Angled vs. Straight headstocks?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by justateenpoet, Jul 12, 2005.

  1. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    I'm in the beginning phases of building my own bass (which I used to think was pretty darn creative, until I came to this site :eyebrow: ).

    My question to the people with experience here is this:

    I've seen bass headstocks that are angled (ala Warwick), and headstocks which are straight (ala Fender). What's the difference? What does the design of the headstock contribute and/or take away from the instrument? Do different designs work better for different styles?

    :confused: :confused: :confused: :confused:

    Thanks in advance...

    Ah yes...since people seem to love reading specs.

    - 4 String
    - Neckthrough, 34" scale
    - Single cut...designed to look similar to a classical guitar
    - Lined Fretless
    - Ash body wings, 5 piece Q-sawn maple/purpleheart neck
    - Seymour Duncan passive soapbars
    - one volume, two tone

    blah blah blah
  2. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
  3. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    You will find many opinions on which is best angled or straight. But, you know what "opinions" are like.......!
    Some say that an angled headstock causes more downward pressure on the nut and therefore contributes to better sustain and tone. The fans of straight headstocks say it is better for tone because the strings have a straighter path to the tuners and therefore more stable tuning. The string tree(s) on a straight design hold downward pressure on the longer strings.
    It probably does not make a darn bit of difference, there are basses of both types of design that sound good and have good sustain. Both are different means to pretty much the same ends!
    Since you are going with a five piece neck I would do an angled one because thats whats usually used on multi piece necks. However there is no reason you couldnt do a straight headstock with a multi piece either, it would be more unusual and would probably look cool too!
  4. ArtisFallen


    Jul 21, 2004
    I like the angled just because i dont feel like using a string tree. I also think it looks better than the flat, but like PTL said, it's all a matter of opinion
  5. jake_tim


    Jun 28, 2005
    North Carolina
    well, i have 2 straight-headstock basses, and 1 angled-headstock bass. really i cant tell much of a difference, even though form what i hear,the angled headstock puts more even pressure on the nut, improving tone, but thats only what i hear. but i think that the angled looks alot better anyway, lol

  6. ha, you think these guys are creative you should go to :p

    there are many notable luthiers on both sites
  7. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    Hum...the guys there really seem to favor the Ibanez Jem school of design. And there's only one bass on the whole site...the pictures of which take about 2 minutes to load :eyebrow:

    Thanks for the input so far y'all. I was leaning towards angled myself, so the info so far has really helped.
  8. schuyler


    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    firstly, i have both styles among my basses, and i can't tell a bit of difference in sustain, tone or anything else. i agree 100% that this is a matter of opinion. that being said... here's mine:

    i've heard said many times that the advantage to a flat headstock is that the strings can run straighter. however nearly all flat headstocks have string trees, which pull the strings out of the straight line. (alternately, if we mean that the strings are pulled to the side on an angled neck, then this is simply not true. this is related to the design of the headstock, and not an inherent quality of an angled headstock.)

    the real advantage to the flat headstock is that it allows a bolt-on neck to be fashioned from a single piece of 4/4 lumber (1" thick) without resorting to scarf joints. i believe that leo fender came up with this design to streamline the building process.

    my preference is to design angled headstocks with strings that run straight to the tuners (no side to side angle). i don't use string trees because they feel like cutting corners to me. an angled headstock seems to me to be a cleaner, more refined design. this comes down to a personal opinion of what constitutes quality design.

    i avoid scarf joints because they exchange a considerable amount of work for a slight savings in wood. i would rather spend a little extra on the wood and save the time. also, no scarf joints means that the grain can run continuously from neck to headstock, which i find aesthetically pleasing.

    i've put a lot of work into the design of my headstock shape so that it meets all my requirements: straight string path, angles back, has a volute, no scarf joint, no string trees, is adaptable for 4, 5, or 6 strings, is aesthetically pleasing, and establishes a unique identity for my work. after putting in a few days of design and testing, i've come to understand why a builder would seek to trademark their headstock shape.

    but again, this is all just opinion. YMMV. peace.
  9. 90k


    May 3, 2005
    Here's another take on the matter. The string tree offers another place for the coupling of the string to the instrument. Ok now we need yet another tread about string tree material. :p
  10. justateenpoet

    justateenpoet Have you...killed the Venture brothers!?!?

    May 14, 2005
    Thanks again guys...I've decided to go the angled route. I agree with schuyler, I'm going to avoid the scarf joint route, seems like a more straightforward and easy approach.

    One other question there a standard angle used for headstocks? Obviously I can't go lute-crazy and have a rediculous 85 degree angle on it, but other than that, I'm a bit lost. I've got a book, but they don't make any references to the angle of the headstock to the fingerboard, and they used a scarf joint. Anything further would be great.
  11. From what I've read on here, 10-15 degrees is suitable. It seems like I've heard several people using 13 degrees?
  12. I actually quite like the way Curbow and F Bass do there headstocks. They are straight headstocks, but the headstock is much lower than on a Fender style instrument, meaning that the strings have to angle more than on a Fender. No string trees, no angle. That's the way I'm building my 8 right now, and so far I'm quite happy with how it's going.
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Might be interested in this:
  14. schuyler


    Aug 5, 2003
    Atlanta, GA
    my personal preference is 11.5 degrees. if you aren't doing a scarf joint, then your neck blank has to be large enough to accomodate the distance from the top of the neck to the furthest back point on the headstock. a more dramatic angle will require the neck blank to be larger, which means more waste. 11.5 degrees allows me to keep my neck-through blanks to around 3" x 3" square, which leaves a waste piece around 3" x 1.5" x 24", which is large enough to do something with.
  15. tribal3140

    tribal3140 Banned

    Nov 9, 2004
    near detroit...uh
    I am a fan of great down pressure on both ends. 2 piece bridges and angled headstocks. or the hipshot A routed a sixteenth.
    fenders even with the string tree still feels like you've strung a tree in the yard.... loose!. if you like warm fuzzy fender tone you probably want a flat headstock if you like tighter snappier action angle it!