Bigsby? Would love one, but yikes!


Gold Supporting Member
Always wanted a Bigsby equipped Les Paul or LP Jr. (or Gretsch and others), but I read too many sad tails about bad things that come along (tuning, intonation, etc.). Is there a sure-fire way to avoid this?


Hack sans shame
Platinum Supporting Member
A pro setup by someone who understands Bigby. I have three Bigsby-equipped guitars (2 Gretsches and a Tele). All of 'em set up by a pro who knows. All of 'em a joy to play.


Gold Supporting Member
Yeah, the more movement you bring into play, the more you really need to have the guitar set up correctly to have a stable system...You're balancing string tension against spring tension and then you're moving the string across saddles and through a nut.

Get it set up right and put graphite or Big Bends Nut Sauce on the contact points and you can enjoy your Bigsby. They're nothing like that sweet warble.

Ugly Bunny

They're the biggest PITA to change strings on, that's for sure, but otherwise I haven't had any of the issues you mention. I love my Bigsby on my Nysrum LaBella (cabronita tele). It's got such a gentle vibrato.


Bigsby is my favorite system. Wrap the ball end of the string around a pencil to give it a curve, this makes it easier to hook around the bar and onto the pin.

Pop a capo on the neck around the fourth fret to hold the bulk of the string in place, then wrap the string around your peg like usual. Give the strings a stretch and tune up. You'll have to tune up a little the first few times you play, but it should be good to go. Take a pencil and scribble a little graphite into the nut slots.

I miss my various Bigsby-equipped guitars sometimes. I had my best stability on my Gretsch with a bar bridge.


I was a little concerned about Bigsby's, but the one on my Gretsch 5420 was great straight from the box. Guitar stays in tune no matter how much abuse i give it.


Question: when changing strings, do you guys replace one at a time and bring the new one up to pitch? I have 2 G&Ls with the Wilkinson type 2 point trem, and although it takes longer to do a string change, seems to be easier and quicker to get to the end result when all strings are replaced of: of new strings, stretched and up to pitch.

I've been eye balling as SG with a Bigsby and was curious as well.


I start with the low E string bring them close to being in-tune. Once they are on I have to tune them several times over due to string stretch, spring compression... Bigsby's are great!

Tony Bones

I have no problems with tuning stability on Bigsby equipped instruments. A good nut is important, but that's always true no matter what kind of tailpiece you have. Worst case, if a string gets "hung up" and goes out of tune then wiggling the Bigsby handle will bring it right back. But honestly, I very rarely find that necessary.


I tried a Bigsby on two of my Les Pauls and ended up broken hearted with both. True, there is NOTHING like the sweet warble--until it doesn't go back in tune. Nothing I did could make it work on either guitar. I tried roller bridges, lubricated nuts, locking tuners, and phenomenal set ups. Nothing helped.

I've played Bigsby-equipped guitars that were rock solid and have come to the (possibly erroneous) conclusion that some guitars like Bigsbys and some don't.
Some stuff to help:

Roller or rocker bridge
Well cut nut
Graphite nut
Locking tuners

I love bigsby's and usually stick them on guitars that don't have them, but I do think they are nightmares for tuning stability until some work is done. Usually guitars on the wall at a shop will have poorly cut nuts and a TOM bridge which can be bad news. After you deal the spots of where the strings can stick they become pretty good, not like a stop tail but equal to something like a strat or offset in stability which is pretty good.
I'd try some pencil graphite before that big bends stuff, the big bends always winds up gunking up my nut slots and I think makes things worse after a while.
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I have a Hamer Monaco that came with a Bigsby.
Never had a problem unless I did it by trying to dive bomb or some other nonsense.
That guitar is stock to this day - bridge, nut, tuners - and it's a joy to play.

As to string changes, yeah, there's a bit of a learning curve, and I hope I never have to do it at a gig.
But once the "formula" is committed to muscle memory, it's well worth the effort.
A "pre-curl" of the ball end is the key.
On the advice of a luthier (Stephen White in Berkeley) I use needle nose pliers with a smooth, not grooved, grip.
I make sure to NOT curl the wrap itself.

I tried a pencil early on, but the resulting radius was too large.
It would do in a pinch.


Gold Supporting Member
Love them - very few issues (other than looking too darn cool! :) ).

+1 on lubing the nut and a roller bridge - or GraphTech bridge pins. I use a .5 mm mechanical pencil to lube the nut slot.

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