Adding a bigsby to my Les Paul – good idea? Experiences?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by geetarboy, Jan 11, 2008.


  1. geetarboy

    geetarboy Member

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    So, in recent years I’ve gotten into a lot of music that features the bigsby (Johnny A, Setzer, Chet Atkins, Surf/Lounge). I’m thinking of installing a bigsby on my LP standard. Any experiences, suggestions? It seems that there will be a visible hole from one of the tailpiece pole holes. Any way to avoid that? Which bigsby model should I get? Should I have it professionally done or is it a home project? Will be tuning become a nightmare? Will I want to change to different pups to compensate for the bigsby?

    Thanks!
     
  2. dunara

    dunara Member

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    The model you need is a B70 (or a B7, but they're more expensive and less well machined...). I've fitted 5 Bigsby units to my guitars (and am about to do another). It's possible that the studhole may be partially exposed. It never bothered me, but you could have it professionally filled and refinished.
    You won't need to change pickups - I'm not sure what it is you think you need to compensate for :confused:.
    When I fit a Bigsby, I also fit Graph Tech string saver saddles. Their lubricant qualities greatly improve the tuning stability of the guitar with a Bigsby. I use Big Bends Nut Sauce in the nut for the same reason, and on one guitar I had to slightly re-profile the nut slots.
    You can do all of this yourself, unless you have 'stud hole problems'. I'm a Bigsby nut myself, and have never regretted fitting one to any of my instruments. They all stay in tune, and look great! :drool

    Good Luck!
    Colin
     
  3. 62Tele

    62Tele Supporting Member

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    A friend of mine put a Bigsby on his Black Beauty and loves it.

    One thing worth looking into might be the "Les Trem" thing (and I think there may be others on the market). Replaces the tailpiece and no permanent mods. Could at least give you an idea if the trem thing is right for you before you start drilling holes.
     
  4. c-dub

    c-dub Gold Supporting Member

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    Or a stetsbar. Installs in minutes, people rave about it, reversible in minutes too.

    The Les Trem, which I like on my Reverend guitars very much, is a great unit but really works best the way reverend does it, by using a roller bridge and affixing the spring to the body by way of a screw. So that would be one non-reversible aspect of it.
     
  5. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

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    Mixed results generally, I like it but it's been challenging.

    I started with a 2001 Les Paul Custom, a decent guitar but it was obtained as something to mess with.

    I put on a used B-3, which is the model which does not require holes in the guitar top surface, just holes by the strap peg. This was laughable, if I touched it went out of tune. If I looked at it went out of tune. A neighbor farted, the sound came through an open window and darned if that Les Paul didn't go out of tune..So I sold it.

    I bought a used B-7 which does require two substantial wood screws into the top of the guitar, and some holes around the strap peg. Somewhat better, but still pretty twitchy with anything more than the slightest shimmer, the guitar would go sour. So I started really investigating the bridge and nut.

    I've tried the Allparts roller bridge with the sharp cornered base casting, the regular nashville Tuneamatic and a Wilkinson roller bridge. I also bought the Guitar Fetish roller bridge, but it requires a different stud thread and I'm not willing yet to pull the orig. studs and press in new.

    The Wilkinson bridge works much better than the Allparts or Tuneamatic. So that's on there now. Moderate use is possible now, but I find I need to think about it more than I would like. So I leave it alone way more than the bar on any Strat.

    The eternal downside from my point of view is the headstock angle on a Gibson. The nut is a friction point by design, creates friction in two axis (sp?) and will never work as trouble free as a locking nut or straight pull flatter angled headstock. So for me, coming from pretty unlimited motion trem bridges on Strats, the Bigsby is less functional at this time, on this instrument.

    At the end of the day I don't regret it, but it's been somewhat a pain and no where as usable as any Fender trem.
     
  6. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    Set up carefully they stay in tune reasonably well even with a tune-o-matic - the problems are usually at the nut end. I've just done one for the guitar player in one of my bands, and it's OK so far but still needs a bit of fine tweaking...

    One thing to remember about the post holes is that you will need some means of connecting the ground to the Bigsby, since normally it's done via the treble-side tailpiece stud with the stoptail. You will either need to poke a piece of stiff wire down the hole (really push a lot in so it ensures a good contact) and trap it under the Bigsby, or find an old tailpiece stud, cut it off so it will be flush with the body, file a slot into it so you can screw it in, and set it so it contacts the underside of the Bigsby. So don't completely fill the treble-side hole until you've addressed this problem :).

    It absolutely baffles me why Bigsby have never made a proper dedicated Les Paul model which could hook onto the existing posts at the front, and only require the strap button screw at the back. It's not as if the Les Paul is an uncommon or variable guitar, and if it was made like that it would mean you could fit one with no modification at all... (and it would cure the ground problem automatically too)

    FWIW, the Les Trem and other units (eg Bowen Handle) which fit only on the tailpiece studs are a bad idea IMO since with use they can loosen the post inserts in the body.
     
  7. rooster

    rooster Member

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    FWIW, I've got a Les Trem I'd be more than willing to part with at an extremely reasonable price.:eek:

    Having said this, I have 2 Stetsbars on 2 of my Heritage H150CM's. Great unit, much better machining than Bigsby, much better functionality, much less loss of sustain, great tone.

    I put on Sperzel locking tuners as well, and I stay in tune much better than any Bigsby, and can dive it almost to where the strings suck down onto the pickups. Almost. It's not going to do the Floyd Rose thing, but it's the best I've ever seen for a LP. Oh, and no drilling/modifying of the body.

    rooster.
     
  8. rastus

    rastus Member

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    It's odd, but I've owned a ton of Bigsby equipped guitars, and to me there are 3 elements that are needed to meke 'em work well; Selection of the proper unit for the guitar is a given I'll not list.

    1) Long Travel spring-must be chrome plated-not plain steel. These are the stiffest with the best return action.
    2) Heavier strings- these units were designed when heavy guagesere the norm. They flat do not work worth a damn with any less than 11s, IMO. The action can't be real super low either.
    3) Properly cut nut and saddles, lubricated and touched up as needed. This is a maintainance issue-ignore it and the Bigs will punish you eventually.

    Anyway that is how I get em to work. I have an old leftover from the 80's with a Floyd, but consider it a pain. Other than vintage Strat trems and Bigsbys I have never liked any other designs.
     
  9. Austinrocks

    Austinrocks Member

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  10. the_Chris

    the_Chris It's All Been Done Before Gold Supporting Member

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    I've been researching these options as well for the past few months. As soon as I have the disposable income, I'll be getting a Stetsbar for my Firebird. A Bigsby isn't really worth the effort if you have to mod the heck out of your instrument and worry about the aesthetic repercussions afterwards as well.
     

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