I’m not an overly technical guitar player. I know what I like to play, and the chords I learned have stuck with me for years. For some strange reason, after a couple decades of owning guitars and reviewing them, I never happened to use a Bigsby bar.
If you don’t know the name, I’m not surprised. I didn’t, either. I’ve called it a tremolo bar or a whammy bar before. It’s a lever you move up and down to cause vibrato. You can bend the pitch of notes (either when playing solo or the entire chord).
I mention all of this because, after testing out the Gretsch G2604T Limited Edition Streamliner Rally II, I’m amazed at how much I liked using the Bigsby bar that’s included with this particular model. (Apparently, you can buy one without the Bigsby bar, but the model I tested had one.)
This would be like someone who has driven a car since their youth finally discovering the AC or maybe that you can roll the window down. (Curiously, I have also never tried using a slide on a guitar but that is next on my list.) The Rally II is my current favorite guitar, and not just because I found the Bigsby bar.
Let’s start with how it feels. The 22-frets just feel light in my hand and meet both of my requirements for any guitar — to be able to play solos and chords just as easily, as opposed to a guitar meant for one or the other. I had the same experience with a Fender Tele review a while back where the guitar seemed to excel at both soloing and chords.
The Streamliner Rally II just sounds pristine to my ears, which is amazing because this is not a super expensive guitar. It has a smooth, full sound thanks to the laminated maple top and body, and the laurel fingerboard just has a smooth and even feel. Holding the guitar, you feel like it doesn’t weigh you down and could easily travel with you anywhere.
So, about that Bigsby guitar. Here’s the thing about my own playing. It opened up a whole new world for me. Solos and chords, played through a small practice amp, took on a new sonic quality I have not heard come through a guitar from my own fingers before. I could create a droning effect that reminded me of a gothic hardcore band.
On blues solos, I could add some wicked sustain that was not possible before with other guitars. And, the tremolo bar actually worked without causing any tuning problems. It was a major highlight for me and rekindled a lot of passion for guitar playing.
So what are the compromises? I couldn’t really find any. When I test guitars, I usually find one or two things I don’t like, such as being too heavy, not quite feeling right when I play, or maybe just sticker shock over the price.
At $699.99, I feel the Streamliner Rally II ticks all of the boxes for me. It’s not a pure solo or lead guitar, and it’;’s not just a strummer for rhythm playing only. I could see myself easily owning this model and loving every minute playing it.