The Gretsch G5120 Electromatic Review
The Gretsch G5120 Electromatic is better known as — “That Orange Guitar” — and it is certainly a big bite of juicy and refreshing sweetness in every way. Orange is not my favorite color, but I love this Gretsch orange and I love the silver pickguard that is standard on the newer 5120’s! The G5120 is massive hollowbody electric guitar — but it is still lightweight in your hands — and you can easily play it plugged in for that electric sound or you can go acoustic and unplugged.
Not everyone can afford a $3,600.00USD David Glimour Custom Black Strat, but quite a few musicians can afford a $600.00USD Gretsch G5120.
Is the Gilmour Strat six times better than the Gretsch G5120?
How is it possible that the G5120 is such a great guitar, and yet it gets so little favorable play in the Press and in the minds of guitar elitists? Is it because Gretsch — around since 1883 — is no longer family owned and Fender, yes, that Fender, now owns the company? Or is there some lingering xenophobic resentment going on because Gretsch guitars are now built in Korea?
Unfortunately, the G5120 doesn’t come with any sort of case. It arrives in a cardboard box. If you want to carry your big orange guitar in the street, you need to find an extra $100.00USD for the hardshell case. That’s a hard sell — but an inevitable one — if you ever hope to play beyond your home.
The Gretsch G5120 is one of the finest guitars I own. The fact that it is so cheaply priced, and yet so magnificently built for sound, makes the G5120 the biggest bargain in guitars.
The pickups sound great. Some complain the bridge pickup isn’t twangy and sharp enough — I argue there is a huge difference in sound between the neck and the bridge — and that’s enough of a distinction with a difference to make the guitar a great tool for music.
The neck is thin and slick. The frets are fast. The rosewood fretboard is smooth and quick. The G5120 is obviously built for speed. I don’t know if the G5120 is made for Bending the Blues — the floating bridge creaks at me when I bend just a step — but if you’re looking to play quick notes or strum rhythm, or finger pick, you won’t find a better built, or more agreeable, guitar for the purpose.
The tuners look strange and flimsy but, so far, they hold the strings in tune in fine shape. The G5120 arrives with D’Addario .11-.49s and my guitar was built in March of this year. The strings were clean and ringing. I changed the factory installed strings to D’Addario .10s and the guitar plays just fine. I have some Gretsch-branded .11-.49s on order so I can test the difference, if there is any, between sustain, tone and sound.
I love it how the entire guitar rings when each string hits the sweet spot of coming into tune and that means, in essence, that the guitar tunes itself once you attune your ear to hearing that sweet, pinging, echo. You really get a sense of musicality from this guitar. It regularly treats the ear.
I’m not a tremolo fan, and trying to get the strings to stay on the Bigsby pegs during re-stringing was a chore I am not eager to repeat. If the guitar requires a “foam wedge” to help the strings stay on the Bigsby while re-stringing, then the foam wedge should be included with the guitar.
Here’s an excellent video from a Gretsch tech demonstrating how to set up your G5120 with the floating bridge. Get ready for an eyeful of beautiful orange!
Here’s the immortal Chet Atkins in a 1954 performance with a similar Gretsch Electromatic Hollowbody:
If you play the guitar, you must have a Gretsch G5120 in your musical arsenal — the sound is unique, instantly recognizable, and rich — and the G5120 can fill so many gaps in your sound that a Telecaster, Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul cannot imagine to begin to abide.