The distinct sounds of various vibrato bars…?

4pickupguy

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Its always amazed me how various trems sound unique. Each has their own mojo and vibe (no pun intended). A Bigsby sounds nothing like a strat that sounds nothing like a Jaguar etc.. It more than the pitch travel too. The strings must change pitch at different rates relative to each other or something because I can instantly spot a strat trem over a Bigsby etc…. Even just shaking notes. Whats your favorite and why?

 

cometazzi

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I don't know that I can identify trems by sound without seeing them, but occasionally in recordings I've heard Strat trem springs in the spaces between notes. Not just my recordings, but other recordings of real music by real musicians.

It's an anomaly of the Stratocaster that I personally enjoy.
 

Cheap Trills

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I'm a fan of the G&L Dual Fulcrum Vibrato. At some point, I did some experiments with the Music Man trem, a USA Fender teem, and the G&L DFV. It "floats" the best and sounds good. The Music Man and Fender terms felt more similar. I've posted in the forum before about some of the issues I ran into with the Music Man trem over time and why I swapped it out for a Super Vee Blade runner.
 
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Bob Womack

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I'm a fan of the G&L Dual Fulcrum Vibrato. At some point, I did some experiments with the Music Man trem, a USA Fender teem, and the G&L DFV. It "floats" the best and sounds good. The Music Man and Fender terms felt more similar. I've posted in the forum before about some of the issues I ran into with the Music Man trem over time and why I swapped it out for a Super Vee Blade runner.
I've sensed this for a long time but wasn't sure whether it was technique or equipment. My favorite is the G&L Dual Fulcrum. There is a smoothness with it that comes to hand easily that is far and away better than that of the Fender. After that comes the Wilkinson Trem and in that ballpark to me is the Ernie Ball/Sterling. So far, so good with me on that one.

Bob
 

bottlenecker

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The strings must change pitch at different rates relative to each other or something

Yes. You can hit an Eb chord with a bigsby that's not too far from in tune. Not with a strat. A strat moves the pitch of each string at very different rates, so it's not a pretty vibrato like a bigsby. But if you want a noisy wiggle, it's the thing. I would bet it was not that popular before Hendrix, because the jazzmaster changes tension behind the saddles, more like a bigsby. It must have been intended as an improvement.
 

Boreas

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To my fingers and ears, the Strat trem is not as sensitive or subtle as a Bigsby or Jazz/Jag/Mustang trems. I suppose the difference is mostly due to the fact that the Strat bridge itself moves with the bar as a unit and the others are stretching the strings from BEHIND the bridge. They each have a distinctive feel and sound. With the music I play, the Strat Trem is my least favorite. I switched mine over to a shorter handle because I often like to hold my trem bars while I play. I play trems so often that it creeps me out not to have one on my two Teles that do not have wiggle sticks.

A future project is to install a Jag/Jazz trem system on a Tele. Searching for a good donor body, waiting for prices to get a little more realistic. I have been sitting on the trem unit for several years.
 

4pickupguy

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Yes. You can hit an Eb chord with a bigsby that's not too far from in tune. Not with a strat. A strat moves the pitch of each string at very different rates, so it's not a pretty vibrato like a bigsby. But if you want a noisy wiggle, it's the thing. I would bet it was not that popular before Hendrix, because the jazzmaster changes tension behind the saddles, more like a bigsby. It must have been intended as an improvement.
I actually think a strat sounds way better just shaking chords that anything else does and the more open the chord, the better. I tend to think of Bigsbies as very 50’s sounding. Probably the whole Brian Setzer thing. Jags of course sound surfy when shaking chords. Jag trems sound very cool too IMO. They are very identifiable as well.
 

bottlenecker

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I actually think a strat sounds way better just shaking chords that anything else does and the more open the chord, the better. I tend to think of Bigsbies as very 50’s sounding. Probably the whole Brian Setzer thing. Jags of course sound surfy when shaking chords. Jag trems sound very cool too IMO. They are very identifiable as well.

I can understand that, but I'm not a fan. The strat bridge was the first thing I knew as a "whammy bar", and I decided I didn't want to use them. When I tried a bigsby, it seemed magic because it sounds like slide vibrato.
 

11 Gauge

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I'm not really a big trem user myself, and currently only have one guitar with one (MIM Std Strat, like 2017, IIRC).

That said, I really love the trem work of two guys who play (or played) more recent surf/garage stuff:

- Jim Thomas of The Mermen - mostly plays (MIA) Strats made from the 90's onward

- Mikko Lankinen of Laika & The Cosmonauts (disbanded in '08) - TTBOMK, mostly played a Jazzmaster, but used a Strat on tour in the final year

Jim's trem usage kind of runs the gamut from just the gentle stuff to aggressive dives combined with feedback and such, but what I really like is how it tends to work in conjunction with his complex combinations of effects. And on songs like Curve, he's actually using his left hand to work the bar for the intro, so he can alternate pick the strings.

Mikko's trem usage is probably my all-time favorite WRT all things surf-like or garage-like. He would work the bar almost nonstop with this very quick warble on a lot of stuff. Sometimes it was single strings, but other times it was two or more, or full chords. He never did any extreme bending that I'm aware of, and I really kind of consider his primary use of a Jazzmaster to be the key to getting 'that sound'.
 

blowtorch

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My fave is the wilkinson
There's one on my Reverend
1669815270750.png


and one on my harley benton

1669815297986.png


and also on one of my fireflys

1669815374346.png


I can't really articulate why I favor it. Everyone should try one
 

CCK1

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I don't know if I could differentiate between the judicious use of a Bigsby as compared to the same amount of "wiggle" on a Stratocaster or Jazzmaster. Of course, both are easily distinguished from the pitch raise, and dive bomb effects of a Floyd Rose.
 

jrblue

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If the JM trem worked well, it would be my favorite as I like the subtler, less-abrupt and more limited pitch change of that design, but even my Mastery-equipped JM-type guitar is simply not truly solid and reliable, nor does it have great feel. IMO, the JM trem design/geometry just has some baked-in faults that even refined hardware cannot overcome. Bigsbys are similarly bad. So I'm going with the Strat, because even though that unit has its own issues, those can be settled, in my experience.
 

11 Gauge

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If the JM trem worked well, it would be my favorite as I like the subtler, less-abrupt and more limited pitch change of that design, but even my Mastery-equipped JM-type guitar is simply not truly solid and reliable, nor does it have great feel. IMO, the JM trem design/geometry just has some baked-in faults that even refined hardware cannot overcome. Bigsbys are similarly bad. So I'm going with the Strat, because even though that unit has its own issues, those can be settled, in my experience.
Thanks for posting that, because I occasionally toy with the idea of getting a guitar with a JM-style trem or a Bigsby. Just based on my experiences with trying them in the store, I always end up with reservations.

I've pretty much also concluded that the Strat trem works best for my conservative needs, which are mostly just gentle bends of no more than a half step. After years and years of decking the trem, I discovered that setting it up to float finally did the trick. It was actually by using a cheapo guitar with a Floyd on it (that had to float because of its design) that I was able to finally 'get it'.

The remaining thing that I dislike about a stock Strat trem is the play/slop in the bar. I just hate dropping a spring in the threaded sustain block, for some reason (just seems like a stupid workaround, even if it works)*. I put some of the lower-strength threadlocker on the bar's threads, and that's okay for a little while. I've thought about switching to a Callaham block & arm, or the complete bridge that Hipshot offers.

*I had a mid-80's Ibanez Roadstar II with a Powerocker trem, that had a push-in bar. It was a really basic, non-locking design, and the bar had no slop in it. I wish they could apply something basic like that to a Strat! Really my only complaint of the Powerocker design was the sustain block allowed you to drop in strings from the top of the bridge, so they weren't held in there as well as a standard Strat sustain block.
 

BorderRadio

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If the JM trem worked well, it would be my favorite as I like the subtler, less-abrupt and more limited pitch change of that design, but even my Mastery-equipped JM-type guitar is simply not truly solid and reliable, nor does it have great feel. IMO, the JM trem design/geometry just has some baked-in faults that even refined hardware cannot overcome. Bigsbys are similarly bad. So I'm going with the Strat, because even though that unit has its own issues, those can be settled, in my experience.
The Jazzmaster trem works very well, and if that doesn't have a great feel for being subtle or less abrupt, then hard to pin down what good feel is. Same with Bigsby, it works extremely well, but not for every guitar design.

Bottom line is every guitar vibrato is designed for instability: pitch detuning while playing. Asking it to stay in tune after all that? Well we know how that ends for extreme users: Floyd Rose. Not subtle, and very abrupt.
 

mad dog

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My two favorite trems:

#1 the trem on my Hallmark 65 custom. Perfect.
#2 the Wilkinson 2 screw trem on the Reverend Double Agent.

My preference with Bigsbys is always for the non-tension bar variety, but I have been most pleased with the tension bar Bigsby on my Eastman T64V/t. Smooth, very useful.
 

4pickupguy

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I love the strat trem for the expressive note attack thing it offers. The whole Jeff Beck thing.
Shawn does a bit of it here:

Man I just love that !
 
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