Bigsby height mod

One of the first things I noticed that was different about my Duo Jet compared to the 6120 was the height/angle of the tremolo arm.  Whereas the 6120 is high enough to do "dive bombs," the distal end of the arm was much closer to the body and thus only allowed me to drop about a quarter-step below the at-rest pitch.  Not that I really "dive bomb" much, but I like the glassy slow dips Setzer and his predecessors have pulled over the years, and I wanted to do that with this instrument as well the way I occasionally do with my 6120.

There are several approaches to raising the height of the trem arm:
1) Bend the arm.  Most people aren't willing to do this since it's going to put a kink in it and you're likely to scuff it in the process.

2) Replace the arm.  Like most, I have the standard "flat" arm.  In most cases, this can be replaced with a "wire" arm which would be easier to bend.

3) Replace the spring.  Larger springs are available.  The stock Gretsch spring is 7/8", but a seller on eBay known as theblackrider sells a 1" spring designed to address this.  I haven't tried it, so this isn't a recommendation, just FYI.

4) Penny up!  See below.

I picked the last option because it required no more effort than down-tuning and re-tuning the guitar.  And it only cost a penny!

You can see the difference in height between the Duo Jet in the foreground (almost parallel with the body) vs. the 6120 next to it (angled upward).

First tune down the guitar so that you can safely raise the arm enough to get the spring out.  You will find the now-empty pocket in the bottom plate is almost exactly the diameter of an American penny, which is perfect for our purposes.

(Sorry the guitar is so dusty.  I actually play my instruments, so the only time they are stored in a case is to take them to play someplace outside my house.)

Drop a penny into the hole.  I used a 1980 penny since that's the year the Stray Cats were formed.  (I'm white, so stupid shit like that is important to me.)

Even with the penny in the trem, there should still be a bit of a lip around the edge of the pocket so that the spring won't slip out.  If you find that the pocket is too shallow on your Bigsby, you can always drill through the penny (copper and zinc are soft, don't worry) and put it in the top pocket around the bolt that attaches the arm to the rest of the trem.

Note that you may get the impression that it is too shallow if you try the bar before you tune up your strings.  I did that first thing, and the spring nearly slipped out.  However, the string tension is more than enough to keep the spring in place.  You don't see your floating bridge slipping away under full tension either, right?  And there isn't even a lip to hold that in place.

Slip the spring back in and re-tune the guitar to try it out.

Be sure to check your intonation after you re-tune.  Since you probably loosened every (or nearly every) string, there's a good chance your bridge slipped, so you'll have to guide it back into place.  If you don't know how to do this, there are plenty guides on the web, including on my site, so check one of those.

Personally, I just check to make sure a fretted note on the 12th sounds the same as the harmonic there.  If not, then there's a problem, and you need to re-adjust to make your guitar as playable as your Bigsby now is.

The result: Much improved angle!

Even though the penny is only about a sixteenth of an inch, this is at the start of the angle, so a small difference in high here translates into a larger difference at the end of the angle.  I would guess this is almost a quarter of an inch.  But that little bit has big consequences in terms of range of motion and even the feel of the trem.

Copyright Alexplorer.