1926 Gibson TB-2 Tenor Banjo


The company that created the modern archtop guitar and mandolin was less revolutionary when it came to banjos. Gibson’s first banjo was a tenor introduced in 1918; in an era when 17 frets was the norm, the TB model featured just 15 frets in order to accommodate a large 12” head. The TB was expanded over the next few years into a variety of tenor, plectrum, guitar, mandolin, cello and regular (5-string) banjos, most with more up-to-date designs, but Gibson was never at the forefront of banjo development.

This TB-2 from 1926 is an apt demonstration of Gibson’s reluctance to follow banjo fashion. Built at a time when 23” scales and 19-fret necks were rapidly becoming the norm, the TB-2 retained a 21” scale until a year after this example was built. The 18-fret neck is unusual in falling halfway between the earlier 17 and later 19-fret designs that were both available in the mid 1920s.

The TB-2 was the highest of Gibson’s non-Mastertone series banjos, effectively the most expensive of the affordable range. It featured a simple tone ring – not the Mastertone design employed on more expensive models – that provided reasonable volume and a clear, bright tone. There is no truss rod; the model would attain one when the neck was extended the following year. The inlays and binding elevate it visually above the less expensive TB-1, but in fundamental construction the two are identical. Unlike most short-scale tenor banjos, the TB-2 features geared tuners and a full resonator. An interesting touch is the diamond-shaped cutouts in the flange, which were only used for about a year between 1926 and 1927.