Guitar headstock designs, classics and standards, Fender, Gibson, Ibanez

MarkGDR January 19, 2011 2

Guitar headstock design. Today we are writing on that very same subject again. Specifically this post is about guitar headstock design. A quite new and inexperienced guitar enthusiast will be able to recognise most of the big names in guitars merely from the guitar silhouette, just like some kind of supercharged jet airplane geek who can recognize fighter planes from miles away.

A guitar’s headstock is very much part of the brand identity. Most of the shapes you will see below are instantly recognisable and discernible by the average guitar nut.

Fender headstock designs
Fender headstock designs

The above Fender designs have been with us since the 50’s, except of course the 70’s style strat headstock above, which is a slight derivative of the original shape, now back in use again for most standard¬† models. With all the above designs the tuning pegs are on the same side of the headstock and the strings have a straight path from the ‘nut’ to the tuning peg. This causes less stress on the nut and less tuning problems than designs where the string path is altered.

The other electric guitar pioneer, and still in business today is Gibson. The most famous Gibson guitar is named after it’s inventor ‘Les Paul’, first produced in 1954. It is still manufactured today and is more of a traditional instrument in it’s construction than the Fender alternatives developed in much the same era of the mid 50s. Traditional in the sense of it’s side by side open book headstock shape and the construction of jointed and glued in necks. Also the shape was very much like a standard acoustic guitar with a cutout for high note access.

Gibson headstock designs
Gibson headstock designs

Gibson introduced some very futuristic guitars with equally space age headstocks in 1958; the Flying V and the Explorer. As you can see above they are quite a leap from the traditional guitar headstock shape.

These two companies have pioneered guitar design and people are still buying the same designs today. Vintage ‘re-issue’ models are extremely popular from both companies, where the guitars produced are made using the same processes and techniques and to the same spec as 50 years ago. This is an unusual industry that seems to wish to stand still in many ways.

Since the rock n roll era when Fender and Gibson introduced their designs there have of course been many attempts to make new styles and designs of guitar shapes and headstock shapes. The all seem to be stuck within two extremes; highly derivative or just outlandishly shaped without thought for function. Also there are some completely ugly designs that are different too; such as ‘Dean’ guitars.

Bigsby, Ibanez & Jackson designs
Bigsby, Ibanez & Jackson designs

Above you can see three more examples of popular headstock designs. The Bigsby is heavily influenced by Fender and Batman I would say. Jackson style headstocks follow the Gibson Explorer style bit add sharp edges. Ibanez have a very strong following and are probably the third big player in the manufacturing industry. Their signature shape is a little bit pointed but not too much so non-heavy rock enthusiasts might sometimes pick up their well made guitars.

There are some other notable styles such as those of Parker, PRS and Steinberger which you can Google if you are interested. In my opinion Parker headstocks are a bit silly, PRS ones are nice but the guitars are boring, Steinberger introduced the guitar without a headstock at all, which is very clever but not obviously something desirable or you would see people playing them other than Kajagoogoo in old videos.

2 Comments »

  1. Saint Grawal September 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm -

    The Fender stratocaster headstock was actually influenced by Bigsby’s headstock design…

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