The term “trestle bracing” has been the buzz phrase among Gretsch guitar enthusiasts lately. What is it? How did it develop? What are the benefits and drawbacks?
First of all what is the trestle brace? The trestle brace is a bracing system that was implemented on a few select Gretsch guitars starting in 1958. The most popular models having this bracing system were the 6120 Chet Atkins model and the Anniversary model. A few 1957 models have been reported having this bracing system. The body depth of these guitars is approximately 2-7/16″. The trestle bracing is two “U” shaped trestle braces that run parallel from the neck joint to approximately the center of the guitar body. They stop right under the guitar’s bridge. Each brace is about 5/8″ wide and about 1″ thick. (the photo above only shows one of the two trestle braces). There are four 5/8″ x 1″ square parts of each brace that are glued to the back of the guitar. The top part of the trestle is approximately 9″ long and is glued to the guitar’s top.The trestle brace was developed in 1957 from a request from Chet Atkins. It seems that Chet wanted his signature hollow body guitar to have more sustain and respond more like a soild body guitar. Upon this request the designers at Gretsch came up with this trestle type bracing. Another issue Mr. Atkins was complaining about was feedback, Back in the 1950′s, bands were playing louder and louder. The result of playing an archtop hollow body guitar at moderate to high volume is the unwanted feedback from the guitar’s body. The trestle bracing system added sustain to the guitar as well as brought the feedback under control.
The benefits of the trestle bracing as previously mentioned is the added sustain and feedback control. You could now play very loud with the Gretsch models that were trestle equipped. One such artist was Pete Townshend of The Who. He used a 1959, Chet Atkins 6120 model on the album Who’s Next in 1971. Another artist that plays at high volume with his Gretsch is Brian Setzer. He has a line of Gretsch Signature guitars that all incorporate the trestle bracing system. Brian strongly wanted his signature line to be accurate of the original 6120 in every respect. The drawbacks of the trestle bracing are added weight to the instrument and the damping of the guitar’s top. While is does damp the guitar’s top from resonating, guitar players argue this particular point as being a benefit to some and drawback to others. Luckily there are many Gretsch models that have similar appointments with and without the trestle bracing to accommodate all players.
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