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I must vent: The "straight-pull" headstock myth

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DSB1, Oct 11, 2009.

  1. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    Straight pull headstocks: Old and busted or the new hotness?

    By Dr. Dallas J Seger


    I first want to say that I hope I never go down in the history books as someone who was "majoring in the minors" - splitting pubes over subjects of no real importance.

    What nut should I use? Ebony? Micarta? Bone? Zero fret? *sweat dripping off forehead*

    The correct answer is who cares. Go experiment! Get off the computer! Shave your dogs butt and teach it to walk backwards! Find out for yourselves and make some mistakes! I realize that this subject is indeed important to some folks, whom I hope read the facetious tone of this post loud and clear but we are getting off subject.

    The reason behind this post is to debunk the "straight-pull" headstock theory while putting my reasoning clearly into words and photos (sort of).

    Section I: Liars!


    The gimmick behind the straight pull headstocks is that the strings pass over the nut continuing in a straight line toward the tuner - basically the string is stretched from bridge to tuner with no nasty kinks or bends along the way. Sounds pretty good right? Let's throw our Fenders away! I never liked them anyway! Gibsons? BURN THEM AND SHOOT THEM WITH LOUD GUNS!

    Here, for easy visualization is a guitar by a well known maker to illustrate what the straight-pull head looks like:

    Now that I have you all aboard I cannot consciously continue this post without first bringing up a point. I will now illustrate what those nasty "other" headstocks look like with [edit] my Fender Jazz bass[/edit]
    All they do is keep going out of tune, right? All they're good for is to put hats on.

    But what if we do this?





    Now that I have your attention, you're probably wondering "What the hell is Seger doing? I told you he's crazy! We better kick him off the board!!"

    Slow down gentle reader, I am going somewhere with this.

    Section II: The other part

    What if we edit those above photos to look something like this?


    It looks like its pulling straight to me. Since the strings are round I don't think they'd care about mating up to a flat or cylindrical surface, say, like a tuner or a fret.

    All I am saying in this unnecessarily long post is that each design has ONE bend - the one at the nut. Each string is pulling "straight" but not all from the same point of view.

    Since I believe we can universally agree that nuts are good, we must accept that the strings have to make a bend over them. Just one.

    I'll be in the lobby in 15 minutes. Autographs are $5.00, signed photos are $10.00. GOODNIGHT AND GOD BLESS.
  2. The worst. Photoshop job. Ever.
  3. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    Thank you, it adds to the authenticity of my post.
  4. jworrellbass

    jworrellbass Commercial User

    May 17, 2009
    Colorado Springs CO
    Owner, builder: jworrellbass
    I always thought a "straight pull headstock" was to save material and time. A 13 or 14 degree takes more work and depending on how you do it more wood. I always do the 13 degree and from the same block of wood from the neck (I don't glue it on).
  5. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    Cool, this is how I prefer to do it also.
  6. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I just don't like having side loads on my nut.
  7. I'm just going to cheer for you DSB because all that did was confuse the hell out of me. Good job!
  8. I think you are absolutely correct, and also completely out of your mind..:p

    There are exceptions though. For example I have a MIJ Jazz bass that has it's E string tuner placed a bit 'higher' than ideal. This creates a side load on the nut(towards the non-existent B string) which actually caused the nut to break eventually- the end holding the E broke off, rendering the bass unplayable. Luckily It happened at rehearsal and not on a gig. I replaced it with a metal nut to prevent future breakage.
  9. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006

    YEAH!! My job here is done.
  10. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I didn't understand any of this but I did?!? I'm going to lay down for a little bit now.
  11. Is it April 1st or something?

    Full moon maybe?
  12. peterbright


    Jan 23, 2007
    On The Bayou
    Go straight!
  13. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Are you trying to deny the fact that with "other" headstocks, there is no sideload on the nut? Because that would be utter foolishness. On the other hand, I can't see what other point you are trying to make...because that's the only disadvantage I can see to traditional headstocks, and the only advantage of straigh pull headstocks. If you look at the string from the proper angle on a traditional, then yes it looks straight - but if you look at a straight pull from the wrong angle, it looks bent. The strings have to bend, and can only bend in one direction. Straight-pull just means they are all bending in the SAME direction, the superior direction.
  14. jordan_frerichs


    Jan 20, 2008
    you do good work man, but you confuse people. lol. i don't think it is "neccissary" to do straight pull, but i try to do it because i like the cleaner look. also if you are doing a wood nut (or other more fragile materials) that you aren't sure about, it might be the way to go
  15. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    OK, I'm going to take a shot at it. If I'm understanding the OP, DSB1 was just making the point that a lot of builders/companies sell the straight pull headstock as a TONAL advantage, when in his mind that's a load of crap. I agree. Crap. But (to my ears) there are TONS of things that people claim to hear the difference in that I also think are crap.
  16. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Well, sure - straight string pull has nothing to do with tone. But it most certainly can affect tuning stability for certain players.

    Straight string pull on a vibrato equipped instrument can be vitally important - the string passes back and forth through the nut, and if it's strain angles are pulling against multiple sections of the nut, it can bind up and not return to zero pitch. A string that passes through a nut that is not straight pull is straining both against the bottom of the nut as well as the sides of the nut. More friction points = less tuning stability, at least for those who are using a vibrato or lots of bending techniques.

    Saying that it's only about a single angle is missing the point - a non-straight string pull is changing planes in TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS, not just one. Sure, it's technically only one angle, but it's now shifting downward and to the left or right from the original string trajectory.
  17. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Debunk? NOT!

    Any force that is not downward @ the witness point is unneeded (and for me, unwanted)

    Straight Pull (which I prefer and think should be considered in designing a string instrument, but don't find absolutely necessary) is defined as the anchor points (ball ends and tuning machines posts) and witness points (saddles and nut) within a plane perpendicular to the fingerboard.

    Sure strings do only make ONE bend at the nut, but there are TWO things to consider about the ONE angle. How much that angle 'breaks' the nut (ever hear a rattle playing an open A on a Fender with too little wraps on the post?) and how far out of the above mentioned plane it is.
  18. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I just prefer the look of the straight. The other just seems poorly thought out.
  19. DSB1


    Mar 8, 2006
    Well said.

    Not so sure about that, but I'd say this thread is headed in the "superior direction"

    Valid point, but one thing I omitted in my original post was that I am referring specifically to bass guitars, where this is slightly less of an issue. Specifically to my instruments, it has never been a problem. Maybe I lucked out.

    Also, some folks brought up the issue of side-loads on the nut. Again, I was not thinking of this in my original post because I was thinking in terms of my own basses, which have side loads, but opposing ones. I figure it evens itself out, and the possibility of the strings tearing the nut in two are far less likely than bending over to pick up the candy bar you dropped and splitting the butt-seam on your favorite jeans.

    Calm down, Borat ( :D), you also have a valid point, and I want to remind everyone that I was not completely serious (as I pointed out) about the subject. I would venture to say (depending on the instrument, obviously) that side loading is negligable on most instruments with a "paddle" style headstock, such as mine or a Warwick. Maybe I will try to measure the side load on one of my own instruments... I am curious about it now.
  20. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Never seen more than a clip or 2 on youtube of Borat... so I don't get the connection :p

    The issue I see with the side load is that the witness point is not the same as were the tuner side of the string is pulling. You are basically breaking the string to the side of the slot instead of the base of it.

    oh and here is my favorite nut solution :)


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