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String Gauge for Bigsby?

milli vanilli

Member
Messages
5,003
Hi all. Picked up a used Gretsch G5120. Its my first hollow body, first old school bridge (other than my violin and mandolin) also my first Bigsby. (It's licensed, if that matters). I'm well versed with Floyds and Khalers- popping on a light set of strings is easily balanced with a simple adjustment. But I have no clue with Bigsby... if I go light gauge (my usual 9s) what effect will that have on the Bigsby- if any? According to google my Bigsby will forever be wonky and my bridge will fly off the guitar and break my foot. So screw google, I'm asking my TGP pals to help an 80s kid branch out into a fun new world...thanks! (I'm running around a lot today, apologies if I don't check back right away, I do appreciate your input)
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,888
The difficulty with Bigsbys where light gauge strings are concerned is when returning to pitch is they rely on the opposing forces of the spring in one direction and string tension in the other. If you reduce one of those forces the unit will be less likely to return to the exact point it started from. It's worth baring in mind when the unit was designed the gauges generally used were closer to modern acoustic gauges - a lot of people miss that when they criticise the design. If you go with 9s and get everything else about the set up spot on you should be able to get it to work ok but I would try going up a gauge or two if you can.

My preference with Bigsbys is to use 10-52s. They're easy to bend on the unwound strings but there's plenty of overall tension to keep the Bigsby running smoothly. You could also try a hybrid set of 9s if you want to get closer to the feel of 9s with a little more overall tension.
 

cap10kirk

Member
Messages
8,846
Bigsby vibratos tend to have better tuning stability with heavier gauge strings, so while 9's will work, they probably won't work as well as 10's or 11's...you could use a light top heavy bottom set too, and maybe have the best of both worlds. I used 10's on my last Bigsby equipped guitar (it had a B70, TOM, 24.75" scale, and locking tuners), and it worked fine as long as I didn't go crazy with the Bigsby. One of my friends has that guitar now, and he swapped roller saddles in the bridge and uses 11's on it, it stays in tune better than any other guitar I've played with a Bigsby.
Also, if it isn't already, I would get the bridge pinned so it stays in place.
 

seltaeb

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
399
I use 10-46 DR Blues roundwounds on my Duo Jet and Country Gentleman.

11-47 Thomastik Infeld flatwounds for the Tennessean.

I don't have any problems with tuning. Be extra careful with your winds at the tuning post, and you should be good to go.
 

boyce89976

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,490
Due to the Bigsby's limited travel, I haven't found any issues with different string gauges. If you go lighter, you may want to try a softer spring though for feel more so than tuning stability.
 

milli vanilli

Member
Messages
5,003
Due to the Bigsby's limited travel, I haven't found any issues with different string gauges. If you go lighter, you may want to try a softer spring though for feel more so than tuning stability.
Ahhh, that is the piece I was missing. Didn't know you could swap the springs. I think I'll try a heavier gauge- looking for a vastly different experience than my shreddy guitars anyway- and if I can't get along with that then maybe swap a spring and go lighter.....if I understand the mechanics of what you are saying....
 

boyce89976

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,490
Ahhh, that is the piece I was missing. Didn't know you could swap the springs. I think I'll try a heavier gauge- looking for a vastly different experience than my shreddy guitars anyway- and if I can't get along with that then maybe swap a spring and go lighter.....if I understand the mechanics of what you are saying....
Exactly
 

milli vanilli

Member
Messages
5,003
I should add, any tuning instability is likely an issue at the nut rather than strings or spring.
Ok thanks. Floyd is opposite. Nut locks so spring adjustment under bridge and presto. Bigsby threw me for a curve. 10s? 11s? Hell, bass strings so my roar is heard for miles?
 

boyce89976

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
8,490
I use 11's on my Collings and 10's on my Duesenberg. I've used 10's on the Collings too, but prefer the feel of the 11's on that guitar.
 

milli vanilli

Member
Messages
5,003
IMO a roller bridge is worth its weight in gold on a Bigsby guitar.

If you notice that you're still having tuning stability issues, a quick pull up on the bar after you're done with it will get everything back to pitch.
So far tuning has been great. Not sure what gauge is on there though...I know it's at least 10, colored ends making me think daddario...
 

Steve Hotra

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,195
I decided to try a custom set of Elixers with 9's on the high E string, on my Black Falcon. I had 10's before and don't hear any tuning issues when I use the Bigsby. I don't bend / dive bomb with it. So far its staying in tune.
 






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