Bigsby on Strat: Does it Work? (2023 Edition)

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If you’re curious about the Bigsby on Strat guitar mod, you’ve come to the right post!

Bigsby Vibrato Systems

Bigsby vibrato tailpieces, which we often just call Bigsby, have been around for a very long time.

We usually remember the brand for just their vibrato systems.

However, Paul Bigsby originally became known as a guitar builder.

And eventually, his cleverly designed vibrato systems remained his biggest invention.

He ran a completely independent company until 1966 when Ted McCarty acquired the brand.

At the moment, Fender owns Bigsby, but they operate as a completely independent subsidiary.

Although an archaic concept, Bigsby vibrato systems still have their following.

Sure, they have their impracticalities compared to Fender-style synchronized tremolo bridges.

However, with minor modern-day modifications, Bigsby tailpieces work like a charm.

And, most importantly, they give a unique tone and feel due to their design.

These days, we have two different groups of Bigsby vibrato tailpieces.

We have Kalamazoo and Lightning series.

The principles are the same and the designs are almost identical between these two.

However, Kalamazoo are manufactured in the United States.

Meanwhile, the Lightning series are mostly outsourced overseas.

Kalamazoo stuff is of higher build quality, although the Lightning series can serve you pretty well for the price.

Bigsby vs Fender-style Tremolo Bridge

Although Fender-style synchronized tremolo is, objectively, far more practical, Bigsby Tremolo bridges are still popular.

The first obvious difference is that the whole process with Bigsby systems happens on the instrument’s surface.

You can see the metal bar where the strings are anchored and how it rolls.

The bar is in direct connection to the handle.

The string tension is counterbalanced by one thick, short spring beneath the arm.

This gives it a different feel and, ultimately a different sound when you operate the lever compared to synchronized Fender-style bridges.

From my experience, it sounds slightly more vintage-oriented.

To me, it’s similar to the tone of pedal steel guitars.

There are, however, certain impracticalities and issues that come with Bigsbys.

Tuning stability issues can be a real bother.

That’s why I’d highly recommend using a roller bridge along with a Bigsby tailpiece.

Using a regular tune-o-matic bridge can also work.

However, in this case, string friction is much more prominent.

You should lubricate the bridge slots if you’re using a regular bridge.

Additionally, I advise that you lubricate the instrument’s nut as well.

As you can see, Bigsby vibrato systems are way more demanding compared to the Fender-style synchronized tremolo bridge.

So if you really want one, be prepared for more maintenance than usual.

Bigsby on Strat: It Sounds Crazy But It Works!

If you want a short answer to if a Bigsby on a Strat works, then yes, Bigsby on a Strat is possible to pull off.

You can set it up and make it work just like on any other solid-body guitar.

However, there are a couple of main issues that you need to bear in mind.

First, Strats almost exclusively come with a string-through design.

This means that the strings go through the body and are anchored within the body.

The second issue is that they come with bridges that are tricky to combine with Bigsby vibratos.

Now, you have two options to go about this issue.

The simplest and most practical one is to put a tune-o-matic bridge on a Strat body.

Or, even better, use any of the roller bridges available on the market.

Yes, I know, it’s unconventional.

But this will make the process simpler.

Here’s one example of a Strat with a Bigsby and a roller bridge.

Extreme Fender Strat Mod with Bigsby

The only thing you’ll need is to find a way to position the bridge.

And, as is also the case in this video, you’ll probably have to recess the bridge.

This means that you’ll have to make an indent in the body where the bridge will go and thus make it lower relative to the instrument’s surface.

Here’s another interesting example, a Telecaster with a Bigsby vibrato.

And this wasn’t a modification, it came out of the factory this way.

1967 Fender Telecaster with Bigsby | Guitar of the Day

Doing It the Hard Way

The second option would be to keep any of the Fender-style bridges, be it tremolo or hardtail.

Then there are also vintage-style ones, although they still have six individual saddles.

I’ve seen a few of these examples online, although it seems that there are no videos of these online.

I find this concept to be very impractical.

I’ve found one example where a Strat is equipped with a B70 Bigsby model, all while still retaining that string-through design.

It’s a bit weird to explain, but you can check it out here.

This would also require you to keep the instrument’s stock bridge blocked.

Just Because You Could Do It Doesn’t Mean That You Should

In all honesty, there’s probably no practical reason to put a Bigsby on a Strat.

And, if you ask me, there’s probably no practical reason to use a Bigsby vibrato system at all these days.

But this would probably count as a highly controversial opinion.

Be that as it may, sonic differences are minimal.

And with a good Floyd Rose or a Kahler bridge and some practice, you could do anything that a Bigsby would do.

In addition to this all, a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece can be a real pain to install.

And to top it off, it’s not exactly the most practical option because you have other tremolos these days.

No to mention you’ll have to make an additional cost here.

The only viable reason to have a Bigsby is if you’re really into this is for aesthetics.

And, if we’re talking about Strats with Bigsby vibrato systems, that would be a pretty rare sight.

Now, these are all my personal opinions on the matter.

Sure, Bigsbys have their vibe and are certainly interesting.

But there’s absolutely nothing that you cannot reproduce using a synchronized tremolo or a Floyd Rose.

If you decide to go down this path, bear in mind that this would be a costly and time-consuming project.

Bigsby on Strat: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through whether you want to put a Bigsby on a Strat.

And if you want to read more about guitar mods and bridge systems on this blog, then check out:

Lastly, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have more questions about this or another guitar-related topic!


2 Responses

  1. Charles J Coffman says:

    In your post you said, “And, if you ask me, there’s probably no practical reason to use a Bigsby vibrato system at all these days.” I disagree. Bigsby is the only tremelo system that allows one to perform country-style pedal steel bends without the tremelo tilting forward causing it to sound out of tune. Extra springs can combat this, to a certain degree, at the cost of feel and accuracy unless you happen to be SRV. Also, if one wishes to perform the Merle Travis/Chet Atkins style, the required palm-muting will cause a warbling sound due to the syncopated bass lines. Bigsbys are well suited for all styles of music with only dive-bombing being impossible, a sound that I outgrew shortly after the eighties ended. I currently own a strat, tele, PRS, etc., but have found that my five Bigsby-equipped Gretsch electrics can play all styles from Brad Paisley to SRV to AC/DC and beyond.

    1. Hey Charles! To be honest, I haven’t had nearly as much experience with Bigsbys compared to other more “conventional” tremolo bridges today. Plus, there simply weren’t that many of them around me. With that said, I’m also not experienced in playing country/country-style music. I’ve seen other guitar players use regular tremolos for country-style lead parts. My estimates might be off but I was just speaking from my own experience.

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