How do you tune a headless guitar? The only difference between a traditional and a headless guitar is the location of the tuner. A headless guitar has its tuning knobs on the bridge instead of the headstock. Turning the knobs would tighten or loosen the strings, therefore tuning them.
Headless guitars are the recent hottest additions to the wide range of guitars available to musicians. As the name suggests, this type of guitar does not have a headstock, which means there are also no tuning pegs.
This brings forth one obvious problem. If a headless guitar doesn’t have a headstock and tuning pegs, how are you supposed to tune the strings? Well, the designers of this type of guitar certainly have thought about that.
Allow us to show you what a headless guitar is, its features, what makes it special, and how to tune them.
Advantages of a Headless Guitar
Believe it or not, headless guitars have existed ever since the 1980s. It was invented by Ned Steinberger, along with the headless bass. So, why switch to headless guitar? Is it all just for uniqueness? Are there any advantages to it? Allow us to name a few.
The first major advantage of a headless guitar is that it’s lightweight. Because of the absence of the headstock, they’re much lighter than the traditional guitar. The weight of the solid wood, tuning pegs and gears commonly found at the headstock is reduced, making it easier to carry them. That’s one of the reasons why you’d often see touring musicians use this type of guitar.
Another reason why touring musicians prefer headless guitars is that they’re compact. They’re relatively shorter than traditional guitars, so they’d fit much easier in tight spaces. Don’t worry. Even if you’re not a touring musician, you’d still love the compactness of the headless guitar. That’s because you wouldn’t easily tire carrying it around while you perform. If you’re a rock musician, you can swing your guitar around without worrying about the headstock hitting various objects.
Lastly, and perhaps the most important advantage of the headless guitar, is that it stays in tune significantly longer than traditional guitars. You don’t have to worry about turning the tuning pegs frequently, especially when you’re performing because headless guitars don’t go out of tune easily.
Why Does a Headless Guitar Stay in Tune for Longer?
So, why does a headless guitar stay in tune for longer? The first major reason is that the tuning pegs are absent. This means they don’t accidentally twist and turn after bumping into objects.
The other reason is that a headless guitar has its strings anchored in two positions. In a traditional guitar, the strings are anchored on the bridge and are connected to the headstock through the string post and tuning pegs.
However, excessive tension between the bridge and the headstock may cause it to slowly and gradually pull on the strings, rotating the tuning pegs in increments. Because of this, the strings loosen and go out of tune.
On the other hand, a headless guitar, as we’ve mentioned, has two anchors; one on the nut and one on the bridge. Because of the reduction of excess string length after the nut, they are much more stable and provide less tension on the strings.
Aside from tuning stability, the tension reduction also makes it easier for you to fret the strings. This means your hands and fingers won’t hurt too much, even after playing for a while. Additionally, the tuning knobs on the bridge are also much more stable compared to tuning pegs. All of these contribute to the numerous advantages of a headless guitar.
How Do You Tune a Headless Guitar?
If a headless guitar does not have tuning pegs, how do you tune it? While it doesn’t have tuning pegs, it has, on the other hand, tuning knobs. These knobs are located on the other end of the guitar opposite the nut or the supposed location of the headstock, just behind the bridge.
Different types and brands of headless guitars would also have different designs for the tuning knobs. However, in principle, they all work the same way. Here’s how you can restring and tune your headless guitar.
Lock the Ball End
The first thing you need to do is to lock the ball end to the tuning knob. Rotate the tuning knob counter-clockwise until the saddle for the string’s ball end is exposed. Insert the ball end to the specified space and pull the string to lock it in place.
Attach the Other End of the String
Once the ball end is properly in place, run the string across the fingerboard and insert the other end through its appropriate hole in the nut. Pull the string until it’s stretched across the entire guitar. Don’t worry about the excess string past the nut. We’ll deal with that later.
Tighten the Nut
The nut would then have a series of hex screws, one for each string. After you run the string through the hex screw, use an Allen wrench or hex key to tighten the screw and lock the string into place. This will function as your string’s first anchor.
Cut the String
Once the hex screw on the nut locks the string in place, you can then proceed with cutting the string. Grab a pair of scissors or a coil cutter to get rid of the excess string. Make sure not to cut too long as the excess string might be quite sharp and become a hazard.
Turn the Tuning Knob
Lastly, it’s time to tune the string. At this point, it should be anchored to the nut and the bridge. The last thing you need to do is to turn the tuning knobs clockwise to increase the tension on the string. Do the same to the rest of the strings and follow the standard tuning of guitars, which is E-A-D-G-B-E.
A headless guitar is just one among the many peculiar types and designs of guitars that have spawned across the ages. With all its advantages, you might be thinking about getting one yourself. Make sure that you know how to tune it by following the steps we’ve listed here.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.