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Graduated with a BA in Advertising from Glasgow University. Played guitar strangely with several unknown Gothic Rock bands. Postgraduate study PgDip, in Industrial Design from Hull University. Now writing, designing and blogging on guitardesignreviews.com and taiwanduck.com.


  1. Casey
    April 25, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    I think you may have forgotten about the Parker Fly. That is the essence of original.

  2. MarkGDR
    April 25, 2011 @ 9:50 pm

    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”.

  3. Ray
    April 26, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

    I love the Hagstrom offset headstocks with the art deco kind of tuners. You have captured some of that with GD 5.

  4. Vic
    April 29, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    You don’t count the Rickenbacker headstock as one of your Top 5? That kind of invalidates the rest of your post.

    • MarkGDR
      April 29, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

      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!

      • Vic
        May 6, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

        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.

        • MarkGDR
          May 8, 2011 @ 9:09 am

          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

  5. Sam
    April 29, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    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).

  6. Dennis
    April 29, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

    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……

  7. kerry kruger
    April 29, 2011 @ 10:32 pm

    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)

    • MarkGDR
      April 29, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

      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.

  8. Steven
    April 29, 2011 @ 11:56 pm

    you guys are forgetting Steinburger’s very unique headstock 🙂

    • MarkGDR
      April 30, 2011 @ 12:05 am

      Parts of that design you couldn’t copyright! “I want to patent the piece that’s not there”… 🙂

  9. JimH
    April 30, 2011 @ 4:39 am

    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.

    • MarkGDR
      April 30, 2011 @ 8:22 am

      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.

      • JimH
        April 30, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

        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!

        • MarkGDR
          April 30, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

          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 🙂

          • JimH
            April 30, 2011 @ 4:38 pm

            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.

          • MarkGDR
            April 30, 2011 @ 7:50 pm

            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…?

  10. Michael
    April 30, 2011 @ 1:22 pm

    None of those could be called a classic. Ugly, yes. Dumb, yes. Evidence of deep mental and emotional issues, they could all be called that. But classic? No.

  11. Beelzebub Binky
    May 2, 2011 @ 10:05 pm

    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:
    Travis Bean
    Parker (seconding the first post, above, for this minimalist beauty)

    • MarkGDR
      May 4, 2011 @ 8:15 am

      I’ve just been looking at the Duesenberg galleries on Google and it’s a bit like Gibson do Pawnshop! Like ’em, they are appealing designs.

  12. Uwe Schmidt
    August 29, 2011 @ 6:03 am

    Great article. I note, that the Ibanez Starfield had a wonderful headstock. It was the forefather of Ibanez designs today (by the way: The guitar was a real killer – in design and tone).

  13. MarkGDR
    August 29, 2011 @ 9:23 am

    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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