The headstock of a guitar is more than just a part that holds the strings. It’s a cool feature that makes each guitar unique. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of guitar headstocks.
We’ll learn how they affect the sound and look of the instrument. Whether you’re a guitar player or just curious, join us as we dive into the world of guitar headstocks and discover their fascinating variety.
What is a Guitar Headstock?
The guitar headstock is the top part of the guitar, where you find the tuning pegs, keys, posts, and string trees. It’s important because it holds the strings in place and lets you adjust their tightness by turning the tuning keys.
The headstock also has the brand logo or design, which makes each guitar unique. Different types of headstocks exist not only to look good but also to help identify specific guitar brands easily.
Where is the Headstock on a Guitar?
The headstock is found at the top of the guitar neck, where the strings start or finish, depending on how you look at it. To spot the headstock, simply follow the strings from the bridge up the neck until they reach a point where they stop.
Parts of the Guitar Headstock
The headstock of a guitar is where you can find several important parts. Let’s take a look at them:
Machine Heads/Tuning Pegs
Machine heads, also known as tuning pegs, are used to tune the strings by adjusting their tension. They alter the tension of the strings when turned, either raising or lowering the pitch.
Tuning posts are the metal or wooden posts that the strings wrap around and are held in place by. They provide stability and allow for precise tuning.
String trees are small metal hooks that keep the strings at the correct angle after they pass over the nut. They help maintain proper string tension and prevent buzzing.
The nut is right below the headstock and between it and the neck. The strings go over the nut and through little grooves in it. This helps keep the strings in line and at the right height.
The truss rod is a metal rod or pole that runs through the center of the neck. It can be adjusted to resist the tension created by the strings against the neck. While not technically part of the headstock, access to it is usually via a hole just above the nut.
The logo shows the brand of the guitar and sometimes even the model. It makes the guitar look cool and helps you know who made it. You’ll usually find it on the headstock of the guitar.
Why is the Headstock Important?
The headstock is important because it holds some of the most vital parts of the guitar. Without the headstock, a guitar couldn’t hold its strings in place or maintain proper tension.
Additionally, the tuning stability and sustain of the guitar are directly affected by the quality and construction of the headstock. A stronger, rigid headstock material can enhance sustain, while a unique headstock design helps distinguish guitars visually.
What are the Different Types of Headstock?
There are several types of guitar headstocks, each with its own characteristics and advantages. The main guitar headstock types include:
Straight (Flat) Headstock
The straight headstock, also known as the flat headstock, was introduced in the 1950s by Leo Fender. It features a flat, non-angled shape and is made from a single, flat piece of wood.
This design is widely recognized and frequently used due to its sturdiness and affordability. However, a shallower string angle can lead to slippage and string buzz.
- Simple design that keeps the cost low.
- Sturdy and durable, less likely to have structural problems.
- Strings may slip and cause buzzing due to the shallow angle.
- Not the most visually appealing design.
Angled (Tilted-Back) Headstock
The angled (Tilted-Back) headstock, as the name suggests, is angled backward. It requires more wood to construct due to the sharper angle between itself and the neck.
Angled headstocks address the issues with slippage and provide better sustain and intonation. However, some argue that angled headstocks may be structurally weaker than straight headstocks, even though they are both single-piece designs.
- The angled headstock minimizes the flaws inherent in the straight headstock.
- Construction makes it harder for strings to slip out of tune.
- Many believe these headstocks sound more expressive and vibrant.
- Falls short in terms of structural integrity compared to straight headstocks.
- More expensive to produce.
The scarf headstock is a unique design that involves joining two separate pieces of wood at an angle. This design offers better sustain and a more stable structure.
- Better string stability than most headstocks.
- Provides ample sustain.
- Relatively high structural integrity.
- Requires more time to produce, making it more expensive.
A reversed headstock is an inverted design where the tuning pegs face downwards and are located underneath the headstock. This design is often associated with metal-oriented guitar brands.
- Unique aesthetic appeal.
- The design makes it easier to bend lower strings.
- Some claim better tuning stability.
- Bass strings are under more tension, allowing for stronger bass notes.
- Treble strings are under less tension, making it easier to play higher notes.
- It can make it more difficult to bend higher strings.
The “headless” guitars house most of the same parts as traditional guitars but inside the body. This innovative approach offers several advantages, including lighter construction, which can be beneficial during long performances. Additionally, changing strings is much easier and faster, and headless guitars stay in tune for longer periods of time.
Conversely, headless guitars have a few downsides as well. They typically come with a higher price tag, and due to the absence of tuning pegs, tuning mid-performance is not an option, limiting your flexibility as a player.
Furthermore, the lack of a headstock means they can’t be hung on a standard guitar hanger. Plus, if aesthetics are a top priority, it’s worth noting that most headless guitars come with unconventional body designs, making it a bit challenging to find one with a classic shape.
- Lighter construction compared to headstock guitars.
- Changing strings is faster and easier.
- Headless guitars stay in tune for longer periods.
- Can’t re-tune mid-performance.
- Impossible to hang on the wall at home.
- Difficult to find classic shapes.
Standard Acoustic Guitar Headstock
Standard acoustic guitar headstocks, also known as solid headstocks, are often angled at the same angle as the neck, typically around 14 degrees. This design allows for optimal stability and string tension. You’ll often find a horizontal nut for the strings to pass through, as well as tuners mounted on each side of the headstock in a 3+3 design.
The shape and design of a standard acoustic guitar headstock can vary based on the model and brand, ranging from simple and classic to ornate and decorative.
- Simple and classic design.
- Solid tuning stability.
- Not the most visually appealing compared to some electric guitar headstock designs.
Classical Guitar Headstock
Classical guitar headstocks also referred to as slotted headstocks, are commonly found on classical or Flamenco-style guitars. The main difference between classical guitar headstocks and standard headstocks is that each string is threaded through a slot and secured with special ties or knots. While there are many benefits to the slotted headstock design, one of the most obvious is the added tone and sustain due to the improved angle at which the strings break over the nut. On the other hand, slotted headstocks are often harder to restring and are notorious for being more fragile than standard acoustic guitar headstocks.
- Offer plenty of sustain.
- Beautiful, classic aesthetic.
- More fragile than standard headstocks.
- Harder to restring.
Tonal Properties and Sustain
When considering the tonal properties and sustain of a guitar headstock, the size, mass, material, and rigidity are the primary factors to consider.
While different headstock designs may have variations in size and mass, the overall construction and material’s stiffness play a more significant role in achieving stronger and longer sustain.
The specific shape or style of the headstock is generally irrelevant in terms of tonal properties.
What are Volutes?
Volutes are features seen in some guitar headstocks that add extra thickness in the weakest spot where the neck meets the headstock.
They are often more pronounced in angled headstocks but can also be present in flat headstocks.
The purpose of a volute is to provide additional strength to prevent potential breakage. While there are various shapes and sizes of volutes, their common principle is to reinforce the neck without hindering the hand grip.
The guitar headstock is an integral part of the instrument that affects its functionality, aesthetics, and performance. Understanding the different types of headstocks and their pros and cons can help guitarists make informed decisions based on their preferences and playing styles. Whether you prefer the classic simplicity of a flat headstock or the unique design of a reversed or headless guitar, each type has its own charm and suitability for different players.
Does a Headstock Have an Effect on the Guitar’s Sustain?
Yes, the materials and construction of the headstock can directly affect the sustain of the guitar. A more rigid and stiffer headstock material can allow vibrations to last longer, resulting in better sustain.
Conversely, a headstock made from softer materials may produce shorter sustain with less clarity.
The shape or style of the headstock, however, does not significantly impact the tone or sustain. What matters most is the size, mass, material, and rigidity of the headstock.
Can you fix a broken guitar headstock?
Yes, you can fix a broken guitar headstock. We have a complete step-by-step guide for you to follow: “How To Fix A Broken Guitar Headstock.”