The Schaller Fine-Tuning Stopbar Tailpiece Upgrade Tuning Masterpiece on a Budget!
I record music with a dizzying array of instruments almost every day of the year. It’s part of my life force: create; express; make impressions of sounds with lots of different tools and instruments. One of the things that is very important to me as an artist is tuning. If one records a one-take solo, some wiggle room can be OK for a recording – a guitar can drift a bit in its tuning during the recording as long it is not drastic or irritating. On the other hand, once one starts recording multiple tracks with the same instrument over a period of an evening, the tuning drift can be quite annoying, as the creative process becomes all about re-tuning and re-playing.
In addition, not all guitars (even not all super-well-made guitars and basses) intonate properly or are even easy to tune. As much as Grovers have meant to me for the past 4 decades, even the little Mini Grovers on 6 inline headstocks or 12-string headstocks can be a real hassle to tune just right. The ratio is too low, they’re too close together, and the tiny buttons don’t have a lot of smooth travel to get micro adjustments. This isn’t a ding specifically on Grover! It has to do with small tuners with low tuning ratios in cramped spaces. I’ve been tinkering with tuners and tuning in my recording studio for more than a decade now. I’ve gone from all Grover modern to trying a HUGE number of locking tuner brands and models to tailpiece and nut adjustments.
So what’s the point of this review? The most important part of tuning for recordings is getting the temperament and sweetening of a guitar’s innate tuning JUST RIGHT so different instruments can play nice together in the same piece of music. It’s astonishing how a little tiny fraction of fretboard length in front of the nut or a tiny fraction of an inch of the bridge mounts or saddles can completely ruin an attempt to record two instruments together.
That’s where fine tuners come in! My Floyd-Rose-equipped guitars already have fine tuners and lots of adjustability (and rock-stable tuning!). They are the vast minority of my instrument library, and Floyds just aren’t a good thing to do to guitars not built for them. In addition, my baritones and basses just don’t “Floyd.” With that said, there are stop-tail fine tuners out there for 6-string guitars. Several brands have made attempts at making fine-tuning stop bars, some with more success than others. I love the Gibson TP-6 tailpiece: it’s not as inexpensive as I would like, but it works great. I have several and use them frequently.
That’s where the most recent iteration of the Schaller Fine-Tuning Stopbar Tailpiece comes into play. They’re great, and they’re relatively inexpensive. And I can install them without modifying my stoptail-built Gibson at all! Read on…
Honestly, I have seen them for years, but haven’t come to the point of buying some until recently. A stand-up guy on eBay and Reverb sells Schaller parts as an authorized retailer and gave me a good price on a box full of them. I couldn’t be happier! These things are amazing!
If you have a Gibson Stoptail guitar, try one of these! Especially a Firebird or Explorer – these make tuning the 6-inlines a real breeze!
The simplicity and function of the Schaller Fine-tuning Stopbar Tailpiece is stunning. They work with existing Gibson USA stop bar tailpiece studs and are just as easy (or easier) to string than the originals.
Here’s what you can expect when you buy a Schaller Fine-tuning Stopbar Tailpiece:
* The tailpieces come in a wide variety of finishes including nickel, chrome, gold, copper, and black chrome – as well as brushed finishes
* The tailpieces come in a nicely-done safe-padded box with two body studs, two mount screws, and the fully-assembled tailpiece
* Each unit has its six fine-tuning wheels ready to go – just back them out to about 3/4 the way out and drop it in
* The string ball mount is very easy to use (nothing as hard as the little posts on a Bigsby trem, for example – just push in the ball and add tension)
* The Schaller Fine-tuning tailpieces I’ve installed have been directly easy to replace in each Gibson I’ve tried. The two mounting screws have a thread that works with your Gibson’s original stop bar studs already in the body. I haven’t yet had to pull the studs out of the body and replace them with the Schaller-supplied ones (NOTE: you might have a Gibson in your AXE-enal that has different threads. I can’t account for absolutely all ages and types of Gibson stop tails)
* The fit and finish on all of the Schaller Fine-tuning tailpieces I’ve used has been flawless. Great fit on all threads and edges, the finish is really well-done
I can now tune to the cent on even my most stubborn of Gibson stoptail guitars. It’s easy to do, and works very quickly. The simple lever-based mechanism in the Schaller tailpiece is very efficient and effectively has a huge ratio between turns and tuning: that is, it allows for VERY fine tuning with a simple turn of the thumbwheel on a given string. I’m very happy that it works so well!
Also, unlike the Gibson TP-6, the FEEL of the stopbar under the palm is VERY smooth and doesn’t feel rough at all. It’s a pleasure to play and use.
I can even do little twists of the thumbwheels and make micro adjustments in-between measures when there is enough of a rest in the track to reach down and tweak things. This just doesn’t happen with lots of different types of tuners at the headstock.
One concern I think many guitarists have made about multi-part tailpieces (as opposed to a single-piece forged or cast tailpiece) is that the different component can reduce sustain and proper decay of a given note. To be honest, I have not found this to be the case with the Gibson TP-6 or the Schaller Fine-tuning tailpiece. On my neck-through 2010 Firebird V (“standard”), I have not noticed any reduction of sound or sustain.
If one were to measure actual open-note sustain with scientific instruments, it might be that some ultra-tiny amount of sustain is lost, but to be honest, in practical terms, I can’t hear or feel a loss of sustain. The sound is just fine on the instruments on which I’ve installed the stop bar. I really love having them in my retinue.
Wishes and Wants
I don’t really have any substantial wishes and wants for the Schaller fine-tuning stop bar tailpiece: it’s affordable, easy to install, doesn’t alter the instrument, and really does a great job without messing up the sustain.