A new guitar: Bigsby detunes by almost 20c, probably not the nut

vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
I have a new 5260t. I am trying to tune it. No matter if I push Bigsby up or down, most strings change by almost 20 cents up. Always the same value. Stretching any of these strings puts them back in tune, individually one by one. I do not think that it is the nut, because pushing Bigsby down creates an opposite force on the nut, compared to pushing Bigsby up. Yet in both cases, the pitch increases. Neither I thing that the floating position of Bixby or the bridge changes, because stretching one string brings it back in tune, but not the other strings. There is another method of bringing a string back in tune: press it at the place indicated in the photo below.

I oiled the nut, the bridge and Bixby itself. It made no slightest change. Do you have any idea, how to fix, what to try/measure?

This is a screenshot of the pitch change. If you disregard the noise (tuner's error if the sustain was already low, octave jumps etc.) it shows mostly what I said. Letters below indicate string numbers.
bigsby.png
Here is the photo:
bigsby2.jpg
 
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Pops

Gretschie
May 23, 2022
138
SC Midlands
My 5427 has a B60, but it was off 10-12 cents until I modified the nut slots. I also lubed the nut and saddles. Now the trem has no effect on tuning. Try some lube.
 

S Macp

Country Gent
Sep 6, 2009
1,865
Glasgow, UK
Unless I haven't properly stretched out new strings, then any time this has been issue for me, it's been the nut.

To check: loosen one of the wound strings, and then move it backwards and forwards through its nut slot - like a file, but not excessively - to smooth out any burrs that might be there. Retune, relubricate, redo your test. If it's improved for that string, then it's the nut
 

vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
Welcome to the forum, @vuth ! Do you have access to a good luthier?
View attachment 183850
Hi audept! Thanks for advice. The problem is, I would probably pay a good fraction of the guitar's price for a good luthier. I may be wrong, but I hope that a new guitar of a good producer and at that price can be properly set up also by a non-professional.
 

vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
Unless I haven't properly stretched out new strings, then any time this has been issue for me, it's been the nut.

To check: loosen one of the wound strings, and then move it backwards and forwards through its nut slot - like a file, but not excessively - to smooth out any burrs that might be there. Retune, relubricate, redo your test. If it's improved for that string, then it's the nut
Thanks for the advice. I did it for the 6th string. Its nut groove is now smoothed and flooded with oil mixed with graphite. I also stretched the string quite a bit. Yet when Bigsby is pushed/pulled, it goes up by 15 ... 17 cents exactly as before.
 

hcsterg

Friend of Fred
Feb 13, 2012
6,567
France
Hi @vuth,

Seing this, I'm not surprised :

1656849443161.png

1 - the distance between the front roller and the bridge is very short. This gives a steep string break angle behind the bridge. Ideally, it should be 7-8°... Impossible mission here.

2 - the front roller may bind, since it is not on roller ball bearings. BricksBiggsFix (BBF) offers replacement front rollers both for B5 and B50 Bigsby trems.

3 - the TOM bridge is not a roller one. You could change it for a Göldo HW05C available at thomann.de : excellent and very affordable.

With a roller bridge and a ball bearing front roller, a break angle of 10-12° is acceptable. You may even reduce it by surelevating the front of the bigsby by using shims...

This Bisgby position on 543xT is a known flaw, so the issue you face is "normal" if I can say so...

As you can see below, on my (now sold) G5435LH, I installed a B5 with a much greater front roller-bridge distance, but a roller bridge and a ball bearing front roller were nonetheless compulsory for tuning stability.

1656850772472.png

But the best solution I have found is the installation of a B3 on my G5220LH :

OH4WIb-P1070632.jpg


That said, to achieve the correct 7-8° break angle, I had to profile the bigsnby chassis to increase the break angle, otherwise the string were popping from the bridge :

tHIEJb-beforeafter.jpg


And I use a Goeldo HW05C roller bridge :

19092704445425019416427782.jpg


19093009404725019416436436.jpg


And to be "top notch", I replaced the nut with a TUSQ-XL one (PQL-6060-00) :

19101106042225019416455117.jpg


Flawless tuning stability is obtained, now - no matter the use or abuse of the Bigsby ! ;)

A+!
 

vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
I smoothed out the nut of the 6th string even more, now also at angles, so it is now kind-of funneled at both sides. There is a quite bit of space on the left/right of the string and no hard edges below it. I attach a photo. I hope that I did not exaggerate, I did not know that the nut material yields so easily.

Here is a video of how the 6th string detunes after the second nut smoothing/lubbing:
Still ~ 17 cents up, as in the beginning.
 

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vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
My 5427 has a B60, but it was off 10-12 cents until I modified the nut slots. I also lubed the nut and saddles. Now the trem has no effect on tuning. Try some lube.
Was the tuning going up, no matter if Bigsby was pulled/pushed?
 

S Macp

Country Gent
Sep 6, 2009
1,865
Glasgow, UK
Is it possible the string is binding against itself at the tuning peg?
 

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vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
When I stretch the string, it is pulled out of the nut. The same happens if I pull Bigsby ("bend up"). But the tuning goes down in the 1st case, up in the 2nd case. Is not it that if it were the nut, Bigsby by pulling the string out of the nut would need to somehow make it push back into the nut and pinch it there.

By the way, pressing the string fragment between the bridge/ and the Bigsby's roller detunes down (as the stretching of the string does), yet pressing the fragment between Bigsby's two rollers detunes up.
 

Pops

Gretschie
May 23, 2022
138
SC Midlands
Was the tuning going up, no matter if Bigsby was pulled/pushed?
Both flat and sharp! At first it was going flat, which suggested the bridge saddles. After lubing the saddles it was consistently sharp on the A, D and G strings so I filled the nut slots until the binding stopped. Based on an older thread I found here, I mixed some graphite and petroleum jelly to make my own nut sauce. Worked great.
 

vuth

Electromatic
Jul 3, 2022
8
France
2 - the front roller may bind, since it is not on roller ball bearings. BricksBiggsFix (BBF) offers replacement front rollers both for B5 and B50 Bigsby trems.
In this case, I would rather guess that it binds the strings on its surface, because they can be "pinched" individually by stretching them. Pushing a string between that roller and the bridge pinches it as well. On the contrary, pushing the same string but between the two rollers unpinches it again.

So my guess is that stretching a string makes it unstably pinched under the roller, and any move of Bigsby (up or down) unpinches it again.
 
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Emergence

Gretschie
May 25, 2022
396
New York
I had tuning stability issues on my 6118T Anniversary from the day I got it. Fretted notes were sharp, especially on the low E string. Notes on the wound strings were variously out of tune after using the Bigsby. Nut sauce is just clear grease. It didn’t help much but made a mess.

The problem wasn’t the Space Control bridge. The saddles rolled with the strings. The Bigsby returned to neutral after use as far as I could tell. TV detective, Lt. Provenza identified the guilty party. “It’s the nut. It’s always the nut.”

The nut slots were too tight around the wound strings and weren’t cut deep enough for good intonation of fretted notes. I’m glad I didn’t replace a perfectly good bridge in search of a solution.

I can be a cheap skate sometimes and this was before I retired. I folded 600 grit wet/dry paper over an automotive feeler gauge that just fit the slot and deepened and widened the slots. Be careful to file then deeper on the headstock side so the last point of contact for the string is on the fretboard edge. Don’t cut them too deep. You should have a playing card thickness of clearance over the first fret when the string is fretted at the third. I’ve had excellent intonation since I did this and no need for nut sauce or any other string lube. “It’s the nut. It’s always the nut.”
 

powerwagonjohn

Electromatic
Nov 12, 2015
31
I installed a Brix biggs fix on my Gibson Johnny A. It changed the break angle over the bridge and along with filing the nut slots my tuning stability is perfect now. The steep break angle was actually pushing the bridge toward the pick ups.
Thanks John
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
Lots of thoughts here. IMHO, tension bar Bigsbys present a much different set of circumstances than Bigsbys that lack a tension bar. I have owned one in the past, but never I tend to own another guitar with a tension bar Bigsby. However, I realize that for some guitars, they are the only option available, and there are products to help. I don’t recall the name of the manufacturer, but there’s a product which raises the tension bar, and I would start there. If you want to calculate vector sums of the various angles involved, it will become obvious that changes in string angle add a lot of resistance. Obviously the tension bar should use anti-friction, as opposed to friction bearings. IOW, rollers, as opposed to bushings. The same goes for the main shaft of the Bigsby. I’ve heard that some licensed Bigsbys use nylon sleeves, in place of roller bearings. If so, the natural looseness of a Bigsby will be reduced.

I am personally not impressed with roller bridges. I have four Gretsch, and one Guild, with B6 style tailpieces, and solid bridges, which is to say Compton, OEM bar bridges, and one Tru-Arc. I never experience binding and direct observation has shown that the bridge posts bend slightly when I use the Bigsby. I would forget about lubricants, etc. at the bridge.

The nut is frequently the (literal) sticking point. If you have a Delrin nut, these are self lubricating, and I wouldn’t bother with whatever potion is being pushed in the market, these days. A bit of graphite would be the only thing I would so much as consider, but if you have a properly cut Delrin nut, it’s not really needed.

Unless you are experienced in cutting guitar nuts, I wouldn’t recommend experimenting on your own guitar. The high spot on each groove should be where the nut ends and the fingerboard begins. As long as you don’t cut that deeper, you may be safe to do some very limited filing, but I would limit this to widening (without deepening) the slots. I use a welding tip cleaner for this, and it’s easy.

Start by slowly de-tuning a string and then returning it to pitch. If you hear some pinging, that string is probably binding. With the string loosened, try moving it back and forth in the nut slot to see for yourself if it binds. If it does, slip the string out of the slot, then using a welding tip cleaner as a file, carefully widen the slot, but do not deepen it. You might use a lead pencil to mark the slot, so you can see where your file has cut. If you leave some pencil “lead” in the bottom of the slot, that’s graphite, so you will only be helping your cause. Once the string moves freely in the slot, that’s as far as you want to go. The string should slide freely through the slot, but not be free to move side to side. The various sized files in the welding tip cleaner should provide adequate selection to get you through all six strings. Unless you go to thicker gauged strings, this should be a one-time fix.

Mr. Mascis makes a great point. Wound strings can bind upon their own windings, on tne capstan of the machine head. I use the lock-back approach, and try to avoid having more than one complete turn on each machine head. Here’s a picture of how that looks, on my Country Gentleman.

1656872842417.jpeg

Since I started locking back my strings, I have had no tuning stability issues. I prefer this method, even over locking machine heads.

The only other thing I can think of is the degree to which you change pitch with a Bigsby, or any other vibrato tailpiece. When Van Halen started using the whammy on his Strat to make extreme pitch changes, it became necessary to devise new mechanisms to allow this.

A Bigsby is simply a low friction device that allows you to vary the tension on the strings, with a spring to return the strings to pitch. As long as nothing is binding, the Bigsby has done its job. They are as simple as any gadget on earth, and they work well, almost all of the time. Nuts can bind, and with aggressive use, the strings may well bind at the bridge. You could try a roller bridge, and even a roller nut, for such duty, but if I woke up some morning with a strong desire to dive-bomb, or stretch strings to the extreme, I’d probably just go find a pointy guitar with a Floyd Ross, or at the very least, a Jeff Beck Strat. The tailpiece is only one part of the equation, and if you are going for the extremes, then the entire system has to be provisioned accordingly.

As I am fond of saying, horses for courses. There’s a beautiful little pony, a few blocks up the street, with a nice disposition, but if I was trying to pull a car out of the ditch, I’d go a bit further up the road and see if the guy with the 20+ hand horse would be willing to volunteer his steed. A Bigsby is a great tailpiece; one of the best imaginable, but it’s not made for every duty. The original design was from an era when there was adequate neck angle to hold the strings tightly to the bridge. To the best of my understanding, the first Bigsby was the B-6. Other applications developed, and the B-7 with the tension bar, to widen the applications available, but it did fundamentally change the design.

Of late, Gretsch seems to have started putting tension bar Bigsbys on a lot of models. For my personal use. this limits the appeal of their products. I have four Pro Series, with V-Cut B6s, so I’m ok, but if I were forced to buy a tension bar Bigsby, I’d probably select a hard tail.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
25,853
Tucson
I installed a Brix biggs fix on my Gibson Johnny A. It changed the break angle over the bridge and along with filing the nut slots my tuning stability is perfect now. The steep break angle was actually pushing the bridge toward the pick ups.
Thanks John
Brick’s Fixx. That’s the one I was thinking of.
 


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