seriously considering buying a gorgeous archtop gretsch from the 50's. however i would love to use this guitar through distortion sometimes for that jack white effect and certainly through an amp, so i was thinking about installing a pickup. this is a gretsch synchromatic but i was wondering if it is even possible to put in a pickup that would make sense with such a guitar? maybe if i removed the tailpiece and put in a nice bigsby? any ideas? also if possible, which pickups would you suggest? i was thinking bare knuckle nail bomb but not sure...
The main problem with hollowbodies and high output pickups is feedback. Re-wiring is just a matter of making a wiring harness, and then slipping it in via the bridge pickup hole.
R.I.P. Les Paul, 1915-2009

A man chooses, a slave obeys.
yeah but this has no pickups at all. essentially it is an acoustic archtop so i wanted to know if it was plausible to make it electric
You could route a hole for a pickup, but that would completely ruin any resale value of this guitar. You could install a piezo, or you could look for one of those neck-mount humbuckers (EMG makes one) and use that, although that is again ruining resale value.
R.I.P. Les Paul, 1915-2009

A man chooses, a slave obeys.
yeah thats annoying. how large a hole do you think i would have to route? there are already holes for the screws in for the pickguard which has been lost, i could potentially route my wires through there don't you think if i don't mind seeing a stretch of wire....or even through the f-hole, since im going to have to route a hole to plug in anyway
^I'm not sure what you mean by 'route the wires through the holes for pickguard screws'
..you'll need a hole big enough for a jack/ pots to fit through. the f-hole might be big enough, depending how big it is..

but no matter what kind of pickup you're planning on putting in, I just have to say that I would reccomend against it.
not just because of the resale value thing.. just that you'll be doing something irriversable to a vintage instrument..sure, it'd probably look kind of cool, but I think having an all stock, well-kept 50's gretsch that you have to mic when playing live is way better than having one thats been converted into something you could convert any modern acoustic archtop into, or something with features you can find in many semi-hollows

in the end its yours, and do what you want, though, I guess.
where are you buying it?

edit: and to answer "how large a hole do I need to route", you need one thatll fit the picup you're using.. (but you shouldn't route to fit a pickup >.>

I think the words "route", as in 'direct the wires and electronics'
and "route" as in 'remove wood with a router' might be getting mixed up..
Last edited by james4 at Nov 25, 2009,
This is an actual 1950's Gretsch. Don't ruin it by routing a giant hole in it. Why not put that money towards a White Falcon or an Electromatic and just make that one better?

But to answer your question: You'll have to route a rather large hole in order to fit the pickup, as well as drill holes for every pot and jack you want to put in it. You will also have to wire it perfectly outside of the guitar, put it into the hole and then connect it.

The routing itself is going to be very difficult, as the top of the guitar is not going to be very thick, you'll have to watch and make sure that you don't crack it or bend it in whatsoever.
R.I.P. Les Paul, 1915-2009

A man chooses, a slave obeys.
is it the one on ebay right now that you're looking at?

..please. don't go at that guitar with tools and pickups. it looks like it's been kept in amazing condition.
honestly, I almost want to buy it...
thanks guys, thats the advice i was looking for. it was just speculation, but i agree its not worth it to ruin such a wellkept vintage instrument
haha yeah definitely. you have any suggestions of a vintage archtop guitar of a similar style that might be an electric archtop?
Michael Kelly's Deuce Phoenix is a solid guitar. Already got the pickups in it, so it'd hold up a bit better. You could also get an Epi Dot and go nuts on that, or move up to a proper White Falcon or ES-335.
R.I.P. Les Paul, 1915-2009

A man chooses, a slave obeys.
Gretsch reissued the synchromatic (G100), and there's a version with a pickup. I played three of the new ones side by side with two original '40s models and the new ones sounded better and louder across the board. The addition of a pickup does dull the acoustic sound a little bit, but it's not too bad.
Another alternative is the Godin 5th avenue, but it's got a bit more muffled sound than the Gretsch.

I don't know where you're located, but if you're anywhere near milwaukee, cream city music is the gretsch capital of the world.

interesting. now i had another idea and that was to find a way to put in a pickup that is the type that would go in a regular acoustic guitar's soundhole, inside the f-hole of the archtop and lightly securing it, giving to permanent damage to the guitar....would this work? does the pickup have to be directly under the strings and if so, will putting out outside of the hole (between strings and wood) work?
depends what kind of acoustic picklup you're looking at

most of the ones that mount in the soundhole need to be actually under the strings
but if you get a piezo pickup, it can be just about anywhere on the guitar's body. although, usually the best spot for a piezo is underneath the saddle, or on the underside of the soundboard just behind the bridge.

you could definately hook up a piezo in a way that would be completely reversable, but it may not be what you're looking for.
it's whats used in alot of acoustic guitars, because it's transfering the sound of the top vibrating, and retains that acoustic sound. not exactly like a bareknuckle, or any electromagnetic pickup
haha yeah not quite, but it may still suit my purposes. thank you. i was also thinking of one of those pickup up/microphone hybrid type things but no way to get it in the sound hole...that i can think of ahhahah