Reverse Headstock Misconception

Discussion in 'Extended Range Guitars' started by Durero, Jun 6, 2006.

  1. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    I've noticed a recurring misunderstanding about reverse headstocks coming up on various threads here once in a while. Since there is significant interest in custom guitar design here I think it would be helpful to try and clarify the issue. (I think most here understand clearly so lets try to help those who have mistaken ideas about it.)

    I think there are two important points to clarify:

    1 - Headstock design has no affect on string tension.

    2 - Headstock design does affect the 'feel' or 'bendability' of the strings.


    To elaborate:

    1 - String tension is only affected by 3 factors: a) pitch (to which we tune the string), b) mass (or to simplify: string gage), and c) scale length (the length of string from bridge point to nut only.)

    It is important to understand that scale length is only the vibrating segment of the string (bridge to nut). What length of string there is between the nut and the tuning post has absolutely no affect on the tension of the string.

    However...

    2 - The length of string between the nut and the tuning post does affect the 'feel', 'bendability', or 'stretchyness' of the string. The shorter the length of string between the nut and the post, the tighter the string will feel when bending. The longer the length between nut & post, the looser it will feel.
    If you use high action and/or have a very heavy touch (how hard you press when fretting a string) then you may even notice this 'tightness' or 'looseness' when simply fretting a string - especially on the lowest frets close to the nut.

    You can prove this to yourself if you have a guitar with inline or reverse inline headstock. Try stringing your highest and lowest strings with the exact same gage strings and tuning them to the exact same pitch. Try playing and doing bends on each string and see which feels tighter.


    Therefore, if you want a tighter feel on your low strings - the reason often mistakenly given for choosing a reverse headstock - go for the minimum string length between nut & post for the low strings: regular (inline), 3+4, 4+3, or even better: headless. Edit: add bostjan's excellent point that a locking nut negates the effect of headstock layout and is the equivalent of a headless guitar (feel-wise) when locked.

    Reverse headstocks will actually give you a looser feel on your low strings than the regular inline layout - assuming, of course, the same scale length and string gage.



    Having said all this, my opinion is that the effect of headstock layout on string feel is extremely subtle. I think the biggest difference between different headstock designs is the aesthetics. For me, I tend to play with a very light touch and low action so I'd say I am almost completely unaffected by the headstock of any guitar I play (and my favorite design is no headstock at all.)

    Hope this is useful.:idea:

    Leo
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2010
  2. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

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    Leo, you're absolutely correct on all counts :yesway:
     
  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Also, I highly doubt it would matter at all if you use a locking nut. (Only saying this because a lot of people here use locking nuts). But then, bending is more difficult on a floating trem because the added pressure of string bends will pull on the bridge and therefore lower the pitch of all the strings.
     
  4. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Great point! As soon as you lock the nut you've got the equivalent of a headless guitar as far as string feel.


    (dpm Dan - thanks:yesway: and btw, when are we gonna see a website from you with massive high-rez galleries of all the gorgeous instruments you've built? Or have I somehow missed it? You should have a link in your sig. ;) )
     
  5. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

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    I need to get my shit together with the website. Once I get more instruments built I can put the pics up :lol: I don't want any pre-Oni stuff on there as it's not really relevant.
     
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  6. D-EJ915

    D-EJ915 Forum MVP

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    Behind-the-nut bends on the low-strings are definitely easier on reverse headstocks :p
     
  7. XEN

    XEN BEYOND 6UITAR & B4SS Contributor

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    sounds painful... I think. :eek:
     
  8. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Agreed on all counts, Durero and Bostjan. I'll be willing to entertain theories that a reversed headstock increases string tension only after seeing loads of carefully done scientific research suggesting that some physical attribute I'm failing to account for influences the string tension. Otherwise, everything I know about string tension theory tells me that it's the scale length at a given pitch that effects tension, although longer strings should be easier to flex than shorter ones at a given tension otherwise.

    ...which actually suggests that longer scales, while they're at higher tension for a given pitch, also have a little more give to the strings, and thus shouldn't be as hard to play as one might think.
     
  9. The Dark Wolf

    The Dark Wolf Contributor

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    This info is mostly known by us, I think. But nonetheless, well thought-out and concise on an elemental, simple fact of guitar design.
     
  10. eaeolian

    eaeolian Pictures of guitars I don't even own anymore! Super Moderator

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    Flexibility is definitely an issue here... :lol:
     
  11. nyck

    nyck blah!

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    Ah!! I was wondering why my 27" scale 7 string w/ .064 for a low B felt too loose! On my custom 8, I'll take all this info into account :)
     
  12. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Good - exactly the purpose of this thread:yesway:
     
  13. nyck

    nyck blah!

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    I was really starting to think it was the Ernie ball brand strings that made them feel so much looser than they should have. Of course the brand has a big impact on the strings as well.
     
  14. Rick

    Rick ALL HAIL DJOD Forum MVP

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    I just want one because I think it looks cool.
     
  15. Mastodon

    Mastodon Songs about My Cats

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    I LOVE learning stuff on this website. Plus e-rep for you.
     
  16. dysfctn

    dysfctn SS.org Regular

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    Thanks alot for that info. I've only played a reverse headstock once, but it had a locking nut. I'll keep all info in mind next time I'm looking for new guitars.
     
  17. darren

    darren Decibel Guitars Forum MVP

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    This was covered AGES ago. You should see if you can find our old thread on string tension.

    But thanks for the refresher. :)
     
  18. zimbloth

    zimbloth Nick // Axe Palace Vendor Forum MVP

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    Elysian: I told you so :)
     
  19. 7 Dying Trees

    7 Dying Trees Forum MVP

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    :D Agreed 100%
     
  20. D-EJ915

    D-EJ915 Forum MVP

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