My 6119 and ’74 Fender Princeton Reverb.

Hello friends – I just kind of wanted to get caught up with some guitar stuff today and finally got around to doing a really good setup on ol’ #1, my 1991 Gretsch 6119 Tennessee Rose.

After installing a brand new set of TV Jones TV Classic pickups as replacements for the Filtertrons and a complete wiring harness, I just kind of real quick did an eyeball setup, put it back in the case, and took it to the gig. It was fine, but the pickups were a little thinner sounding than I would like and the guitar had some other playability issues, so I put it back in the case until I could get to it. I finally got to it today after a few months and here’s my results for my ideal setup:

Neck relief at the 9th fret, capo on the 1st fret: . 008″
This is the factory relief measurement from the factory for a Gretsch Electromatic. This was my first adjustment, and I used an automotive feeler gauge and the string as a straight edge. Clamp on the capo at the first fret and press the low E string down on the last fret, and measured at the 9th fret. There was actually no relief on this neck whatsoever, so I went ahead and loosened the truss rod about a 1/4 turn. Re-tuned, re-measured, and it was right on the money. This adjustment should also be made with the guitar in the playing position, not with the guitar laying down on a rest.

Action at 1st fret, bass side: .016″
Action at 1st fret, treble side: 009″
Action at 12th fret, bass side: 4/64″
Action at 12th fret, treble side: 1/16″
There are no factory specs published anywhere for Gretsch setups, but after doing a bit of research on the interwebs, I found Dan Erlewine’s measurements for Brian Setzer’s 6120, and I adjusted from there. My Gretsch has a roller bridge that sits on 2 posts that get adjusted with a pair of thumbscrews making the adjustment fairly easy, and I measured the action using an engineer’s rule that has measurements in 1/64″ and 1/32″ divisions, allowing for very precise measurements. To make the adjustment, I measured from the top of the fret to the bottom of the string. Since you’ll have to balance the ruler on top of the fret, take your time with this. Stewart-Macdonald makes a really nice action gauge that makes this job a snap, but you can do it with a ruler just as well.

After adjusting the neck and the action, I re-intonated the instrument. My guitar has a 25 1/2″ scale, so I used a measuring tape to check it, and it hasn’t moved from where it’s supposed to be. This is attributed to a small strip of very fine sandpaper glued to the bottom of the rosewood bridge that bites into the finish to keep it from moving around. It doesn’t mar the finish, and doesn’t leave any sticky residues like double sided tape does. Checked the intonation using a tuner, and it was spot-on. If the bridge ever moves, I use the centers on the f-holes to relocate it and adjust from there.

Pickup Height
Neck bass side: 3/16″
Neck treble side: 3/16″
Bridge bass side: 5/32″
Bridge treble side: 5/32″
The pickup height is measured from the top of the cover to the bottom of the string. Incidentally, these are the measurements recommended at for this pickup type. Once again, the engineer’s rule came in super handy for this.

All in all, this seems to be a real middle of the road setup, but it yielded excellent results. Good sound, good balance between all the strings, and very playable with no fret buzz. I recommend that learning how to do a basic setup is something that most players should be familiar with, but if you’re not sure, consult with your nearest repair shop.

Here’s some good linkage for this post:

String action and setup at Stu-Mac

Famous guitar setups

TV Jones TV Classic Pickups

Thanks for reading – if you find this useful or have any comments or suggestions, please post – I’d love to hear from you. Cheers, Jorge

3 thoughts on “Tone Tip: Gretsch Setup

  1. UHU Water Soluble Glue sticks are a great way to keep a roving floating bridge from moving around. Apply to the bottom of the wood base, position and bring strings to tension. A capo can be used to hold the slacked strings during the application. A far cheaper and less permanent option than pinning the bridge. Glue will wipe away from the guitar finish with a damp rag if needed.

  2. That’s a great tip, Kris. I’ve seen a number of solutions for keeping that bridge from moving around, and this one seems to be the best.

  3. I did want to make an extra note. For the intonation, I checked the position of the bridge itself with the ruler, then fine tuned using the appropriate intonation method of tuning the string up to pitch, and matching the harmonic on the 12th fret and the fretted note at the 12th fret.

Thanks for reading - what do you think?