SG w/Maestro setup questions/issues

Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
Hey y’all,

First of all, I did my research, so I’m not totally surprised to find myself in this situation. :) Anyways I recently ordered one of the new “original” series ‘61 SG standards with Maestro vibrola.

When I got the guitar it had some pretty major rattle issues, but I think most of it was from a loose nut on the vibrola. So today I set about changing the strings (went from 10s to Pyramid pure nickel 11’s) and trying to get it setup to my liking...I lubed the snot out of everything to try to help with tuning stability and overall I think I’m getting there, but I do have some concerns.

First of all, I raised the bridge enough that the strings clear the edge of the tailpiece (which I’m assuming is necessary). The break angle seems okay, but not great. I’ve got the TOM almost pinned and the action is still a little high (around 6/64ths at the 12th fret if I remember correctly). Relief is maybe a little high, but more-or-less about where it should be (.012-ish measured at the top of the 6th, pressing down on the first and 12th frets).

I don’t mind it as-is, but I’m concerned that there’s nowhere to go. I had to lower the bridge pickup to get clearance after going to the heavier strings...the extra tension seems to have made a pretty big difference.

The other issue is that the guitar seems to have a slightly metallic overtone...it’s hard to describe, but it just seems like the strings don’t ring as freely as they should. Seems more noticeable when plugged in than playing acoustic. Can’t put my finger on it, but it just doesn’t really sound “right.”

I’m also having an issue with the B string sounding a bit muffled, both open and fretted. I suspect the saddle but don’t know what could be causing it or how to fix it.

So, anybody got any tips or tricks here? I’m decent but not great at doing setup stuff. I can take it to a tech if I really need to, but I don’t know what he’ll be able to do about the main problems of having everything down as far as it can go and the action still being high.

I’ve also already been considering the following mods, but only want to do what’s really necessary, and I also don’t know how these will address the main issue either:

-I would consider replacing the vibrola spring if I knew where to get one that might work better
-bone or nylon nut (whatever’s on there feels pretty crappy and cheap)
-tusq or nylon saddles
-domed thumbwheels from Crazyparts

Or...can I just bend the one I have? If so, what do I do/how do I do it?

Any input appreciated!

Thanks,

Gary
 

Noise Under The Floor

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
12,315
I’m a big SG fan, and have owned quite a few with the vibrola. Vintage and reissues. I now have one stop tail and one vibrola model. The vibrola models are unique beasts. I can attest that most of the things you have concerns with are just inherent to that tailpiece, especially that metallic overtone you mentioned. I had a rattle on mine as well, which turned out to be a loose screw in the vibrola cover plate.

It also has a shallower break angle than the stop tail model, which contributes to a plinkier, less sustained ringing sound. Guitars like Jazzmasters an Jaguars have a similar thing going on. A compressor and/or clean boost has always helped me in that dept.

Not sure what to tell you about the setup. If it were mine I would take it to a tech before starting to make mods to it.
 

woof*

Member
Messages
8,803
This is why everyone pulled the vibrola’s off and why you find so many vintage SG’s/Firebirds with them removed.
 

Dr. Tinnitus

Member
Messages
3,355
Hey y’all,

First of all, I did my research, so I’m not totally surprised to find myself in this situation. :) Anyways I recently ordered one of the new “original” series ‘61 SG standards with Maestro vibrola.

When I got the guitar it had some pretty major rattle issues, but I think most of it was from a loose nut on the vibrola. So today I set about changing the strings (went from 10s to Pyramid pure nickel 11’s) and trying to get it setup to my liking...I lubed the snot out of everything to try to help with tuning stability and overall I think I’m getting there, but I do have some concerns.

First of all, I raised the bridge enough that the strings clear the edge of the tailpiece (which I’m assuming is necessary). The break angle seems okay, but not great. I’ve got the TOM almost pinned and the action is still a little high (around 6/64ths at the 12th fret if I remember correctly). Relief is maybe a little high, but more-or-less about where it should be (.012-ish measured at the top of the 6th, pressing down on the first and 12th frets).

I don’t mind it as-is, but I’m concerned that there’s nowhere to go. I had to lower the bridge pickup to get clearance after going to the heavier strings...the extra tension seems to have made a pretty big difference.

The other issue is that the guitar seems to have a slightly metallic overtone...it’s hard to describe, but it just seems like the strings don’t ring as freely as they should. Seems more noticeable when plugged in than playing acoustic. Can’t put my finger on it, but it just doesn’t really sound “right.”

I’m also having an issue with the B string sounding a bit muffled, both open and fretted. I suspect the saddle but don’t know what could be causing it or how to fix it.

So, anybody got any tips or tricks here? I’m decent but not great at doing setup stuff. I can take it to a tech if I really need to, but I don’t know what he’ll be able to do about the main problems of having everything down as far as it can go and the action still being high.

I’ve also already been considering the following mods, but only want to do what’s really necessary, and I also don’t know how these will address the main issue either:

-I would consider replacing the vibrola spring if I knew where to get one that might work better
-bone or nylon nut (whatever’s on there feels pretty crappy and cheap)
-tusq or nylon saddles
-domed thumbwheels from Crazyparts

Or...can I just bend the one I have? If so, what do I do/how do I do it?

Any input appreciated!

Thanks,

Gary
The spring will set the angle of the comb, thus affecting the break angle. Modern Vibrolas typically have stiffer springs, and the comb typically sits flatter with less of an angle. You could look for a replacement spring, but they aren't easy to find. A vintage spring will almost always produce a more pronounced comb angle; It kind of tucks the comb down in the curve of the spring.

The saddles also make a big difference here: While I don't think the vibrola kills much sustain on its own, I think i can cause a loss of tone and sustain when used with a tune-o-matic style bridge. Obviously the vibrola causes the strings to move forward and release tension. The saddles on the tune-o-matic also might move when using the vibrola (or maybe subtlety during a harder string attack when combined with a vibrola) This might be the cause of the loss. My vibrola guitars both have wraparound bridges, with raised metal lightning bolt saddles. This means the strings sit on a pretty immovable setup and I also have a decent break angle. I don't think I lose tone or sustain, but I do lose some bottom-end which causes a tighter sound especially with overdrive. I also understand that metallic presence in the tone, but with my guitars (P90 and wraparound bridge) I'd call it more "airy" than metallic.

Anyway here's what I would suggest:

Tusq prelubed nut (I'd still lube it though)
A bridge that offers less movement for the saddles (so, if you have a tune-o-matic style, consider a wraparound)
If you can't find a spring, you could attempt to bend it. I've never attempted this, but I would attach the comb and attempt to bend the comb evenly on both sides down into the curve of the spring. This may be very difficult, as I believe these springs are pretty strong and may require a lot of pressure to change their shape.

Anyway, hope some of this helps or gives you a few ideas.
 
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Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
Thanks for the tips, y’all. I tweaked the setup a little more this morning and I feel like it’s getting better (man!).

I noticed I could actually see the curve of the neck looking at the guitar from the side, so I took out some of the relief, which also allowed me to raise the bridge a bit. The whole thing is a system, of course, and that seems more important on this guitar than others. I guess that makes sense, since it feels like it’s pretty much all neck.

So, it’s already improved and now I’m just trying to find the best combination of neck relief and bridge height, but I’m gonna let it settle in for a while at this point.

It does still feel a little “plinky plonky” and I’d love to get a better break angle. The B string and some of the upper frets don’t ring out as clearly as I would like, but it’s pretty bearable and will hopefully get even better.

If that’s just the way it is with these guitars then so be it. This is my first SG and first guitar with a maestro...I have not been a fan of either in the past, but somehow the two together just click. I’m digging it much more than I thought I would!

Thanks,

Gary
 

Whiskeyrebel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
31,128
/... A vintage spring will almost always produce a more pronounced comb angle; It kind of tucks the comb down in the curve of the spring../..If you can't find a spring, you could attempt to bend it. I've never attempted this, but I would attach the comb and attempt to bend the comb evenly on both sides down into the curve of the spring. This may be very difficult, as I believe these springs are pretty strong and may require a lot of pressure to change their shape../
Would a bench vise do the trick? If I'm following you, the goal is to pinch the fold tighter, so that the edge of the section that the comb slides onto is closer to the curved section that does the actual flexing.
 

Dr. Tinnitus

Member
Messages
3,355
Would a bench vise do the trick? If I'm following you, the goal is to pinch the fold tighter, so that the edge of the section that the comb slides onto is closer to the curved section that does the actual flexing.
That's right and I think a bench vise would be the way to go.
 

4styx

Member
Messages
1,268
Does anybody experience the bridge moving back and forth with the Trem. The threads and the thumb wheels are one piece and the fit into the inserts is super loose. Sorry for the de-rail but this is messed up and Gibson is ducking the issue.
Sorry for your troubles OP. I found a tech that has fine grit abrasive wire and he polished the nut and bridge saddles. The guitar stays in tune now.
 
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Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
My bridge also moves a bit. I’m afraid to touch the trem right now! :) But tuning stability doesn’t seem too bad, considering. A few new toys at work, I used Mitchell’s abrasive cord to smooth out all the nut and bridge slots, and Big Bends Nut Sauce to keep them lubed after, and also used my string Stretcha.

The domed thumbwheels are apparently like they came on the originals and are supposed to help with tuning stability when using the trem:

https://www.crazyparts.de/bridges--...s/domed-thumbwheels-bigsby-maestro-nickel.php

But a lot of dudes who know a lot more about this stuff than I do say get the maestro for the look and the sound, but don’t dare use it as a trem! :)

Gary
 

Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
@4styx - wait, am I reading this correctly that the thumbwheels and the post are one piece? Are you sure about that? If so, that means the domed thumbwheels aren’t even an option, at least not right out of the box.

I think I’m reasonably satisfied as-is, but a little more break angle would address the majority of my woes...
 

vortexxxx

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,405
I have a custom shop Firebird with one of those bridges. I rarely use the tremelo as I bought it with that tailpiece for the effect it has on sound. My bridge doesn't move. I just tried to move it after reading this and it is very stable.
 

Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
I have a custom shop Firebird with one of those bridges. I rarely use the tremelo as I bought it with that tailpiece for the effect it has on sound. My bridge doesn't move. I just tried to move it after reading this and it is very stable.

I think the key words there are probably custom shop. :)
 

vortexxxx

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,405
I think the key words there are probably custom shop. :)
I had to check it because I was wondering if Gibson tried doing something with a rocking bridge like on the Fender offsets. It sucks that you need to go custom shop just to get a bridge that is stable with that tailpiece (considering how much many custom shop guitars have gone up in price).
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,396
In the 60s Gibson tended to use domed thumbwheels on vibrato / ABR equipped guitars so that the bridge would rock with vibrato use, meaning the wound strings wouldn't catch in the saddle slot. Even without them, it's normal for a vintage style ABR to rock with vibrato use - I have five ES style 60s Gibsons with Bigsbys and they all rock with Bigsby use (in more ways than one!).

I find nylon saddles and a bendy ABR are the best recipe for tuning stability where bridges are concerned - they never seem to have binding issues the way more solid tunomatics do.

I've yet to have a happy experience with a vibrola - the vintage ones seem very dependent on having the right qneck angle and Gibson were pretty approximate with neck sets in the 60s so I've seen lots of guitars that had odd resonances and lack of sustain. They often seem to sound great until you start setting the action, then you end up trying to find a compromise between an action you can cope with and all those weird little niggles starting to creep in.
 

junu

Member
Messages
698
I had a 2006 CS TV Yellow SG VOS with a Vibrola some years ago. It was a sweet guitar but every time I used the vibrola, it would go out of tune which drove me nuts (I’m a big trem user). I spent a lot of time and effort trying to fix it. After digging through a bunch of forums, I made the following changes which greatly improved the tuning stability:

1. A properly cut self lubricating nut. I had two well regarded techs work on it (even had a new bone nut cut), but in the end a tusq xl nut worked best.

2. Faber locking bridge and properly slotted saddles. The stock bridge was sliding all over the place which messed with tuning stability and intonation.

3. Stainless steel bridge posts (aka maple flame mod) This noticeably improved sustain and also added some top end.

All the changes together greatly improved tuning stability, but I was not quite able to get it to a point I wanted. I ended up moving the guitar, but I’ve been missing it a lot lately and have been looking at picking up an SG again. I’ll probably spring for a hard tail to avoid the headache though.
 

Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
Thanks y’all.

@junu did you really prefer Tusq to bone for the nut? I’ll have to think about that, and consider those Tusq saddles as well. Tuning stability doesn’t seem to be a huge issue (yet), but maybe that’s because I haven’t got that far in my “journey.”

I think I am going to try something counterintuitive and string it up with 10’s (like it came from the factory) instead of 11’s...usually it’s the other way around, but my thinking is that maybe the reduced tension will let me raise the bridge higher, hopefully helping all the strings to ring out more clearly.

It will also give me a change to check out the bridge posts and figure out whether those domed thumbwheels are an option, as well as seeing if I can bend the spring a bit to gain a better break angle (fool’s errand).

Any thoughts on that?

Thanks,

Gary
 

junu

Member
Messages
698
Thanks y’all.

@junu did you really prefer Tusq to bone for the nut? I’ll have to think about that, and consider those Tusq saddles as well. Tuning stability doesn’t seem to be a huge issue (yet), but maybe that’s because I haven’t got that far in my “journey.”

I think I am going to try something counterintuitive and string it up with 10’s (like it came from the factory) instead of 11’s...usually it’s the other way around, but my thinking is that maybe the reduced tension will let me raise the bridge higher, hopefully helping all the strings to ring out more clearly.

It will also give me a change to check out the bridge posts and figure out whether those domed thumbwheels are an option, as well as seeing if I can bend the spring a bit to gain a better break angle (fool’s errand).

Any thoughts on that?

Thanks,

Gary

I think a properly cut unbleached bone nut should work well too, as having self-lubricating property was what mattered ime. I did not try the tusq saddles, but I imagine it would help.

I remember reading about the domed thumbwheels, but never tried those out myself as I thought the locking bridge worked well enough.

Hope you find a way to make it all work smoothly!
 

roknfnrol

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,736
They can be tricky but I've got my neck pretty straight and raise the bridge high enough so that the strings don't pop out of the saddles when I bend the unwound ones. If the action is a bit high I just deal with it.

IMG-0385.jpg
 

Gswearengin

Member
Messages
699
Well, I’m fed up with mine and hopefully taking the damn thing to a tech in a couple days.

After doing a little more research, I think the vibrola is fine and even the break angle seems to be pretty good considering. My biggest issue is that the strings don’t ring out clearly, especially on the B/G strings. They just sound muffled or choked. I went back down to 10’s and thought that took care of it, but after it has settled in it seems to have come back on the B and the G is really bad. Seems to happen on open strings and fretted.

I’ve raised the action super high, tried other bridges, switching saddles, filing nut and saddle slots, everything within my limited skill range, and nothing seems to help.

So I’m taking it to my tech and hopefully he’ll have some luthiery tricks that I don’t know about. I think I’ll probably end up with a bone nut, maybe some new saddles. We’ll see what he says. Hope he can fix it, otherwise it’s just gonna sit there and look pretty. I want to love this guitar, and we do have our moments, but so far overall it’s just a source of frustration.
 
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roknfnrol

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,736
Well, I’m fed up with mine and hopefully taking the damn thing to a tech in a couple days.

After doing a little more research, I think the vibrola is fine and even the break angle seems to be pretty good considering. My biggest issue is that the strings don’t ring out clearly, especially on the B/G strings. They just sound muffled or choked. I went back down to 10’s and thought that took care of it, but after it has settled in it seems to have come back on the B and the G is really bad. Seems to happen on open strings and fretted.

I’ve raised the action super high, tried other bridges, switching saddles, filing nut and saddle slots, everything within my limited skill range, and nothing seems to help.

So I’m taking it to my tech and hopefully he’ll have some luthiery tricks that I don’t know about. I think I’ll probably end up with a bone nut, maybe some new saddles. We’ll see what he says. Hope he can fix it, otherwise it’s just gonna sit there and look pretty. I want to love this guitar, and we do have our moments, but so far overall it’s just a source of frustration.

I installed titanium saddles on my SG and it helped a ton, you may check out that option. Every string rings like a bell.
https://www.philadelphialuthiertool...-o-matic-nashville-bridge-fits-gibson-guitar/

6fec110f-942e-486c-ac0a-32b5ed919d0f__30187.1536775306.jpg
 




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