View Full Version : Let's talk about Gretch ukes (shush, don't read this if you're buying vintage ukes)

07-07-2011, 04:12 AM
Okay, so I have a few modern and vintage ukes and play them all. All solid body koa or mahogany. What has really surprised me is as far as vintage ukes go, Gretsch seems to make a really good uke and you can still pick them up for a very reasonable price, yet no one seems to talk about their high quality. I have one from the late 30's/40's and one from the 50's early 60's (of course these are approximate dates based on finish, tuners, general appearance, etc. and yes I know that tuners can be changed). I have a Martin 1M from the 40's and a Gibson uke 1 from the 50's and frankly the Gretsch's are not far behind in tone, sustain, durability, etc. I know that these ukes, especially the plain ole Gretsch's were low end ukes but they seem to have aged very well. Am I missing something here?

Uke Republic
07-07-2011, 04:22 AM
I think that Gretsch I played of yours was great and it was from the 50's/60's model. Mahogany is a very stable tonewood that really does keep on getting better.

07-07-2011, 04:48 AM
My mother-in-law found a Gretsch Soprano (I think it's a 40's-50's) at a resale shop, paid $25 for it! It sounds great, every bit as good as the Martins from that era. To me though it felt a tad smaller than the Martins though, is that true?

07-07-2011, 06:52 AM
And it just sings with those Fremont Black Lines, Mike. Pedal - I don't know, my Martin feels slightly smaller to me but I'll go and measure them later.

07-07-2011, 08:53 AM
Well the 30's Gretsch is 20 3/4", the 50's is 21 1/16" and the Martin 1M is 20 15/16" all measured from the back. So they're all pretty much the same size but the early one is definitely the smallest.

07-07-2011, 01:30 PM
Boy the lack of responses to this thread really demonstrate the lack of interest in Gretsch ukes. What a shame.

07-07-2011, 03:37 PM
Have a Gretch Uke from the 30's most likely. Great sound but the intonation is definately off. Any suggestions?

07-07-2011, 03:49 PM
I have two Gretch Ukes one 'Frankengretch' I purchsed on ebay in a poor but complete condition it wes repaired and I had a pickup installed and it's my day to day uke, great sound and it looks like it's had the skin played off it for 60 years.

I also have the 'pretty gretsch' a late 40's which has had all the love and care a good musical intrument deserves, I usually have this at home except for special occasions.

I have played around with strings and currently use either worth BM or Orcas medium both these types of stings have a lower tension and I think that they sound great on the older ukes.

You can see that these ukes were hand finished rather than machine finished and I think that it gives them just a little more character.

07-07-2011, 03:53 PM
are all Gretsch ukes fantastic or just some models?

07-07-2011, 03:56 PM
I'd be interested in playing a Gretsch, garyg; would you mind sending me one? :-)) Thanks!

Seriously, I think the older (and far more rare) ones have a good reputation - the ones marked "Gretsch American." Anyway, if you got yourself a good one, enjoy it! It doesn't really matter what everyone else thinks. Trust your ears, and your fingers.

07-07-2011, 04:16 PM
are all Gretsch ukes fantastic or just some models?

Not sure, one of mine had been abused and it sounded ordinary until my local luther got hold of it, now it sounds fantastic although it looks like it's had a hard life.


07-09-2011, 03:14 AM
@Huna - I've never played a high end Gretsch, just the standard ole Gretsch soprano uke. Some more experienced playes have said the ukes from the 20-30's are better than the later ukes but I can't comment on that. My guess is that's true for many brands of vintage ukes given that era was one of the golden epochs of uke. I'm just surprised that with the interest in vintage ukes there is so little discussion of this brand given their apparently good quality and relatively low price. Maybe I've just had a lucky batch though <g>. good playing, g2

07-09-2011, 03:33 AM
I was looking at the Gretsch, the Favilla and also the Regals. The martins are quite expensive and it seems the favillas have been getting up there too.

07-09-2011, 03:35 AM
You gotta wonder like whats this one worth. It has had twelve bids and has not breached through the reserve. All the action takes place at the end of the auction anyways. Will it go for more than an OHANA SK-38? Then will it fall apart soon after and how good is it really?


07-09-2011, 03:39 AM
or this one with issues...http://cgi.ebay.com/GRETSCH-SOPRANO-NYC-ROUND-UKULELE-/130540786167?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1e64d651f7

Only 325! well I am into playing ukulele more so than collecting vintage so this is not really a steal as it may need a neck reset who knows? Better off buying a brand new Martin S1 for a few bucks more or the same price with a coupon don't you think? See people are getting a lot for these and you can't see them in person so theres a ton of risk.

07-09-2011, 03:44 AM
@hmgberg -- well come to one of our uke club meetings at the Royal Peasant in Athens Georgia and you can play one!

@Huna -- the prices are quite variable as you've noticed, I've been watching the bay for about 3 weeks and bought one in great condition for $126 but there are some beaters that go for over $250 for no reason that I can detect. But that is an ebay phenomenon in general, lots of impulse buying and you need to wait a few months until things settle down. If you're really interested in one send me a pm, I bought the second one with the idea of generating $$ for UAS <g>.

07-09-2011, 03:57 AM
Every Gretsch I have seen sounded great. They were well-built ukuleles and not necessarily considered "cheap" when you remember that the highest number of Martin ukes sold went for around $12 in the heyday.