Archive for September 16, 2010

Vibramate – Aftermarket Bigsby

I have Bigsby vibrato tailpieces on a number of my guitars and very much like them. I much prefer them to the Fender-style whammy bars. They cannot inflect the pitch as much, but they are much more solid feeling and stable, at least in my opinion (I should note here that both Paul Reed Smith and Tom Anderson both make excellent Fender-style whammies — but correct adjustment is critical, wheras Bigsbys do not require fiddling).

My Gibson ES-347 left the factory and has spent its 30-some years with a fine-tuning stop tailpiece. The fine tuners work quite well, by the way. However, I’d really been thinking I’d like a Bigsby on there.

There is a 3rd-party product called a Vibramate (http://www.vibramate.com) that comes in a few variants and allows a Bigsby to be installed on guitars that originally came with a stop tailpiece — such as Les Pauls, SGs, and ES-335 types. For 335 type guitars, the adapter permits the installation of a Bigsby B-5, which was originally intended for installation on flat-top solid body guitars — like a Tele.

So, I bought the adapter and the Bigsby B-5. Installation was amazingly easy and fast, as the Vibramate website shows: http://www.vibramate.com/vibramate-v5-install.php — it actually took far more time for me to restring than to remove the old stop tailpiece and install the adapter & Bigsby. Everything fit perfectly; all screws aligned just right and were exactly the right size.

ES-347 with Vibramate & Bigsby

ES-347 with Vibramate & Bigsby

Here’s how it looks. Not too bad really. I’d actually have preferred a Bigsby B-7, as these were occasionally installed at the Gibson facory on ES-335 type guitars, but that would have required surgery — it would have left the old stud holes exposed and added new holes — not a reversible mod should I decide to go back. This is totally reversible. While I was at it, I also added a roller bridge to reduce tuning issues caused by the strings hanging up on the regular bridge.

The jury is still out. There is a substantial difference in feel between this and my other Bigsbys. I attribute that to the “tension bar” under which the strings go before they get to the bridge. This vibrato is much stiffer than my others.

But hey, if I decide I don’t like it, I can put it back to stock.

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September 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm 13 comments


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