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norm barrows

floyd rose w/ no headstock - can it be done?

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i like floyd roses, and i like guitars with no headstock.  but i don't see a way one could combine the two. where could you put the tuners?  would it be possible to somehow stretch the string (pull on the headstock end), then tighten the locking nut, cut off the excess string, then finish tuning with the fine tuning controls on the bridge?

what about a different type of trem bridge?  seems to me that any trem locked at both ends ought to behave like a floyd rose.

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13 hours ago, ADFinlayson said:

you wouldn't need a locking nut on a headless guitar because the tuners are at the other end.

Not quite true. Most headless systems opt to put the ball end of the string at the saddle/bridge, which is also where the tuning key is built in. Therefore the only way to secure the unadorned string at the nut is to use a locking system.

 

13 hours ago, norm barrows said:

would it be possible to somehow stretch the string (pull on the headstock end), then tighten the locking nut, cut off the excess string, then finish tuning with the fine tuning controls on the bridge?

Not with a standard Floyd Rose trem. You could possibly construct some kind of removable pre-tensioning jig to attach behind the nut to get the string tuned to pitch prior to locking the string down, but it seems like a lot of work just to restring and retune when you could just install a dedicated headless trem assembly.

The afore-mentioned Hipshot headless unit is a good option. Technology4Musicians also make high quality headless trems and bridges too.

This looks interesting but pricey. They mention 'macro tuners' and 'double locking' which suggests it could tune the string from slack while operating with a string clamp in the same way a regular Floyd does.

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For $34, I wouldn't expect it to operate particularly well. Perhaps the threads on the locknut will strip out attempting to clamp the strings. Maybe the knife edges on the trem will blunt over after a couple of weeks. Plating might flake off easily. Trem arm might bend.

You get what you pay for.

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19 hours ago, curtisa said:

You get what you pay for.

True that.

Cheap ebay clone parts from china are nice for experimenting with.  if the idea works well, but the part isn't up to it, you can always pony up the dollars for the real McCoy. 

But the more i mess around with guitar design, the more i realize that so much of it is essentially cosmetic.  headless stock is a case in point. nothing vastly superior about the setup vs locking nut and headstock, at least that i can tell so far. but that's what experimenting is for.

so i find that the design of my "first real build" is changing in some manner almost daily.   and not for cosmetic reasons. there i'm just trying to get a decent look cosmetically - fancy but tasteful.  its in the mechanics of the guitar that the design is constantly evolving - probably not a good thing, having already ordered a bunch of parts.

for example, at the moment i'm at a loss as to where to put controls.  building "one guitar to rule them all", the pickup options are getting a little out of hand. i have 3 humbuckers worth of real estate to work with apparently. the current plan is a bar piezo under the bridge, an emg81 twx at the bridge, a single coil or perhaps a hotrail humbucker in the middle, a sustainiac at the neck, and a second piezo under the nut (supposed to be good for hammer-ons).  so five pickups total. and then i discovered all the double coils are split-able and then there's out of phase wiring combos...  each pickup gets an on/off switch, tone, and volume, and the humbuckers also get phase and coil tap on/off switches. that's 21 switches and knobs. i think i'm going to run out of real estate. the plan is to make a switch panel from pick guard material that hangs below the guitar.

but i'm also thinking that with modern tech, all these pickups are unnecessary.  a little signal processing downstream can make one setup sound very much like another different setup.  such as the brightness of bridge vs the bass of neck pickup position. and it would seem that the same goes for tone and perhaps sustain when it comes to things like tone wood type, body material, guitar weight, tone wood hardness, etc. 

so this is leading me in a new interesting direction in guitar design. using the guitar more for just signal generation, and using gear for specific tones.    what with cab and amp modeling and the gazillion different types of effects pedals, not to mention computer software, it might be doable.

so that means a guitar with less pickups, not more.  OTOH, there's something to be said for on-the -guitar control of tone (IE pickup selection, volume, and tone knob settings, etc) for quick changes - such as when playing live. but on the other - other hand, that's what stomp pedals and programmable pedal boards are for.

so who knows, maybe all you need is an 11 cent disc piezo under the bridge, and a couple of effects boxes or a decent pedal board. 

 

Edited by norm barrows

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7 hours ago, norm barrows said:

But the more i mess around with guitar design, the more i realize that so much of it is essentially cosmetic.  headless stock is a case in point. nothing vastly superior about the setup vs locking nut and headstock, at least that i can tell so far. but that's what experimenting is for

There's a lot to be gained through going headless. The lack of a few pounds of weight at the end of a long neck is the biggest plus. Anyone who's tried a headless guitar will know that it balances completely differently on the strap and in your lap in a way that a 'traditional' guitar never can. I'd argue that the primary attraction to headless guitars for most people is for ergonomic reasons rather than cosmetic.

Cosmetic needs balance the visual element of the instrument against the practicality of playing it. Guitars built purely to satisfy the ergonomics of playing the instrument generally result in something visually unappealing (search for Klein Guitars in Google). Guitars built largely for cosmetic reasons don't necessarily make for easy instruments to play (Ever tried to play a Flying V while seated?) and perhaps feed polarising opinions as to how 'pretty' it may look.

I personally think PRS make a really nice looking guitar, but I find playing one in a seated position quite fatiguing after a while, as the cutaway that rests on the leg is a bit closer the neck when compared to a Strat, which places my picking arm a bit too far forward for my comfort. It's not a huge difference in playing position, but it's enough to make me feel it in my right shoulder after a couple of hours playing.

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9 hours ago, norm barrows said:

using the guitar more for just signal generation, and using gear for specific tones

 

9 hours ago, norm barrows said:

so that means a guitar with less pickups, not more.

That is starting to sound like a Line6 Variax guitar, only headless!

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15 hours ago, curtisa said:

The lack of a few pounds of weight at the end of a long neck is the biggest plus.

a good point that never occurred to me.

i've been drawing up a list of design considerations. weight and balance are on the list  balance both sitting and standing. as are palm rest for picking, and leg perch for sitting (something the flying V and randy rhodes could both use).

15 hours ago, curtisa said:

Guitars built purely to satisfy the ergonomics of playing the instrument generally result in something visually unappealing (search for Klein Guitars in Google).

you mean like this?

Klein-500.jpg

oh my god! its the guitar i designed in high school - but with a leg perch!.  my design had no leg perch, and this was before no headstock became a thing.  i bought a jackson randy rhodes because it was almost the same as my design. then i discovered the leg perch design flaw - IE no leg perch!  so i sold it.

my current design sketches are similar to the above,  but just a rectangular slab under the neck, pickups, and bridge, and some sort of brackets or something sticking out for the palm rest and leg rest.  controls likely located just to the right of the strings, similar to the knob locations in the photo above.

15 hours ago, curtisa said:

(Ever tried to play a Flying V while seated?)

been there, done that. and the randy rhodes too. the roswell is another one guilty of eliminating the "leg" horn of a classic body. The Traveller has a small leg support, but it still slips off my leg. used to put double side tape on it so it wouldn't slip off my leg.  in the end, i just added a screw sticking out the end of the support to extend its length a bit.

i tend to like to start from scratch. so i started with "why is an electric guitar shaped the way it is?" well, its based on the shape of acoustic guitars. but body shape is only really important in acoustic guitars, not electric. the first electric was a 6 inch disk with a pickup and a neck - for playing lap guitar slide guitar hawaiian music.  but if you look at the typical electric, it has a wide bottom, a narrow, middle, and (usually) two horns. only the center part of the body from the neck to the bridge is required to support the strings and pickups, but the rest of the body does serve a purpose. the lower right side is probably the most ergonomic  place to put controls (talking RH guitars here), the lower left part of the body is your palm rest for picking. the right horn is the "leg" horn, to keep it from sliding off you leg when seated, and the left horn is your strap attachment point. but you don't really need all that wood there to perform those functions. brackets sticking out would work just as well, and would reduce weight.  note here that i'm assuming my experiments with guitars that weigh a lot won't yield anything interesting, and that generally speaking lighter is better - more comfort, less fatigue. or "light - but not too light" as i put it in my list of design considerations. 

16 hours ago, curtisa said:

I personally think PRS make a really nice looking guitar, but I find playing one in a seated position quite fatiguing after a while, as the cutaway that rests on the leg is a bit closer the neck when compared to a Strat, which places my picking arm a bit too far forward for my comfort. It's not a huge difference in playing position, but it's enough to make me feel it in my right shoulder after a couple of hours playing.

yes, it appears that ergonomics is vital for a successful design. its also appears that guitars should be "sized" for different players. take necks for example, some prefer narrower, some wider, some players prefer a thicker neck, some a thinner neck. and most of it comes down to their hands:  long or short fingers, fat or thin fingers, beefy or more delicate hands.  arm length can come into play as well, this will determine what feels right to them when it comes to things like string spacing (nut width, bridge width), fret size (some folks like jumbos), fret spacing (scale length), and so on.  

 the strap position and leg support location determine how left or right the guitar sits in relation to your body. for different sized bodies and arm lengths, an adjustable leg support seems to be called for. or guitar bodies with leg cutouts sized to particular players. adjustable strap location points might be useful too.  adding balancing weights to the headstock or tail is other possibility.

 

 

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17 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

That is starting to sound like a Line6 Variax guitar, only headless!

yeah, that's the general idea, or perhaps the "exchanger" pickup modeling pedal. there seem to be very few pickup modeling pedals out there.  apparently some pedal boards include a bit of pickup modeling, along with the usual amp and cab modeling.

this line of thinking is leading to a really unusual design:

looks like the minimum body required is about 5.5" x 10" x 0.75" inches - IE a 10" piece of 1x6 or a 5.5 x 10 piece of 3/4 plywood. might be able to go a little narrower or shorter depending on hardware selected.  a minimum of 3/4" thick seems to be required for strength.

then you add brackets and panels, or more body wood, for your palm rest, leg rest, controls, and strap button.

if you use a trem with a block thru the body and springs in the back, you need a small block of wood at least 2x2x3/4 or so, mounted underneath, near the neck pickup, for the trem claw screws. 

now, lets assume for a moment that an eq will be "good enough" to modify the tone to sound like some different type of guitar. not perfect - but good enough. So the pickup type becomes less important. any type should suffice. why drop cubic dollars on solid silver wire wound seymour duncan humbuckers, when you can get a similar sound with an 11 cent disc piezo from a cigar box guitar, a mini 7 band eq pedal, and a bit more volume on the amp?

so you do just that - mount a disc piezo under the bridge, mount a 7 band mini eq pedal; in the controls area. wire the pickups to a 1/4" plug, plug it into the eq input, and the eq output is the jack for the guitar.

use a fender strat trem bridge mounted using just the outer two screws with spacer washers under them to make a full floating trem, and use a locking nut  this should this should work like a floyd rose, but cheaper 

for non-trem versions, use a fender strat hardtail bridge. a locking nut may be required for non-trem versions, if holding tune after doing  bends is an issue. 

use a neck with a headstock, and non-locking tuners.

this seems to be the bare minimum you need, using the least expensive types of parts generally available.

from there, you add whatever you want in the way of higher quality hardware/electronics, and more wood to the body (IE a larger / different shape). prefer a more traditional looking guitar? use a large traditional shaped body instead of palm, leg, and strap support brackets and a control panel hanging below the minimum body. and then you add the cosmetics, finishes, inlays, nicer knobs, no headstock tuners, etc.   

the parts to build the minimum design are about $35 -$40 on ebay.    guitars on ebay start at about $50, and guitar kits on ebay start at about $60.  starting with a complete $50 ebay guitar is only worth it if you want that exact look, but different hardware, or you want that exact guitar, but with a different finish. otherwise it looks to be cheaper to roll your own from parts.

now, also assume that any extra bass that an unusually high weight guitar has can be done with the eq. in that case lighter is better. light - but not too light, this may be a matter of personal taste as to what is too light.

its should also have good balance when sitting and standing. no slipping off your leg, no neck dive, hangs at your natural playing angle, and so on. leg cutout / brace position, strap mount points, and perhaps balancing weights would be used to adjust this to the individual player.

and obviously the neck has to be of a type that appeals to the player with regard to width, thickness, fret size, number of frets, string spacing, fret spacing, etc. yet another area where one size does not fit all when it comes to guitars.

in general it would seem that a thinner body is more comfortable.

all frets should be each to reach. this may mean cutaways, sculpted neck joint area, etc. many body designs fail to meet this criteria.

to the right of the strings on a right hand guitar is the most convenient location for controls. many body designs don't follow this, placing controls in the horn areas, where its a longer reach from your normal picking position. 

Edited by norm barrows

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40 minutes ago, norm barrows said:

why drop cubic dollars on solid silver wire wound seymour duncan humbuckers, when you can get a similar sound with an 11 cent disc piezo from a cigar box guitar, a mini 7 band eq pedal, and a bit more volume on the amp?

As admirable as your proposal sounds, I think you may be underestimating how difficult it will be to 'force' a piezo disc to sound like a humbucker/single coil/P90 etc with nothing more than a 7 band EQ pedal. I assume you're also hoping to make that single piezo disc emulate any pickup in any position, which complicates things even further.

Pickup modeling (and cab modeling, for that matter) rely on convolution, which is the domain of digital signal processing. You could concievably perform a frequency response sweep of your nominal pickup, in much the same way an impulse reponse of a cab model is performed and attempt to approximate the resulting frequency response curve with an EQ pedal, but the results will be far from convincing. Analogue simulations of cabs (ie, with nothing more than severe EQ applied) tend to fall over quite quickly when compared to impulse responses of the equivalent cabs. There are plenty of Youtube videos to search for comparing analogue cab sim boxes (Hughes & Kettner Red Box, Mesa Boogie Cab Clone, ADA MicroCab etc) with impulse response modelers where the results would easily be classd as sub-par by today's standards. It wouldn't be unreasonable to expect that an EQ'ed piezo will also fail to convincingly sound like another pickup if only 7 bands of EQ were used.

If you're going to seriously look at shoehorning a single pickup into an onboard 'emulate anything' solution, then you'll need a bigger hammer than a basic EQ pedal. Look into a dedicated pickup remodeling pedal like the Keyztone ExChanger. Mind you, it's not clear that it's designed to take a relatively unknown pickup starting point (a DIY piezo disc mounted in an unusual position) and convert it into something that could sound like a humbucker in the bridge position or two single coils out of phase.

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3 hours ago, norm barrows said:

but if you look at the typical electric, it has a wide bottom, a narrow, middle, and (usually) two horns. only the center part of the body from the neck to the bridge is required to support the strings and pickups, but the rest of the body does serve a purpose.

The Strat body shape was suprisingly ergonomic when it first came out, which I personally think Fender don't get enough credit for. The forearm contour on the front and belly cut at the rear go a long way to making the basic 'figure of eight' body shape just that little bit more comfortable. As far as I'm aware, the Tele had neither of these features (did the LP have a belly cut? not sure...). Extending the bass-side horn and turning it into a cutaway has the double benefit of allowing somewhere for your thumb to fit when reaching for the upper frets and providing an anchor point for the strap button that shifts the centre of gravity a bit closer to the headstock to make it balance better when on the strap. The treble-side cutaway is obviously there for ease of access. Further refinements over the years to the basic Strat shape have improved things (low profile/reshaped neck joints, different cutaway geometries, chambering to reduce weight, different construction materials etc).

 

3 hours ago, norm barrows said:

but you don't really need all that wood there to perform those functions. brackets sticking out would work just as well, and would reduce weight.

In which case you end up with something that ends up looking a lot like that Klein guitar. The body is nothing more than it needs to be - a bulbous section for your picking forearm to rest against, a shaped ledge to perch the guitar on your lap with, a solid zone in the middle to mount the mission-critical components. I suspect the choice of headless hardware and the back-heavy body shape is also a deliberate design choice, as it forces the neck to want to tilt upwards slightly when seated, which also aids the ergonomics of playing (it's easier to fret a guitar when your left hand is brought inwards towards your body). Not exactly the prettiest guitar in the world, but I bet you could play it for weeks without feeling it.

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20 hours ago, curtisa said:

If you're going to seriously look at shoehorning a single pickup into an onboard 'emulate anything' solution, then you'll need a bigger hammer than a basic EQ pedal. Look into a dedicated pickup remodeling pedal like the Keyztone ExChanger.

closed the tab and lost my reply!

the exchanger looks good

 

7 bands may not be enough.  i've used 12 band Onkyo home gear and beringer 31 band rack eq's with great results. but step up to 10 bands, and size may be an issue for mounting to the guitar itself.

i think what i'm trying to do is find a optimal minimum design on which to base the guitars i plan to build. something like a steinberger...

1_Full_Straight_Front_NA-1f84b18ee31e17f

or maybe a gittler

87d7ce3b52f88fe60bbc0d39ebab37a6.jpg

or just a plank

maxresdefault.jpg

take the plank, it has all your basics, from there you just get fancier. note that the plank pictured here will only sound like a humbucker, and has no trem system. 

some questions remain:   disc vs bar piezo ?   is 7 bands enough?  best way to mount the eq to the guitar? i plan to buy some disc piezos, and the 7 band pedal, and run some tests.

 

 

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20 hours ago, curtisa said:

The Strat body shape was suprisingly ergonomic when it first came out

According to a BBC doc i just saw, Mr Fender was an engineer who designed an electric guitar (the tele) that could be mass produced quickly and easily with unskilled labor. He was not a musician, When it came time to design the strat, they got input from a musician - i forget his name - a player who worked at the shop as i recall.

 

 

 

 

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