Saturday 28 October 2023

Gretsch G5422G-12

This was one of those moments when you saw something and didn't realise until then you needed it in your life.

A September 2019 Gretsch G5422G-12 twelve string guitar.

For a while now I have been arranging/practising on my electric guitar with custom neck. Mostly because it is quiet...and that comes from both being family friendly and that after 40 years of playing classical and acoustic guitars, even the unamplified sound over a practice session leaves a ringing in my ears.

And I have adapted to it. So still a wide neck for good crossover with classical guitar, but the sound is very hollow...being an unamplified electric guitar. In fact when I play my Esteve it now feels a bit weird.

Additionally, I have always wanted a 12 string.  Not really sure what I'd do with it, but every time I hold one in a music shop and strum it, it sounds amazing.

So when I saw an electric guitar (quiet for practice), but hollow body (so not too quiet, has an acoustic feel), with 12 strings (who doesn't want one!) which brings a wide neck, I realised I needed it.

It was at my local pawn shop, and interestingly they also had a 1981 SG double neck 12/6 string, which had a price tag of AUD(2023)$15,000. Interesting they bought it and think that they will be able to move it. There must be rich people out there who buy stuff like that!

They wanted AUD(2023)$995 for the Gretsch, after a moment of haggling I walked out with it for AUD(2023)$820. You can still buy them new for AUD(2023)$1500, this one was as-new condition so, fair enough. At the time it had only 6 strings wound on it, so on my way home I grabbed a set of Elixirs for it, which I have been really liking for acoustics. AUD(2023)$45 for a set, I figure they will last me many months.

Not much to tidy up on it, I took the strings off it, steel wool'd the frets, oiled the fretboard, polished the metal parts, cleaned the body, put the strings on.  I'd never strung a 12 before, I had to read up about it! I knew that the top E and B were unison, and that the bottom 4 were all octaves, but I tells ya, tuning the octave G, 9 thou, I was wincing expecting it to snap!  After stretching and bedding them in, I was getting a feel for which winder is which, it gets easy pretty quick.  Still a lot of tuning though!

I was impressed with the intonation! I only had to adjust 3 of the pairs, and I thought that since 2 strings are intonated over the same adjustment that you'd never get it right, but no, even the worst was only a few cents out at any fret up to 12.  Besides, it's that tiny discrepancy in pitch and phase and all that which gives the 12 string that huge jangly sound.

After strumming it for a while, the usual fighting you get with 12 strings - even though I had gone with 10-46 guage - very light - I started flatpicking some classic 12 string songs like Wish You Were Here and Hotel California. I then had a crack at just outright fingerstyle.

My first two hours in, I reckon it is possible but it is different.  My right hand index finger already has a "strummy" action when I'm fingerpicking so there was no trouble in "picking" two strings at once. It's almost like you are doing a classical style rest stroke to hit both those strings. My middle and ring weren't really playing the strummy game, but I can see that they will.

My thumb didn't like it at all.  But when I brought my thumb down real low, almost parallel to the string, and "picked" at the point where your nail hits the side of your thumb, that was starting to get the more strummy action you need.  Because the octave string is the first one you hit when you pluck with your thumb, you kinda already have this "slope" of strings you are strumming against.

Early days.  I'll report back!

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