A bit of a stretch this
Many players that have encountered Bigbsy-equipped instruments wind-up in a love-hate relationship with the famous vibrato unit. Follow these tips and you'll enjoy more of the former than the latter...
1. A bit of a stretch this
If you’ve ever fitted a new set of strings, you’ll know how long it can take the tuning to settle.
Speed up the process by stretching the strings by hand. Give each string a firm tug halfway along its length, then retune. Repeat the process until the tuning is stable.
When you’re stretching the strings, remember to point your guitar away from stuff like pets, other people, your own face and the like, in case one snaps and does you a mischief.
Up around the bend
Fitting new strings to a Bigsby-equipped guitar can be a frustrating old business.
You’ll often find that the string’s ball-end pops off the locating pin on the Bigsby when you try to wind the other end of the string around the machinehead.
Make life easier by putting a bend in the string close to the ball-end. It costs nowt, yet helps secure the string in place while you get it up to pitch.
A sticky situation
If your guitar has a floating bridge [it falls off when you remove the strings] it can shift when you wiggle the Bigsby and the result is annoying tuning problems.
Before he got his pinned in place, Gretsch aficionado Brian Setzer stuck a patch of double-sided sticky tape to each foot of his floating bridges to provide a bit more stability. Try it next time you’re changing your strings. It’s a cheap fix that works.
When you wiggle your Bigsby’s arm, the strings should glide freely through the top nut slots. If the slots are poorly cut, the strings can bind - listen for a tell-tale pinging sound - and the guitar’s tuning will suffer.
Gretsch uses Delrin self-lubricating top nuts on its Setzer models but you can make your own slots more slippery by running some pencil graphite through them. Remove the strings first, of course…
Lock and load
Another Setzer-inspired tip is to fit a set of locking machineheads. The man himself has been a longtime user of Sperzel units, although his latest Gretsch signature Hot Rod models come spec’d with Schaller M6 models.
No matter what brand you choose, locking tuners eliminate the need for multiple string windings on a machinehead shaft - a real hot spot for tuning problems. Unless you’re a seasoned tweaker, have them professionally installed.