What is a Headless Guitar and How it Works 

Headless guitars have emerged as a unique and intriguing phenomenon in the world of music and instrument innovation. 

These futuristic instruments, characterized by their distinct absence of a traditional headstock, have piqued the curiosity of guitar enthusiasts and players alike.

But what exactly is a headless guitar, and how does it work its magic?

In this comprehensive article, we delve into the fascinating world of headless guitars, exploring their origins, mechanics, advantages, and impact on modern music.

Whether you’re a seasoned guitarist or just starting your musical journey, join us as we unravel the mysteries and mechanics behind these unconventional yet captivating instruments.

What Exactly is a Headless Guitar?

The headless guitar is a type of electric guitar that’s missing the top part where the tuning pegs usually are. The idea behind creating such guitars is quite interesting.

While some people prioritize how the guitar looks, others focus on making it lighter and easier to handle. This change has led several guitar brands to adopt the headless design, which comes with its own advantages.

The tuning pegs you turn to adjust the strings have been repositioned. This means you don’t have to move your hand far from the guitar’s body while tuning. This is particularly handy, especially during a performance when you need to quickly fine-tune the strings.

A Brief History of the Headless Guitar

The headless guitar’s journey began with Steinberger in the 80s, though its roots date back to Les Paul’s experiments in the 1940s. Ned Steinberger’s headless guitar design offered a compact, futuristic instrument embraced by icons like Gilmour, Van Halen, and Knopfler.

The headless guitar has resurged after fading in the 80s, thanks to a new generation of players and builders.

Differences Between Headless Guitar and Regular Guitar

  • Difference in Length: Headless guitars are shorter by about 7 1/2 inches, making them more travel-friendly, especially for planes with limited space.
  • Difference in Weight: Headless guitars like Kiesel Zeus and Strandberg Boden weigh 2 to 3 lbs less than regular guitars (around 8 lbs), reducing the strain for gigging musicians.
  • Difference in Balance: Traditional guitars often suffer from “neck-dives,” while headless designs offer better balance, thanks to innovative changes in the tuning system.
  • Difference in Tuning: On headless guitars, strings run straight from bridge to headpiece, reducing friction and tuning issues compared to the angled path on regular guitars.
  • Difference in Changing Strings: Headless guitars simplify string changes; strings are inserted, clamped, and tuned without extensive winding around tuning posts.
  • Difference in Durability: Regular guitars with headstocks are prone to breakage, but headless guitars eliminate this vulnerability by design.
  • Difference in Sympathetic Resonance: Sympathetic resonance, affecting tone, is reduced in headless guitars due to shorter string lengt between the nut and headpiece, compared to regular guitars with more string lengt from nut to tuning machines.

Advantages of Headless Guitars:

  • Lighter Weight: Without a headstock, headless guitars are much lighter, reducing strain on your neck and shoulders.
  • Enhanced Balance: The center of gravity is adjusted for better balance, preventing neck drop and reducing wrist tension while standing and playing.
  • Easy Restringing: Restringing becomes a breeze – just clamp the string, trim the excess, tune up, and you’re set to play.
  • Compact for Travel: Their compact design is perfect for travel, eliminating bulky cases that take up car trunk or plane overhead space.
  • Eco-Friendly: Some brands like Strandberg incorporate sustainable wood, making headless guitars a choice that supports environmentally conscious guitar construction.

Popular Headless Guitar Players

Here are some famous musicians who have used headless guitars:

  • Mark Knopfler: The legendary guitarist known for his work with Dire Straits has been seen playing headless guitars.
  • Allan Holdsworth: Holdsworth, a highly influential jazz fusion guitarist, was a big fan of headless guitars.
  • Eddie Van Halen: The late guitar virtuoso, known for his innovative playing style, has also been known to use headless guitars
  • Sting: The former frontman of The Police has been seen playing headless guitars during his performances.
  • Yvette Young: Yvette Young, a talented guitarist known for her intricate fingerstyle playing, is a fan of headless guitars.
  • Plini: Plini, an Australian guitarist and composer, is known for using headless guitars.
  • Ichika Nito: Ichika Nito, a Japanese guitarist known for his impressive fingerstyle playing, has been seen using headless guitars.
  • Sarah Longfield: Sarah Longfield, a multi-instrumentalist and YouTube personality is known for using headless guitars.
  • Lee McKinney: Lee McKinney, the guitarist of the band Born of Osiris, has been seen playing headless guitars.

These are just a few examples of famous musicians who have embraced the unique design and benefits of headless guitars.


In conclusion, headless guitars are not just a passing trend; they’re paving the way for a fresh chapter in the world of music.

By reimagining the traditional guitar design, they’ve brought about new levels of comfort and versatility. Whether you’re a seasoned player or a curious listener, these instruments invite us to embrace innovation and explore uncharted musical territories.

As we bid farewell, let’s remember that the evolution of music is a continuous journey, and headless guitars have undoubtedly left their mark as trailblazers in this exciting progression.

Gary Lee

Gary Lee

Gary has been in love with music since he was a child. His passion is guitars and everything related to them. He is the founder of Riff-Mag and can't wait to share his knowledge with you.

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