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q regarding reversed fender headstock

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DoubleSix, Jan 4, 2006.


  1. DoubleSix

    DoubleSix

    Jan 4, 2006
    I decided to use a left-handed neck on the 4-string right-handed bass I'm assembling. There were several factors involved in this choice...the main one was that I assume that giving the low E a longer throw would add mass to the string... I have read the arguments regarding tension in this forum, that's not really what I'm asking about. As you know, the Fender headstock has a gradual rise towards the tip, and is lower towards the nut, which is where the post holding the high G will be located. On the other hand the path between the nut and E post will be virtually a "straight shot", parallel to the neck. Does anyone see any potential pitfalls here? Will string trees be necessary to give the E and A strings enough angle for required tension? Will the high G suffer from being "shortened"? Any experience with this particular quandary would be greatly appreciated... I don't know anyone who's tried this. My friends think I'm nuts.
     
  2. grumpyjfc

    grumpyjfc Supporting Member

    Sep 25, 2003
    Mount Pleasant SC
    I read the article in Bass Guitar magazine a few months ago where they interviewed Tim Commerford from Audioslave (Rage etc...) and he did the same thing with the reverse headstock. As you've read in the forums associated with this topic (which has been beaten to death IMO) the science doesn't support the theory that this actually does anything except throw your guitar player off. Now, having said that, here's what I tried and it seemed to solve my problem. I play hard. In doing so my e string will slap the fret board and make an obnoxious sound, espicially in drop D tuning. In an effort to alleviate this annoyance, I did two things: first I added a two string retainer (made by hipshot on guitarpartsresource.com) between the e-string post and the nut to catch the e and a strings and pull them in towards the head stock. This helped a little. Second I reslotted the nut to accept a B string in the E string position and then tuned it up to D, theory being that the string is tuned higher than its normal tension. It's tight! And it definately doesn't slap any more. But, I put it on a Warmoth neck (steel reinforcements and all that) and would be scared to try it on a lesser neck for fear of twisting. Problem solved, and six months later the neck is still fine. Of course, this is a great plan if you want drop D tuning. Haven't tried regular tuning with it. Good luck
     
  3. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Yes, and you saw it, too. String trees should be used. The G won't care.
    And you're no more nuts than any other who wants a headstock. With inline tuners, too. :scowl:
     
  4. DoubleSix

    DoubleSix

    Jan 4, 2006
    Thank you for weighing in with your observations and suggestions. It's good to know that someone else has done this. SUB, I checked out your site, and I understand why you made the headstock comment. But what's wrong with inline tuners? I see that you have used them, at least in the past. I always figured they were less wear and tear on the nut than the 2-on-a-side variety.
     
  5. klocwerk

    klocwerk

    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA

    I don't see why the nut would care where the tuners are...

    As for your plan, I don't think that switching the headstock will make a bit of difference as to the feel of your E. The string doesn't care what comes after the nut or the bridge, just the part between them. If you ask me, the only thing you're going to change is the aesthetics.
    That said, you shouldn't really have any problems that I can think of.
     
  6. bwbass

    bwbass

    May 6, 2002
    WA
    We make and sell (approximately) zillions of reverse-headstock necks to people who sincerely believe that this makes the low E "tighter", but I don't see any logic in this either. This would be a good one for "Mythbusters", I think.

    Changing the break angle as the strings go over the nut can make a difference in the way open strings ring as well - this may have something to do with the persistence of the reverse headstock. Shallower angles, which tend to happen when the tuner is further from the nut, should theoretically allow the harmonics of the open string to ring a little more in tune. As long as there's enough down-pressure to keep it from rattling in the slot that is.

    Using heavier strings or an extended scale on the low strings (ala fanned-fret instruments) on the other hand will definitely make a difference in tension and tone.
     
  7. reversed headstocks look cool...IMO are marginally easier to tune (more natural reach for the tuning key)...but there's no way IMO that you get more "tension" from a longer E-string. The string tree keeps the break angle over the nut pretty close, so I can't see what people are on about, at ALL.

    There's the same argument on the other end of the string with this Gary Willis extension thingy on the bridge. Nope, I don't buy it, ESPECIALLY at the headstock.

    same scale length + same break angle over nut + same strings = same string tension and stiffness (PERIOD!)
     
  8. DoubleSix

    DoubleSix

    Jan 4, 2006
    I honestly don't expect there to be any noticable difference in the tension of the E string. I had hoped not to need a string tree. I simply wanted to add more overall mass to the E and A strings by making them longer. I did it on both ends of the bass, all of the strings run through the body as well. I didn't take the break angles on the headstock end into account much, which is something I'm kicking myself for now.
     
  9. klocwerk

    klocwerk

    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Not trying to give you a hard time, but I really don't understand this statement. How do you think this is "adding mass" to the string? The scale length of the string isn't changing, therefore the mass of the string that's vibrating isn't changing, so the only change is the appearance. (and break angle if you change that.)

    not trying to be a pain, but can you explain what you mean by this?
    :bassist:
     
  10. bwbass

    bwbass

    May 6, 2002
    WA
    If you mean adding mass at the ends of the string to increase sustain (which makes sense), a more massive neck/headstock/set of tuners/bridge is an easier and more effective way of doing this.

    Still, in answer to the original question, I don't see any technical problems or pitfalls with doing this, just no clear benefits.
     
  11. DoubleSix

    DoubleSix

    Jan 4, 2006
    An entirely fair question. I was referring to increasing overall mass to the entire path of the string, not merely between nut and saddle. This is, as bwbass correctly surmised, a sustain issue. The bass is already heavy enough as it is (maple neck, one-piece walnut body with a very small route in back). The tuners and bridge are gold-plated to add even slightly more heft (believe it or not, I didn't choose gold because I like the look of it). Glen was kind enough to send me the bridge, it was the last he had of the string-thru II's he made for Fender before they had their falling-out or whatever. I had considered gluing a thin walnut veneer on the headstock, but it would flatten the break angles slightly by thickening the headstock, so that's out the window at this point. I really didn't care much about aesthetics to begin with. I just like the smell and feel of walnut... I used to mold baseboards out of it when I worked at an architectural woodshop.

    Though my design (or lack of) might seem pointless or even ridiculous to some of you, I just wanted to make something that felt somewhat familiar to me (I've been playing P-basses for ever). I sincerely appreciate your interest. It would be my pleasure to post pictures when I'm finished.
     
  12. klocwerk

    klocwerk

    May 19, 2005
    Somerville, MA
    Hey, more power to ya. I've got a pretty odd project in the works myself, so whatever floats your boat.
    If you're having sustain issues, the first thing I'd check is your neck-joint. If it's not a solid joint, see what you can do to tighten that up. IME, nothing kills sustain quicker than a flexy neck-joint.
     
  13. DoubleSix

    DoubleSix

    Jan 4, 2006
    If I had the skills (and $) I might have attempted a multipiece laminate neck-thru. But I don't. Just looking at the MIMF auction bass gave me the heebie-jeebies. Routing a tight neck pocket is quite difficult enough for me, thanks! :)
    On the other hand, I did have a P-bass with some neck-joint/sustain issues... A previous owner had redrilled it, and instead of using larger screws he had reused the originals (?!). I have no idea why he went to the trouble. I refilled it but the looseness had done a number on the neck pocket, so I ended up putting shims in there. It plays, but that's the best thing I can say about it. Oh well, it was cheap. Caveat emptor.
     
  14. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Placement of tuners have a influence on wear and tear. That is the one plausible reason to make the string path straight after the nut. This will not be an issue, anyway, unless you detune/retune very often. Ordinary tuning doesn't mean any real wear, short term anyway.
    Inlines lead to longer heads, which adds mass (bad) at the worst place imaginable (bad), and these bad things don't add up; they multiply:eek:
    All this ends up with:

    Heads should be on the bassists, not on the basses. (the SUB thesis)