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5 String headstocks: 5 on top, or 4+1, or 3+2...why?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Chef, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I own 5'ers with 5 tuners on top of the headstock, 4+1, and 3+2...
    Is there any real reason other than looks, or tuner "reach-ability" for setting up the headstock one way or the other?

  2. steve21

    steve21 Banned

    Tension, a 4+1 will have less tension on the G string cuz it'll require less winds so it'll be easier to bend, I believe.

    Thusly 5+0 will have more tension on your G, and 3+2 will have less on your G and your D, w/ the most being on the A.

    Assumably, at least.
  3. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Strings at pitch will have the same tension. Higher tension = higher pitch, without a change in mass.
  4. It's just looks and reachability. I like 3+2 myself.
  5. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    I own several 3+2's and one 4+1 of the same non-Fenderesque headstock design. I find the 4+1 to be crowded when tuning and two adjacent tuners have their wide side near parallel with the headstock face. There just isn't much room to get your fingers in there when your bumbling for a quick adjustment live during a tune.

    That said, I'd take the 3+2 most any day over a 4+1 ... unless the headstock was something like a Fedner/Lakland/Lull/Sadowsky/etc where a 3+2 would look really awful.

    Then there's the approach taken by Fodera of a 2+3 headstock with a radically routed B-string path. I've been curious to A/B two otherwise identical basses (one traditional headstock, one with the radical B routing) and see if I could actually hear of feel any difference. If I could hear a difference, I'm curious if it's significant enough for someone to hear in a live or recorded mix. I'd really like to think the concept is just a bunch of marketing goo.

    What headstock shape you toying with Chef?

    All the best,

  6. SteveC

    SteveC Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I have always liked the 3+2 myself - if for no other reason than I like balance and that's as close as it gets for me.
  7. burntgorilla


    Jan 24, 2005
    I prefer 3+2. 4+1 always looks to me as if the fifth string was added as an afterthough, it looks quite odd. Though if you put a really big tuning key onto the single string, it looks quite fun.
  8. Scottie Johnson

    Scottie Johnson

    Sep 8, 2004
    I've got 2+3 on my Ibanez BTB.
  9. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Warmoth '51 P-5;) "Tele" early P style headstock. It'll be 5 across the top, just curious about the why's of it all...
  10. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    On Fender-ish headstocks I've never liked the 3+2, and for that matter, don't really like the 4+1, but sometimes you've just gotta accept it. The newer G&Ls look horrible, IMO, with the 3+2. For headstocks with a Fender influence, I think Tyler has it right on ERBs. However, on a headstock that's not quite so radically assymetric, the 3+2 or 2+3 is quite nice. Benaventes, Zons, Pedullas, etc. are all quite pleasing to look at.
  11. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor

    I really like the 3+2 but like others feel that some of the traditionaly all-on-one-side headstocks probably look best in a 4+1 configuration.

    I guess my reasoning is twofold, one being the balance issue for less length = less neck heaviness and the other being, I just like the look of 3+2 in general, not to mention being closer to reach.
  12. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works

    With that tuner configuration, be sure to use the Ultralight 'Y' keys vs the cloverleafs. There is significant dimensional differences in the width of the tuning key as seen here:

    1/4" doesn't seem like too much until you start jamming them together in-line.

    All the best,

  13. I'd like to know why you never see a 2+2 with one right on the end for the A string.
  14. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor

    Sounds really awkward to reach, not to mention that if you bump anything that tuner is going to be taking the brunt of it in most cases!

    Still I suppose someone will eventually do one altough it's tough for me to imagine it becoming very popular.
  15. The origin for all tuners on top (Fender style) was Merle Travis who got tired of reaching across the headstock of his D-28 to the treble side when he was changing strings with the guitar in his lap. In the late '40s he asked Paul Bigsby to make him a new neck for the guitar with a headstock shaped like a fiddle headstock curled on its side and all the tuners on the top. That way he could reach them better. The first one had the curl up. Travis didn't like the appearance and he asked Bigsby to make one with the curl down. That headstock looks like a slightly exaggerated version of the 1970s Strat headstock. The fingerboard has the "deck of cards" symbols like the later ShoBuds. Too bad that Travis and Bigsby didn't patent it, because Fender and ShoBud made plenty of money on their design. I used to watch Travis playing that D-28 (and also his Super 400) every Friday night all through the 50's and early 60's.

    In any case, if I like the looks, it makes no difference to me how many tuners are up or down.
  16. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I really wanted to use the hipshot HB6C elepahnt ears for the vintage vibe...but the warmoth neck specs say use gotoh GB7 I think. Smaller post hole, 9/16 vs 11/16. I suppose I could open the holes in the ehadstock, but if the elephant ears won't fit 5 in line, that seems like a bad idea;) Hadn't thought of that, so thanks very much!


  17. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I like 3 + 2
  18. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    Chef -

    If there is room for the tuner keys in clover style, you can use the Hipshot HB6C 3/8" and have the GB7 styled Ultralight with the cloverleaf tuner. See if Warmoth will get you the center-to-center measurement for the tuner holes on that headstock. I believe TB member BGBass (or something similar) is an employee there - shoot him a PM. Drop me a note with this and I'll get you the clearance you'll have between tuner keys utilizing the clovers.

    Pricing and more info can be found here:

    All the best,


    p.s. I still owe you a reply PM. I got jumped with an unexpected business trip to the S end of town today. Really messed up my lunchtime free time today :(
  19. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    WRONG AGAIN! The distance of the tuner from the nut has absolutely no effect on the tension of the string. I'm embarrassed for you.

    Now that we've got that straightened out, I prefer 3+2 because it allows for a shorter headstock, giving better balance and less neck dive. I have five 3+2s, five 4+1s and one 5+0, and the 3+2s dominate.
  20. dharma

    dharma Srubby wubbly

    Oct 14, 2005
    Monroe, Louisiana
    And Munjibunga swoops in for the kill!