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Thread: Headstock weight

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    Headstock weight

    This may seem silly, but I wanted to see if some unsprung weight on the back of my Agile ST-625EB headstock would improve sustain and clarity on the lower frets. Simply attaching a folding star wrench set to it made an audible difference. If you want that subtle improvement for any of your thinner and/or lighter weight wood necked guitars, I recommend screwing as many of these Tungsten tackle weights to the headstock back as takes b4 getting neck heavy: https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/VMC_...age-VMCST.html

    I guess you’ll have to call to find out how big the weights are. Minimize handling Tungsten for health hazard reasons and make sure they are tightly screwed down. The weight needs to be unsprung to make a difference. Maybe stack them on screws jammed up against the tuners. I ordered a cheap TOM tailpiece b4 finding those tackle weights.

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    The headstock-weight thing has been around for a while. Some folks here may be familiar with the Fathead that the late Aspen Pittman produced. This was a headstock-shaped brass plate that fit between the tuners and headstock to increase mass. And if memory serves, there was another product, also brass, that clamped to the headstock.

    Generally, when you pay a decent price for a well-made guitar that uses good materials, attention will be paid to the match between neck and body, and choice of wood in achieving balance. The body shouldn't damp the neck and the neck shouldn't damp the body.

    A good quick test to see if increasing headstock mass can improve sustain is to press the guitar headstock against a door jamb (while standing, obviously) and see if the mechanical coupling of the guitar with the mass of the door jamb makes a noticeable difference in sustain as you play. It's not foolproof, but it IS cheap and easy. Just know that I do not recommend attaching a door jamb to your guitar, no matter how much you think it improves things!

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    The headstock-weight thing has been around for a while. Some folks here may be familiar with the Fathead that the late Aspen Pittman produced. This was a headstock-shaped brass plate that fit between the tuners and headstock to increase mass. And if memory serves, there was another product, also brass, that clamped to the headstock.

    Generally, when you pay a decent price for a well-made guitar that uses good materials, attention will be paid to the match between neck and body, and choice of wood in achieving balance. The body shouldn't damp the neck and the neck shouldn't damp the body.

    A good quick test to see if increasing headstock mass can improve sustain is to press the guitar headstock against a door jamb (while standing, obviously) and see if the mechanical coupling of the guitar with the mass of the door jamb makes a noticeable difference in sustain as you play. It's not foolproof, but it IS cheap and easy. Just know that I do not recommend attaching a door jamb to your guitar, no matter how much you think it improves things!
    This^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    I'm 52 so I remember the Fathead. It was being marketed at about the same time I was deciding I didn't like anything about my tone so I was paying attention I didn't buy one though. But it inspired me to do some reading on the subject of hardware mass and sustain WRT electric guitars. So yes, this concept has been around many decades actually. That said, if you really want to get jiggy with it then make sure your bridges and tailpieces are of solid construction and reasonable mass too. As mentioned, ideally there should be a balance between the body and neck for rigidity, weight and tone in the wood choices. But any added rigidity and mass will improve sustain regardless of these other matters. Consider how a string tensioned across a solid bar of hard steel would sustain compared to a block of wood. Less damping always equals more sustain and a heavier, denser, stiffer mass will not dissipate vibrations as much as a lighter, more open structured and softer mass. It's just that simple.

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    Here is a little string vibration theory

    Here are the things that subtract energy from a vibrating string.
    1. Air unless you are playing in a vacuum. This will be a constant loss.2. Any movement or vibration in the guitar body, neck, head or wood part is subtracting energy from the string. Increase the mass of the parts that vibrate most to reduce the losses.
    3. Magnetic string drag from magnetic pickups. Pickups closer to the center of the string produce the most drag leverage. Optimal pickup height adjustment will minimize this drag.

    When I started to learn how build guitars in Newark N.J. I found a piece of scrap railroad track to make a single string test device. Because the mass of the railroad track is so high compared to wood, it does not vibrate and steal any energy from the string vibration. I placed my hand on the railroad track after vibrating the string and felt little to no vibrations. On a piece of a two by four wood the same length as the railroad track, the string vibration time was much less and I could feel more vibrations in the wood stealing string energy.

    Doing this experiment in my younger years, made me later try to use the densest woods for necks and densest woods for fingerboards to minimize string vibration losses. Adding mass to the bridge and ensuring a very good neck/body connection also helps preserve some more string energy and increase its sustain.

    I hope this gives some MEF members something to try with some scrap metal just to experience this effect first hand (pun intended)!

    Joseph J. Rogowski

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbsailor View Post
    3. Magnetic string drag from magnetic pickups. Pickups closer to the center of the string produce the most drag leverage. Optimal pickup height adjustment will minimize this drag.
    Excellent! Yes. This too. More of a problem with "classic" single coils where the output is lower and the magnetism is greater. Stratitis I've heard it called.

    Ok. Since I missed the magnetism aspect above I'll go ahead and cover one other consideration. Acoustic resonance. Just as the more open and less massive substrate can absorb vibration, it can also pick up amplified vibrations and to some degree transfer them back to the vibrating strings. Ever notice how an amplified acoustic guitar will self destruct if you forget to turn it down? That's an extreme example but it illustrates the point. Sometimes when playing at volume through a guitar with "useful" resonant characteristics the lighter, more resonant guitar can actually sustain better because of acoustic feedback.

    Ideally you want an instrument that has both qualities in desirable proportions. And this can change with individual playing styles or even moods (Otherwise we'd all own the same guitar and just one of them!). The resonant properties of any guitar create it's tonal timbre. Without any of that a guitar can sound bland and less interesting and musical. So this balance of ideal sustain due to solidity and resonant characteristics that occur in the musically useful range is really what makes a great guitar. And, blessedly, that criteria is different for everyone. When you play a lot you can go into Guitar Center, start pulling guitars off the wall and just "know" when one might be "right for you". So you plug that one in and try it out.

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    One of the things I like about mahogany necks is that I can feel the vibrations through the neck into the meat of my fret-hand. Personally, I find this helps my finger vibrato. I find maple more "inert". Not that I can't play a maple neck. I just find mahogany gives me a little something extra. Of course, it is also lighter.

    That said, my '64 Epi Coronet has a mahogany set-neck with the "bat-wing" headstock. The body is thinner than I'd like, as is the neck. The headstock, indeed the entire guitar, is light enough that you can balance it on your index finger. At times I have put a Bigsby on it and found that helped with sustain. I also find that increasing mass to the headstock helps.

    Another simple, if unattractive, way of trying out increments to headstock mass is to use a G/C-clamp, making sure to protect against indentation in the headstock when you tighten the clamp. Additional pieces of metal or whatnot can be clamped, to titrate up to whatever the sweet-spot might be.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    One of the things I like about mahogany necks is that I can feel the vibrations through the neck into the meat of my fret-hand. Personally, I find this helps my finger vibrato. I find maple more "inert". Not that I can't play a maple neck. I just find mahogany gives me a little something extra. Of course, it is also lighter.

    That said, my '64 Epi Coronet has a mahogany set-neck with the "bat-wing" headstock. The body is thinner than I'd like, as is the neck. The headstock, indeed the entire guitar, is light enough that you can balance it on your index finger. At times I have put a Bigsby on it and found that helped with sustain. I also find that increasing mass to the headstock helps.

    Another simple, if unattractive, way of trying out increments to headstock mass is to use a G/C-clamp, making sure to protect against indentation in the headstock when you tighten the clamp. Additional pieces of metal or whatnot can be clamped, to titrate up to whatever the sweet-spot might be.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	G-clamp.jpg 
Views:	8 
Size:	59.1 KB 
ID:	57747
    Mahogany resonates more that Maple, so it generally absorbs more midrange above the resonance freq. That can sound like increased "depth" to some players and can definitely reduce harshness in the tone. Ken Parker pointed out that Mahogany also has better elasticity than Maple, probably due to less sugar/protein.

    Jamming the headstock against a door sill would transfer some energy to the sill, so it may not be as good a sustain test. A hefty clamp should do the trick. My guess is to attach weight close to the bass of the headstock to minimize as much resonance damping as possible, but spreading the weight across the head stock might be best. That's why the tackle weights would be a good option, and a lot cheaper than special Brass plates that can be over $100.

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    Any resonance absorbs most energy AT its resonant frequency. A guitar (neck) has several resonant frequencies. Neck resonances can cause dead spots. Adding weight shifts resonances to lower frequencies.

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    Last edited by Helmholtz; 04-07-2020 at 03:18 PM.
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    I'm having deja-vu all over again. Wasn't this subject discussed in depth here more than a year ago?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Any resonance absorbs most energy AT its resonant frequency. A guitar (neck) has many resonant frequencies. Neck resonances can cause dead spots. Adding weight shifts resonances to lower frequencies.
    OK, but won't the biggest one be the fundamental of the full length, and frequencies above that will resonate to lesser extent? More weight will shift it lower, but unstrung weight on the headstock will reduce the amount the top of the neck can move. That's what should make the difference. I'll leave off if this has already been covered elsewhere.

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    OK, but won't the biggest one be the fundamental of the full length, and frequencies above that will resonate to lesser extent?
    The lowest guitar neck resonance (typically around 60Hz) tends to be weaker than the higher ones at around 200Hz and 450Hz.

    Neck resonances are standing waves that use the full neck length + (part of the) body.

    The amount of vibrational damping at the resonant frequencies depends on string and fretting position, in other words on the fretboard position where the string couples to the neck.

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    Jamming the headstock against the door frame prevents the headstock from vibrating, or at least makes it more "inert". The string has two anchor points; one at each end. The headstock shouldn't vibrate any more than the tailpiece should, or else it becomes a bit like the wide end of a wave-pool, intended to dissipate energy transferred along the length.

    Now that I think of it, though, "headless" necks treat the nut like a tailpiece, with no added mass at the end of the neck, and situate the tuners where the body has the most mass. I've never used a headless instrument. Do folks who have used them notice differences when it comes to sustain?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hammer View Post
    Jamming the headstock against the door frame prevents the headstock from vibrating, or at least makes it more "inert". The string has two anchor points; one at each end. The headstock shouldn't vibrate any more than the tailpiece should, or else it becomes a bit like the wide end of a wave-pool, intended to dissipate energy transferred along the length.

    Now that I think of it, though, "headless" necks treat the nut like a tailpiece, with no added mass at the end of the neck, and situate the tuners where the body has the most mass. I've never used a headless instrument. Do folks who have used them notice differences when it comes to sustain?

    See this link: https://travelerguitar.com/products/pro-series-antique-brown


    I have this headless guitar and it plays pretty much like a full body size guitar. The neck and body top are made from the same piece of wood. This model has a 24.75 inch scale length. The bridge has an acoustic type sensor in it. This may be the only thing that might subtract from the sound of a solid metal bridge.

    The best thing about this design style is that the headstock does not make the guitar longer as the strings wrap around the back on rollers and the tuners are in the body area. When traveling, I can fit this guitar in a full size, hard core suitcase diagonally and enjoy playing anywhere I go. It is a nice practical design for travelers when used with a plug-in guitar amp module with an external input to play along with your favorite music stored on your cell phone or tablet.

    A few more companies may now be making this headless style guitar for these practical travel reasons.

    Joseph J. Rogowski

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    The lowest guitar neck resonance (typically around 60Hz) tends to be weaker than the higher ones at around 200Hz and 450Hz.

    Neck resonances are standing waves that use the full neck length + (part of the) body.

    The amount of vibrational damping at the resonant frequencies depends on string and fretting position, in other words on the fretboard position where the string couples to the neck.
    That's intriguing. I imaging you've done tests to get those values, but they do seem to coincide with the dead spots I usually get. I wonder if those higher freq resonances are the truss rod? In that case it should be different with single vs dual action rods.

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    I imaging you've done tests to get those values, but they do seem to coincide with the dead spots I usually get. I wonder if those higher freq resonances are the truss rod? In that case it should be different with single vs dual action rods.
    Unfortunately I don't have access to professional acoustics lab equipment like a laser doppler interferometer. I am mainly referring to the results of acoustics professor Helmut Fleischer et al. A few examples:

    https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/gu...=post&id=44678
    https://acoustics.org/pressroom/http...fleischer.html
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...ral_vibrations
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...ectric_Guitars
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...c_guitar_tones
    (https://www.thegearpage.net/board/in...2093947/page-2)

    I have more of Fleischer's publications but only on paper and in German.

    As the trussrod won't be able to vibrate freely and develop its Eigen-frequencies, I think it mainly adds weight to the neck.
    The measured resonant frequencies were in good agreement with the calculated resonances of a wooden beam.
    I am not aware of any papers that analyze the influence of the trussrod.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmholtz View Post
    Unfortunately I don't have access to professional acoustics lab equipment like a laser doppler interferometer. I am mainly referring to the results of acoustics professor Helmut Fleischer et al. A few examples:

    https://www.guitarmasterclass.net/gu...=post&id=44678
    https://acoustics.org/pressroom/http...fleischer.html
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...ral_vibrations
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...ectric_Guitars
    https://www.researchgate.net/publica...c_guitar_tones
    (https://www.thegearpage.net/board/in...2093947/page-2)

    I have more of Fleischer's publications but only on paper and in German.

    As the trussrod won't be able to vibrate freely and develop its Eigen-frequencies, I think it mainly adds weight to the neck.
    The measured resonant frequencies were in good agreement with the calculated resonances of a wooden beam.
    I am not aware of any papers that analyze the influence of the trussrod.
    All MEF members building guitar or bass necks might have more input.

    I did a thought experiment to share with MEF members to see if this conclusion (below) may be plausible.

    I researched the web and found this:https://www.premierguitar.com/articles/case-of-the-noisy-truss-rod-1


    Vibrating truss rods are highly variable due to many things like neck design, truss rod tension and curved insert length pressure against the truss rod. If only the center of the truss rod were against the curved insert then the two ends of the truss rod may not be damped and then begin to vibrate in sympathy with certain guitar notes. As the truss rod tension changes, these sympathy note will change slightly making detecting it even more elusive.

    Solution! What if when a truss rod is installed and the curved insert had a rubber type damper on each end of the center contact point that would surpass any sympathetic vibrations on the rod ends?

    Anyone have any thoughts if this might work?

    Joseph J. Rogowski

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    Last edited by bbsailor; 04-12-2020 at 07:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bbsailor View Post
    Solution! What if when a truss rod is installed and the curved insert had a rubber type damper on each end of the center contact point that would surpass any sympathetic vibrations on the rod ends?

    Anyone have any thoughts if this might work?
    Don't know, but I can say from experience that this sometimes works:
    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luth.../trussrod.html

    -rb

    EDIT: I replied before reading your linked article. I see that my reference is a variation of the same technique.

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