Guitar Design Reviews

New guitar and headstock designs, reviews of guitars, guitar designs and more.

5 all new original guitar headstock designs

I’ve got 5 new headstock designs for you here! What is it with headstock designs? Since the original Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul electrics in the early 50s there have been maybe 5 other decent headstock design efforts. And another two of these five are from the 50’s, from Gibson actually. I would say these are the top 5 ‘other designs’;

  1. the Gibson Explorer banana style, 1958
  2. the Gibson Flying V lollipop headstock, 1958
  3. the Ibanez almost pointy design, 1978, after being sued by Gibson for copying the open book headstock, necessity is the mother of invention!
  4. Jackson pointy headstock, 1981 made for Randy Rhodes who supplied the idea/sketch of it
  5. PRS (Paul Reed Smith) standard, 1985

Then there are countless clones of the Gibson open book and Fender Strat 6 on one side headstock designs. It’s obvious those two designs have been around a long time because they fit form and function beautifully. The both do the job required of a guitar headstock very well and both have an excellent, handsome profile.

I wrote previously, on Design Reviews my other general design site, about the major headstock designs available today on the big brand guitars. Also I made Adobe Illustrator vector drawings of most of them, you can download it over there. At that time I promised to design some new original guitar headstock designs that, some of them, possibly could one day be classics!

Let’s cut to the action and check out the first three designs…

Guitar Design Reviews, new headstock designs 1-3
Guitar Design Reviews, new headstock designs 1-3

GDR1 was designed for a client, whose company name begins with an “S”, this was my idea for an “S-Type” guitar headstock! I thought it would be a great , memorable, logo/brand identity etc. However I was alone in that feeling! GDR2 and GDR3 have straight string paths, which are desirable for some people. A straight string path is supposed to create less stress on the nut and also promote tuning stability. They aren’t so different from each other but both have distinctive and different ‘nose’ profiles.

Guitar Design Reviews, new headstock designs 4-6
Guitar Design Reviews, new headstock designs 4-6

GDR4 is a version of the GDR1 design. The near side of the “S” would be outlined in paint/ink or mother of pearl, depends on your budget! I really liked the S-Type. I thought it would combine well with a funky Surfcaster style guitar body or another offset waist jazzy style of body. GDR5 has a straight string path. This headstock shape I think of as a bit like a lazy open book style or a Dali melting headstock. I think this would go great with a Gibson style but slightly offset body. I have a special ‘blended’ guitar body design which I might pair ir with at a later date, in a later blog post here.

'3D' visual of the Guitar Design Reviews headstock v5
'3D' visual of the Guitar Design Reviews headstock v5

Finally there is GDR6. I wanted it to look a bit like a rocket, spear, bullet, harpoon head! Rocket shapes appeal to my liking of space rock and futurism. I think this shape of headstock goes very well with several shapes of guitars particularly V shape and the due-a-revial teardrop shape. An extra thing I did with this headstock is the piercing! There are several ideas to this, as well as it looking good IMHO. Firstly it is a bit like the archetypal harpoon which has a hole in it for some reason (not all harpoon heads but many ancient bone ones). Secondly it allows accessories and pendants, dream-catchers(!) etc to be hung from the guitar. This could be a big fashion thing, just like all those phone charms that are very popular now.

That’s enough for now, I have about another 6 designs drawn up already and 6 new design body styles coming up in future articles.  That article is now available – 6 new headstock designs.

Please leave any comments and ideas below. I can supply the scalable vector illustrations to people who are interested. If anyone needs a custom headstock designed for them or their company drop me a line too. Cheers, Mark

24 thoughts on “5 all new original guitar headstock designs

  1. There are lots of innovative and interesting things about the Parker Fly but I don’t think the headstock is part of that. In design terms I think it’s a fudge, rather than design a new headstock shape they just cut off all the extraneous ‘wood’.
    If it’s a utilitarian form/function idea then I suppose that’s good, but I’ve never known anyone think anything about the Fly other than either “it’s ugly” or “it looks like it’ll break”.

    1. Hi Vic, I think you are a fan of the Ricky headstock, I think it really isn’t up there in the top 10, never mind a top 5. Even people who like it call it a “paddle” which isn’t very complimentary is it? It’s not ugly though, so it’s better than any Dean or BC Rich design!

      1. well, yes, I am a Ric fanboy, you caught me. However…

        1. Rickenbacker was one of the inventors of the electric guitar.
        2. Their simple, elegant headstock is iconic and instantly recognizable by guitarists and music fans. And it hasn’t changed in 60 years.

        Plus, including both the Gibson explorer and the Jackson rip-off of it is redundant, not to mention it shows a sort of myopic taste. Not to mention, the Jackson headstock is just plan fugly.

        1. I like the design of Rickenbackers too. Maybe I’ve been myopic! It’s also a design from the 50s! And it’s not on a lot of people’s radar when thinking about guitars I think, just like me, perhaps they need a cheaper version like a Squier/Epiphone to get people interested? Mainly I wrote this article because I was fed up of companies churning out Fender and Gibson style headstocks again and again, sometimes with little tweaks done, not because they look good but because they feel they have to, to avoid some kind of legal issue. You know there’s so many guitars produced like this. It would be a breath of fresh air if they copied/took influences from Rickenbacker more?! Or just pay a few £$£ to get an original not-just-different-to-avoid-lawsuit design… Cheers, Mark

  2. One of the reasons I prefer a PRS over a Les Paul is its straight-thru string design. Seems most Les Pauls have a tuning stability problem with the G-string angle through the nut. I would consider only the straight-thru designs (2, 3, 5).

  3. This subject is WAY too wide open, there are lots of original headstocks in the past 50 years or so. I guess I’ll add another to the fire……Mosrite……

  4. 1 and 4 awkward and too s-specific to fulfill the parameters…2 is too bulbous at the tip (suggesting bodily sacs), 3’s been done, 5…somewhat clever but ‘limp’ is never good on a guitar, and 6 is best but not far from the curved-body Spacy V’s of the late 90’s. So, no real new classics here. (and yes I have designed nearly 200 new headstocks)

    1. If the guitar company name begins with S then the No1 and No4 wouldn’t be too S specific? I have some more interesting designs in the next 6, hope you come back for more later Kerry!
      For the benefit of other readers here’s a link to the one out of 200 guitars that Kerry has had manufactured, it’s a video on YouTube. Nice.

  5. Sorry, but your GDR6 design has already been done (minus the piercing) on the all aluminum Jackson Roswell Rhoads electric. You seem to focus too much on electric guitar headstocks…there are some classic acoustic headstocks out there too. I have always loved the spartan simplicity of the Martin dreadnought style from the 1930s, especially with cream binding around it. My favorite electric headstock is my 1978 Ibanez Artist…I think PRS took some style cues from that one.

    1. Hi Jim, yes, I think the Jackson Roswell is pretty similar, but the GDR 6 is quite a bit more sleek and the offset is inverted compared to that Roswell headstock. Also I’d like GDR 6 to be paired with a more conventional guitar body than the Roswell, so many ‘V’ guitars are ungainly, oddly balanced and difficult to hold.
      With these I’m trying to make different shapes that would be usable, mass-market. It’s easy to be different but insane/crazy – like a headstock in the shape of a squirrel or whatever! The Ibanez Artist 1978 – I’ve had a google of it. The headstock top is precisely like they have subtracted a curly bracket “{” from a paddle shaped headstock. I think lots of Java and PHP programmers would like to own that guitar. It is indeed a handsome guitar.

      1. Hah! I love your passion for headstocks. I think a good or bad headstock design can be a real make or break (at least for me!) in deciding to try or buy a guitar. Aesthetically, it shouldn’t really matter but it does…from a technical standpoint, a headstock design is crucial to string path, angle, tuning stability problems, etc. BTW, my Ibanez Artist is the 2617 model…it is a beautiful, gaudy, mess of abalone binding and inlays with a wonderful french carved top…a real 1970s beast. It sounds fantastic, but unfortunately it is made of solid ash and maple, so it weighs a TON!!! Keep up the headstock mania!

        1. Cheers Jim,
          I really like heavy guitars actually. It reminds me of when I first picked up a friends’ new 1979 Strat, when I was a teenager, it felt really heavy and compared with the Hofner I had at the time, so much better to play. So I’ve had a feeling like weight = quality association since then I think. As a kid I’d want to have a “rock guitar” – body actually made from the local slate from the English Lake District. If I’d managed to make that thing I’d be a hunchback now 🙂

          1. Nice! (I’m just reading a book on Stonehenge…love that British Rock) Maybe a thin veneer of the slate inlayed into the top of a wood body? Slate is so brittle, though, it would be really tricky to work with. Maybe a faux slate paint job? I’ve seen some faux finishes that were indistinguishable from the real thing, unless you looked really closely.

          2. A slate veneer sounds great, and much more manageable than a solid rock body! A bit of damage and a few chips on it could be considered ‘character’, so many people now are buying guitars that they want to age quickly or are already aged/worn. How about a full face scratchplate/pickguard like on the Godin Radiator, but made of thin slate bonded to some other material? There must be some guitars out there already with stone veneer scratchplates…?

  6. Well… I prefer guitar headstocks that one doesn’t need to distract attention away from by wearing leopard-print spandex.

    Here are some originals I consider appealing:
    D’Angelico
    Travis Bean
    Duesenberg
    Parker (seconding the first post, above, for this minimalist beauty)

  7. Thanks Uwe. I have just had a look at the Starfield and it’s very appealing. It uses a similar continuous front curve of the body shape like Washburn WI series guitars. But more Tele than Les Paul influenced. I wish Ibanez took some of their focus away from “shred guitar” like their recent 30 fret model and made some more innovative stuff. More frets = better = dumb… Just like razor companies adding blades to their newest models.

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