Frank et al': Can you tell me Bigsby flaws and fixes?

 A Friend from Collings Forum has an old Gretsch archtop that has had tuning problems since he got the axe. He says the 'guitar will never return to same tuning'.  Now I realize there are several Bigsbys, and a few different ways to attach them. Several of the bigger manufacturers seem to have the problems dialled in so well, that there are 100% no problems at all . One gent who was posting on a thread about it said that his Luthier had 'pinned' an archtop bridge, which I could guess would make a massive difference with a roller saddle bridge. Pinning sure seems to me to be a radicle  solution for a vintage super expensive thing like a 50s Gretsch. 

 Just to be clear,  I am also asking about this problem for solidbodies as well. There must be lots of tweaks done to make these mechanisms more stable?

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 Here you folks are... one single problem fix

The real savior in that vid is the roller bridge.... not his 'invention".

The real issue in that vid is that Gretch marketed a poorly designed guitar. We all see too much of that in today's world.

Hi Kerry.

Here's what I've experienced with them:

A roller bridge is a MUST. There's simply no other way around it.

They need to be, as a matter of once a year maintenance, disassembled,  thoroughly cleaned and lubricated properly to operate correctly.

The most often made user mistake is that the unit was designed for half-step or less dives. Push it beyond that and it's out of spec. It should never be dive bombed or made to raise the pitch of the strings. Everyone agrees that they look cool, but in most 'modern' cases, it's the wrong tool for the job.

All attachment screws MUST be properly seated & secure. ANY deflection in a damaged or worn out top will have a detrimental effect.

It always helps to have a perfectly adjusted nut. Stock designs were/are inferior. Slot lubrication is required with a Bigsby

They work 'better' with heavier gauge strings, which were used during original engineering sessions. They also perform better with flat wound strings.

Pinning the bridge is common on newer high end Gretch's. It leaves two .015" holes less than 1/32" deep on the top of the instrument. I'm sure you're thinking of the scads of hack jobs we've all seen. The foot of an archtop bridge does comparably 'more' damage under normal conditions. They're invisible when the guitar is strung up. Zero devaluation.

Callaham makes some upgrade replacement/improvement parts that may serve your goal.

To get a perfectly operating Bigsby, remove the original unit. Throw it away. Replace it with Dusenberg's design. ;)

I had a '56 6120 (G brand- no scrimshaw) with a Bigsby.  It was AWFUL.

50's & '60's Gretch's are full of niggles and questionable quality standards. Also double check and make sure the neck hasn't come loose. That and binding issues are known problems with these guitars. Also, most owners of these guitars "imagine" their value to be much more than what current market trading would support.

Nice? Yep. GREAT guitars? No. That's my personal opinion.

Hope some of that is useful. Have a great week :)

You are spot on Paul. As usual.

Everything Paul says and more:

I've wasted enough time on what is a bad design (wasn't in the 50's when nothing else existed and dive bombing and harmonic squeals were unknown) but its just not a design that lends itself to reliable modern day operation.   I note that modern big stage users of Bigsby fitted guitars often have guitar techs sitting in the wings - and I think I know the reason why.

Callaham makes a higher quality intermediate roller, Tonepros has a new generation of roller bridge (as does Schaller) - I have used the Wilkinson bridge which is OK but the latest TP bridge is a very tasty unit.  Graphtech have the new XL lubed nuts and you need to pin and  lock up the bridge to prevent it moving under duress.   

The design shortfalls of Bigsby and the Trad Fender Trem were the reason that the Floyd Rose was invented.   The Bigsby has enjoyed a resurgence as a fashion accessory, but it is still the dog it was regardless of the fooling around in the margins we as tech's have been forced to deal with.

As a foot note: the reference to fitting a Vibramate to a LP in the "one single problem fix" video and having it work is contrary to what we experienced a few years back: -  we fitted out a brand spanking Custom Shop LP with this fit to get a Joe Bonamassa vibe and sound - full workout including a genuine Bigsby, nut replacement and roller bridge.  We also advised the customer that it would still require tuning between tunes if he leaned on the Bigsby (or a guitar tech with another instrument waiting in the wings).  

The customer was filthy with us when this system failed as advised and got pretty personal along the lines of it was us that was incompetent rather than the performance of this piece of junk from the 50's.  I wouldn't have one as a pet.



Thank you for expressing my sentiments about the Vibramate in particular, and Bigsby's in general. The Vibramate is the equivalent of duct tape. Actually, duct tape might somehow work better. I've seen too many of these dogs installed on otherwise decent guitars.

"fashion accessory". 


Mark is 100% correct about ruining otherwise decent guitars.  Unfortunately, most large scale manufacturer's market 'trendy' crap as opposed to functional guitars.  

Hopefully, the Bigsby fad will peak soon and we'll be on the downhill side.


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