General tech questions

Need Some Bigsby B-50 Help | Feels Stiff


I can't imagine a better place to ask about Bigby vibratos than a Gretsch forum, even if the guitar in question is a PRS.

I picked up a PRS Starla S2 in trade for an amp plus cash on my end. I can't complain about the deal I got. It sounds great and I love the neck and locking tuners. But I do notice that this Bigsby is stiffer than other Starlas I've tried and the only other Bigsby equipped guitar I've ever owned.

My first thought is to try different springs but I don't know which ones to buy and where to get them.

I also read about people putting a coin under spring of some Bigsby vibrators. It's so easily reversible that I can't imagine not at least giving it a try. But which coin?

I also read about people loosening a nut, but people were arguing about whether that was actually a good idea or not. I couldn't figure out what nut they meant and it wasn't an experiment I wanted to try.

Anyhow, I'm hoping y'all don't mind me joining this forum.

I may not own a Gretsch, but I'm a big fan of various flavors and interpretations of Filtertrons, DynaSonics, and Hilotrons.


There are usually two springs: one for the actual vibrato and the other is for the handle. The handle spring may be too tight. There are also "softer" springs for the vibrato. A coin will increase tension. There is sometimes a washer underneath the main spring: remove that and you should experience less tension.


You may also want to shim the end closest to the bridge to reduce the break angle a bit, but a tension roller bigsby will never feel like a non-tension roller version.


I assume you mean that the Bigsby seems to resist the up-and-down pitch-changing motion, not moving the arm back and forth.

Best to address the two separately. lx has told you true, but in a way that might not be clear if you're not already familiar with Bigsby parts.

• If pitch-wobbling is too stiff - ie, you seem to be putting in more up-and-down effort than you're getting in pitch change, the large vertical spring is likely too stiff. This is common on "tension-bar" Bigsbys like the B-50. As lx says, putting a coin or washer in the cup under it will just raise the handle to give you more travel; it won't reduce tension.

The BEST way to reduce spring tension and take a Bigsby from unresponsive to buttery-smooth is to put a Reverend (guitar brand) soft spring in it. Get it at the Rev store here and change Bigsby life as you know it.

Now - if that should happen to feel too limber, THAT'S when you could put a coin (I like a nickel) or washer under it.

BTW, you can just loosen the strings completely slack, pull the Bigs handle up and just barely get the spring out to replace it. (You'll feel like you'll yank the handle off...but you'll break strings before that happens.) I find it's best to change the spring during a string change when all the strings are off. Then the handle will swing freely up and back, and you can get to the spring easily.

After you put in the new one, restring, and tune up, it's not uncommon for there to be a very noticeable POP and all the strings suddenly go slack again - that's just the spring seating where it wants to be. Perfectly normal. Tune up again and be happy.

• If the problem is that the ARM is resistant to pivoting its position parallel to the face of the guitar (ie, not up and down in the pitch-wobble function)...well, that's really OK. Unlike Strat arms, the Bigsby handle is pretty much never supposed to swing free. (And I can't take Strat arms that do that either.) You don't want it to take both hands to move the thing - that would be too tight - but it should take some effort to swing the arm, and it should stay where you put it.

THAT tension is controlled by the smaller spring directly under the bolt holding on the arm, a spring held in place by a nut. That's the nut some wingnut has suggested you loosen. But you'd only do that if the handle absolutely couldn't be pivoted closer to or further from playing position without undue effort. And it has nothing to do with the ease with which you can change pitch. (Except that if you get it TOO loose it will actually be harder to change pitch, because the arm will won't make rigid contact with the bracket and motion will be lost there.

I've almost never had to loosen this nut, and I've had...I guess dozens...of guitars with Bigsbys. I have occasionally had to tighten one, because the handle wasn't staying in place.

And if it does come time to adjust this, you absolutely have to have the strings off so you can swing the handle assembly backward and get to that nut (which is normally hidden down in the top of the big pitch-wobble spring).

In all likelihood, the Rev spring will resolve your issue. But it's also possible to replace the Bigsby arm with a more rigid design - which has the effect of preserving more of your up-down motion and transmitting it to the spring, rather than dissipating it in flexion of the handle itself. Makes the Bigsby more responsive.

There are several such designs, but they're all 5 times the money of the spring, and harder to install.

Try the spring first.


Thank you for those that took the time to respond. I'm going to buy that spring from Reverend.


Just saw this. +1 on the Rev spring suggestion. Dramatic change for my G&L ASAT with a B5.


That Reverend Spring was just the ticket. I might use the coin to raise the height slightly but the feel of the spring is exactly what I was missing.


Get rid of the handle spring. Replace it with a nylon washer.


I had a similar problem on a LP with a B7; the break angle was too steep and the strings were binding against the bridge. I just strung the strings over the tension bar which defines the purpose of having a tension bar in the first place but it works.


This thread popping back on the top reminded me I had a Reverend spring on the bench I ordered when this thread was new. I restrung and installed it on the b50 equipped pro jet.

Initial thoughts are that it feels better. A lot more like the b6 and b11 on my other guitars .

It did seem to take a lot more tuning cycles to settle down than before. Kinda seemed like a tuning a strat. Probably 6 or 7 repetitions of bringing each string to pitch and starting over.


If its a break angle issue, you can also pop off the cylinder that s over the tension bar, leaving the tension bar itself. This is a great trick I've used on all my B7 installs.


Funny: not to hijack this thread, but I’ve gone through the usual B5 or in my case B7 tuning stability / stiff arm issues on a DeArmond Starfire Special. The tension bar / break angle is clearly the culprit. Some rubber washers under the base helped a lot (75%), but still couldn’t gig with it. Bypassed the tension bar completely and the guitar plays and stays beautifully in tune, but high E string pops out of the saddle on upper fret bends. Just last night, got into a stare down with my B7 and thought, hmm... The tension cylinder doesn’t actually roll anyway. What if I removed it and just used the axle? Would that (coupled with washers under the unit) do the trick? Nah...

Then I saw your post. Gonna’ try it. I’ll get back to you.


A Reverend spring will help with the stiffness but not the limited change in pitch. A Bricks Fix should help with both.

Register Sign in to join the conversation