When selecting a Bigsby for a guitar, The 2 main decisions are whether it will require a tension roller or not. Most archtop guitars can use the B3, B6 or B11 (or B60 licensed) vibrato systems that do not incorporate a tension roller. The way these guitars are designed results in just enough “down pressure” between the strings and the bridge of the guitar. A certain amount of down pressure is required to keep the strings in place during playing.
Many guitars are manufactured that don’t accept the “non-tension roller” model Bigsbys. There just isn’t enough down pressure to hold the strings in place during playing. This is noticeable by the almost non-existence of a “string break angle” as the strings pass over the bridge and attach to the string attachment point of the Bigsby. These types of guitars require a “tension roller” model Bigsby to hold the strings down during playing. These models include the B5, B7, B12 (B50, B70 & B700 licensed) vibrato systems.
The problem is that there are so many guitars manufactured that just 2 categories of Bigsby vibrato systems don’t quite cover all the variations of guitars. Once it is determined that a tension roller model Bigsby is required, one often finds that there is just too much tension (or down-pressure). This tension is most noticeable by the extreme amount of string break angle as the strings pass over the bridge and under the tension roller. This results in an incredible amount of stress on the tension roller itself (often causing binding) and the contact point between the strings and saddles of the bridge (another point of friction) causing tuning instability.
An example of a guitar that has too much down-pressure is a Les Paul “style” guitar. The picture below is an example of what “extreme string break angle” looks like.
While stunning in appearance, there is a great chance this guitar will experience tuning issues.
Out of frustration, many guitar owners will bypass the tension roller altogether. They notice a great improvement in tuning stability, but often knock a string out of the saddle groove while strumming or push a string out of the groove during a bend. To tell if tuning instability is resulting from an extreme string break angle, bypassing the tension roller temporarily is perfect.
If stability improves, but there isn’t quite enough down pressure to keep the strings in place, the solution is the BiggsFix Tuning Stabilizer. The stabilizer attaches to the Bigsby and relocates the tension roller to a point in between the stock location and where the strings would reside when bypassing the roller altogether. Additionally, the BiggsFix incorporates sealed bearings to further reduce roller binding. The result is a smoother operating Bigsby with less tension binding and greater tuning stability.
Below are before and after photos of the string break angle on a Les Paul Style guitar with a Bigsby B7.
Before – These guitars experienced tuning instability which did not exist when bypassing the tension roller.
After – Once the Biggsfix is installed, the string angle closely matches that of a “non-tension roller” Bigsby and tuning stability is increased!