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Does Yer Headstock Rock?


ChWillie

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As a kid in 1975 at the rock show at Opryland amusement park, I saw a tall and gangly skinny dude with a big white-dude fro. They opened with The Doobie Brother's "Listen to the Music."  Guy was playing a Fender P, and I'd never heard anyone play one before, and it set me on fire.  In his thin hands, that bass looked huge, and the headstock was massive looking to me. I'd only ever been able to see a few basses close up (different times).  

 

That headstock did me in.  The scroll and those tuners stuck out.  That bass rumbled.  

 

I am verrrry choosy about headstocks.  I'd might have bought several basses but for their headstocks.  Washburns are likely excellent guitars, but the headstocks on their electric guitars and basses---I just can't, and it's only my tastes, not anything wrong with those guitars.  

 

I am fond of the headstocks on Fender, G&L, Gibson, Rickenbacker, and Alembic. I like the pointy headstocks of Ibanez, or the paddles of Gretsch.  But why do I balk at the headstocks on Wals, which are better built than most of mine?  BITE basses might be good, but great gus, I can't stand a paddle on a Fender type bass.

 

I'm also an older guy whose tastes were molded in the 60s and 70s.  

headstocks 1.jpg

headstocks 2.jpg

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I'm the exact opposite. I think the Fender headstock is pretty much the ugliest thing I've ever seen on an instrument. I can just about live with the Telecaster shape, but the P and J basses with their bulbous shape and huge, flat, elephant ear tuners are hideous. It's the main reason I'd never buy a Fender or one of their many clones. I just couldn't bare to play something with a headstock that ugly and the rest of it varying degrees of blandness. 

 

 

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It's always been my option that the Fender bass headstocks are over-sized in relation to the instrument. The pegs on the machine heads don't need to be that big, it's still possible to tune up comfortably with something slightly larger than the typical guitar machine head peg. Like most of Mr Fender's "designs" it's far more clunky than necessary - probably so it was easy and cheap to make rather than being ergonomic and practical for the musician.

Edited by BigRedX
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45 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

It's always been my option that the Fender bass headstocks arriver-sized in relation to the instrument. The pegs on the machine heads don't need to be that big, it's still possible to tune up comfortably with something slightly larger than the typical guitar machine head peg. Like most of Mr Fender's "designs" it's far more clunky than necessary - probably so it was easy and cheap to make rather than being ergonomic and practical for the musician.

This might be a guess, but I think that the oversized tuners on Fenders were probably influenced by the large tuners of double basses when the original Precisions were being designed. By making the tuners essentially the same size as a double bass tuner it aimed to give upright players a degree of familiarity with the instrument with a view to encouraging more players to switch to electric bass. That link with upright bass wouldn't have been there if the tuners had been slightly larger than a standard guitar tuner. 

Definitely clunky though and larger than is practically necessary though. Also  able to do some serious damage if the bassist on a support band throws their Jazz bass in the air and it lands machine head first on your head as you go on stage to set up. 

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9 minutes ago, thodrik said:

Also  able to do some serious damage if the bassist on a support band throws their Jazz bass in the air and it lands machine head first on your head as you go on stage to set up. 

 

I take it you speak from experience?

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One of my earliest recollections of becoming aware of the bass as an instrument was when a boyfriend of my older sister brought his Precision bass to our house. Must have been mid-Seventies and he’d just bought it so it was the big TV logo, and that look has stuck with me since.  

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I've always loved the cool, functional simplicity of the Aria/Westone headstock. I definitely prefer 2+2 or 3+2 to 4 inline. 

PSX_20220615_111146.jpg

Edited by Rich
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I’ve always thought this was the best shape for a ‘Fender’ style bass. Compact, shorter than the Stingray headstock, tuner heads tucked into the headstock. Simple, practical, functional.A262C64B-47B6-46A0-BBFA-B68725DDAF17.thumb.jpeg.d6ccea91ed9272928029e54c971ede97.jpeg

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30 minutes ago, bartelby said:

 

I take it you speak from experience?


Yepp. First gig with a new band in 2012. I did the whole gig with blood seeping out of my head. Unfortunately our band was a gentle, non-heavy indie band rather than a metal act so it didn't work as cool stage effect. 

Cut took ages to heal as well because it was a gouging, jaggy cut. 

The bassist in the other band was very apologetic.  I got him worried for a couple of seconds by saying that I was going to sue him for damages and compensation until he realised I was joking and then we have a good laugh. 

The bass that was launched was entirely undamaged which really speaks to the sturdiness of design of Fenders. 

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I'm with you on the Bite guitars.  They offer two different headstock, a 2+2 design and a 4 in line fender derived design, both with the trademark bite mark.  The 2+2 seems to be the default and it just looks weird to me on a fender shaped bass.  Just as the PRS silver sky looks jarring with that 3+3 headstock.

 

image.png.80a9f7db13a5723bd5b4efff76662405.png image.png

 


As an aside. I remember have a debate on a FB group regarding headstock mass, answering someone else's question about neck dive. I suggested installing hipshot ultralites to remove weight from the headstock. He was adamant that it was the wrong approach and adding a hi-mass bridge was better, as removing mass from the headstock will negatively affect tone. He didn't believe me when I told him I've done it to a few basses and not noticed any change to tone. When challenged, he was unable to explain how headless basses sound great, if headstock mass is so important - his reply was "why don't you buy one and find out".

Edited by Greg Edwards69
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Wow, great to read all the replies.

 

I especially enjoyed reading the ones by folks who don't care for Fender headstocks since I've never talked to anyone who felt that way.  I seriously have never thought the Fender headstock too big, proportional to the rest.  Interesting.

 

I like 4 in a line, 3 3, or in the case of my G&L 4 1.  It's just that as a boy, that Fender headstock lit up my mind and heart.  I have a similar, even deeper thing with my Ric 4001, it's body and headstock.  

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15 minutes ago, HippieNerd said:

Wow, great to read all the replies.

 

I especially enjoyed reading the ones by folks who don't care for Fender headstocks since I've never talked to anyone who felt that way.  I seriously have never thought the Fender headstock too big, proportional to the rest.  Interesting.

 

I like 4 in a line, 3 3, or in the case of my G&L 4 1.  It's just that as a boy, that Fender headstock lit up my mind and heart.  I have a similar, even deeper thing with my Ric 4001, it's body and headstock.  

 

Leo Fender obviously thought that his original bass headstock "design" was too big because he reduced it on the Stingray.

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