Review: Gretsch Duo Jet

20184092_1255977797858630_8443339013066063872_nGretsch guitars have always occupied a very specific space in my mind. Great for Chet Atkins, good for all that rockabilly jazz. A compromise for anything else.

You may already see where I’m going with this – I was wrong.

Despite placing them in such a small pigeonhole, there’s been an attraction to Gretsches for me which stems from seeing some of my favourite players use them to great effect.

David Gilmour proved the point that, despite my misgivings, they can amply handle a sustained lead tone, Pete Townshend made his entire signature sound with his own Gretsch, even employing both a Duo Jet and a 6120 for live work, and I don’t feel like I even need to mention the Beatles connection! Somehow the cover of George Harrison’s Cloud 9 is hard to shake from memory.

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With all of that, actually buying a Gretsch never entered my head given the lack of examples to play locally and the hefty Australian import fees. But as luck would have it, I sold a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe to my brother on the same night I found a prime example of a Duo Jet on eBay.

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VERY price reduced, due to “scratches, dents, rust and lifting paint” but with images (above) which showed no front-on view and seemed to reflect none of those issues, I was very wary, but reasoning that I wouldn’t have to worry about putting some dings in myself when gigging, I took the chance. I needn’t have worried.

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I’ll save you the time of explaining the condition of my Gretsch, but it’s about fifteen years old, and has the wear you might expect. You can see from the photos that there is no cause for alarm over the condition.

The bridge isn’t pinned, but some double sided tape ($3.45AU) holds it in place with no movement. You can throw this thing around and not move the bridge, and the synchro-sonic has no intonation problems, unlike some of the other Gretsch offerings.

The bigsby is not one of my favourite tremolo systems by design, but the flutter it gives the sound of this guitar is brilliantly subtle. I like to play a lot with the trem arm in my hand, and although it’s a bit more of a stretch to where it sits than a Strat, because the arm doesn’t do a full rotation, it’s an easy adjustment to get used to.

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The pickups are Dynasonics. They are single coils, unlike the more common Filtertron pickups, and the difference in tone is not insignificant. People often refer to the Duo Jet as sounding bitey like a Telecaster, and with Dynasonics, there’s good reason for that comparison. These are very dynamic pickups. If you play aggressive, you can get pretty close to the Tele sound, although these pups are a little fatter. But soften your touch and they sound more like a sweet, articulate Jazzmaster. The bigsby, too, puts me in mind of the more ‘reserved’ travel distance of the Jazzmaster tremolo.

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The Duo Jet body is chambered, but not hollow, so it resists feedback a bit more than fully hollow or semi-hollow guitars with similar specs. Having said that, you wouldn’t want to push it too far, this is still a guitar for subtlety rather than heavy distortion. It’s more well-suited to crunchy Pete Townshend drive, and it’s anywhere between here and it’s beautiful cleans that it excels.

It’s also worth nothing the strangeness of using the master volume which is here located below the neck pickup. It’s a position I’m not used to at all, but it feels very natural. This feeling extends to most aspects of the instrument, it’s extremely well made. It’s my understanding that all Duo Jets are now made in Japan or Korea, and this Japanese model is extremely comfortable. The neck is very similar to a Fender standard ‘C’, not particularly fat, but not uncomfortably thin, and the fit and finish is perfect. There’s no fretting out, no sharp edges on the frets and fretboard, and tuning holds pretty well with the Bigsby, at least as long as you don’t go too mad with it. There’s a little more meat in your hand at the high end, so it’s arguably not so good for quick playing up there as something with a more accessible heel like almost any Fender or Gibson option.

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The only problem I have in dealing with this guitar is the treble loss with the volume roll-off. It makes it hard for me to control the gain with my volume, because you lose clarity as you reach the cleaner sound you want. But if you prefer to change your dirt balance by tweaking or switching your pedals or amp, you won’t have a problem with this. And it’s probably quite easily fixed with a simple mod to the volume control.

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So, to sum up. I’m blown away by this guitar. It handles any sound I’ve heard anyone else get with these pickups easily, and even does a passable imitation of the Filtertrons with the tone rolled off a little. It achieves everything I thought it would, while remaining far more versatile than I gave it credit for in the beginning. As long as you aren’t trying to do heavy distortion, this guitar has a beautiful, eloquent voice. For the foreseeable future, it’s not going anywhere.

(And if you enjoyed the photos in this article, follow my instagram at https://www.instagram.com/thomaswilliamsmusic/ for more of the same, as well as sound and video of this guitar)

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Poem: “Speak to Me”

We don’t have as many voices

As it seems we did before

We are diluted by time

Our attention by apathy and the promise of instant gratification

 

We neglect the ocean

To play in closer, calmer streams

 

It’s easier to view the writing on the wall

Through a borrowed lens

It’s easier to be told than to think

But so rarely are we told to think

 

It’s a hard idea to sell

Far better to sell earphones, army toys, kaleidoscopes, and white noise

 

Distraction sells itself

The promise of freedom

Release at the price of your soul

A glass cage

 

Epidemic prejudices go untreated and unnoticed

Power in numbers

The seeking out of like minds

Honest strangers go unheard over the chorus of yes men and sycophants

 

But the calm of ignorance is favoured by natural selection

When reality is subjective

To see the world becomes a choice

 

So

These words go unread

These pages remain unturned

 

We don’t have as many voices

as it seems we did before

But your voice is loud enough

To reach a great many more

Than I, for one, could hope for

 

You speak for us

And what’s more

You speak to us

Roger Waters’ Black Fender Stratocaster

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During the “Us and Them” Tour, Roger has been playing what appears to be a vintage Fender Stratocaster on a few tracks. There isn’t much information online, but it’s clearly a well-worn instrument, which if it’s a genuine Fender, suggests either a custom shop model or a real vintage instrument. There doesn’t seem to be a CS logo in pictures, so my bet would be on the latter.

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The small headstock and Transition logo suggest a 60’s instrument, earlier than the large headstock came in (very late ’65). To my knowledge, Fender don’t produce anything like this guitar at the moment.

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“Puppet Boy” single

Finally decided on a video for my new single “Puppet Boy”.

You can watch it here, and stream free or download for $1

at https://www.reverbnation.com/thomaswilliams7/song/27432620-puppet-boy

Moving as if in a trance
the puppet began to dance
moving his mouth to the things they said,
carving their name in his wooden head.
lifted by golden rings
soft, caressing strings
and so the puppet boy sang the words from the wings

You got lucky
Little Puppet Boy
And you owe it to us
Little Puppet Boy

Nothing more than a mask
the puppet never turns to ask
all of the things that fill his head
the reason or rhyme of the things he said
and fearing his release
severed, broken strings
Still the puppet boy sings the words from the wings.

He fears his release, above other things.
The impotence brought on by broken strings.
So under his spotlight,
the puppet boy opines
spouting words his wooden hands could never write.

You got lucky
Little Puppet Boy
And you owe it to us
Little Puppet Boy
You’re a superstar
Little Puppet Boy
you’re the new sensation
Little Puppet Boy

Roger Waters studio bass*

IF you are enough of a Roger Waters fan to be reading this filler post, you might want to head over to @deadskinboy on instagram and follow his profile. He often posts fantastic, intimate and detailed pictures of Roger, which I gather he takes himself.

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I wont post too much from his account, because it’s not mine to use, but he did post an image recently which piqued my interest, which I thought I’d share.

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This is Roger, apparently in the studio, playing a bass which has been previously unseen in connection with him. No reason to assume it’s his, but for a gearhead, it’s certainly an interesting change. Perhaps he is taking a step away from the sound of the Duncan quarter-pounders in his original Precision, or perhaps this is an occasion of convenience. Time will tell!

Mike Oldfield’s Pink Fender Stratocaster

strat_1961_1Frequently spoken of by the man as his favourite guitar, Mike Oldfield owned this Strat from 1984 to 2007.

It is a 1963 Strat, serial number L08044, in fiesta red (visibly a very pink looking red, perhaps due to finish fading, perhaps due to a non-factory refinish either before or after original sale) over sunburst. During the time it was owned by Mike, it was used on 15 albums, and consistently for live work and music videos as well.

Mike has been known to use modified guitars (his 1959 sunburst Strat has an extra two way switch between the original pickup selector switch and the middle tone, a common mod for extra pickup combinations), But it seems from pictorial evidence that this is a completely stock Stratocaster, with the exception of the fact that the volume knob has apparently been exchanged for one of the tone knobs, perhaps because the numbers have worn off the volume.

It was reportedly last used during rehearsals for the 2006 Night of the Proms in Antwerp (this is borne out by photographs of these rehearsals), before it was sold via Chandler guitars to a fan for 30,000 pounds.

The pictures below are in chronological order, and show that the Strat picked up a little more cosmetic damage while in regular use by Mike. More pictures are available at http://tubular.net/instruments/

 

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“To France” video, 1984

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“Tricks of the Light” video, 1984

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“Tricks of the Light” video, 1984

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“Tubular Bells II” Premiere, 1992

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“Tubular Bells II” premiere, 1992

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“Tubular Bells III” premiere, 1998

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“The Millennium Bell” Premiere, 1999

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Night of the Proms rehearsals, 2006

 

Instagram

My new album “Flowers” will be coming out shortly, and as the process nears an end, you can follow my Instagram page for some sneak peeks and updates. Not to mention a lot of other content to compliment the material on this blog.

Shortly releasing my new album "Flowers". Here's a quick sample! #flowers #newrelease #guitar #slide

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