Gretsch USA Custom: A Few Questions

jb111

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I've searched the forums quite a bit, but I can't guarantee these questions haven't been addressed. So I appreciate your patience here.

Looking into a new kit. I do gig quite a bit locally (mainly raw R&B, electric blues, pocket-oriented stuff). I have never owned a Gretsch kit, but I've always admired the sound from various artists through the years. Honestly, with the two kits I do have (’64 Rogers Holiday & Paul Bleifuss custom), all of my bases are pretty much covered, so this isn't a totally rational purchase, but...

My first thought is a USA Custom. I’m into it for the whole Gretsch vibe in addition to the sound. On that note:

1. Do you feel there really is that huge of a difference between a USA Custom and the other kits I mention? Does the gum in the shell construction, along with the cast hoops, really make these kits such different animals altogether? I know the player has a big impact here…

2. I’ve heard of some Gretsch quality-control issues here and there (wrap seams lifting, wrong configurations, incorrect hardware, etc.). I’m sure they make it right in the end, but does anyone have experiences here with quality issues that shouldn’t be found on a high-end kit?

3. I’m looking to do a glass glitter wrap. I know these wraps get cut with a rougher edge due to the makeup of the material. Any experiences here, and how severe?

4. Are they still cutting the wrap really far from the bearing edge? If so, does it show when heads and rims are in place?

5. It looks like they’re changing hardware. I originally wanted to do the vintage build, but it looks like the older rail mount isn’t going to be an option. While I don’t love the big post in the kick drum, I don’t love the new rail mount either. I’m going direct to shell here. While I love the look of vintage BD spurs, I’ve heard the Gretsch spurs are particularly slide-y. Any experiences here? My Rogers spurs work great, and I never have issues with the kick moving on me.

6. Any additional thoughts you all may have are appreciated. I don’t like the idea of buying a kit just for the brand, but I’d be lying if that doesn’t have at least a little to do with it here. I’ve always thought of owning one, and here’s the chance. I keep trying to talk myself out of it, but I don’t think it’s working.

Thanks for dealing with such a long post. I appreciate your time!
 

JDA

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If you don't know everything going in, about Gretsch stick with Pearl.
Certainly to start at the top (of the series) Brand New is not how I ever thought it was done. Starting with a top line G is usually a once in a lifetime I know already I'm keeping them for decades proposition.
But I see not everyone is like that. It used to be quite a special event. A new Gretsch was a once in a lifetime event..
So if you're not 1000% sure I'd wait.
Because in instances like this, when one is "not sure", I always see some major disappointments, when one is "not sure"..
I worked my way up with "155$" and "330$" RB sets, played them for 25 years, before plunking down on a brand new 0 mile set, and I knew exactly what I was expecting (and then some) and it worked out perfectly. But some jump too soon or something..and walk away disappointed..which is unfathomable to me. But that's me.
You have to "see" or (look at) New Gretsch drums the Same as Old Gretsch drums. So there's really not that much -of a checklist-- I think some overthinK it..
But besides brackets , maybe floor tom legs, it's the Same old Set...
I would recommend a Wood Finish ( Satin is fine) and not be interested in pearls and wraps.
Unless the pearl finish was in-person and irresistible.
(Gretsch are more like -to me- symphony instruments and you don't see pearl in the string section? right? ; ) unnecessary (pearl) (to me) Maybe in the snare that's about it.
 
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K.O.

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In regards to USA Customs they are a top tier drum and while there are occasional quality control issues, as with any drum brand, they typically do a great job. I have 3 USA Custom sets and I love them, but I suppose I'm biased. If I were buying another new set (I wish) I'd configure it with modern spurs and the center post mount. Then I'd use an INDe mount on the tom itself instead of the RIMS style mount or the Gretsch bracket. I believe they are now using the DW style cutback at the seam and running the wrap all the way out to the edge on current production but I don't know that for sure (my drums are stained). Glass glitter is the thickest wrap there is so it's hard to say.

I've used my sets to play jazz, blues, and rock. They do have a somewhat unique something that is hard to describe. I guess it's that Great Gretsch Sound.
 

jb111

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If you don't know everything going in, about Gretsch stick with Pearl.
Certainly to start at the top (of the series) Brand New is not how I ever thought it was done. Starting with a top line G is usually a once in a lifetime I know already I'm keeping them for decades proposition.
But I see not everyone is like that. It used to be quite a special event. A new Gretsch was a once in a lifetime event..
So if you're not 1000% sure I'd wait.
Because in instances like this, when one is "not sure", I always see some major disappointments, when one is "not sure"..
I worked my way up with "155$" and "330$" RB sets, played them for 25 years, before plunking down on a brand new 0 mile set, and I know exactly what I was expecting and it worked out perfectly. But some jump too soon or something..
Not really a Pearl guy, but I think I see your point. It is indeed a big purchase, and I understand expectations may be kinda out of whack. What I'm mainly questioning is my conspicuous consumption as I don't really need a new kit. The idea started with my wife suggesting it as a possible 50th birthday present. It's less that I'm "not sure" and more that I was curious about the specific questions.

I have many years of playing Ludwig, Rogers, Sonor, Slingerland, but just never owned Gretsch. And I wouldn't call myself a collector. I've just always been curious about Gretsch but haven't had a lot of opportunity to get behind them, hence these questions (undoubtedly no substitute for getting behind a kit).
 

jb111

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In regards to USA Customs they are a top tier drum and while there are occasional quality control issues, as with any drum brand, they typically do a great job. I have 3 USA Custom sets and I love them, but I suppose I'm biased. If I were buying another new set (I wish) I'd configure it with modern spurs and the center post mount. Then I'd use an INDe mount on the tom itself instead of the RIMS style mount or the Gretsch bracket. I believe they are now using the DW style cutback at the seam and running the wrap all the way out to the edge on current production but I don't know that for sure (my drums are stained). Glass glitter is the thickest wrap there is so it's hard to say.

I've used my sets to play jazz, blues, and rock. They do have a somewhat unique something that is hard to describe. I guess it's that Great Gretsch Sound.
Thanks, K.O. I appreciate the info! In the end, I'm definitely thinking modern spurs and center post. This helps.
 

JDA

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Not really a Pearl guy, but I think I see your point. It is indeed a big purchase, and I understand expectations may be kinda out of whack. What I'm mainly questioning is my conspicuous consumption as I don't really need a new kit. The idea started with my wife suggesting it as a possible 50th birthday present. It's less that I'm "not sure" and more that I was curious about the specific questions.

I have many years of playing Ludwig, Rogers, Sonor, Slingerland, but just never owned Gretsch. And I wouldn't call myself a collector. I've just always been curious about Gretsch but haven't had a lot of opportunity to get behind them, hence these questions (undoubtedly no substitute for getting behind a kit).
Grestch are very hard Stiff Tough.... drums. If you like "lounging" you better have the Sticks under control. They don't "do" lazy..easily..
On the other, hand if you can play Gretsch- you can play any set.. (lol..

If you like Soft Spongy, ringy, resonaty for a hour floor toms ; forget it. These are all serious business. Gretsch, must be, "Played"... Gretsch- must be engaged with them- No Lounging : )

The harder more determined they're hit the better more alive---the headroom is wayyyy up there.. they don't wilt ever. (You may give out) They won't/ Actually You won't give out. They bring out the best in you. They're very serious- committal- drums..
That's why I love em. Day-in Day-out They don't budge. They're as reliable as the Sun.
And unfazed, Last about as long..

It ain't like you come in one day and say 'O sheeet floor tom sounds wrong today" . Nope. Never happens. "Small tom changed" over night (or even after a gig..) Nope. They're not "sensitive" drums. They're "unsensitive" (rigid) drums...for sensitive "drummers'... Reliability is off the charts, on par with umm say, movement of the Galaxy.. Tensioned once is good for about, um oh, 30 Seasons..minimum. adjusting is done in quadrants of increments ..measured in years..

.. you see 55 and 60 and 70 year old sets still standing..
Frankly it's pretty amazing.
 
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jb111

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Grestch are very hard Stiff Tough.... drums. If you like "lounging" you better have the Sticks under control. They don't "do" lazy..easily..
On the hand if you can play Gretsch- you can play any set.. (lol..

If you like Soft Spongy, ringy, resonaty for a hour floor toms ; forget it. These are all serious business. Gretsch, must be, "Played"... Gretsch- must be engaged with them- No Lounging : )

The harder more determined they're hit the better more alive---the headroom is wayyyy up there.. they don't wilt ever. (You may give out) They won't/ Actually You won't give out. They bring out the best in you. They're very serious- committal- drums..
That's why I love em. Day-in Day-out They don't budge. They're as reliable as the Sun.
And unfazed, Last about as long..
Thanks, JDA. This makes a lot of sense to me, and it's a big part of what has me curious about Gretsch. Love it.
 
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JDA

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I'd just highly recommend a wood finish; I might be totally wrong; but one you don't want any mylar or whatever it is, covering up those shells, 2) you want them to breathe (because you love them ; ) and 3) Pearl is just like a vinyl roof something to blow off at 80 mph (or something) Like I said Pearl wrap on the snare makes a "nod to the past" interesting contrast to the total business-like wood-shell (of rest of the) drums) I dunno good luck. Caribbean Blue, Satin Caribbean. there's Blues (Azure) Copper lacquers O geezus, Blacks, Satin Blacks.. Leave to the snare for something fanciful. American Flags, Glass sparkles, white marine pearl < against a wood finish.. I dunno..
 

jaymandude

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Do you know what sizes you'd like to get ? There are some fairly popular 4 pc configurations that seem to come up often ( 20-12-14, and 22-12-16 ) There's a kit for sale here in Austin for a GREAT deal. Let me try and find it..


or this https://austin.craigslist.org/msg/d/austin-gretsch-usa-custom-maple-drums/7054706754.html
 

Neal Pert

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As the previous owner of at least a dozen Gretsch kits, I can make a few recommendations.

First, don't custom order. They just don't have their act together enough at this point. Instead, find a reputable dealer who has exactly the product you want, even if it means waiting.

As for your specific questions:

1. Depends on what you think of as a huge difference. Most of us sorta go for a sound we hear in our heads and will try to get that with heads and tuning. Gretsch drums do sound different than a lot of drums, but it's not going to be the sort of thing that will be overwhelming to you. I have made the switch from Gretsch to Yamaha and, even after 30 years as mostly a Gretsch player, it's been no huge deal.

2. Yes, there are QC issues, absolutely. That's why I said right up top that you shouldn't custom order. Get something from a reputable dealer who's really looked over the drums and can attest that the product you'll be getting is not problematic.

3. I had a gold sparkle-- not glass glitter. At this point Gretsch knows how to handle these finishes.

4. Yes, but it's still under the head and looks A-OK fine.

5. You can still get the vintage mount and spurs. You have to decide whether you want it. If it's primarily a home kit, the vintage build is great. If it's a gig kit, I'd at least recommend getting the modern spurs and only get the rail mount if you know and accept what you're getting into. It's not hard, but it's also not modern and IMHO it's kinda stupid unless you REALLY need that vibe. But the stuff all works, especially after you hit it with white lithium grease. But if I ever get another Gretsch kit, it'll all be modern stuff. The modern stuff looks better in person than on the promo shots and it actually works. I swapped out the vintage style diamond plates with the modern ones on my gold sparkle Broadkaster kit and it looked just as good and was infinitely more functional.

6. Gretsches are great. That said, I just sold every Gretsch I owned except for a marching bass drum because the company can't complete custom orders and can't seem to get out of their own way from a production angle and is clearly more wrapped up in being a legacy brand than innovating their way out of their own dead-end designs. I have no plans for going back even though I played them for my entire adult life. They definitely do a thing. The Broadkasters-- easily my favorite Gretsch drums-- REALLY do a thing. It's really up to you, though, whether you want that thing or something completely different. If what you're looking for is a wide range of sounds, you may very well think that a Yamaha Recording Custom or AHM kit rounds out your tonal palette, or an Inde or DW or whatever.
 

jb111

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Do you know what sizes you'd like to get ? There are some fairly popular 4 pc configurations that seem to come up often ( 20-12-14, and 22-12-16 ) There's a kit for sale here in Austin for a GREAT deal. Let me try and find it..


or this https://austin.craigslist.org/msg/d/austin-gretsch-usa-custom-maple-drums/7054706754.html
Thanks for that link! I'm pretty positive I'll be going 20, 12, 14, 5.5x14 snare. I just love those sizes and can't seem to get away from that configuration. Though I do love my 5x14 snares as well.
 

jb111

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As the previous owner of at least a dozen Gretsch kits, I can make a few recommendations.

First, don't custom order. They just don't have their act together enough at this point. Instead, find a reputable dealer who has exactly the product you want, even if it means waiting.

As for your specific questions:

1. Depends on what you think of as a huge difference. Most of us sorta go for a sound we hear in our heads and will try to get that with heads and tuning. Gretsch drums do sound different than a lot of drums, but it's not going to be the sort of thing that will be overwhelming to you. I have made the switch from Gretsch to Yamaha and, even after 30 years as mostly a Gretsch player, it's been no huge deal.

2. Yes, there are QC issues, absolutely. That's why I said right up top that you shouldn't custom order. Get something from a reputable dealer who's really looked over the drums and can attest that the product you'll be getting is not problematic.

3. I had a gold sparkle-- not glass glitter. At this point Gretsch knows how to handle these finishes.

4. Yes, but it's still under the head and looks A-OK fine.

5. You can still get the vintage mount and spurs. You have to decide whether you want it. If it's primarily a home kit, the vintage build is great. If it's a gig kit, I'd at least recommend getting the modern spurs and only get the rail mount if you know and accept what you're getting into. It's not hard, but it's also not modern and IMHO it's kinda stupid unless you REALLY need that vibe. But the stuff all works, especially after you hit it with white lithium grease. But if I ever get another Gretsch kit, it'll all be modern stuff. The modern stuff looks better in person than on the promo shots and it actually works. I swapped out the vintage style diamond plates with the modern ones on my gold sparkle Broadkaster kit and it looked just as good and was infinitely more functional.

6. Gretsches are great. That said, I just sold every Gretsch I owned except for a marching bass drum because the company can't complete custom orders and can't seem to get out of their own way from a production angle and is clearly more wrapped up in being a legacy brand than innovating their way out of their own dead-end designs. I have no plans for going back even though I played them for my entire adult life. They definitely do a thing. The Broadkasters-- easily my favorite Gretsch drums-- REALLY do a thing. It's really up to you, though, whether you want that thing or something completely different. If what you're looking for is a wide range of sounds, you may very well think that a Yamaha Recording Custom or AHM kit rounds out your tonal palette, or an Inde or DW or whatever.
You really hit so many of my questions right on the head. Thanks very much for this thorough reply. VERY helpful! That's part of my indecision—knowing that it has a lot to do with the brand/vibe. I'm definitely guilty of that in this instance. Yes, sound and feel is a big part of it too, but as you mention I know the difference won't be massive. And I totally agree on the modern hardware. This is purely an aesthetic thing for me, especially with BD spurs. I just like the old look/feel. But I don't care about the retro thing, so the functionality of the modern build just makes a lot more sense.

If it does happen, I'll be going through a reputable dealer that I do regular business with. Straight-shooter, cares about the details, and would vouch for the customer with any QC issues.

Thanks again.
 

Neal Pert

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You really hit so many of my questions right on the head. Thanks very much for this thorough reply. VERY helpful! That's part of my indecision—knowing that it has a lot to do with the brand/vibe. I'm definitely guilty of that in this instance. Yes, sound and feel is a big part of it too, but as you mention I know the difference won't be massive. And I totally agree on the modern hardware. This is purely an aesthetic thing for me, especially with BD spurs. I just like the old look/feel. But I don't care about the retro thing, so the functionality of the modern build just makes a lot more sense.
Yeah. My sorta dream is that one day I'll have the scratch to buy a gold satin flame 12/14/16 kit with a vintage build and calf heads and I'll put it in front my my book cases like I'm Art Taylor and a sophisticated old skool motherscratcher. But today, I need a kit that's not going to be a pain in the ass when I'm on my third set subbing with an Americana band at Shifty's Bar and Grille. Everything depends on your location and how you're going to navigate the moment you're in.
 

JDA

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It's a shame everyone thinks there's only two choices in Spurs. (in Gretsch) Well, there was a third for a few years- and you see the style on many many just released sets today).
There was a "third-way" with Gretsch spurs for a while. (I have them) They are neither pearl-kick spurs nor 70s disappearing crows feet..

They are ( i wrote the part number down altho probably likely impossible ever to order)
The (spur) part number (was on the box) my 14 x 18 bass drum came in.
They are Part no. 5975 spurs.
Gullwing. Basically the 9020 block the gullwing with memory lock.
Everyone forgets those. Understandable because only shown a few years
 

jb111

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Yeah. My sorta dream is that one day I'll have the scratch to buy a gold satin flame 12/14/16 kit with a vintage build and calf heads and I'll put it in front my my book cases like I'm Art Taylor and a sophisticated old skool motherscratcher. But today, I need a kit that's not going to be a pain in the ass when I'm on my third set subbing with an Americana band at Shifty's Bar and Grille. Everything depends on your location and how you're going to navigate the moment you're in.
Well said. And I love Art Taylor.
 

jb111

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It's a shame everyone thinks there's only two choices in Spurs. (in Gretsch) Well, there was a third for a few years- and you see the style on many many just released sets today).
There was a "third-way" with Gretsch spurs for a while. (I have them) They are neither pearl-kick spurs nor 70s disappearing crows feet..

They are ( i wrote the part number down altho probably likely impossible ever to order)
The (spur) part number (was on the box) my 14 x 18 bass drum came in.
They are Part no. 5975 spurs.
Gullwing. Basically the 9020 block the gullwing with memory lock.
Everyone forgets those. Understandable because only shown a few years
Can't recall those, but they sound like a great option!
 

JDA

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5975 Spurs..also seen on USA Custom drums (Doc had a USA C set with them)

5975 here:


 
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drummer5359

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I ordered a USA Custom kit in January of 2019, received it in June. It is absolutely perfect. Mine is in Silver Glass glitter. I own a vintage Gretsch kit in walnut gloss as well as a champagne sparkle round badge Gretsch kit. Having owned wrapped and stained Gretsch kits, I went with the wrap.

I'm so happy with the new kit, that I ordered additional pieces. They came in today. Now I own 10", 12", and 13" toms, 14" and 16" floor toms, 18", 20", 22" and 24" bass drums, as well as 14" x 5"and 14" x 6.5" matching snare drums. Every single one is perfect.

Two weeks ago I happened to visit the factory. "Old fashioned craftsmanship" is how I would describe what I saw there.
 

DrummerJustLikeDad

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I'd just highly recommend a wood finish...Like I said Pearl wrap on the snare makes a "nod to the past" interesting contrast to the total business-like wood-shell (of rest of the) drums)...Leave to the snare for something fanciful...white marine pearl < against a wood finish.
This is exactly what I’ve got in mind, if I’m ever lucky to get a Gretsch USAC.

60s Marine Pearl on the snare, with bass drum hoop inlays to match. Everything else in walnut gloss. I think this looks about as classy as it gets.

(You’ll have to squint - I can only find a picture with Antique Maple...)

CA042B83-FABB-47C9-870E-A45A7266FAF5.jpeg
 
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