The Workbench

Will adding a Bigsby (to a tele) DECREASE TENSION?

1

So I have a Cabronita that I have ordered a B5 for. But I was just reading on the jazz guitar forum, someone saying that the Bigsby on their tele has made the guitar "too squishy", and was wondering if they should remove it to get the tension they are used to back.... I never thought of this.

Does adding a Bigsby make the guitar play "softer"? Also being a Strat owner, it does seem when I float it's tremolo (and Bigsbys work floating, of course), it DOES soften the feel... I guess I could go up to 11s...?

2

It sure seems like it would. You might have to go to heavier strings for same feel. I never thought of Bigsby and Fender as the best match -- but some people love that scene.

3

I’ve never done it myself but I’ve read a few times, mainly on the old Telemodders page, that if you use a B5 and a notched ashtray bridge it preserves a lot of the tension and doesn’t detract too much. A B5 with the Jag/Jazzmaster/mustang bridge does seem to make it squishier...which makes sense when you think about the geometry/mechanics of both setups.

4

I put a B5 on my Tele several years ago and never noticed a difference. But then again, I've played with 11's for years.

5

Yes.

Some difference (we can argue about how much) will made by having a shallower break angle over the bridge; the amount will vary depending on what bridge you had and what trem you install. (A Strat trem’s 90-degree angle over the saddles would have no impact.)

More fundamentally - regardless wiggle-stick type - having the strings anchored to a spring on one end rather than a fixed point necessarily introduces “give” to the system. If it were otherwise, the vibrato wouldn’t work.

6

I've found that playing guitar in general decreases tension.

7

I don't remember that it changed much, I think if it had I probably would have more cause to remember.

8

A B5 with regular notched Tele bridge changes the feel very little in my experience. Still, the tension bar Bigsby won't feel like a proper Bigsby does on an archtop.

The idea that there's less tension is silly, from a physics perspective. If the string has the same mass and is tuned to the same note, it must have the same tension.

9

A B5 with regular notched Tele bridge changes the feel very little in my experience. Still, the tension bar Bigsby won't feel like a proper Bigsby does on an archtop.

The idea that there's less tension is silly, from a physics perspective. If the string has the same mass and is tuned to the same note, it must have the same tension.

– Otter

Well, there must be more to it, because....

I recently had a problem with higher tension on it (my Cabronita.) I had 2 other teles. All string through. All hardtails. All 10-52 strings. All Fender 25.5 scale. But the Cab, for some reason, felt tighter.

Long story short: the previous owner had installed a string tree for the D & G strings. I popped the strings out of the tree, and voila! NORMAL tension (meaning the same as my other teles). I didn't realize it was just those 2 strings until I realized it was the string tree causing the higher tension.

But I USED TO think the same thing: same scale, same pitch, same gauge = same tension. But it can be more than that.

10

There are several factors that will alter the feel. The main issues will be break angle and bridge stability.

In terms of break angle it’ll be a sliding scale with “Tele-ness” at one end and “smooth Bigsby action” at the other.

Taking the strings out of the string tree in your example above will have decreased the break angle.

Don’t forget that if you install a B5 with the notched ashtray and the bigsby feels too stiff you can decrease the break angle by either removing the outer sleeve on the tension bar, revealing the smaller diameter shaft ...or...you can shim up the front of the bigsby a la the B12 on Billy Zoom’s Silver Jet.

11

The idea that there's less tension is silly, from a physics perspective. If the string has the same mass and is tuned to the same note, it must have the same tension.

Yes - but it won't feel like it has, because when you depress a string (to a tiny degree) or bend a string (to a noticeable agree), the spring gives. (Which is why you have to bend a string further on a vibrato-equipped guitar to get the same pitch difference as on a non-vibrato instrument.) The vibrato-fied guitar "feels" spongier/mushier.

Whether by enough to appreciably change how it feels to a given player, or to make a difference in tone, none can say but that player.

previous owner had installed a string tree for the D & G strings. I popped the strings out of the tree, and voila! NORMAL tension

I don't think Otter and I will disagree over the reason for that: the slight deflections from the tuner to the tree, and the tree to the nut, lengthen the string a bit. Which increases tension. (Those strings surely went flat when you took off the tree, and had to be tuned up.)

12

SO firstly, let's make this clear: let's not talk PHYSICS... let's talk PERCEPTION. Proteus already figured that out...

It's the FEEL I'm talking about... I could care less about what the actual tension number is, and what scientific formula is used to arrive at it.

Will putting a Bigsby on tele decrease the FELT tension? Will it make the strings feel "spongier" than without the Bigsby?

I say yes, because that's exactly what happens on a Strat when you float the bridge: it makes all the strings feel lower-tension, i.e., "spongier".

And yes- I guess I could increase the string gauge to compensate, if the difference in feel is large enough to warrant it.

13

The same gauge string, the same length, tuned to the same note will have exactly the same tension. Bare in mind that, with any vibrato tailpiece, as you bend a string to raise pitch, the added tension will compress the spring & lower the arm slightly, so you have to bend further.

14

In my experience, which encompasses a single Telecaster upon which I notched out the back of the ashtray bridge and installed a Bigsby B5, I did not PERCEIVE a difference compared to a regular string-through ashtray Tele bridge. There are physical reasons for this, but I'm not allowed to talk about that.

Yes, bends will require some additional deflection to reach the same pitch, but this effect is FAR LESS than what you would experience with a traditional Stratocaster vibrato, for example.

I suspect (but haven't EXPERIENCED) that the B5 kit with the bridge plate and Mustang bridge (or whatever) would FEEL SIMILAR to the notched ashtray bridge.

The B16 I currently have on my Telecaster FEELS EXTREMELY DIFFERENT. Much more like a Gretsch, and not those abominable modern Gretsches with the tension bars.

15

I notched out the back of the ashtray bridge and installed a Bigsby B5, I did not PERCEIVE a difference compared to a regular string-through ashtray Tele bridge. There are physical reasons for this, but I'm not allowed to talk about that.

Of course you should talk about the physics of it. Otherwise I won't learn anything.

bends will require some additional deflection to reach the same pitch, but this effect is FAR LESS than what you would experience with a traditional Stratocaster vibrato

Well...depending on how you have the Strat set up. If the springs are loose enough to float the base, pretty squishy. If they're tight, limiting whammy dips to down-only (and hard), not much deflection when bending.

The B16 I currently have on my Telecaster FEELS EXTREMELY DIFFERENT. Much more like a Gretsch, and not those weird modern Gretsches with the tension bars.

And this guy from TDPRI (in this 2013 thread: https://www.thegearpage.net...) would agree.

Himsez:

I've got one Tele with a B16 and TOM bridge, and several ones with B5s or B50s and notched bridges. Personally, I think the B16 looks better. Here is what I found:

• B5 & notched bridge is much easier to install (no need for shimming or an angled neck pocket, body dimensions aren't critical - with a B16, the distance between rear edge of the body & pickup route has to be within tight tolerances, not even all Fender bodies conform!)

• B5 & notched bridge sounds pretty much exactly like a Tele without a bridge (maybe with a smidgen more sustain); B16 setup changes tone: airier, less punchy, more harmonic overtones - kinda Gretschy.

• B16 trem action feels much better - softer, more gradual, not as stiff as a B50.

• With a notched bridge, you can use a (licensed, Asian-made) B50 instead of the B5, and the licnesed Bigsbies have much nicer finish; with the B16 you can only use the US-made originals, those are kinda rough (from the sand casting process), and might need some detailing work (esp. the backside of the B16 is rather rough, and since the whole thing is so long and thin, but made from aluminium, they sometimes don't lay perfectly flat on the top of the guitar; also, sometimes the openings for the pickup have to be enlarged a tiny bit with sandpaper, because some pickups - like my DiMarzio PreB1 - barely fit through...)

• So, for feel alone (and for overall looks) I prefer the B16 by a tiny margin - but for everything else the B5 & notched bridge setup is better.

This all sounds right to me: with the B5 and notched bridge plate, you have a steeper break angle and shorter harp to the Bigs - ie, more like the string path of a regular Tele.

I'd be more likely to do the B5, as I want a Tele to sound and feel as much like a Tele as possible. (And aesthetically, strickly personal opinion, I like that the B5 eats up less real estate on the top, and looks less Rube Gretschberg, thus maintaining the minimalist, functional Tele look. And yes, I know the B16 is designed for Teles, has often been used, and is a perfectly conventional Tele look by now.)

BUT if I was already in Cabronita-land, partway toward Gretsch - and depending on how far that way I wanted to go - I might get all B16 about it, just for the increased harmonic overtones from the harp (and other factors) the TDPRI poster mentioned. And after all, for maximum baroque, the B16 does look like something Jimmie Webster might have had a hand in.

16

Thats for that post Prot. Good research there.

Here's where I am: as for the Cab, it's not really partway to Gretsch land. Even my Cab thinline. It has Filtertrons in it, but it's really still 75% tele. It's not like putting a B16 on it would take it into Jet-land.... because if it did, that I might consider. But with a pine/alder body, and a maple neck, Filtertrons and a B16 will not make it a Gretsch. I't just not in it's DNA. More like a tele in Gretsch clothing... but still a tele.

So, for me- I don't try to make something into something else anymore (I have tried, over the years. It never works). A tele is a tele, and a Gretsch is a Gretsch. While they do both share that jangly/twangy high end, you can't make one into the other.

Putting a Bigsby on my Cab, for me, is more akin to doing what I call an "old school" build, like from the days of yesteryear (Bigsbys on solid body guitars). It'll be it's own unique animal, especially after I put the T-Armonds back in it.

17

I'm not happy with the B5 on my Mex Esquire. Can't really tell if it's "squishier", but it's real stiff and I DON'T plan on any more tension-bar Bigsbys-- or non-USA Fender guitars. If the B-16 were in regular production I might go with one.

18

A tele is a tele, and a Gretsch is a Gretsch. While they do both share that jangly/twangy high end, you can't make one into the other

Nosir, and I wouldn't suggest one do that. Just that it's fun to explore the territory of possibility suggested by "what would the love child of a Tele and a Gretsch be like."

19

The vibrato assembly on my Strat is way spongier than either of the Bigsby units on my two Gretsch guitars. I've avoided using the Reverend Soft Springs on the Bigsbys because they made the Bigsby spongier and I like to bend strings a lot. The amount of detuning during bends, on my Bigsby equipped guitars, is very slight compared to the detuning that occurs on my Strat during bends.

20

Much agreed. Don't like them Reverend springs, no sir. Feels like mashed potatoes.

I quite like the FEEL of the B16, but I'm having some trouble with the setup on that guitar. Think it might be the compensated Bigsby bridge and base. I think it might benefit from some kinda compensated rocking bar bridge and a pinned base.

21

I guess I liked mashed taters.

To be clear, I've never felt the need to put a Rev spring on a pro-line Gretsch - or any other guitar without the tension bar. Most Electromatics and Streamliners, in my experience (and other tension-bar guitars) are waaay stiffer than the stock setup on a pro-line. Feels like the handle itself will bend before I get any pitchwobble. Makes me feel like I have a vibrato in name only. That's when the Rev spring comes to the rescue.

Think it might be the compensated Bigsby bridge and base. I think it might benefit from some kinda compensated rocking bar bridge and a pinned base.

Hmm, wonder where you might get a compensated rocking bar.

22

cut that B-5 and move it to the bottom of the body, add a TK Smith shim. It will feel great to leave the world of bro country behind :)

23

I would think that with the right cup of coffee, the tension should be essentially, undetectable.

Okay, lame joke out of the way, this is a timely post as I was wondering the same think myself. My main concern though, would be the potential change in tone/sustain/spank of the Bigsby equipped 'caster. Fact is, I've always liked the aesthetic of such a model since first I spotted one in a '69 Fender catalog I received as a kid. Still, I've never owned one. I recently purchased an American 60s model in Lake Placid metallic blue and have been thinking how well a B5 might look on it, or rather on a Fender issued version of this guitar stocked with the Bigsby (which I believe currently do not exist). In any case, this thread in giving me more pause for thought on the subject.

24

Oh no! Tavo strikes again! As for bro country, just hand me a beer, slap me upside the head, and call me a good ol' boy. I'm there...

25

To be clear, I've never felt the need to put a Rev spring on a pro-line Gretsch - or any other guitar without the tension bar. Most Electromatics and Streamliners, in my experience (and other tension-bar guitars) are waaay stiffer than the stock setup on a pro-line. Feels like the handle itself will bend before I get any pitchwobble.

This is, indeed, my experience with the tension bar, and the reason I went with a B16 on this Tele.

My feeling is that the Reverend spring treats the symptoms of the tension bar, and not the problem, which is the tension bar itself. I'd rather have no Bigsby than have a B5. Like Tavo, I have a chopped B5, and I plan to put it on my Danelectro-alike with a neck shim and a radius-matched compensated rocking bar bridge. That's like three projects down the line though.

Nevertheless, I think Mr Ruger need not worry he will lose the TELE FEEL going with the B5 and the notched ashtray.


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