I have two guitars with Bigsby tremolos (vibratos really but, since everyone seems to call them tremolos, I'll follow suit). The latest is a Gretsch 5420T.

With all tremolos , the arm can be swivelled across the face of the guitar so that you can push it away when you don't want to use it and pull it back when you do.

With a Bigsby, there is a stop that prevents your pulling it up very far and having fairly small hands, I can't hold the arm, even with my little finger, whilst picking the bottom strings.

Does anyone know why that stop is there and what, short of grinding it off, I can do to get more travel on the arm?

I have five guitars with variations of the Fender Stratocaster type tremolo, a Mustang with its weird tremolo, a Burns Marvin with its very complicated tremolo and a Burns Marquee with a Point Classic tremolo (by far the best of the bunch). In all cases you can move the tremolo arm as far as you want - round and round in circles if you like (preferably not with a screw-in arm). Only the Bigsby has this annoying and as far as I can see, unnecessary restriction.

Ant suggestion would be welcome.


Brian Thompson.
That's the way they are, you could probably modify it, but to me it is just another design flaw, one of many. Designed in the 50s, there's a reason better ones were developed.
Last edited by Tempoe at Nov 6, 2014,
Do you mean that you can't bend very far with it, or do you mean that the arm doesn't turn as far around as you want?
Bending isn't a problem. As you say, the arm doesn't turn far enough for me to hold it while I'm picking the lower strings.
I'm pretty sure you're SOL if you don't want to grind the arm-stop down. That's the only way I know to get the arm up there.
I think the stop is there so you don’t inadvertently pull the arm up too far and have to push it back down because the Bigsby arm won’t drop on its own. That’s probably because the Bigsby was invented for acoustic guitar players who needed it to stay in place while they fingerpicked.

I’m not sure but I think a Chet Atkins arm can be pulled up over the strings like a Strat arm. But they’re made to fit American Bigsby vibratos, so you’ll have to drill the hole on the Atkins arm a little bigger to fit a licensed unit. Try asking at The Gear Page or the Gretsch Pages where there are more country and rockabilly players.
Thanks for that. I've had a look and it does look as though that arm will swivel on the hinge. It ought to fit my Gretsch 5420T because Angela's page says it's a genuine Gretsch product.

It's an ugly beast but, of course, I only really need the hinge part and I could probably fit the original arm to that.

Funny, when I was testing a 5420T at my local shop I pointed out the problem to the salesman and he said he'd never heard of anyone complaining before. It looks like Chet Atkins complained!
Just found a forum at www.gretsch-talk.com discussing exactly the same problem. Looks like quite a lot of people have complained.

There is a Duane Eddy arm that doesn't have the stop and is more or less the same as the normal arm so that would be a better bet.

General opinion, though, was simply to file off the stop!
Quote by stoatinabun
Funny, when I was testing a 5420T at my local shop I pointed out the problem to the salesman and he said he'd never heard of anyone complaining before. It looks like Chet Atkins complained!

Enough people have complained that when Epiphone made their 6120 knockoff they went with an Atkins arm instead of the traditional Bigsby!
I have resolved the problem with my Bigsby and I'm almost embarrassed to mention it.

I had designed a new arm with a bit more bend in it to wrap around the stop and I even bought a couple of lengths of stainless steel. I was (not) looking forward to a lot of filing when I had a brainwave.

All you have to do is take the arm off and put a washer under it!

In my case, a washer 4mm thick. The arm then passes over the top of the stop and no more problem.

Of course, the arm sits a bit higher (4mm higher, obviously) but that's not a problem to me.

Now, here's the cunning bit. If you are very careful you can arrange the thickness of the washer so that, as you rotate the arm, it does come up against the stop but, with a bit more pressure, will ride over it. The best of both worlds.

On my Bigsby the bolt through the arm was not long enough, with the washer in place, for the little spring that adjusts its tension to fit so I used a much slighter spring that would compress further. It makes little difference - the nut can still be tightened so that an appropriate amount of resistance to movement can be applied.