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Unpacking the Different Types of Guitar Headstocks: Which One is Right for You?

Introduction to Guitar Headstocks

For anyone interested in learning how to play the guitar, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the instrument’s different parts. One essential component of any guitar is the headstock.

A headstock plays a vital role in shaping the guitar’s overall sound, so it’s important to understand its functions, types, and impact on tone production.

Importance of knowledge on guitar parts

Anyone who is taking up guitar lessons for the first time needs to be familiar with the guitar’s different parts. Knowing the constituent parts of the guitar can help you understand how to tune the instrument, identify problems, and take care of the guitar’s general maintenance.

This knowledge can help you produce better sound and make your guitar playing sessions more enjoyable.

Impact of headstock on tone production

While the headstock’s design may seem like a minor detail, it can have a considerable impact on the guitar’s overall sound quality. The headstock is where the strings meet the tuners, which, when tuned correctly, produce the guitar’s desired sound.

The material of the headstock can affect resonance, sustain, and overall sound projection of the guitar.

Definition of headstock and its functions

The headstock refers to the top portion of the guitar, which holds the strings, tuners, and nut. Its primary function is to anchor the strings securely and enable the player to make adjustments to the string tension to tune the guitar.

The headstock also transfers vibrations from the strings to the guitar’s body, influencing the overall sound produced.

Types of Guitar Headstocks

Straight (Non-Jointed) headstock

A straight headstock is the simplest design of the headstock. It is a single piece made of wood that extends directly from the guitar’s neck.

The main advantage of this type of headstock is its simplicity. Straight headstocks are easy to manufacture and require minimal materials, which makes them a popular choice for beginners and budget-conscious guitar players.

Angled (Non-Jointed) headstock

An angled headstock is a more complex design than the straight headstock. It is still a single piece of wood, but it extends at a specific angle from the neck.

Angled headstocks are designed to help reduce string tension at the nut, which can increase tuning stability, sustain, and overall sound quality. Most guitarists prefer angled headstocks over straight ones because of their better sound quality.

Scarf (Jointed) headstock

A scarf jointed headstock is the most complicated design of the headstock. It consists of two separate pieces of wood joined at a specific angle.

The joint can be visible or not, depending on the manufacturer’s design choice. Scarf jointed headstocks are popular among guitar manufacturers because they are more adjustable than other types of headstocks.

The joint allows for more space to mount tuners and ensures more tension on the strings, providing better sound quality.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of guitar headstocks can help you to make an informed decision when purchasing a guitar. The design of the headstock can significantly impact the guitar’s sound quality and playability, so it’s essential to choose the right one for your needs.

This knowledge can help you make informed decisions when purchasing a guitar and also improve your guitar playing sessions.

3) Straight (Non-Jointed) Headstocks

A straight headstock is a simple design characterized by a single piece of wood or material that extends directly from the guitar’s neck. It is commonly found on entry-level guitars because it is cheaper to produce than other types of headstocks.

The most significant advantage of the straight headstock is its simplicity. They are easy to manufacture and require fewer materials, which makes them ideal for beginner guitars or budget-conscious guitarists.

However, the lack of an angle on the headstock can exert more pressure on the nut. This increased pressure can cause tuning instability, which interferes with guitar playability and overall sound quality.

As a result, some players use string trees, small bars, or similar devices to reduce the angle of the strings, maintaining accurate intonation and tuning stability.

4) Angled (Non-Jointed) Headstocks

Angled headstocks, also known as tilted-back headstocks, are a more complex design than straight headstocks. This type of headstock matches at an angle with the guitar neck to provide more factors that affect the guitar’s tone.

Angled headstocks are designed to reduce string tension on the nut, which can enhance tuning stability, sustain, and overall sound quality. The angled design of the headstock also contributes to the guitar’s overall playability.

The angle of the neck can improve ergonomics by making it easier for the player to reach the higher frets without requiring extra hand movements, helping to reduce fatigue and, as a result, improve the guitar playing experience. The angled neck also increases string tension, creating added pressure that pushes the strings down into the nut, resulting in better tone quality.

Though angled headstocks add tension, the added pressure can cause damage to the guitar’s neck over time. This risk led to manufacturers such as Gibson adding a “volute” to their guitar’s neck; this is a small bump of wood added at the back of the headstock that reinforces the area where the neck meets the headstock.

Overall, tilted-back or angled headstocks are the most popular choice among guitar players and manufacturers. The angled design provides a more stable tuning process, better sound quality, and improved playability.

However, the more complex design and added features like a volute raise the cost, making these guitars more expensive than entry-level straight headstock guitars.


In conclusion, understanding the different types of guitar headstocks and their features is crucial when selecting a guitar. The choice of headstock influences the guitar’s playability, tone production, and even maintenance requirements.

While the straight headstock is suitable for beginners and budget-conscious musicians, the angled headstock is more suited for professionals due to its improved sound quality and playability features. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of both headstock designs can assist guitar players in selecting a guitar that suits their preferences, playing style, and budget.

5) Scarf (Jointed) Headstocks

A scarf jointed headstock is the most complex type of headstock design. It consists of two separate pieces of wood that are joined at a particular angle, producing a diagonal seam on the headstock.

The scarf joint provides more space to mount tuners and increases the pressure on the guitar’s strings, which provides improved sound quality, sustain and overall stability. One of the primary advantages of scarf jointed headstocks is their stability.

The scarf joint provides a stable platform for the tuners, which helps maintain accurate tuning and reduces the risk of the headstock breaking due to tension on the strings. Additionally, due to the added material from the joint, the overall build of the guitar is solid, which helps improve resonance and sustain.

With improved resonance, the scarf joint also impacts the guitar’s sound quality. The diagonal seam can help improve tone and harmonics by allowing the strings to vibrate more freely, producing a more balanced, brighter, and clearer sound.

As a result, scarf jointed headstocks are a popular choice among professional guitarists looking for the best possible sound quality from their instrument. However, with scarf jointed headstocks, the additional complexity in design and materials used to manufacture them makes them more expensive than other types of headstocks.

The process of creating the angled joint requires precision and patience, which raises manufacturing costs and overall pricing. Consequently, guitars with scarf-jointed headstocks typically command a more premium price and are not as easily accessible to beginner guitarists or those on a budget.

6) Summary

In summary, the choice of headstock type is critical when selecting a guitar. Each design provides unique features that influence the guitar’s tone, playability, and overall cost.

While straight headstocks are cheaper and easier to manufacture, they present notable tuning issues, especially when used with tremolo bars. Angled headstocks offer improved playability, tone, and stability, but they are also more expensive.

Scarf jointed headstocks are the most elaborate and solid designs that deliver excellent resonance and sound quality. Their complex construction and precise manufacturing requirements make them more expensive than other types of headstocks.

When choosing a guitar, one must weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each headstock design against their playing style, preferences, and budget. In conclusion, the selection of headstock type is a critical component in choosing the right guitar.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each headstock design provides insights into playability, tuning stability, and overall sound quality. When selecting a guitar, it’s essential to find a balance between performance and cost to choose an instrument that meets your needs and preferences.

In conclusion, the choice of headstock is an essential consideration when selecting a guitar. The straight headstock is simple to manufacture, but it presents significant tuning problems.

Angled headstocks address these issues with improved playability, stability, and sound quality. Scarf jointed headstocks represent the most elaborate construction and enhance resonance and tone.

The headstock ultimately impacts the guitar’s overall performance, so it’s crucial to find the right balance between cost and functionality. Guitar players should consider their preferences, playing style, and budget when choosing a guitar, ensuring the headstock type aligns with their requirements.

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