Modding a guitar is something that might take some thought.
Especially if the mods require destructive work on the instrument.
This is why installing a Bigsby is such a big decision for many players that feel like they need that sweet vibrato.
Luckily there are alternatives such as the famous Vibramate.
But is a Vibramate really worth it? Well, here’s a short answer:
In my opinion, using a Vibramate to install a Bigsby tailpiece in your guitar is a great alternative since it will allow you to do it in a completely reversible way. You won’t require to do any drilling or destructive work on the instrument, and you can revert the mod at any time you want in the future.
If you are interested in getting to know all there is about this rather useful accessory, I’d recommend you stay with me for a bit.
In this article, I will try to answer all the most pressing questions about installing a Bigsby using a Vibramate.
Are you ready to get started?
What does a Vibramate do?
A Vibramate is a sheet of metal that acts as an interface between the screw layout of the stock bridge of a certain guitar model, and the screw configuration of the Bigsby model that fits that guitar.
By doing so, it allows you to install the tremolo tailpiece without having to drill or modify your instrument permanently.
The installation is completely reversible.
Does the Vibramate have any negative effects?
Although using a Vibramate is almost all positives, there are some slight side effects that some players might not enjoy.
These are mainly 2:
1. A Vibramate will add some weight
Bigsbys are hated by many players due to the increase in weight they produce to the guitars equipped with them.
Adding an extra sheet of metal under the Bigsby itself will not help with overweight issues, and balance problems.
Be aware of this if you suffer from back problems, or hate having to deal with a guitar that can’t stay in the correct position when hanging from your strap.
2. A Vibramate will make the strings higher
The supplementary function of the Vibramate generates a slight increase in height for the bridge when compared to the “traditional” installation.
This might cause for a higher action out of the gate, or the need for a more thorough setup, especially if you like playing with low action.
This is not a deal-breaker, in my opinion, but also something to have in mind.
Would any Vibramate fit on any guitar?
No, not any Vibramate will fit on any guitar.
Each Vibramate model is designed to be used with a particular Bigsby model and to fit into different guitar models.
Thankfully, the manufacturer has a very comprehensive table on their website where you can look up your guitar model, and see which unit is the correct one.
If your particular guitar model is not listed, I would recommend you get in touch with their support service, and ask for specific guidance.
Small variations in the layout might end up causing the screws not to line up, deeming the installation impossible.
Would any Vibramate work with any Bigsby model?
No, not any Vibramate will fit any Bigsby model.
In fact, each Vibramate sheet is designed to fit a Bigsby model specifically.
Again, the manufacturer has a very detailed section on their website showing all the available models, and the kind of Bigsbys they are designed to fit.
Again, don’t pull the trigger without getting to know what’s the right alternative for your gear, since these things are not flexible at all, and won’t work if the measurements are not exact.
Spend a few extra minutes researching rather than weeks dealing with returns and shipping.
Can anybody install a Vibramate?
Yes, absolutely anybody could install a Vibramate.
The clever design of these contraptions makes it very easy for the average player to install them, given that the correct model is chosen.
However, depending on the guitar and Bigsby model, it might take a while to complete the installation correctly, and setting up the guitar properly after doing so is a whole other discussion.
If you have any doubts, the best thing you could do is bring your gear to a technician that knows exactly what needs to be done.
It’s rather cheap work to get done, and I don’t think it would cost you more than $70, including the required full setup and restringing.
Do you need any special tools or care to install a Vibramate?
You don’t need any special tools to install a Vibramate, nor any extra precautions.
If you have the tools required to remove the bridge of your guitar (a screwdriver and perhaps a wrench) you will be completely set.
Again, if you are not experienced in doing this kind of work on your instrument, it would be better that you take your time, and do it step by step.
Vibramates come with instructions on what you need to do, but if you are more of a video tutorial guy, here’s a great explanation of how to do it:
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.