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Any Tele/Bigsby users?
  • Hey,

    Are there any tele players out there that use a Bigsby?

    I'm working on some Chet stuff and would like to get some vibrato going, but don't want to buy a new guitar right now. I also like the idea of staying on one guitar. I also saw Bill Frisell's Surfer Girl on youtube...

    The big downside seems to be access to tone swells.


    Also, for those that have done it, I think these are the things I need. I'm also open to opinions on this. (e.g. I'm buying the right/wrong stuff, better ideas on a seller?)


  • I played a 68 telecaster with a factory Bigsby in a local vintage guitar shop on a couple of occasions. I love Bigsby's and I tend to like the handle elevated a little to add space between the pickguard -- Gretsch guitars typically have great Bigsby action but they have no sustain. The Bigsby on the 68 telecaster was fantastic; it was very responsive, the bridge rocked back and forth slightly instead of having roller saddles and it stayed in tune. It was one of the best Bigsby's I ever played. However, given the excellent condition of the guitar and the fact that it was a vintage telecaster, the cost was prohibitive for me.

    I would not hesitate to play a telecaster with a Bigsby, but in my opinion I would want it factory installed -- which would mean either buying a vintage instrument with one already installed or going through the Custom shop. Both options would be pricy, but worth it if that is what you are looking for.

    Just my opinion.

  • Another option is to look around for a '90s Japanese manufactured Telecaster equipped with Bigsby. I have one and it's a phenomenal guitar. I've seen a few for sale and they typically go for around $900-$1200, making them a little more affordable than vintage or custom shop instruments.
  • I forgot, but I also played a Japanese made telecaster with a Bigsby years ago. I agree... it was a nice guitar as you described. The Bigsby was also factory installed.
  • Thanks for the comments.!

    jtmccann/Steve09: yeah, I've been watching the CIJ teles with Bigsbys. Seems like they're around on reverb. I'm going to keep that in mind. If I can get one at the low end of that range, it might be better that spending $250 on parts. Especially if I can find one local instead of on line.

    Thanks again.
  • rasn0225...a bit late replying here. I have a CIJ tele with a bigsby. Great guitar for the money. I too was worried about access to tone and volume swells. Given this, I simply reversed the control panel on the guitar such that the volume and tone knobs are up front and the pickup switch is in the back. Works well!
  • Sorry to resurrect this discussion, but I have a question...a little background first, since I posted earlier on this topic, but have since learned some new information.

    I am generally a hollow body player and really like a Bigsby on a guitar. However, I've also long wanted to bond with the right Telecaster. I've owned a couple over the years but always ended up selling them because they just did not feel right. I have cervical disc issues and the way a Telecaster generally sits on my lap when playing causes pain and discomfort...which I do not get from hollow body guitars. This is probably due to neck angle and just the way I naturally tend to hold a guitar, in addition to my neck issues which I will not go into here. Nevertheless, I am always looking for the right Telecaster.

    I recently came across an article on a Telecaster played by Bob Bain that has a Bigsby B16. He called it the best guitar he ever owned or played. I was never aware of this particular model of Bigsby, but from what I can tell this might do the trick on a Telecaster for me. It doesn't have the tension bar that you have to run the strings under. It basically works more like a Gretsch-style "open" Bigsby and has softer tension and better sensitivity...which I really like. I guess the Telecaster neck has to be shimmed and realigned, but this might also get rid of the neck problems I've encountered with previous Telecasters that I've had. I love the tone, sound, and feel of a Telecaster and would like to be able to have one that lasts!!

    So, my question is this...has anyone on this forum ever played a Telecaster with a Bigsby B16 with a shimmed neck? Or, has anyone ever put one on their Telecaster and made the necessary modifications? If so, did you run into any problems? Did you like the sound, feel etc? I know the pickups have to be raised, but I'm not sure of any other issues. Any thoughts or comments would be very much appreciated.


    Joe M.
  • Well enough time passed without any answers for me to go ahead and do some major mods.

    I started with a brand new white Mexican Nashville telecaster with three noiseless pickups. I didn’t want to spent $$ on a more expensive guitar in case the project tanked. Here’s what I did...

    Removed the neck and middle pickups and replaced them with a TV Jones Magnatron neck pickup. Kept the noiseless bridge pickup (its OK but quiet which I like. I play more neck position and it blends really well to my preference with the Magnatron). Changed from 5-way to to 3-way switching. Added a new pick guard (white) and added a Bigsby B16. This has no string bar and is “open” like a Gretsch style on their hollow bodies. Added a metal elevated adjustable bridge that comes with the Bigsby. Shimmed the neck; some shaving down of the standard metal one that can be bought on line was needed to keep the strings from being elevated too high. Shout out to the expert luthier (Tom Dobrovich of Binghamton) who did all the expert work. He did a fantastic job as usual. Also dressed the frets and set up action with flat wound strings. I find heavier strings (.11s) stay in tune better with Bigsby. Also put in a 1” spring on the Bigsby. Changed pots from 1 meg to .250 too.

    The result was better than I could have imagined. The guitar plays and sounds fantastic. It might be a little too “Gretsch-like” for some telecaster players. But I love it. It retains a tele sound and feel (snap and sustain) with a Gretsch flair (very responsive Bigsby; bolder tone) and stays in tune. The Bigsby B16 is definitely the way to go on a Telecaster. I’ll try to post a pic if others are interested.
  • Hi Joe,
    It sound fantastic! Please post a pic of your Tele. I love the sound of Magnatrons. I was thinking in those pickups for my next partcaster proyect.
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  • That's a great job! Great looking Tele. Congratulations!
  • Man, that's sweet. Great job!
  • jtmccann I've always loved the look of this particular Bigsby unit. It looks gorgeous. One thing I noticed looking at your pics is that the string break angle at the bridge is pretty shallow. Does it stay in tune?
  • Yes, the break angle is shallow but it stays in tune very well. I’ve found the heavier strings and longer spring (1” or longer) work better for tuning stability.

  • Plus the bridge is notched for each string slightly so the strings stay in line. The bridge is constructed to rock very slightly back and forth which also helps. It’s responsive enough to get nice vibrato. I don’t do dive bombs with it but it can handle a decent dip in tuning without instability. It’s much better than the ones with the string bar.

  • Thanks. I'd love to hear some sound clip if possible. : )
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