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  1. #1

    Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Any suggestions or tricks? I just got a CS356 w/Bigsby and it goes out of tune of if you look at it hard.

    I've been playing trem guitars since the early 80s and most of that time I didnt even own a stop tail; I know how to keep them in tune for most bridge types but this is my first Bigsby and so far its a nightmare. It makes a cheap asian knock off strat trem look stable.

    Anything I can do about it?

  2. #2
    All Access/Backstage Pass SFK's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    First. Make sure your nut is cut properly. Many new Gibsons aren't. Even a stop tail won't stay in tune with tight nut slots.

    Ive had several Bigsby equipped semi hollowbodies. (I still have a 97 135)

    WWhen properly set up. (nut etc) I lube the bridge and nut slots with graphite or 3 in one oil.

    I never have a problem with tuning. I'm not nice to the guitar either. (More Neil Young than Duane Eddy)



    Bigsby's are great. I hope you get yours straghtened out.

    Good luck.

    http://pic40.picturetrail.com/VOL361/492960/654288/74983208.jpg

  3. #3

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Anything other than the nut being cut properly? The nut looks pretty good actually (shockingly for a Gibson), I havent gone over it myself yet but I will. I hear a lot of pinging from the Bigsby though when I use it, so definitely something going on at that end.

    Also the tunomatic seems to rock back and forth with the use of the bar. Too much downward tension to make it under that first bigsby roller? Anyone ever try ignoring that roller and just going over top instead of underneath?

    I seem to remember something about gettin grid of the little pins the string ball/rings go over and drilling holes there to pass the strings through - anyone done this?

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    You also need to remember that the Bigsby really wasn't designed for anything other than gentle semi-tone wobbles; also the strings were generally a lot heavier when the Bigsby was first introduced and that helped with tuning too.
    Put as few winds as possible on your tuner post and make certain your strings are well stretched.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member Mike McLenison's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I use a roller bridge from Stew-mac and make sure the nut is lubed.
    Liverpool pedal video demo by yours truly:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqRINWcsqi8

    Just me and my SG-61:
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  6. #6

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Heavier strings - i've got a Gretsch Duo Jet with a bigsby and I string it with 11's - not much problem with tuning

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member Jurius's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Sometimes the bridge will move toward the pups. Solutions are to use double sided tapes or actually screw the bridge to the top of the guitar. Others use roller bridges and old Gretsches have bar bridges that work well.

    For me the answer has been to use 11's like Billy B. Brian Setzer uses 10's and if I recall correctly he has his bridge screwed into the top.

    Good luck. There is a solution and you will find it. When you do, man there's nothing like a Bigs!

  8. #8

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I use a 13-62 set at standard pitch so I dont think heavier strings are needed

    Anyone use slipstone/graphtech nuts or locking tuners? Are they necessary on these?

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member Jurius's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by wizard333 View Post
    I use a 13-62 set at standard pitch so I dont think heavier strings are needed

    Anyone use slipstone/graphtech nuts or locking tuners? Are they necessary on these?
    That's a pretty heavy string.

    Is it possible the strings are TOO heavy for a Bigsby?

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    13-62?
    they probably don't fit the nut properly..but I dont tell anybody who plays 13's what to do...

  11. #11

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I cut my own nuts, I dont think the nut is the issue since I hear the pinging coming from the tailpiece end of things.

    So no one uses locking tuners and a slippery nut with these and they stay in tune? Do you go under that front bar piece or over it? Seems that thing would just cause problems since it adds friction and creates a sharp angle over the bridge.

  12. #12

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    By the way, does anyone know of any locking tuners that will go on these without a mod? I hate cutting into expensive guitars.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member Jurius's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I've got a Gretsch 6120 with locking tuners and another without.

    The one without the locking tuners stays in tune better. It's not the tuners.

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    That first roller bar may be part of the problem. I have a Dearmond with such a Bigsby. The TOM bridge is a wide sort of one, Nashville like. The way the neck is set, that bridge rides relatively high, making the break from bridge to roller a steep one. The strings are actually dragging on the back of the bridge. In this case, proper lubing of saddles, nut and back of bridge made everything work much better. It's still stiff, and somewhat stiff in feel.

    By contrast, the Bigsby that came stock on my '65 ES-330 is a B3 type, no extra roller. Not a steep break from bridge to Bigsby. It was set up perfectly when I got it, lubed at nut and saddles. No tuning problems ... I'm totally addicted to this one.

    So my advice is to get a pro setup. That pinging has to be coming from somewhere. It's likely the strings hanging up somewhere. YMMV, but I've never found roller bridges necessary, and haven't heard great things about their sound. The Gretsch bar bridge, that's another story. If you have a floating bridge and a Bigsby, the "rocking bar" version can work wonders with tone and tuning stability.

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I use a Bigsby on a stock vintage ES-345 quite often when working. Mine is a two roller bar model (B7). I don't do anything special other than play it a lot and let the strings set in. It seems they do stabilize and find their consistent return range more as you play it. At first it's a little shakey when I put fresh strings on but once they set, I don't have any tuning probs. On a regular gig I have no more tuning touch-ups than with a non-trem guitar. I also use .009's without any issues. Good luck.

  16. #16

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Does a Bigsby B3 use the same screw hole pattern as the B7? i.e. is it retro-fittable without modification to the body?

    Can you give me more details on the Gretch bridge? Will it work with the existing ABR anchors?

    Thanks!

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    The B7 has two extra screw holes in the guitar's top. The B3 is somewhat of a floating trem and can slide side to side which may be part of your problem. The B7 is stable and can't move but you have the issue of extra holes. The B7 also has a MUCH better pull on the bridge for downward tension on the saddles due to the second roller bar creating a steep angle much like a stop tail to ABR-1. This helps, too. Originally, in the early 1960's Gibson designed an ABR-1 just to be used with trems back in the 60's. Just about all Vibrola SG's were equipped with them as well as a lot of other models (ES's) that received factory Vibrolas. The thumbwheels were also domed so the bridge could rock back and forth with the trem movement. Unfortunately, gibson has failed to reissue these bridges for their new guitars. Check it out:



    My B7 equipped ES345 is in the middle. You can see a bracket sticking out on top on the Hi-E side for one screw and the other screw goes in the frame on the left side right between the two roller bars.:


  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Member marT's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I'd say from your description about the pinging being down at the bridge end, what is happening is your bridge isn't coupled too well with the posts and its rocking back and forth slightly when you use the bigsby. Or the saddle slots are too deep and pinching the string. Or your saddles might even be moving slightly.

    I'd try lubing up the bridge saddles if you haven't already. Maybe make sure the slots aren't cut too deep and even possibly go as far as to put a dab of clear nailpolish where the saddle meets the bridge to kind of "lock it down".

    Thats not talking from any experience though, just what I imagine might be happening. Especially with 13's there would be a lot of pressure on that bridge.

  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Wizard:

    that Gretsch rocking bar bridge is a fully floating one. I've never seen one mounted on fixed posts, though that may well be possible. so it's probably not any answer to your problem.

  20. #20
    Les Paul Forum Member billd13's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    I used flatwound 11's on my 59 Custom with a factory B7 for 35 years and never had a problem with tuning. The entire guitar was just the way it came from the factory with the exception of my setting the bridge height where I liked it. It was a fantastic guitar that a dummy sold about 13 years ago, but that's another dtory.

    I use Gibson Vintage Reissue 10's on my R4BB and R7BB. I originally changed the bridges to ABM roller bridges and that seemed to help, but then I got the nuts properly done and that really helped. Since then I braced the bridge studs per Guitar Dean's instructions and then changed the bridges back to ABR-1's with nylon saddles and almost got to perfection. I have recently changed the saddles to Graph Tech and now they stay in tune as well as a stop tail. I lube the nut with either graphite, pencil lead or Nut Sauce when changing the strings. Another important point is to be sure to lube the Bigsby shaft or shafts (if it is a B7).

  21. #21

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    BillD13: Can you tell me more about bracing the bridge studs?

    Whats on there is a B7. I was thinking the B3 might work better if its retrofittable since it doesn't have that first bar. Apparently that would leave holes though.

    That angle over the bar doesn't help things.

    Even with a stoptail, that hard angle does a few things bad. It creates a huge amount of friction over the bridge saddles, which tends to make things go out of tune when you bend; it also puts a huge amount of downward pressure on your bridge and will flatten it over time. I've seen quite a few ABRs ruined by people assuming that clamping down the tailpiece is what is supposed to happen, but its not. On my stoptails I raise the tailpiece til there is just enough downward tension to keep the strings on the saddles and not rattling, and thats it. They stay in tune fine and sound fine, and they dont flatten out my bridges. Even with 9s and 10s the bridge will go flat over time with the tailpiece clamped down hard; with the piano wire I use it would probably happen pretty fast.

    Having worked with other trems for 25 years or so, the key with all of them is eliminating friction and slop in the movement. I don't use string trees on my G&Ls for that reason. I do use locking tuners and graphtech nuts. On the G&Ls I can beat the living hell out of them and they stay in tune perfectly, for weeks and even when travelling. Most other strat style 2 point bridges, and to some degree an old 6 screw, can be made to stay in tune very well or well enough if set up right. I've been doing those so long that I can set them up in my sleep.

    But, I havent dealt with the Bigsby before, so before I work this thing over when I change the strings, I'm trying to get all the relevant info about tips and tricks. Since the Bigsby doesnt have near the range of a strat style trem, it may do ok without the locking tuners. I'll probably go with a slipstone nut to keep it white instead of the black graphtech.

    So far:
    Nut slots, saddles, check movement on the ABR (I always do this stuff on any guitar anyway). Really thinking about going with a tonepros with graphtech saddles.

    Lube the Bigsby (do you lube the little bearing rollers where the bar rotates in the bridge? I'd assume so).

    Brace the bridge studs? Not sure what you mean, can you give more info?

    Thanks guys!

  22. #22
    Les Paul Forum Member billd13's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Wiz,

    Let me see if I can get some good light tomorrow morning to take some pictures in the living room. Right now I've got some pretty dense fog and the sun is pretty far down somewhere out there.

    Some guys use two thumb wheels to stiffen the studs, but I felt that would damage the finish. I used a fairly hard rubber washer against the body and then stacked small brass washers (2 or 3) under the thumb wheel to get the right height and then screwed the thumb wheel down reasonably hard against the top of the stack. This didn't affect the tone to my ears anyway, and it seems to actually increase the sustain even more.

    I lube the rollers of both shafts about once or twice a year. The nuts on both my R4BB and R7BB were tweaked by my tech, who also used to be Fender's service guy in northern IL for over 20 years and has been Gibson's service guy for about 25 years. The nuts on both of mine are the stock Gibson nuts. The R7 has the stock Grover tuners, which are incorrect in my mind since my 59 Custom had gold Klusons on it, and the R4 has the stock Kluson tuners. I don't see the need for locking tuners.

    One thing to remember is when you change strings or retune to a different tuning such as a dropped D, when you you change the tension on that one string you are affecting all of the other by changing the total compressive force on the main spring and you will have to tweak all of the other strings and may have to go around twice to get them all back in tune as opposed to a stop tail where changing the tension on one string has absolutely no effect on the other 5. Hopefully I will be able to get some pictures for you in the morning.

    Bill

  23. #23

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Thanks Bill!

    I think I know what you mean now by reinforcing those, but pics would be great! I'd be concerned about the rubber washer though as rubber will react with nitro; I wonder if nylon or something else could be used. Felt would be best but might not be stiff enough?

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member ES345's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Wizard, i used two thumbwheels, with a felt pad below the one that touches the guitar, i basically did this to reinforce the studs so i would prevent them from possibly leaning forward, anyway it gives me piece of mind and i haven't been able to tell any difference in tone. i just use the pencil in the nut, and stretch the strings, and play it retune, a couple of times and it does well, but with a singer i always check the tune between songs, and sometimes it needs a tweak, but stays in tune pretty well.



    I didn't notice my A string needed to be moved a tad until i looked at the picture, i guess i was in a hurry. Anyway the guitar stays pretty well in tune, the thumb wheels were put on after i saw a johnny A on this web cite with studs bent forward.

    11-51 gibson flat wires


    peace
    Last edited by ES345; 03-02-08 at 04:54 PM. Reason: String guage added

  25. #25
    Les Paul Forum Member Dr. Vintage's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by j45 View Post
    I ran into a similar fix quite by accident a few years ago. I bought a replica that came with some interesting thumb wheels under the ABR. Since replicas tend to get assembled with parts from who-knows-where, I don't know where the thumb wheels came from.

    I was having a devil of a time keeping the guitar in tune when I got it home. I took the guitar apart to give it a deep cleaning etc. When I set the thumb wheels down on the work bench, I noticed that one of them was rocking back and forth. Upon closer inspection, I found that both of them were nice and flat on one side and had a slight dome on the other. It was clear they were made that way. I made a slight guess that they were manufactured for use under a flat-bottom ABR on a guitar with a trem of some kind. They were clearly very old parts.

    I have no idea if they were Gibson items - other guitars eventually came with ABR-style bridges - or if my guess about their intended use was correct. But I liked the idea of allowing an ABR to rock slightly when used with a Bigsby. Basically, don't force the strings to move back and forth through the saddles.

    Anyone else ever seen any of these? I sent them off to a friend who had a Bigsby on his Historic, so they're long gone now.
    Rick N.

    "Get to work!" Tommy Emmanuel

  26. #26
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Those are the original vintage domed Gibson thumbwheels that were equipped with the rocking ABR-1 pictured above. They were mainly on SG Standards from 1961-1965 but seen later. Also on quite a few other models with vibrolas but seen more on the SG's. Every vintage "Lyre" SG I've owned had them.
    Last edited by j45; 03-02-08 at 08:16 PM.

  27. #27
    Les Paul Forum Member j45's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    These are from my original 1964 SG Standard. The dome is easier to tell when you flip it upside down but you should be able to see the top is not flat. These are original Gibson nickel thumbwheels from the early to late 1960's that were supplied with the rocking ABR-1 shown above and standard equipment on vintage SG Standards. I've yet to see anyone reproduce these although I guess anything is possible. It was a three part system, all made to operate together more smoothly using the Lyre Vibrola combined with the rocking ABR-1 on top of the domed thumbwheels. This is one detail Gibson has forgotten or overlooked with their reissue SG Standards and other vibrola guitars in getting the system to work correctly:




  28. #28
    Les Paul Forum Member Dr. Vintage's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Quote Originally Posted by j45 View Post


    Yup - those are the ones. Okay, so know I know that they were/are Gibson parts. I wonder if my friend still has them (or ever used them in the first place). Not that I have a use for them myself...

    Kerry - have you ever tried those thumb wheels with a flat-bottom ABR? If so, do they help? Or do they pretty much have to be paired up with the chamfered ABR?
    Rick N.

    "Get to work!" Tommy Emmanuel

  29. #29

    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    The two thumb wheels makes sense. Also putting spacers between them makes sense, but I'd have to grind the last one carefully since I'm very specific about how I set my action and it would be near impossible to find spacers that would stack up exactly. I guess if I used a felt washer underneath I could compress the washer more or less to get it exact.

    Good stuff!

    I also like the idea of an ABR that can rock a bit; its unfortunate you cant get them anymore.

    Sometimes I use rounds, sometimes flats. With the rounds going over the ABR type saddles they really want to grab hard between the windings if you use the trem, I'd think without the ability to move some it would wear into the strings or the saddles, probably both.

  30. #30
    Les Paul Forum Member GuitarDean's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Check your mail Wizard
    Link to our music and the October 2013 Guitar Player Magazine article on us.
    http://www.reverbnation.com/ulmermcf...wamericanhoney and click on the "Hear This Now" picture


    or my Facebook at
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dean-U...o/448425305623





    ahh, uh ...like.... link us, Man!

  31. #31
    Les Paul Forum Member billd13's Avatar
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    Re: Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

    Wiz,

    To quote an old song "Ain't No Sunshine in My Life" today, just some rain, sleet, fog etc. I got a couple of halfway decent photos for you this morning. I also see where Dean has probably sent you his step by step with photos. Anyway here are a couple of pics of mine. Hope this helps.

    Bill





    Right now the R4 has the graph tech saddles and the R7 still has the nylon saddles which have also worked well. I have prepped another bridge with graph tech saddles to install on the R7, just because I think the black saddles look better on these guitars.

    Bill

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