We were recently asked about the benefits of applying headless guitar design to ergonomic guitars and GregP replied with several important factors. Among these are…
- Improved balance – By reducing the lever effect of a headstock and tuning keys, it becomes easier to achieve good balance and a good neck angle.
- Reduced weight – A headless design can be lighter overall reducing its impact on the guitarist.
- Increased design flexibility – By practically eliminating the possibility of a neck heavy instrument, you have greater freedom with the shape of the guitar body.
- Centralized mass – By shifting weight closer to the body, the remaining weight is more evenly distributed and carried more easily with less impact on the body. (My addition.)
While, it’s not impossible to accomplish good balance and position with a headstock – consider Rick Toone’s Orchid bass for example – eliminating the weight and lever effect can simplify the design equation.
However, cost is a concern. Headless guitar bridge systems are expensive and that has always been a concern of mine.
Fortunately, there are alternatives approaches that use conventional guitar bridges in a headless format. These expand your choices and reduce dependency on the limited supply of headless guitar parts.
Let’s look at a few examples. The first three use Steinberger gearless tuners in combination with a traditional guitar bridge:
- Henry Olsen ‘s MaSh Acoustic Guitar
- Alternative Headless Guitar Design – TK Instruments
- Headless Guitar Design Alternative – Scott French
These two use conventional guitar tuners:
However, it’s important to note that none of these use a Steinberger type neck and therein lies a major tradeoff. Finding a conventional bridge that matches the string spacing on a Steinberger neck is a challenge. In fact, I suspect such a beast doesn’t exist.
However, it you’re building a neck with your guitar, then anything goes.
Increased Guitar String Choices
The other area where these alternative approaches help is in your choice of guitar strings. A number of headless bridge systems require the use of Steinberger type double ball end strings. And as you might imagine, the number of choices in types and gauges is limited.
By leveraging conventional guitar bridges and tuners, you now have access to the tremendous variety of guitar strings that exist for conventional headstock guitars.