Guitarists, meet the B-Blender, an aftermarket B-bender unit that can be attached to any guitar with a U.S.-made or imported Bigsby vibrato.
The B-Blender is special—and very intriguing to a lot of guitarists—because it allows you to use your Bigsby the traditional way, as a normal vibrato unit, changing the pitch of whatever strings you happen to be playing as you employ the vibrato. Yet—and here's the cool part—it's also a B-bender.
Best of all, you don't need to add holes, route anything or any make permanent changes to your guitar or your Bigsby. You will, however, have to replace your Bigsby's stock arm with the B-Blender arm.
A few months ago, I installed a B-Blender on a Fender Esquire while I was adding a Bigsby B5 using some Vibramate Tele-Bigsby-adaptor parts. It was pretty easy to do; In fact, I did it while watching TV. And it actually works. Also, like most B-benders, the B-Blender even has a fine-tuning knob—and if you getting tired of having a B-bender, you can easily turn it into a G-bender.
To activate the bender, you just hook your little finger around the B-Blender arm/handle and pull sideways, toward the strings (or toward your nose if you happen to be standing as you're playing), to pull the B up to a C#. Like anything else, a little patience is necessary at first, but the motion can easily be picked up by fingerstyle or hybrid pickers.
At this point, I'm going to supply some of the basic info that can be found on the B-Blender's official website, b-blender.com, which you should certainly visit if any of this sounds interesting to you. Be sure to watch the longer demo video below (top video) featuring Paul Pigat, an incredible guitarist (and a former GuitarWorld.com columnist).
That's me in the bottom video (the B/W one), playing the B-Blender I installed on my Fender Esquire. The clip is only 15 seconds long because it was shot for Guitar World's Instagram. Enjoy!
The B-Blender allows the player to add the ability to pull the B string or the G string to a higher pitch, generally a full tone for most users, although 1 ½ tones or a half-tone are also possible. While this is being done, the normal vibrato action of the Bigsby is unaffected, and all six strings will have normal up-and-down pitch variation, as usual. If the string is pulled to a higher pitch, it will then have the same vibrato, except on the higher note.
It has been argued for a long time that this action would be impossible, since the spring of the Bigsby serves to balance the combined pull of all six strings. The theory was that raising one string—increasing its tension—would tend to flatten the remaining strings, since the spring would now be seeing more tension load from the B string. This would, of course, be most noticeable if the string were merely raised, without vibrato being added.
In the case of the B-Blender, this doesn't seem to be a problem. First, even when not desiring vibrato, you are holding the handle and pulling it sideways to pull the B string to a C#, which would tend to prevent it moving downward, toward the top of the guitar, and flatting the other five strings. Also, the Bigsby has a certain amount of internal friction, in the needle bearings on the main shaft as well as friction in rotation the hold-down roller on models like the B5 unit, and it really doesn’t readily move on its own once all the strings are tuned up to pitch, and the stretch has stabilized.
The B-Blender costs $129.95 to $139.95. They're also available on eBay for a bit less than that.
Here's a quick demo video by Guitar World's Damian Fanelli. He's playing a Fender Esquire with a B-Blender, a device that adds a B-bender (or G-bender) to a Bigsby vibrato. It works with any Bigsby model, no drilling, no anything.#bblender #bbender
Posted by Guitar World on Sunday, September 13, 2015
Damian Fanelli is the online managing editor at Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado. His New York-based band, the Blue Meanies, has toured the world and elsewhere. Fanelli, a former member of Brooklyn jump-blues/swing/rockabilly band the Gas House Gorillas and New York City instrumental surf-rock band Mister Neutron, also composes and records film soundtracks. He writes GuitarWorld.com's The Next Bend column, which is dedicated to B-bender guitars and guitarists. His latest liner notes can be found in Sony/Legacy's Stevie Ray Vaughan: The Complete Epic Recordings Collection. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter and/or Instagram.