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Thread: James Tailpiece Review

  1. #1

    Smile James Tailpiece Review

    My experience.
    I resisted changing any original parts on my '01 Gibson Sam Bush 5 for a couple of years, remembering Randy Wood's advice to me many years ago: "leave 'em the way you find 'em". But the original tailpiece had tarnished badly over time and Gibson wanted over $100 for the replacement which is made of stamped metal. They didn't consider that I am the original buyer or that there was a lifetime parts warranty (normal wear ??). So I took the leap of faith and bought a James tailpiece in gold from Red Line Acoustics through Reverb.com. I installed it myself in about 30 minutes - it was really easy with a Phillips screw driver to remove the old screws and flat-head for the new ones. The holes lined up perfectly. After the install, I detected a noticeable volume increase. Maybe it's due to the new strings, but I don't think so. There's a noticeable increase in sustain too. Whether that's a good thing is obviously a personal choice. There is indeed a tonal difference - but the jury is still out on that subject until the new strings wear in. I'm not sure if the tonal change is due to new strings and the increase in sustain, or the tailpiece. Overall I have no regrets so far. I certainly wont put the original back on.

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  3. #2
    Registered User jan281969's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I too was hesitant on putting one on my 1980 Gibson Fern but had L Dudenbostal do the honors of putting a gold/bronze one on mine.Same as you maybe a touch of a change in volume but a major difference in tone and sustain,,,for the better.My E string was always a bit "winey" but now has a much more pleasing tonal quality to it.The James Mandolin tailpiece is a highly suggested bit of Hardware.
    1980 Gibson F-5L

  4. #3
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Yup, the James tailpiece rocks.
    Best part is that it makes changing strings a breeze.
    I can change strings in under ten minutes now.
    Mandolins: Northfield 5-Bar Artist Model "Old Dog", J Bovier F5 Special, Gibson A-00 (1940)
    Fiddles: 1920s Strad copy, 1930s Strad copy, Liu Xi T20, Liu Xi T19+ Dark.
    Guitars: Taylor 514c (1995), Gibson Southern Jumbo (1940s), Gibson L-48 (1940s), Les Paul Custom (1978), Fender Strat (Black/RWFB) (1984), Fender Strat (Candy Apple Red/MFB) (1985).
    Sitars: Hiren Roy KP (1980s), Naskar (1970s), Naskar (1960s).
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  5. #4
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Excellent design. It came with two of my mandolins.
    Jim

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  6. #5
    Registered User Eric Hanson's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I too love mine.
    When I bought my second hand Collings I had the choice of a James with “Collings” on it, or an “Allen” tailpiece with “Collings”.
    I had a Allen on Click I sold. I liked it, but heard so much good I thought I would give it a try.
    I have to say, I am VERY please with it. It looks great, & makes changing the strings a breeze.
    Eric Hanson
    Click #016/ Born on 2/29/08 - Sold to the next Conservator of this great mandolin!
    The search has ceased! (At least for now)
    Collings A-Style

  7. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    There is a product called Nevr-dull that will clean up the tarnish on the Gibson tailpiece covers. It's available at most large home stores and on Amazon.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  9. #7

    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    That model is advertised with gold plated hardware. Gold plate doesn’t tarnish, is generally too thin to chem polish, but also could just be done wrong, in which case it’s done. By the way, I was curious about the James, so tried to find out what it was made of, and found contradictory information. Anybody actually know?

  10. #8
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    That model is advertised with gold plated hardware. Gold plate doesn’t tarnish, is generally too thin to chem polish, but also could just be done wrong, in which case it’s done. By the way, I was curious about the James, so tried to find out what it was made of, and found contradictory information. Anybody actually know?
    They are made of Unobtainium as far as I know. You might give Bill James a call and ask. I don't recall seeing that information discussed. That doesn't mean it hasn't been, it just means I don't remember seeing the discussion.

    https://www.axinc.net/
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  11. #9
    Layer of Complexity Kevin Knippa's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    You can ask Bill James himself.

    You can contact him on the Axiom contact page at https://www.axinc.net/category_s/50.htm

  12. #10
    ForestF5 Gene Summers's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I had a James tailpiece installed on my Weber Yellowstone a few months ago. I did not notice any difference in tone or sustain. I have yet to change the strings on it, but I love the look and feel of the new James. It will make string changes much easier. I also have a James on my Pava A.
    Pava Satin A 2018
    Weber Yellowstone HT A 2008
    Gibson A 1916

  13. #11
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I spoke to Bill James about the material when I purchased mine from him, he said it's made of bronze.

    While I agree about an improvement in tone, even if a person uses the exact same strings (which I did) and literally only installs the James tailpiece, it's really hard to convince other people about, because other things do change during the installation process, and because human hearing is so subjective.

    Whatever the case though, the James tailpiece is recognized as a superior tailpiece and it's an infinite improvement over a stamped tailpiece.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug (plus many other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

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  15. #12
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I have James tailpieces on two mandolins and love them for easy string changes. I can change strings easily enough with other tailpiece styles, but the James is still extra sweet.
    Doug Brock
    2018 Kimble 2 point (#259), 2019 Silverangel Econo A (#446), Eastman MD315, 2020 Morris Oval Flattop A, Eastman MDA315
    Pisgah Wonder open back banjo, cheap old German fiddle, Martin HD28, Martin D18GE, CA Guitars Bluegrass Performer

  16. #13

    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I wish I could afford them, they are amazing! Maybe if I ever get around to completing my A5 I'll make the leap.
    Richard Hutchings

  17. #14
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I've been a fan of the James tailpiece for a long time and have installed them on several of my mandolins. I just received a used Nichols Road mandolins and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it has a James tailpiece installed on it with Nichols Road engraved on it.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

  18. #15

    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Hutchings View Post
    I wish I could afford them, they are amazing! Maybe if I ever get around to completing my A5 I'll make the leap.
    Yes, even to an infrequent string changer and breaker, this gizmo looks decent. The usual two problems, very low production, low demand. As someone who spent years helping amateur inventors, my opinion is that the concept is essentially unpatentable, or indefensible at reasonable cost, so that an interested party could do a similar, string-trapping, captive-lid knockoff and sell it way down in price. If nobody does, not even the big vendors, tells us that it’s simply too low in potential market, so has to sell high.
    I think you could get one of the demonstrable (not talking about tonality) features with a very slightly different type of damper between the tailpiece and bridge that would exert a modest grab on a string so it doesn’t slip out before it gets attached at the peg end. The other gizmo, obviously of close to zero interest, is something that helps older eyes thread those tuner posts without resorting to bifocals! How about a little magnifier on a gooseneck off the popular attached tuner display?

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  20. #16
    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard500 View Post
    Yes, even to an infrequent string changer and breaker, this gizmo looks decent. ...
    I'm an old string lover, cleaning them every time after I play, I keep strings for years -- decades if possible -- and I really prefer the tone of old strings...

    That said, my experience with banjo tailpieces has influenced my taste in mandolin tailpieces. I have a strong preference for solid, but not necessarily heavy tailpieces, and I've been a witness that different designs and materials in tailpieces do produce different tone.

    Even before it was mine, my original stamped tailpiece on my F-9 had achieved a number of quirky visible bends due to string pressure, and upon that discovery I was ready to retire it. And, I like the traditional tailpiece look. So that combination of features is really what attracted me to the James tailpieces.

    We here can and have debated differences in tone with mandolin tailpieces until the sun no longer rises, so I won't pursue that dragon. Also, I'm fully convinced that anything that changes on an instrument -- including subtle unknown setup changes that happen while other things are being changed-- can change its tone. Plus that spongy gray material that lies between our ears often determines what we really think we hear. So tone is eternally hard to prove one way or another.

    But, the James tailpieces are solid yet light, constructed of bronze (which was an immediate banjo related attraction for me) and they do have some both significant and subtle design differences from the old traditional stamped tailpieces. For me that was enough...

    And of course the obvious and overwhelming plus is for people who change strings often.
    -- Don

    "Music: A minor auditory irritation occasionally characterized as pleasant."
    "It is a lot more fun to make music than it is to argue about it."


    2002 Gibson F-9
    2016 MK LFSTB
    1975 Suzuki taterbug (plus many other noisemakers)
    [About how I tune my mandolins]
    [7/29/2019 -- New Arrival!!!]

  21. #17
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob-L View Post
    After the install, I detected a noticeable volume increase. Maybe it's due to the new strings, but I don't think so. There's a noticeable increase in sustain too. Whether that's a good thing is obviously a personal choice. There is indeed a tonal difference - but the jury is still out on that subject until the new strings wear in. I'm not sure if the tonal change is due to new strings and the increase in sustain, or the tailpiece. Overall I have no regrets so far. I certainly wont put the original back on.
    I had the same experience with my Girouard F-5. More volume, improved sustain.
    Charley

    A bunch of stuff with four strings

  22. #18
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    I replaced the Gibson F-9 tailpiece with a James. Perfect fit and perfect application.

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  24. #19
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: James Tailpiece Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Dick Hutchings View Post
    I wish I could afford them, they are amazing! Maybe if I ever get around to completing my A5 I'll make the leap.
    Lots of folks around here spend more every time they fill up their giant truck at the gas station once a week and 1000s think $50 is fair for a single pick.

    Bill James tailpieces are very fair priced for a superior consumer product that sets the benchmark in their field, will last 100+ years, and is less than $150.

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