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DIFFERENT KIND OF GUITAR HEADSTOCK

The headstock too plays a sensible role in the tone of an instrument.

The most rigid is the neck/headstock joint the more the headstock will return intact the strings vibration to the neck so the better the vibration and the longest the sustain. On the contrary, if the headstock tends to flex it will absorb vibrations and sustain will be affected.

There are basically two ways of building a headstock: straight or angled.
Both have an impact on tone, reliability, playability and cost of production.

Different kind of guitar headstock

Straight headstock, "tilted back" or "angled" headstock, scarf neck.


STRAIGHT HEADSTOCK

Typical Fender headstocks (Strat/tele/JB etc) are named "straight". This type of construction allows the neck and the head to be made out from a single piece of wood about 20mm thick.

This solution allows a considerable spare in time, rejects and production costs and fits a mass production runs. It's normally matched to a 6 in line tuning gears placement and it's therefore very suitable for guitars equipped with tremolo due to the reduced friction point of the strings over the nut and the fact that they runs straight over it with no side angle.

The alignment of the strings over a straight Strat style headstock.


ANGLED HEADSTOCK

On other types of instruments just like Gibson for example, the headstock is angled (tilted) and requires a major investment and wood material with a consequent rising of the manufacturing cost.

An angled headstock also offers a much weaker resistance to shocks due to the reduced length of the grain in the joint area.

"Tilted back" or "angled" headstock on a Tuscany Rush Custom model.


SCARF NECK

For the above weakness reason some manufacturers has adopted a solution typical of the classical guitars luthiers, the scarf neck. To build a scarf neck the original piece of wood is cut in two pieces along its length and the two pieces are then shaped and glued together like in the above picture so that they recreate the typical angle of a tilted back headstock (picture 2) allowing a much higher resistance to mechanical shocks still retaining the same tonal advantages and tone of the angled head.

HEADSTOCKS AND TREMOLOS

Generally tilted back" headstocks are are used with fixed bridge while the straight construction better conforms to the tremolo use due to the straight alignment of the strings it allows over the nut which reduces the friction and favours the strings sliding for as shown in this series of videos where Galeazzo Frudua explains all kind of modifications you can apply to you tremolo equipped guitar to achieve a perfect tuning stability.

Other manufacturers like for example PRS has achieved fine results in this sense even with tilted back headstocks by reducing the angle from the standard 15 degrees of the LP to 10 degrees and re-designing the tuning gears placement so that the side angle is strongly reduced. All those modifications has the result to reduce the friction of the strings in the nut area thus improving the tuning stability.

Alignment of the strings over the nut on a PRS headstock.


Both the "straight" and the "tilted back" design allows a Floyd Rose nut to be mounted even if it's necessary to verify that it does not interfere with the truss rod adjustment nut especially in the straight version.

A reinforced headstock increases stiffness and contributes to a better sustain and
resistance to mechanical shocks.



HINTS AND TIPS

Adding any kind of "mass" to your headstock may contribute to improve your tone and avoiding "dead" notes.


Applying proper devices to the headstock (in this case a "Fat finger") increases
stiffness and mass thus improving tone and strings vibration.





 
Galeazzo Frudua

Galeazzo Frudua

As a luthier and lutherie teacher, since 1988 he has been making about 350 boutique guitars and basses priced from 2,900 to 5,600 Euros and repaired and customized thousands of string instruments. His instruments and amplifiers are used by flagship artists, such as Chick Corea, Peter Gabriel, Ennio Morricone, Vasco Rossi. He owns two YouTube channels—where he teaches music—that count up to 25+ million views and almost 140.000 subscribers.

FruduaTV Youtube channel

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