Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

To Bigsby or Not to Bigsby? that is the question

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by timspong, Feb 16, 2017.

  1. timspong

    timspong Tele-Meister

    Apr 11, 2004
    Ashburn, Virginia
    I have been hankering for a Bigsby guitar for years and have been thinking about buying a Gretsch. However, I have also been thinking about adding a Bigsby to my current and only Electric Guitar that I have had for 20+ years. It is a CS tele that is a bit beaten up. I took the poly shell off and refinished in true oil so I have absolutely no problem drilling holes in it. I will never sell it so that part of the equation is a non issue.

    However, I do use a lot of open chords and capo often so intonation and tuning stability are very important and I am very anal about that. So I am thinking I would be willing to spend extra money on possibly adding high end components to make sure the tuning is as stable as possible and possibly even changing to a 6 saddle bride as the strings will no longer go through the body so the 3 brass saddles will not be as crucial to tone as normal.

    So my questions are:

    What is the most stable Bigsby set up for a tele and what would I need to change to make it as stable as possible (eg, locking tuners, graphite nut, calahan (sp?) components etc.

    Any alternatives to a Bigsby?

    How much would a bigsby change the tone of a tele? I don't play country but I like a nice clean snappy but chimey sound just at the edge of breakup and I hybrid pick with a lot of open chords and capo etc.

    Our bass player is away for a couple of weeks so I am taking on bass duties so now would be the ideal time to get this done as my tele is my only electric guitar.


    Here is a current picture so you can see the victim in question
    pipOla likes this.

  2. wtk0315

    wtk0315 Tele-Holic

    Sep 21, 2013
    Houston area
    IMO, I wouldn't change your one and only electric. Not when you could find a MIM tele for pretty cheap to experiment with.
    MilwMark, drlucky and Frank'n'censed like this.

  3. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    Avoid butchering your Tele: Get the vibramate kit if you have a 4 screw bridge. The B5 USA Bigsby is the cheapest if you get the WD model from Musicians' Friend. You don't get the red piece of string but save $50. I use staggered tuners to try to eliminate the string tree drag. If the e string still pops off, I use the Graphtech tree. If no locking tuners, I use the minimum string turns on the tuner posts. Nut sauce on the nut and saddle slots. If you eliminate the friction, the Bigsbys hold tune very well.

    Also, the saddle screws get a slot cut on the end so you can adjust the intonation without a struggle. Vibramate makes saddles with this feature. I like compensated saddles, so I use a jewelers saw to start a slot and file out the rest.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017

  4. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL

  5. Frank'n'censed

    Frank'n'censed Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 27, 2011
    Parts Unknown
    I've got the B5/Vibramate combo on a number of my holes + changeability factor.

  6. Papa Joe

    Papa Joe Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jun 30, 2007
    Swanton Ohio
    Before doing anything, study these carefully..
    I have not used the Tele style but I did put one on a budget big arch top jazz box..Two other people I know of did the same..We all agreed that it was everything it claimed to be..
    No wrap around to install strings,.Worked the same as the more expensive Bigsbys..
    And check the price difference..
    timspong likes this.

  7. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2015
    This. Great advice.

    Also have heard good things about the Xtrem system.

    By the way, timspong, how did you trim off your CS's poly shell? I've got a fun Squier Cabronita (with the Bigsby) that I'd like to strip and refinish in Tru-Oil, and hear lots of conflicting advice about whether/how to do this.

    Thanks, and good luck on your Bigsby/trem search/effort.

  8. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    I bought the xtrem bridge when it first came out. Ended up pulling it. First, you have to shim the neck because the plate is thick plus the bridge sits high. Plus, if you don't shim the neck, it won't intonate because they calculated the bridge position to depend on the neck being pulled back with the shim. After it was set, I still had to adjust the bridge height with washers or re-shim after adding height screws. Not a fan of high bridges on a Tele. Just doesn't feel right. Still have the bridge in the fail pile with a too-hot GFS lil puncher 15k pickup in it. Any takers? Cheap!
    Newbcaster likes this.

  9. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    One of the Squire Bigsby Cabs just sold on ebay for $500. Don't wreck yours.

  10. AngelDeville

    AngelDeville Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 27, 2007
    I ordered a TremTrue off of reverb, but I'm still awaiting it's arrival.

    The vibramate stuff looks fine and dandy but it doubles the price of admission.

    I'm going to modify a stock 3 saddle bridge and drill 4 holes in my guitar and be done with it.
    timspong likes this.

  11. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    The Chinese fake Bigsbys on eBay are down to $21 now and sad to say, the quality is great and they work as well as the real thing. I modify the arm hardware and replace the lockwasher(s) with a spring so they work like the real thing. If you don't mind putting holes in your guitar and don't care about boosting the value with the genuine article, they play just fine. Its a spring and an axle like all the rest. I use them on gifts for the grandkids.
    timspong likes this.

  12. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    Anything worth doing is worth doing right, right? My opinion of Vibramate stuff (excluding vintage instruments) is that it's a waste of mulah, no offense to those that use them. Bigsbys are proven, albeit old, tech--go for it, you already said you don't mind holes...

    One (expensive) way to go is a Callaham modded B5 with a Mastery 4.1. Extremely stable and dive bomb capable if you want to go that way. The saddles don't rob any tone, far as I can tell. The Mastery is not necessary, any ol' Tele B5 user will tell you so, but it's been worth it to me, after goofing with all kinds of saddle choices. I'm in tune to a few cents plus or minus after lots of usage and deep dives. I mounted my B5 directly to the body, ditched the felt--probably doesn't matter, but maybe it contributes to overall stability, or maybe not.

    Mike Simpson, Dave-B, drlucky and 5 others like this.

  13. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    This has to be an anomaly, right? No way that price reflects the market... I couldn't get any real bites with my HH Cab at 275, although the Bigsby model will command an extra 50 or so. I only need one black guitar, I can see why one would want to change the finish.

  14. jguitarman

    jguitarman Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 14, 2003
    No CA
    I have a Vibramate on a mim Tele top loader and a Les Paul. In both cases I did not want to drill holes into the body. Both guitars hold their tuning with no issues. My only complaint is that restringing is a pain now.

  15. King Creole

    King Creole Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Jan 24, 2011
    I say butcher away. It's just a guitar. I love my Bigsby tele. I gig with it without a backup. Take care that your nut is properly set up and you should be fine. Like @BorderRadio, I have a Mastery bridge and love it. It's great for tuning stability, intonation, and overall resonance. You could go a lot of other ways besides a Mastery bridge. I used to have a regular tele bridge plate with Rutters grooved saddles and that worked fine too. I just notched the back of the bridge plate with a Dremel tool.

    I don't like the Vibromate stuff, mostly because it's ugly. Just commit. If you have to fill some holes later because you don't like the Bigsby, well, you've learned something, added character to your guitar, and given yourself a reason to keep your guitar forever (because you've destroyed its resale value by drilling holes in it).
    timspong and BorderRadio like this.

  16. brogh

    brogh Super Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    f you have cherished your one and only guitar for 20+ years.. just get a tele with a bigsby, i really wouldn't touch it :)
    Dan R, MilwMark and I_build_my_own like this.

  17. misterdontmove

    misterdontmove Tele-Meister

    Mar 25, 2011
    The Vibramate looks like a no-brainer if you can afford it. Find a used one if you can. See if you like it, play it or take it off like it was never there at all!

  18. mikeyb

    mikeyb Tele-Meister

    Aug 18, 2014
    Chicago, IL
    If someone bought it at auction, that's the market. Can't get them anymore. I have the HH in my closet pile o' guitars. Paid $199 from Sam Ash closeout. Debating whether to use the pickups in a build and part out the rest. E string slips right off the edge. Fender fail.

  19. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    I checked flea bay history and didn't see any Squier Cab at that price. Even Reverb, the Bigsby model price history chart never breached 375. These might be out of production but that doesn't make them 'rare'--it's just another used guitar. 500 is overpriced, especially when MIM Fender CP Cabs (same pickups) can be had for under 500.

  20. drlucky

    drlucky Tele-Meister

    Jun 19, 2012
    Fresno, Ca
    I put a B5 Bigsby on one of my parts Teles...and I'm actually thinking about pulling it off. Main reason? Control plate is right in the way of the arm. Can't really depress it that much without banging into the controls. Maybe it's just me.

    I have Bigsbys on my two hollowbody's and I love 'em...but it just doesn't work for me on a Tele.

    I say buy a Gretsch or maybe a Guild X175...c'mon, you know you want another geetar...:cool:

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