Bigsby vs. Jazzmaster/Jaguar trem

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by GibsonLives, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Supporting Member

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    I've tried and owned guitars with many different tremolo designs, from Floyd/Kahler to Strat-style. These days, my favorite by far is a Bigsby - I currently have guitars with other types, and I dig what they do for the sound and feel, but when it comes to actually using the whammy bar, it's Bigsby or nothing for me.

    In over three decades, I've surprisingly never owned a guitar with a Jazzmaster/Jaguar type trem; I had an offset once, but it was a Carvel Surfcaster, which haD a Strat-style tremolo bridge.

    Now, I find myself drawn to Jazzmasters, and two new models in particular - there's one out now from Fender's Magnificent 7 line with a Bigsby, and the American Professional, which has a maple board and a standard JM trem. I'd love to just combine the two, but that ain't happening lol.

    Anyway, forgetting the other features for a moment, how does the JM compare to the Bigsby in performance, maintenance, etc.? For the record, my Bigsby is on a guitar with locking tuners, and I also use a Vibromate Spoiler, so changing strings is painless, and I'm quite happy with the Bigsby's tuning stability and smooth operation).

    I'm not sure if the Professional is out yet, so it may be a bit early to ask for specific experiences, but certainly if anyone has played either or both of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts, about the trem or anything else.

    Thanks.

    Steve
     
  2. Ridgeback

    Ridgeback Member

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    The Bigsby bends are more subtle and have less range. Not necessarily a less desirable thing, just different. I find the offset trem easier to manage physically (e.g. grab and then move out of the way) but I have a lot more experience with the offset trem so it may just be me. Not really a trem thing specifically, but the long string length between the trem and bridge is a big factor in the offset sound and you don't have that with the Bigsbys I've seen\played. Toss up on maintenance in my experience once properly set up.
     
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  3. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Supporting Member

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    Thanks, Ridge. Yeah, it's all in what you get used to and end up digging, for sure.

    I used to be a Strat fanatic, and I still love 'em, but I've seriously branched out in the last several years; I now own 1 Strat, 2 very different Teles, a couple PRSi, 2 Gibbys, and a J. Backlund Model 200, so I'm all over the map now, and always looking for different designs and approaches.

    The Bigsby's subtlety is what I love most, combined with its silky-smooth operation. No more dive bombing for me lol.

    Dumb question, but how do you string a JM? It's obviously a top-loader, but I can't figure it out from pics.

    Do you dig the stock hardware, or do you find upgrading to something like Mastery a better fit?

    Thanks again.

    Steve
     
  4. Ridgeback

    Ridgeback Member

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    You just string them through from the back like a Gibson stop tail, so in that respect, the offset trems are a bit easier to string than the Bigsbys.

    The rocking bridge is part of the "vibe" of the offset trem action but I've really only had one offset (a CS Jazzmaster) where I really liked that aspect. I've had Mastery bridges in all of my other offsets. Just personal preference. I also have a Mastery bridge in my Bigsby tele.
     
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  5. shakeshakeshake

    shakeshakeshake Member

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    I love both, they do feel very different to me. Bigsby action feels more precise with a stiffer action, dipping a precise semitone or tone down is pretty easy to get that country faux-steel thing going on and it feels pretty natural to do. Offset tremolos are much much looser in feel, the differences in action definitely impart the characteristics of music associated with the, (surf, 50s country stuff, shoegaze kinda shimmer and warble, etc). They are both very fun. I kind of think of them like if you had a vibrato pedal, the offset would be the sine wave setting and the Bigsby would be the triangle wave setting.


    I think my offset is a little more stable than my bigsby equipped guitar, but that could just be down to other differences such as headstock design or how the nut is cut.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
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  6. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Supporting Member

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    Ridge, I, too, put a Mastery bridge on my Bigsby Tele (CS with TV Jones and ebony board). I can't get enough.

    Shake, very interesting analogy, thanks.

    The very last thing I need is another guitar, since I currently have 8 electrics. And since only one of those 8 is a semihollow (1981 Gibson ES-347), I also wonder whether I might be better with a (semi)hollow if I do buy another. I guess I could use just one more. Always...just...one...more!

    Steve
     
  7. GibsonLives

    GibsonLives Supporting Member

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    Okay, I just watched a video they put up today on the Professional JM and Jag with maple boards...holy crap, but do I want one! I'm sure a ton of other bids will follow, but for now, just type fender professional jazzmaster into Youtube.

    Steve

    Edit: here's the link:
     
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  8. itstooloudMike

    itstooloudMike Member

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    I've had lots of guitars with a Bigsby, and find that while they look cool, I end up using them very little. The action is kind of stiff, and it takes fore-thought to get a "pretty" warble. The Bigsby is really more of a down-only tremolo, and if you use it much, it can cause tuning problems. It's the kind of tremolo I would only use at the end of the last song in the set.

    I only recently got an offset (CIJ Jaguar), and had to go through the normal learning curve for proper offset setup. It's not like other guitars, and you need to understand and respect the design. But once set up right, the offset tremolo (with rocking bridge) is a delight to play. It's just so natural feeling. You can get a shimmer that really isn't possible with other tremolos. And it stays in tune much better than I had expected. I can leave my Jaguar hanging on the wall for weeks, and when I pick it up it's still in tune. I really love it, and it makes me want to use the tremolo. That's unique for me, because I have played Strats for years, and also have a PRS (with trem) and a guitar with a Floyd. So, I have had them all. But the guitar that gets the most tremolo use is my Jaguar. For me, it's just the perfect tremolo. From subtle to surfy, it just sounds right.
     
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  9. bossaddict

    bossaddict Supporting Member

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    One thing to keep in mind with the Jazzmaster bridge is that it will only change the pitch downward, whereas with a Bigsby (or Maestro vibrola, etc.), you can warble up or down in pitch.

    EDIT: I'm wrong about this. See downthread...
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2016
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  10. Ridgeback

    Ridgeback Member

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    Not tempted by the new professionals. No rhythm circuit. One of the really cool innovations that Leo put into the JM and Jag. I get that many folks don't care about it and I'm sure Fender did their market and cost research on this before deciding to drop it from these new models but a deal killer for me. On the other hand, the strangle switch on the Jag I could live without. Some cool new colors and other improvements though.
     
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  11. Roxy

    Roxy Member

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    I have a Jag with and without a Bigsby. The bend is more subtle and controlable with a Bigsby. Smoother. And for me at least the bulky tremolo adds more weight to the guitar for a better feel ( my opinion). The only issue I find with a Bigsby is that it's a pain in the balls to change strings.
     
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  12. tommygunn1986

    tommygunn1986 Member

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    I've had Strat, Jag, Bigsby, and Floyd Rose vibrato units and by far my favorite is the Strat. The tone just sounds way different. I think it sounds more "surfy" than the Jag vibrato. I think this is due to the balance between strings and strings. The springs are all about the same thickness but the strings are all different. This means the strings drop/raise in pitch at a slightly different amount.
     
  13. misterturtlehead

    misterturtlehead Member

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    Those are vibrato units.

    I have a Bigsby on a Gretsch hollowbody and a Jazzmaster vibrato unit on a Jazzmaster. I mostly do the same kinds of things with both the Bigsby and the Fender. Mostly I just shake chords. But sometimes I will shake notes in single note lines.
     
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  14. bubbaheat

    bubbaheat Member

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    I beat the **** out of my JM trem and stay in tune. I can't do that with my Bigsby. I also like the lighter feel of the bar on the JM. I love the way I can tap my fist on the big flat Bigsby bar, you can't do that with the JM but in the end I like the feel and control of the JM better.
     
  15. eigentone

    eigentone Supporting Member

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    Uh… the Jazzmaster/Jaguar vibrato is bidirectional. Been using them since the 90s… I ought to know.

    Maybe the one you played was not set up right?
     
  16. eigentone

    eigentone Supporting Member

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    Whoa - another guy who uses the Rhythm Circuit :beer

    I switch to the RC quite a bit for lead work and utilize the VT in both Standard and Rhythm modes.

    I've got a 2012 American Vintage and a 2016 Thin Skin for my daily drivers; both with Masterys. I'm not tempted by the new AmPro.

    I do like the Marr 4-way in the Jag however, but I would get and AV Jag before a Marr or AmPro.

    Of course, the great thing about the AmPros is that it fills a void where the pickings were slim between $1000 and $2300 offsets. Typically, we had an artist model or two in that range or occasional special run. So they certainly fill a need in the core lineup.
     
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  17. morgan918

    morgan918 Member

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    I've had guitars with both (including Mastery trems) and I like the offset trem the best. Bigsby's work well enough (and look cool) but the Offset trem offers more range and control and stays in tune better. Bigsby tuning can be helped with a roller bridge though and making sure the nut is set up well. FWIW, the Mastery vibrato is significantly better than an AVRI. If you're into vibrato it's worth the cost.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2016
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  18. 909one

    909one Member

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    I think a Bigsby without the downward pressure bar, like the ones you find on Gretsches, are comparable to Offset trems in terms of feel. I prefer Offset tremolo though, it seems to hold tune much better than any Bigsby equipped guitar I've had, and I've owned like 5-6 of them. I still like the Bigsby, but I really love the Offset trem.
     
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  19. telecoaster

    telecoaster Member

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    I live for bigsbys, I put them on all my guitars...jazzmasters are the only other vibrato I like using.

    Main guitars are a Gretsch and a Jazzmaster so I use both all the time. Bigsby is more controlled and can give you that beautiful chord shimmer. The jazzer is a bit more random and harder to control, but it can give everything this seasick vibe that I love with more ambient music. Contrary to a lot of people here I find my bigsbys stay in tune a bit better than my jazzmaster, maybe it's just how I play them. Not that the jazzmaster is a problem in any way, very easy to setup and maintain.
     
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  20. GA20T

    GA20T Member

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    I love the history & look of a Bigsby, but never actually liked the feel/the bar/the weight/tuning/re-stringing/limitations. The Jag's/Jazzmaster's is as subtle (and smooth) as you want/it gets, but you can also manhandle it and it will give you more while properly and reliably returning to pitch. You can also adjust the "accuracy" or stiffness somewhat by ignoring the trem lock button and either loosening or tightening down on the spring to your liking. You can also further adjust your vibrato action by modifying to fixed bridge posts vs. the trad. floating.
     
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