This torque (torq=dist*force, or moment of force) difference from the change to a headless is 13 in*lbs about our total center of gravity(CG). The body’s CG is 3.2” away from the 21st fret, show left of center. So, going headless let’s our guitar have a 4lb lighter body (13in*lb/3.2in) balanced without neckdive! Time to write home…
Headstock removal alone reduces our total length 5 inches at the same scale length. Play it more places, it won’t hit mic stands walls, mates, etc… nearly as often. Killer in tiny houses, small cramped studios, and on the road. Ergonomics not only include how well the guitar works with your body, it also includes how much freedom you and your guitar have in your environment
Sound and Playability
Ned Steinberger brought the first popular headless guitars to market; and its unique graphite construction led some to believe this was the “headless sound”. There really isn’t a “headless sound” per se, as the scale length, pickups, pickup locations, body construction, neck materials, etc. all have more significant roles to play in the sound. However, there still are quite a few small differences in sound and playability.
The overhung mass of a headstock acts like a cantilever diving board vibrating sometimes with and sometimes against the neck. This occurs in all planes and torsional axis’s and puts energy into and out of the neck. This extraneous energy encourages partial ghost(dead) and wolf notes in various places on the fretboard. Helmut Fleischer (’99) showed how even different shaped headstocks (Les Paul and Strat) effected the vibrational modes of the neck. Less overhung mass and distance equals fewer odd notes/tones from outside influences.
The guitar’s resistance to rotation about the CG comes from the rotational inertia (mass*distance^2). With the headstock and tuner mass removed 22” from the CG, there is a significant reduction in the guitar’s ability to resist rotating. Many players describe playing on a Tau-6 as “effortless”. We think the reduced rotational inertia is a good part of that.
Sustain differences are minor but still the air eats string energy and hurts sustain.
Headless guitars and ones with locked down strings have slightly different playability. A crisper response is noted as less bending is required to change pitch. So, side and axial movements for finger and wrist vibrato is easier. We believe our responsive pick attack and note to note clarity is more from overall rigidity and bridge construction, rather than string lock down benefits. The downside of all this is a guitar that is slightly less forgiving of slop.
Behind-the-nut strings try and sing along with your playing with ringing errant noises. Not good for recording or certain types of playing where this noise stands out. Headless guitars typically don’t need gym socks, scrunchies, or foam rubber dampeners, etc. Too much dampening leads to worse tuning problems from afterlength string friction, too little and the noise is still there.
Headless guitars and lock-down string guitars keep in tune longer without the changing tension of afterlength strings (thru nut-stiction) affecting the tuned string tension. Clean lubricated roller ball nuts and lubricated graphite nuts help with this issue on typical headstocks. Headless have less total wood parallel with the entire string which helps with tuning changes due to humidity.
Some consider the tuner relocation from the headstock to the bridge a benefit, adjusting tune with the pick hand. While others prefer the headstock location, most get used to either without an issue. The lock-down Floyd Rose with standard headstock is tuned from the bridge side as well.
Fast string changes. Most modern headless guitars use standard single ball strings and have far faster string changes than typical guitars. Headless guitars using double ball end or SpeedLoader strings are even faster but suffer from limited string availability and selection. Double ball end survives still, SpeedLoaders didn’t.
Headless have way less chance of broken necks in a fall, ouch $!. Not having a whipping headstock-tuner mass helps during an impact. Also, the standard guitar has a high likelihood of contact with the furthest point out on the headstock, exercising more mechanical leverage against the nut area during a fall.
Travel friendly A typical headless will be a minimum of 5” shorter, ours is 9” shorter at the same scale length. Works great with overhead luggage, no gorilla handled check-in bag needed. A guitar that stays with you comfortably doesn’t require a hardcase. Losing even more travel weight.
The Tau-6 wasn’t designed to be a travel-guitar, otherwise we would make it with a foldable neck. It’s just travel-friendly, another side benefit of good ergonomics.