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ES-335 and ES-345 Stoptail Position

One thing that just about everybody agrees on is the superiority of a stoptail over any other tailpiece on an ES-335. That’s why they command a premium over Bigsby and trapezes and also why so many get converted. I’ve written about the “poor man’s” 64 which is an early 65 with a stoptail conversion. I’ve also found that the difference in tone between a stoptail and a trapeze is less than you would expect-much to my surprise. But there are other advantages to the stop. They allow any number of string angle breaks since they are adjustable up and down and you can even top wrap them. Plus, they are easier to string than a Bigs or a trap. I’m not going to suggest that those of you with 65 and later ES-335’s convert them to a stop but I will point out that many, many, many stoptails are installed in the wrong position. Actually, I probably shouldn’t call it “wrong” for two reasons. First, Gibson wasn’t all that consistent in how they positioned them, although the range is probably less than a quarter in each way. Second, a stoptail will function just fine even if its set a few inches toward the butt end of the guitar. Just ask Larry Carlton about his 68 with the stop conversion. This all goes hand in hand with the “break angle” concept that I wrote about last week. There is a large range of break angles that work just fine so, similarly, thereis a large range of stoptail positions that work just fine. It seems a lot of not terribly well informed do it yourselfers AND experienced repair shops didn’t bother doing any research. they simply looked at where the strings were anchored on the trapeze (or Bigsby) and put the stop right there. It works OK but it looks sooo wrong. So, what’s right? Typically (and again, there is a range) if you draw a straight line through the center of the stud holes and extend it, it will pass in the range of just above the three way to right through the middle of it. Anything outside this range was probably a conversion. Here are a bunch of examples:

This is the highest I found of the ones I've had. This wonderful 64 335 is an original stop-no Bigsby so we know it has to be factory. Note the line goes above the three way

This early 60 ES-345 is also an original stop that is a good bit lower, the line passes through the three way.

Here's a 61 ES-345. This one was a Bigsby/stud version that's ever so slightly lower, passing just above the middle of the three way.

I can understand how you might make the mistake of putting the tailpiece too low on a trapeze conversion but this is a 63 I had a while back that looks to have been a Bigsby only that was converted. It looks like the repair person (or the owner) put it sort of where the tension bar of the Bigsby was. Even this one worked just fine. It just looks odd.

Here's some dude who got it wrong but it doesn't stop him from making some serious faces while he makes the rest of us players look like amateurs, which, compared to him, most of us are. Larry Carlton did more to popularize the 335 than just about anyone. His original is a converted 68.

One Response to “ES-335 and ES-345 Stoptail Position”

  1. Will Stevens says:

    Interesting article – thank you! I always thought that the Larry Carlton signature model “looked weird”, but I could never put my finger on it. After reading your article, I realize that it’s because they copied the placement of the stop tail on his original.

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