9/02/2016

1925 Gibson TB-5 Mastertone Tenor Banjo



It's not often that $7000+ tenor banjos walk into the shop for repair, so it was a pleasure to see this one stroll right in. The owner plays traditional jazz with it and I'm sure that makes the banjo bright any happy every time it gets put to use. A TB-5 like this is a very rare beast with all of its gold-plated, engraved trappings, and what's under the hood is just as good as what's on the outside -- a thick, ply-maple rim, archtop tonering, and double coordinator-rod system.

These days, fancy old Gibson tenor banjos are, thankfully, not being converted into 5-strings as much as they used to be. I think folks have finally woken-up to the fact that there are plenty of makers out there building fresh instruments that have a similar feel and tone. At one point, the neck on this would've been ripe for removal and resale.


The owner wanted a bit more power with this banjo and it received a fret level/dress, some finagling at the tailpiece, a new bridge, and a good setup. It certainly has a ton more oomph, now, and the nuance of the tone is easily adjusted via the set-screw on the adjustable tailpiece. I didn't get a soundclip before the owner picked this up but tone-wise it's very loud, projecting, and smooth.

The banjo appears mostly-original (at least as far as the rim is concerned) and the gold plating has aged-out to a nice, mellow patina that's not over-the-top.


The truss rod works perfectly. This is outfitted with a pearl nut and a fast, very playable neck.


The fretboard is rosewood.



All the bits that can have been engraved -- but in a restrained fashion.





A gorgeous resonator, right?


The marquetry inlay on the back of the headstock is nice, too.


This has a mahogany neck and the extra bits of purfling and inlay give it a great, upscale feel and look. Gibson cleverly matched their purfling choices to the gold plating.



Gold and green...



I think the guitar players out there can honestly say that even if they don't covet a banjo... they might covet this in their hearts... secretly.









The creamy-green-gold pearloid looks awesome mixed-in with all the rest of the trim.


When this came in, the tailpiece was jacked right down onto the head. After adding some parts-bin set screws, I set it properly and now the instrument can breathe.



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