Headless Guitars: The Pros & Cons

You might not know it, but the concept of a headless electric guitar or headless bass is actually pretty old. In 1979, Steinberger released a headless model with a distinctively minimal design, and soon after, Hohner released their own ‘licensed by Steinberger’ models. During the last few years, a headless trend has been brewing and these less-than-standard models have experienced a comeback, so in this blog we dive into the benefits and the pitfalls of owning your own headless guitar or bass.

Comfy Playability

The essential starting point when designing a headless electric guitar is ergonomics. In other words: the ultimate goal of these guitars is to make sure they have as comfortable a playing feel as possible. By removing the headstock, and therefore the standard-issue machine heads, a lot of fat is trimmed away already, meaning that headless guitars are always far more lightweight than regular models. Another benefit of removing the headstock is the improved balance, which the relatively heavy headstock usually plays a big role in. Headless guitars are also extra compact, making them much easier to travel with and easier to play comfortably in smaller spaces.

No Headaches

One of the biggest weaknesses of the conventional electric guitar is actually the headstock. If you happen to drop a standard guitar by some sorry stroke of luck, or your dog knocks it over, then the momentum created by the weight of the headstock can ensure that it hits the ground even harder. In some cases, this can even crack or break the headstock off, resulting in an expensive repair job – if it can be repaired at all. Of course, you can just as easily damage a headless electric guitar, but at least you don’t have to worry about the head…

The Cons

It’s an obvious one but it’s worth mentioning: a guitar without a head looks completely different to a traditional electric guitar. The headstock is a pretty essential design element and is a pretty big part of the overall shape of the instrument. Take the iconic Fender Stratocaster headstock, or the pointed headstocks of models built by Jackson or ESP Guitars – they just wouldn’t look right without the headstock. Whether or not your chosen guitar has a headstock is a question of taste, but if you do choose to drop the headstock, at some point, you won’t even notice it’s gone. However, one thing worth thinking about before taking the plunge is the fact that most guitar wall mounts won’t be compatible with headless models. Without the headstock, there’s nothing for the guitar to hang from. There are solutions out there though, like the König & Meyer 16295 wall mount.

How Do You Tune a Headless Guitar?

Unlike a traditional electric guitar, the machine heads aren’t fitted on the headstock but on the bridge. However, the process is exactly the same: ‘righty-tighty, lefty-loosy’. The only thing is, the tuning buttons of a headless guitar can be a little more fiddly and less easy to grab than normal tuning buttons, but they are actually much more accurate and stable. If there’s any room above the nut for one, you can use a clip-on tuner to help, otherwise you’re better off using a pedal-style stage tuner or another form of external tuner (just as long as it has a jack input).

» Clip-On Tuners
» Stage Tuners
» External Tuners

Headless Guitars: The Pros & Cons
Image source: Steinberger

What Kind of Strings Do You Need?

Not all headless guitars will have the same kind of hardware, so you need to check if your model requires special strings. The headless models made by Steinberger, Hohner and Westone all need double ball ended strings so they can be secured to the bridge and the nut. Other headless models, like the guitars made by Strandberg or guitars included in the Ibanez Q Series, use a special locking system, so you can just use your favourite brand of normal strings without any stress.

» Double Ball Ended Electric Guitar Strings

See also…

» Headless Electric Guitars
» Headless Bass Guitars
» Double Ball Ended Electric Guitar Strings
» All Guitars & Accessories
» All Bass Guitars & Accessories

» What Are Multiscale Guitars?
» 7 Ways to Make Your Guitar Rig More Portable
» Locking Tuners On Your Guitar: How & Why?

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