A Bigsby vibrato tailpiece provides a slower note bend to create the “wobble” you want to hear in each tone. It provides a much larger bar than what you’ll find with other systems, approximately the size of a butter knife.
That weight can alter some players’ playing style, but the Bigsby will also perform actions that you can’t get out of other vibrato systems.
You don’t need to grab the Bigsby’s arm to use it. As long as you lightly press or pat it, you’ll get the results you want.
How to Add a Bigsby to a Tele
You can add a Bigsby to a Telecaster by installing a mounting kit on the guitar. When the hardware uses your existing bridge saddles and pickups, there’s no need to remove the neck, solder, or drill into the instrument’s body to enjoy slower vibrato.
Although you can install a Bigsby onto any Telecaster by drilling the holes needed to affix the vibrato generator to your instrument, it isn’t the fastest, easiest, or cheapest method available.
The best way to add a Bigsby to a Tele is to use the Vibramate® V5-TEV Stage II kit.
This product allows players to install a Bigbsy vibration on their Telecaster without drilling holes into the instrument to support the added weight of this upgrade.
It works with the Bigsby B5 original, and you can use it with a Tele that uses the Ash Tray bridge vintage style with a four-screw mount.
When you install a Bigsby using the existing bridge saddles and pickups, the Vibramate V5-TEV Stage II kit automatically orientates the equipment to deliver a finished and clean appearance.
Your strumming and picking will feel natural, and you don’t need to worry about string interference.
The mounting kit’s modular design ensures that you can swap out different components to use different tailpieces for your playing. Vibramate provides options that support left-handed players, Humbuckers, and scalloped bridge plates.
There’s also a modular piece that supports the F-logo Bigsby that works incredibly well with most Fenders.
You’ll find the mounting instructions for the Vibramate V5-TEV Stage II kit in the box with your purchase. If your order didn’t come with one, or they got lost somehow, here’s a direct link to the step-by-step guide to modify your Telecaster.
How a Bigsby Compares to Jazzmaster and Floyd-Rose (FR)
When you opt for a Bigsby on your Telecaster, you’ll find that it is relatively easy to get the vibrato you want from the instrument.
All you need to do is hold your pick, extend your pinky and ring finger, and use them to press or pat the mechanism while strumming.
If you compare a Bigsby to a Jazzmaster-style vibrato, you’ll find that the throw is somewhat shorter. It’s not as profound or noticeable as a Stratocaster, but you can definitely tell the difference between the two options.
Everyone feels like the throw is slightly different, making it a challenge to say what to expect if you’re transitioning to a Bigsby. Every instrument provides unique variations that add different tones and wobbles.
If you’re coming from an FR system, you’ll find that the Bigsby is an entirely different set of circumstances. When you prefer that vibrato, you won’t want to upgrade your Telecaster this way.
It’s more for those who want a slower vibrato style like the Jazzmaster, or potentially the Jaguar.
Does a Bigsby Cause a Tele to Go Out of Tune?
When a guitar has the strings on an angle after the nut, you’ll experience tuning problems with a Bigsby because there’s more pressure at that spot.
In some situations, the strings even get caught with this modification. The only way to compensate for the issue is to lubricate the slots.
With Fender’s Telecaster, the strings are typically straight after the nut. That means you won’t experience tuning problems with a Bigsby that often.
It does help to use strings with less tension when pitch-tuned to avoid problems in this area. Anything with a hexagonal core shape would be something to stop using when adding a Bigsby to a Tele.
You’ll also want to review the string’s material, winding type, and movement to ensure your guitar sounds as it should.
Since you’re adding about one pound to the instrument with this alteration, you’ll want to be as comfortable as possible with the process.
Best Telecaster Guitars for Playing with a Bigsby
If you haven’t played a Telecaster before, you’re missing out on an incredible experience! This guitar delivers a fantastic sustain and several color variations to let you perform with personality.
Each model provides the classic Fender look, and you’ll discover that adding a Bigsby to the following instruments is a relatively straightforward process.
When you love the classic Fender sunburst look on a guitar, you’ll appreciate what this Player Tele provides. It comes with the Pau Ferro style to deliver an upright strumming style with consistent sustain.
It uses bent-steel saddles to pass the strings through the body with the bridge to keep your playing consistent and free.
The humbucking pickups sound a little fat when playing, but it still delivers that authentic Fender tone you want. It offers precision with each note, partially due to the alder body that the manufacturer has used since the 1950s to create consistency.
Simply put, it’s packed with features that will take your playing to the next level.
- Body: Alder
- V-Modd II Single-Coil Tele Pickups
- Neck: Maple
- Deep "C" Neck Profile
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- 22 Narrow Tall Frets
- Bone Nut
- 3-Saddle Top-Load/ String Through Body Bridge
- Compensated Brass Bullet Saddles
- Hardshell Case
This 2020 edition of Fender’s classic Telecaster design provides some critical upgrades for the expert guitarist. It uses 22 narrow, tall frets with a bone nut to ensure precision with one’s playing style.
You’ll also appreciate the brass bullet saddles and the rolled edges that go easy on your fingers.
The maple neck on the Fender American Professional II provides plenty of strength for any playing style.
It features a deep C neck, highlighted by a rosewood fingerboard, to promote consistent movement and placement.
When you add a Bigsby into the mix, your guitar will exceed every expectation.
If you want to step away from the classic alder approach that most Telecasters use, this design is this perfect transition.
It uses custom single-coil pickups with a top-loader triple saddle to provide vintage sounds with each strum and tone.
The decorative finish provides that tropical feeling you’d get from Page’s music, while the maple neck and ash body offer a gloriously unique sound.
When you select the Jimmy Page Telecaster electric guitar, the sustain and tone make you notice the instrument for the first time. It’s heavy, with a wider neck, which gives it that beefy quality you want with Bigsby pickups.
You’ll just want to be careful with the pickguard because the protective coating is somewhat susceptible to scratching.
If you’re a beginner, we highly recommend trying this Telecaster kit before proceeding to the higher-level instruments. You’ll still get the classic style with 21 frets, but it also comes at a more affordable price with the essentials you need to get started.
You’ll get the strap, a soft case, extra picks, a clip-on tuner, and more so that you can learn how to play.
The Fender Squier Affinity Telecaster has the same setup as the other models, allowing you to attach a Bigsby with relative ease. It uses a six-saddle top-load bridge to reduce the breaking angle of the strings, but you can also adjust each one to deliver the intonation you prefer.
It comes in several different colors, with all of them featuring laminated alder wood.
Are You Ready to Add More Vibrato to Your Playing?
When you know how to install a Bigsby B5 original on a Tele, you can modify your tone to your preferred quality with slow vibrato.
Although you could take it into a shop to have it permanently affixed to your guitar, the best solution is to use the existing bridge and pickups to install this product.
It won’t work on every Telecaster, but that technique will work for most when you invest in a Vibramate V5-TEV Stage II kit for your Bigsby.
The cost of purchasing the kit is comparable to paying a service shop to install the Bigsby by drilling directly into the instrument body.
If your Telecaster is under warranty, please remember that all body modifications could void your warranty protection if you use a DIY installation.
If you don’t have a Fender Telecaster to play at home, don’t forget to order your preferred style today so that you can enjoy the wonderful sound modifications that a Bigsby offers!
You’ll love how a Tele sounds with a Bigsby. Why not give it a try today?