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Keeping A Bigsby in Tune?

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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84
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?
 

SFK

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Jul 16, 2001
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4,044
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. :)
 

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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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?
 

56jnr

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Aug 23, 2004
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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.
 

BillyB

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Feb 7, 2007
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Heavier strings - i've got a Gretsch Duo Jet with a bigsby and I string it with 11's - not much problem with tuning
 

Jurius

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Sep 2, 2007
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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!:2cool
 

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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I use a 13-62 set at standard pitch so I dont think heavier strings are needed :hee

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

Jurius

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

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?
 

Demon

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Dec 26, 2005
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13-62?
they probably don't fit the nut properly..but I dont tell anybody who plays 13's what to do...:wah
 

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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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.
 

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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By the way, does anyone know of any locking tuners that will go on these without a mod? I hate cutting into expensive guitars.
 

Jurius

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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.
 

mad dog

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Jun 6, 2006
Messages
440
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.
 

j45

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Jun 14, 2002
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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.
 

wizard333

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May 22, 2007
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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!
 

j45

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Jun 14, 2002
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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:

SGABR-1.jpg


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.:

3345.jpg
 

marT

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Jul 18, 2006
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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.
 

mad dog

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Jun 6, 2006
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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.
 

billd13

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Jul 2, 2006
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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).
 
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