To Bigsby or not to Bigsby...

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by daphil, Jun 27, 2006.


  1. daphil

    daphil Member

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    Hi,

    I recently bought an early 90's Es-335 which I really like. The ONLY thing I wish it had is a Bigsby. Adding one would probably make it the Holy Grail for me. Still, I think I need to hear a bit about others experiences before going on with it.

    Is there anything I should be aware of? Will it alter the tone significantly? What model should I get? Tension bar or not? I like the one without the tension bar because you don't have to drill holes in the top and they feel "looser". Yet, I noticed that the vintage ones had the tension bar model.

    Of course, it will probalby be bad for the resale value but I intend to keep it for a while.

    Thanks!
     
  2. bobgoblin

    bobgoblin Supporting Member

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    i put a bigsby on a gretsch a few years back (full-hollow). it did change the tone & feel of the guitar. i didn't sustain as well, it took on a more trebly sound. it also felt slinkier, like the tension was lessened...but that might be a result of the inherent play in the design of the tailpiece.

    in return, well, you get all the cool things a bigsby does. slight de-tuned vibrato, rockabilly & pedal steel bends/dips, you know the stuff...

    as far as what model bigsby you'd need, well, that depends on the neck set. i'd consult a luthier about that.
     
  3. Bryan T

    Bryan T Guitar Owner Silver Supporting Member

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    I had a Hamer Newport with a Bigsby and I think it cured me of the desire to have a Bigsby in the future. The two big drawbacks for me were the difficulty in restringing and the blockage of the guitar's knobs by the bar.

    For restringing I ended up using a capo as a third hand to hold the string in place so that I could wind the string on the tuning peg without having the ball slip off of the string posts at the bridge. It worked, but was pretty slow to do.

    Having the bar block the controls was a big issue for me. I'm constantly tweaking the volume and tone pots, so the
    Bigsby really interfered with my playing style.

    If you are concerned about resale, then I would suggest buying a 335 that already has a
    Bigsby installed.

    Bryan
     
  4. Road Runner

    Road Runner Member

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    It's got the non-tension bar tailpiece. I love the guitar with this model Bigsby. Its the only Bigsby guitar I own or have played other than at the music store, so I can't comment a whole lot on the model with the tension bar. What I've been told is that string tension is higher making string bending harder with the tension bar models, so if that's true I wouldn't like it as much. Another issue I've heard is that string buzz can be more of an issue with tension bar models, but again can't speak first-hand on this. Others may disagree, but 335's aren't so rare that you'd be 'ruining' yours by adding a Bigsby and I'd say go for it!

    Later, Jim
     
  5. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    You need the tension bar with a 335 really - the bridge isn't high enough to create enough of a break angle otherwise (it is on the Guilds, and other guitars with wooden-based bridges, but the 335's posts are fitted directly into the body).

    It does change the tone as bobgoblin said - thinner and twangier, though not that much.

    You will also need to add a ground wire to the tailpiece since the ground path is normally via the tailpiece stud nearest the controls, and that's no longer in use.

    What I've never understood is why Bigsby do not make a dedicated model for either the Les Paul or the 335 - if it was done with two forward-facing slots at the front to mount on the existing studs, and a single hole at the rear to go under the strap button, you could fit it to either model with no modification at all, it would be able to have a tension bar because the front end would be held by the studs, and the ground path would still be created. Les Pauls and Bigsbys have all been in production for over half a century and 335s very nearly, and I find it absolutely amazing that no-one at either company seems to have thought of this - especially as Ted McCarty (President of Gibson in the 1950s and at least partial designer of both guitars) then became the President of Bigsby, Inc.
     
  6. smiert spionam

    smiert spionam Member

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    That's a great idea, John.
     
  7. Mrgearguy

    Mrgearguy Member

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    Yep, re-stringing is a bitch! Still, I love the way it sounds, particularly on P90 guitars.

    Gearguy
     
  8. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    Don't mess up our guitar. Find some beat up, cheapo, import, like one of the low end gretsch models, or an old guild starfire somebody doesn't appreciate, that have seen better days, with one already installed or slap one on. You'd be free to add bomber girl or '40s pinup girl stickers to your hearts content too! Did I say that out loud? Sorry, I see a hollow or semihollow with a bigsby, I start thinking '40s girl stickers:rolleyes: Can't help it!
     
  9. Alvis

    Alvis Member

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    i love the Bigsby .Have one on my LP Custom and 3 SGs.Can Neil & Joe be wrong? I think not.I saw Neil rip a Bigsby off a spare guitar once.Actually I think he does it every night
     
  10. Rex Nomad

    Rex Nomad Member

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    I have a '72 SG deluxe that came stock with a Bigsby. One of the reasons I bought the guitar was because I thought it was so cool having the Bigsby on it. But I hardly ever use a trem and it became a big problem for me. I had a lot of tuning problems. I eventually had it taken off and a stop tail piece installed. The guitar is much more solid and better sounding now without. I lost my resale value but I got a much better guitar without the Bigsby.
     
  11. Road Runner

    Road Runner Member

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    Did yours have a true Bigsby or the somewhat odd version that Gibson put on SGs back then with the curved metal piece that the arm attached to? The reason I ask is that I bought an old 71 SG with the same setup you describe that someone had also replaced the floating trem with the std tail piece for exactly the reasons you talked about, couldn't keep it in tune, etc. The Bigsby on my Guild is way more stable than the SG version was.

    Later, Jim
     
  12. Rex Nomad

    Rex Nomad Member

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    I don't know which version it was. It sounds like what you're describing.
     
  13. Jim S

    Jim S Silver Supporting Member Supporting Member

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    No. But they have full time guitar techs.

    I read an interview with Neil's tech and the effort and tricks required to maintain the tremelo was not for the faint of heart.
     
  14. bobgoblin

    bobgoblin Supporting Member

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    well, as a guy who owned & abused a guitar with a bigsby for quite a while, i can tell you its not that hard. granted, i don't tour the way that neil & joe do, but...

    make sure the nut is cut correctly. while this is true of any guitar, w/a bigsby its absolutely necessary.

    a little graphite goes a long way, use it in the nut slots.

    have your tech de-burr the bridge. abr-1 bridges are actually really nice for bigsbys.

    locking tuners really help, but they're not necessary. i did fine w/grovers for a long time. chet atkins did more than fine non-lockers for years. if you're not using locking tuners, make sure you firmly lock the string at the post.

    as far as re-stringing goes, remember those wedge-shaped erasers we used to use in school? the ones that go on the end of your pencil, right. attach the ball end of the string at the bridge then wedge the eraser between the body & the string. ta-da! it'll take some getting used to do this right everytime, but it helps.
     
  15. reverber8

    reverber8 Member

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    I've got a Gretsch 6120DSW with a Bigsby and I absolutly love it. No problems with tuning whatsoever althou I agree string changes are more difficult.

    I find a capo and sticking one of those wedge shaped makeup application sponges under the ball end of the string to be most helpful when changing strings on a Bigsby. Ask your wife, g/f, significant other for one. I also strategically apply some Big Bends Nut Sauce and that helps too.

    I have a few strats, all with trems and never really use the trem much. The Bigsby has really added a new dimension to my playing and sound. Now I want to pick up another guitar w/ a Bigsby. I'm really jones-ing for Hamer's Monaco 3 or Newport Classictron w/ 3 Filtertrons!
     
  16. Alvis

    Alvis Member

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    Yeah ,a good nut & good gears are a must.I've used a #2 pencil on the nut slots and saddle for years.GHS sent me some white graphite grease and I've been using that lately.My Bigs guitars have non locking Grovers,good gears that hold everything in place
    .I've seen many pics of Neil & Walsh not using the tension roller.So I never used it.I also don't use the stock spring.I get a taller spongier spring from the hardware store and cut it to size.I think it helps on the return action.
    I always suspected a lot of antibigsby-ism comes from one EVH about the time he appeared on the cover of Guitar Player in '79
     
  17. datguytim

    datguytim Supporting Member

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    Earl Slick makes me want a Bigsby! Check out the Bowie "Reality" DVD - you'll want a Bigsby too! Cool as f*ck! I'm thinkin' bout putting one on my GMP Roxie SS - it'll be cake to install since it has a long trapeze tailpiece to begin with . . .
     
  18. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    I pondered this awhile with my '66 335. Needs a refret, so why not slap on a bigsby (always loved 'em) or stop tailpiece (it has the stock trapeze set up. Finally decided no. It will change the sound, and the sound is too good to change. Might be different if I encountered this guitar with a Bigsby already on it. In this case, I won't mess with a good thing.
     
  19. Pedro58

    Pedro58 Supporting Member

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    For ten years I owned a '63 ES335 with a Bigsby and the stop tailpiece studs under a "custom made" plaque. The tone is different, as others have said, thinner and twangier... in a good way. Every time I changed the strings, I would switch to the other tailpiece, just for giggles. Mine had, and needed, the tension bar. Yours probably will, too. I preferred the stop setup, but only because I don't touch the wiggle bar on any guitar very much at all. THE convertible option is cool.
     
  20. kbphx

    kbphx Member

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    String tension won't increase...if it did, the pitch would be raised. Downward pressure against the bridge would increase with the tension bar, but it won't make string-bending any harder.

    The Bigsby's a little harder to re-string, but come on, it's not THAT bad. It's no worse than trying to remove a string that broke behind the saddle and got stuck in a strat trem block. Now THAT's a pain. According to the Bigsby site, it'll help if you make a little bend right next to the ball end, then use a foam wedge to hold the string in place as others have mentioned. Pre-bending it there makes it a whole lot easier getting it hooked on the little posts.
     

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