My original 1984 Gibson RB-250 clamshell tailpiece is still in great shape. Would I get any sound benefit from changing it out? If so what do you recommend? Is it worth changing out just to make string changes easier?
I've been thinking of doing the same thing with my 70s RB-250. My banjo sounds good, but I don't care for clamshell tailpieces.
Greg Boyd's House of Fine Instruments sells a Gibson-stamped Presto tailpiece made by Prucha for only $40. Unfortunately, it's out of stock right now.
I'd expect this to sound pretty much the same as the clamshell.
I have a spare Kershner I could install, and it might well sound better than the clamshell, but I like keeping Gibson-stamped parts on the banjo.
Sometimes the clamshells rattle
Put the Kerschner style one on from Prucha. Turn the clamshell one into case candy.
You won’t be sorry.
I'd dump the clamshell STRICTLY to make string changing easier. Putting on a Presto repro may give you a slightly different sound, otherwise, probably not much change in sound.
It's a simple, reversible experiment. The clamshells, especially that vintage, are among the hardest tailpieces to change strings on. So you'll gain ease of use if nothing else. The tone could get better or worse, but keep in mind that you'll have to go through a bunch of setup experiments to find the optimum setting for the new tailpiece, and a new tailpiece may affect the best setting for head tension and other variables.
If you decide you don't like the result, you can put the clamshell back on, and either keep the replacement tailpiece for future experiments or sell it on the Hangout. You are doing nothing you can't undo. Just keep the clamshell so you can make the banjo fully original at some future date if you want.
If it aint broke dont fix it.
The easiest tailpiece for string changing is the Prucha modified Kershner style.
There is nothing sacred about a 1984 RB250. Although the clamshell tailpieces look cool, the clamshell was known to "rattle" somewhat on the originals. The fix was to put a piece of foam under the shell. They were a bugger to change strings on but, how often do you have to change strings? Unless you break one while playing, string changes are usually done at home when you can take your time changing them.
The Kershner tailpiece is a good design. Properly made it is strong & facilitaes easy string changes. And it doesen't look bad either. Were it me, I wouldn't hesitate swapping it out. If for no other reason, you'll learn a little about banjo setup from the experience.
I ordered the Prucha modified Kershner style. I just want to try it out. The clamshell will be case candy for a while. Thanks for all the input.
We are enablers around here. Oh yes!
Those 70's-early 80's clamshell tailpieces with "Gibson" engraved on them are solid pieces of equipment, as good as any tailpiece ever made.
I'd keep it on there, and put up with the "middle string changes".
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