least Django had a functional index fretting finger.</whine>
    Jerry could play "3-finger" Scruggs-style banjo with a missing index picking finger!


    I once heard Toots Thielman at a small club in Montclair, NJ - playing mostly guitar duets with a friend. The friend had a "tyrannosaurus rex" right arm outfitted with a metal claw. Monster chops, although it was hard to ignore the scratchy tone....

    -rb

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    Last edited by rjb; 05-31-2018 at 07:00 PM.
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    Supporting Member The Dude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rjb View Post
    ..... I have congenitally anomalous index and middle fingers that curve away from the thumb- effectively reducing my left hand "reach"......
    I have the same thing! It's nice to know I'm not alone.

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  11. #11
    Supporting Member Steve A.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by glebert View Post
    Django Reinhardt and Jerry Garcia both played pretty well without a full complement of fretting fingers.

    Regarding the ulnar nerve problems, I had numbness in the pinky and ring fingers (but only on the pinky side) from ulnar nerve entrapment because of something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. There are some pretty effective physical therapy exercises that can be done to alleviate this, I would recommend it for anyone with numbness there.
    Yes, with ulnar nerve damage the little finger (AKA "Pinkie) is completely numb and the ring finger is like half-numb. With my left ulnar nerve it looks like it was pinched in my neck, possibly from the weight of a LP on a strap...

    I didn't mean to be complaining... I think that physical limitations can make us play better as we can focus on what we *can* do rather than having the entire playing field wide open to us. When I was learning guitar on my own in the 60's and 70's (no YouTube back then!) I would set certain boundaries and try to do everything I could do within those boundaries... for example, like playing a solo entirely between the 7th and 12th frets to better utilize all 6 strings.


    Steve A.

    P.S. 2 fingers?!? How about the guy who plays blues guitar with his feet??? He was born without arms and hands and started out playing bass...

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