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1925 Gibson RB 5 Conversion

From RHR on 1/23/2021 7:53:40 AM

I am considering the purchase of a 1925 Gibson RB 5 conversion.  I have purchased banjos from the seller before.  He has a 48-hour return policy.  The RB 5 is very beautiful in my opinion.  And I would not pay the price of an RB 5 arch top or flat head conversion.  My concern is that I have never played (or heard live) a BB banjo.  I have played a Gibson TB 3 conversion for many years.  I don't expect the BB to be as loud as the TB 3.  But I don't think that will be a problem for me.  I have a hand towel in the resonator of my TB-3 and don't have a light touch.  I also understand BBs are lighter than arch top rings.  That also would be a plus for me.   I have also heard it is harder to keep a BB banjo in tune.  Is this true?  Finally, I have also seen comments that BBs are "harder to dial in".  I assume this mean they have to be set up more often.  Is that true?  I would appreciate any advice you may have about the pluses and minuses of BBs.  




jimt says:
1/23/2021 8:20:22 AM

BB's vary for sure. Often people remove the balls and springs and even flip the tone ring over to increase the surface area. I've had a few. The TB-4 I now have is an unmolested conversion with the original factory installed skin head. Tension rods firmly tight on neck side, barely finger tight tailpiece side. Drum tensioner reading 88-90 lbs, tailpiece tensioned light-7/16"-1/2" off face. Wonderful warm tone with lots of sustain, plenty of power and presence all over the neck. When these are cranked down they lose character and have flat cold tone. IMHO. Good luck.

jimt says:
1/23/2021 8:21:59 AM

Oops. Forgot to say it holds it's tune just fine.

rbfour5 says:
1/23/2021 8:29:54 AM

I think as in any banjo, full weight tone ring or not will vary. I have a late '26 TB-3 conversion with solid skirt. My cousin has owned a late '26 TB-4 conversion, and intonation is not problematic. The BBs don't have that "clank" and power of a full weight ring- but there is a sweetness that is very characteristic of a properly setup BB. And personally I don't spend time chasing the set up. I agree with jimt above- when you crank them down like many do with a full weight raised head ring, it becomes very subdued. It does lose that sweet tone. To have the opportunity to acquire a BB style 5 would not disappoint, IMHO. Good luck, and let us know the outcome!

RHR says:
1/23/2021 8:32:32 AM

Thanks a lot JimT. I appreciate the quick and detailed response.


Dave1climber says:
1/23/2021 8:47:29 AM

I have two 1925 BB's, In my opinion the BBs with the "Shot gun skirt have a sweeter, fuller tone than the no hole skirt.
Yes to all of the above comments. If it still has the original skin head it will sound even better. As skin heads age they seem to become less effected by humid changes.

RHR says:
1/23/2021 4:48:06 PM

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and comments. I really appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge and expertise. If I purchase this banjo I will look forward to more interaction with this group.


Fathand says:
6/29/2021 8:29:05 AM

I have had my early 25 style 3 for almost 40 years. Yes it is about a pound lighter. The volume is easily loud enough to play in a group of pickers. On stage you have a microphone so no problem there.
Mine has all the balls, springs etc. and I have flipped the ring a few times, it is upside down right now.
If you want to only sound like Earl, a flathead may be your choice but I find the BB tone is more versatile. If you want to incorporate some jazz, blues, pop, folk and clawhammer into your repertoire a BB will do the job as well as do bluegrass.
Mine came to me with a double cut peghead and Hearts n Flowers neck and was sitting on my bench since 2014 while I built a more appropriate neck between other projects. Covid gave me time to finish it and I'm glad to be playing it again.

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