How To Keep a Bigsby in tune...
A tremolo/Vibrato system is one of those things that many people tend to love, hate, or put up with. Are you one of those people that bought a guitar with a tremolo system and very quickly locked it down because it wouldn't stay in tune?
The Bigsby Specifically...
The principles in this article apply to all tremolo/Vibrato systems, but the Bigsby seems to get a bad rap a lot more than a Strat style or Floyd style Vibrato. This is probably because once you put a Bigsby on your guitar, you are committed. You cant block it or avoid it. You put it on yor guitar to be used, lets make it usable. Lets look at what a Vibrato does?
What does a Vibrato do?
It basically does the same thing your finger bends do only backwards. It changes the length of the strings to change the pitch as the tension falls. When you bend, you stretch the string, changing the length and the tension. The Vibrato also moves all the strings at once. The important thing to note is, when you change the length of the string, it slides back and forth in the saddle and nut. This makes the biggest enemy of tuning.... Friction
If your guitar is going out of tune, it is more than likely because friction is not allowing the string to return to its original location after using the vibrato or bending the string. This is usually because it is hanging up somewhere. The usual culprit is the nut, but it could be the saddles, or string trees. Here is a methodical way to address tuning issues with a Bigsby or other Vibrato.
- Use the Vibrato and Identify which string or strings are not returning to pitch (it's not usually ALL of them)
- One by one, Identify any friction issues at any point along the string that may cause a hangup
- Retune and retest, one string at a time.
This takes patience and may take some fiddling, but its worth it. Check the nut, check the saddles for corrosion and burrs, Check the Vibrato itself for smooth operation, and CLEAN EVERYTHING.
Watch the video below for some more tips and leave the tuning issues behind....