ES-335 with Bigsby- what to expect ?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by gitman, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. gitman

    gitman Member

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    i am familiar with the tone and the handling of a "regular" ES-335 type guitar but am toying with the idea of purchasing such a guitar but with a Bigsby vibrato installed.
    how does this affect the sustain, note bloom and tone of the guitar when compared to a stop-tail equipped 335 ? the break angle of the strings over the bridge will be quite shallow so the downpressure is not as severe either -
    i would think that this could be heard and felt as a less direct attack, less fundamentals in the sound and the increased string length also will have an effect.... let me know what your impressions with these guitars are, please !

    here is a fine vintage example :
    http://cgi.ebay.de/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=270271510235
    a current one :
    http://cgi.ebay.com/2008-Gibson-Cus...ryZ38085QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
     
  2. gtrfinder

    gtrfinder Supporting Member

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    Nice guitars.
    I've got a friend that has an early 60's 335 with what we assume is a factory installed bigsby. If you've never played a bigsby equipped guitar you may be in for a bit of a shock. Bigsby guitars feel dramatically different (to me), and I have to change my playing style to accommodate them.
    Case in point of my friends 335 - neither he nor I can play it for longer than 10 minutes without something slipping out of tune. Heavy gauge strings help to some degree.
    It may just need some TLC from a good tech, but everyone he's taken it to says the same thing. The tuning problems are from the Bigsby.

    Rich doesn't seem to have a problem with his however.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7gIRovO0pQ
     
  3. gitman

    gitman Member

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    Johnny A. works his Bigsby constantly and does not seem to have problems with it - it is set up differently though on his guitar since it has a much smaller body. i remember Waddy Wachtel playing a Bigsby equipped LesPaul all the time and so does Neil Young.... but the ES-335/Bigsby is somehow seen much less often ....
     
  4. BigDoug1053

    BigDoug1053 Supporting Member

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    I play a semi solid Gibson Country Gentleman with a Bigsby. I do not have tuning problems, but I put graphite saddles in the bridge and keep the nut clean and lubed. I imagine a Bigsby will sound different from a hard tail, but what the Bigsby adds is expressive and uber cool. If you play the 335 and it speaks to you, go for it - but consider the mods to keep the strings lubed and non-sticking.
     
  5. FrankieSixxxgun

    FrankieSixxxgun Member

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    Never played a Bigsby equipped 335, but I have a normal stop tail 335 as well as two Bigsby loaded Gretsch's. The Gibson definitely has more sustain, but that could be due to a number of things. Like mentioned though, the Bigsby is just super cool, and the suble vibrato is does, which is much different than a Fender tremolo, can color the sound nicely. My Bigsby guitars never come out of tune regardless of how much abuse I give them. One has Grover tuners, the other Sperzels, and both have rocking bridges. The only thing I don't like about the Bigsby at all is stringing the guitar. Man, what a pain!
     
  6. 909one

    909one Member

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    I have had a few Gretsches, a Hamer Newport, and Guild Starfire that have all had Bigsbys. Honestly, I never noticed the tuning being that much of issue unless you really wail on the bigsby. One thing I have noticed though is this... Bigsby's that have the roller bar on them to increase string angle off of the bridge (like the one's on 335's) tend to have a much stiffer action than those that don't have that roller bar. Because of this I tend to prefer Bigsbys on Gretsch style hollowbody's with floating bridges. However, they are still cool on guitars either way. I think all guitars shoul have Bigsby's on them. Once you get used to playing with one, its hard to have a guitar that doesn't have one. But re-stringing them is a bitch for sure.
     
  7. stratotonedude

    stratotonedude Senior Member

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    I actually prefer a trapeze tailpiece ES-335 to one with a stop tailpiece. I currently don't have any Gibsons with Bigsbys. But I do have three Gretsches with them. So far I have not had any tuning issues. Though I do use heavier strings than most people do.
     
  8. gitman

    gitman Member

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    i have owned a Gretsch Tennessee Rose with a Bigsby and a Hamer Monaco with a Bigsby so i am quite familiar with the variuos possible problems that these gadgets can cause - what i would like to know is what tonal effect a standard bigsby vibrato will have on a ES-335 type guitar ! since i never modded a guitar with one i don't have any point of reference - no before/after experience, simple as that ! so this is NOT about tuning issues but all about TONE !
     
  9. jb1984

    jb1984 Member

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    I just put a bigsby on my 335 last month, after mulling it over since I bought the guitar three or four years ago. I was worried about all the same tonal differences and such, but to be honest - since I've done it, not only can I not really hear much of a blatant difference, if there is one, I LIKE it.

    It may just be the sustained-chord-warble that is becoming part of the way I play now, but it just makes sense to me. Tuning is a *little* more of an issue than it was before (I'm anal and tune in between every song anyway) but my 335 was always a little finicky to begin with... I'm going to try graphite in the nut. The shop I took it to suggested replacing the bridge with a Schaller Roller Bridge to help with tuning and string breakage.
     
  10. gitman

    gitman Member

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    thanks for the reply, jb ! i have an old (1963) ES-345 that i have retired from gigging and it also was always a bit sensitive with staying in tune even though it has a stoptail. now i am looking for another ES-type axe and i WANT to put a Bigsby on it, for just those warbly, sustained chords... i have sold my Hamer Monaco with the top-mounted Bigsby because i could not get used to the large D-sized neck. the Bigsby worked fine though and the guitar has excellent sustain. Hamer put an aluminum wedge under the tail end of the unit to compensate for the down-sloping surface of the guitar's carved top- that way they were able to use a top-mount unit in the first place. that trick put the Bigsby level with the bridge and made for a smooth and friction-free function.
    i would think that a good repairman will be able to fashion such a wedge (be it aluminum or hardwood) to conform with any surface so that the top-mount B can be positioned in just the right spot where down-pressure and string-angle over the bridge are just right.
    [​IMG][/IMG]
    the german company GĂ–LDO makes a nifty replacement roller bar for old Bigsby's which lets one thread the strings through the roller- no more finicky string-change !
    http://www.goeldo.de/artikel.php?artgr=58-GTG
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2008

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