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NBD: Gretsch G5440 LSB Hollowbody (Long Scale)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by CPplaysBASS, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. CPplaysBASS


    Mar 17, 2007
    This past Saturday, I left my house to buy a new suit for work. The two hours after that are a blur. I arrived back home without a suit, but with a new Gretsch Electromatic G5440 LSB :) More expensive than a suit, but I'll wearing this bass more than a suit (work is mostly casual these days anyway).

    So for context, I am a 100% Fender P-Bass guy. I've tried different types of basses numerous times just to try and have something different in my arsenal, and it has never worked out for me (Fender Jazz, Stingray, etc.). I have a standard MIA P-Bass with flats, another MIA P-Bass I converted into a PJ with rounds, a fretless P-Bass and a Squier P (also converted to a PJ).

    I've always been on the search for a hollowbody though. Mostly for the aesthetics I must admit, but once I joined a bluesy / jazzy / lounge band, my interest ramped up (even though my P-Basses are perfect for that too ... just different).

    I did own a Gretsch G6073 Electrotone a couple of years ago. Was $2,300 brand new, and I bought it used for $1,500. I had to drive a bit far to pick it up. It was one of those situations where I didn't really love it when I played it. I also thought the fake f-holes were a bit cheesy for such an expensive bass. However, after driving the distance and having the money ready to spend, I figured I'd take it home and learn to love it. The only thing I learned was that you don't "learn to love" anything. LOL

    No offense intended to other G6073 owners. For me however, with the short scale and pencil thin neck, it was as different from a P-Bass as you can imagine and was not the tone I wanted from a hollowbody. The tone wasn't the nice deep thud I was expecting (yes, I had flats on it). It was totally anemic and lacking in character. I took it to a local store and ended up trading it in for ... you guessed it ... a P-Bass!

    Regardless of that experience, I was still interested in hollow body basses. I was aware of other Gretsch models but never paid attention to the specs and assumed they were all short scale with skinny necks. Always admired the stunning looks though and I never gave up on the idea of owning another Gretsch - but only at the right price and if I could try it out first.

    I also tried the Jack Cassady, Gibson Midtown, German made Hofner 500/1 '63 reissue, Ibanez Artcore ... all great basses but none of them excited me enough to reach for the wallet.

    Anyway ... it was only last week that I realized that Gretsch has a long scale model with a beefy neck (1.6875" nut width). If going by pictures only, it can easily be confused with the short-scale 5123B model - different fret inlays though (Edit: 5123 is actually medium scale, 5442 is short scale. Thanks AlexanderB and Donn).

    Just my luck that a store 30 minutes away had a 5440 in stock.

    Knowing that nothing could replace a P-Bass as my main bass, I fought as hard as I could for three whole days trying to convince myself I did not need a hollowbody and should just save the money (I do have to justify my gear purchases somewhat with a wife and kids). On day four, I collapsed and once I got behind the wheel, my car seemed to find it's own way to the guitar shop. I was powerless! Of course the bass was right there inside the door practically jumping out at me when I walked in.

    So, the bass ... DEFINITELY a beefy neck. I love it. I do not have big hands, but I have always preferred a P neck to a J neck. The neck width on the G5440 is wider than a P neck, and it's very noticeable when playing, but I like it. I find it comfortable.

    Tone wise ...BINGO. 100% of the woody tone I'd expect. I have DR Legends flatwounds on the bass and mainly use the neck pickup only. Very deep, but defined. It sat in the mix perfectly in band practice last night. Even the anal-rententive tone God lead guitarist only had compliments for the sound. Also sounds great with both pickups on full, but it is not as woody ... is closer to a semi-hollow sound to my ears. That may change once the strings are worked in a bit though.

    The build quality is excellent. I had issues with the "Professional" line G6073 I had. I could never get it setup to my liking. I always has to keep the action a little higher than I would have liked to avoid fret buzz (frets were level). In comparison, the Korean made G5440 is flawless with action as low as my P-Bass (6/64" at the 17th fret, .012" relief), perfect fret work, finish is flawless.

    To me, the $900 G5440 is a much better bass straight up than the $2300 G6073 I owned. In my hands anyway! A great bass period ... the price tag is simply an incredible bonus.

    So in summary ...

    - Would not be my #1 go-to everything bass. My P-Basses are forever #1. However, I can justify spending $900 for a great bass that will get a good deal of use.

    - The Gretsch G5440 LSB is the PERFECT hollowbody for me. It's an easy playing adjustment switching back and forth with a P-Bass (due to scale and nut width), and delivers that woody tone you can only get from a true hollowbody. The perfect compliment to a P-Bass in my opinion.

    - Neck dive? Oh yeah, like the worst. Not an issue for me though. Part of my forearm is always on the body and my fretting hand is holding the neck. No problem.

    - No issues here about Korean quality. None whatsoever!

    grenadilla likes this.
  2. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    I was always attracted to that color on Gretsch’s hollow body guitars (5120), and that bass turns me on, as well.

    Beautiful bass—congrats!
  3. CPplaysBASS


    Mar 17, 2007
    Thanks Marko! The bass also looks awesome in black, but I agree that orange is what most people think of when they hear the name "Gretsch". It really stands out even on a crowded stage!
  4. Good score for you. I have two 5440s among other basses, including Precisions. No favorites, though; my life would be a lot simpler if there were. I bought one 5440 and liked it so much that when another surfaced at a deep discount I got it and defretted the first one. So now I have a team.

    I think that once you become accustomed to the bass, the neck size will not be an issue. On both basses I have found that, regardless of the pickup selection, the 5440 sounds best when plucked over the bridge pickup. Having one's arm there also helps with neck dive. Next best-sounding strikepoint to me is over the fingerboard. To me,
    plucking over the bass pickup or between pickups, the sound lacks character.

    The only change I made was to the tuners. The stock ones are so undersized for that bass that they offended my sense of proportion.
  5. CPplaysBASS


    Mar 17, 2007
    Thanks GW! Definitely agree with the variation of tones depending on pluck location and I found just (barely) behind the neck pickup to be best for me. There were times last night that I found myself sticking my thumb into the round part of the f-hole just in front of the bridge pickup - using the f-hole as a thumb rest. Not the best tone and horrible technique. I'll have to break that habit fast or risk getting my thumb stuck in there some day!
  6. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    As a G5123B owner, I see your POV. (By the way, the 5123 is 32" scale, a medium scale. There is also a 30" version.)
    The 5123 neck is "substantial" but def. easy to play. Fit and finish is flawless. Shielding so-so but no big deal. I had some feedback at first rehearsal but cutting 100 and 200/250 Hz on a 31 band graphic helped immensly. Very giggable now. And good looking, for gigs where it matters.
  7. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Very cool story and bass congrats.
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    Beautiful bass! I have a 5123 partially because I love that color and look, and partly because I increasingly prefer shorter scales.

    Enjoy it - simply a LOVELY bass!
  9. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    Rad. more pics!
  10. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Congrats! Never had a chance to try one of these. I have a 6072 (thinner) hollow body and have never had a feedback problem. My Dean Stylist will howl at certain volumes.

    More pics please...........
  11. I've got a 6070 and two 6072s in addition to the 5440s. The reason you and I don't have feedback problems is because the old Gretsches don't have real f-holes. Access to the electronics is easier too.

    I would like to know how the fingerboard overstand is on your 6072. Both mine have playability issues because the "floating" part got glued to the top, pulling the entire neck out of line. I would like to know how that part should be in hopes of avoiding a complete neck reset.
  12. Guinness20


    Jan 24, 2013
    Liverpool, UK
    Congrats man, beautiful bass! It's interesting, not in the hollowbody market (if I had the money I would!) but would go for the g5442bdc bass, just because it's short scale. In I think it's trans red it looks great.
  13. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Mine is a reissue with real f holes. It plays amazingly well. No issues at all. The lack of feedback is due to the thinner hollow body, IMHO.
    blindrabbit likes this.
  14. Guinness20


    Jan 24, 2013
    Liverpool, UK
    That's stunning! Are you better off with a thinner body?
  15. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Thanks. A thinner body makes it easier to play at louder volumes. The much thicker Dean works well but there's a certain point where it's impossible to play unless you cover the f holes. Great with an acoustic guitar and small drum set.
    It's been hot rodded with TV Jones Thundertrons.
  16. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    Goldilocks-approved medium scale - just to compile notes from separate posts above, the 5123 is medium scale, the short scale is 5442.

    I bought 34 inch strings for my 5123, though, and by the same token I'd expect you might need extra long strings for yours?
  17. CPplaysBASS


    Mar 17, 2007
    Definitely confusing with all those model numbers ... lol

    For my long scale 5440, I have regular long scale DR Legends flat wounds, the exact same as I have on my Fender P-Bass.

    A perfect fit fortunately!


  18. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    Well, ... duh! I just happened to be looking at that picture again, and suddenly a glimmer of realization pierced the haze - why, the bridge-to-tailpiece length is obviously way shorter here, than the 3 inches on the G5123B.

    Excellent, I doubt it makes any difference acoustically and you get to use 34 inch strings - and I get to use 34 inch strings.