Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Stephen Faulk
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Stephen Faulk » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:44 am

That's my great, great uncle George.

You won't invent anything new in headstock angle unless you invent a force field that will allow a headstock to be pitched forward and the force field holds the strings in the nut slots.

There's a science project.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Trevor Gore
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Trevor Gore » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:27 am

Alan Carruth wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:04 pm
Trevor Gore points out that reducing the angle of the strings over the nut can reduce the change in tension when the strings are fretted. This is a consequence of the string sliding a little in the nut slot, so that the back strings between the nut and the tuner rollers can stretch a bit. It should also reduce intonation issues, particularly in low positions. For this reason he advocates 'straight pull'.
One of my numerous guitars is a Strat. They weren't around when great uncle George was a lad, though one or two of you may be familiar with this style of guitar. I use it without string trees, and I would guess the break angle at the nut on the 1st string is ~2 degrees. It's well set up (of course) and works fine with this minuscule break angle. Interestingly, some of the slingers playing bluesier stuff (SRV was one) used left handed necks on their Strats (as right handed players) which did a few things. It made the tuner buttons more accessible and very much shortened the overall length of the 1st string as well as increasing the 1st string break angle. What it did was make bends "easier" in that the string didn't have to be pushed as far across the fretboard to get a semitone (or three) of bend. This is because a shorter string is longitudinally stiffer and so rises in frequency more for a given bend displacement.

Shift over to classical guitars, I've made them with head stock angles of 7.5 degrees (the 0.5 is important) to 15 degrees. The 7.5 degree ones are slot heads and that's my standard for classical guitars. I use 11 degrees or 15 degree if I'm using planetary pegs. If you're in to intonation (I am) one of the things you want to know is whether or not the string moves over the nut when the string is fretted, or sticks at the nut. It's important to know because if it sticks it plays sharper than if it doesn't on fretted notes due to the aforementioned difference in longitudinal string stiffness. If you drop the head angle and keep the string pulls as straight as possible there is less wrap angle over the nut, less "capstan" friction, and the string will almost certainly move over the nut when fretted. With higher head stock angles sometimes it moves, sometimes it doesn't, which subtly affects your intonation. So for me, low angles work best because they are more predictable in performance with the added feature that the string tension feels less, because the tension doesn't rise as much when the note is fretted or plucked harder.

As to the tone, no difference, except it plays more in tune with the lower head stock angle.
Trevor Gore: Classical Guitar Design and Build

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Stephen Faulk » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:01 pm

You use almost the same degree as I do. About 12-13 on rollers, and 14 -15 on pegs. I've built a lot of wood peg flamencos and they don't need any more than 15. I've done 17 maybe 18 once or twice. Not needed.

What does help is to not jamb the two 'e' strings right up on the nut like some mid 20th century Spanish guitars do. It's nice to have some distance between the first two pegs and the nut because that makes the after length of the G string in particular more strechy.

I also set the roller tuners a wee bit higher than most people and that makes for a slightly longer string ramp, but so what... I like a slightly longer peg head that allows the pegs to take the string coming off the peg about 1-3/4" off the nut. And maybe more. The two 'e' strings or the A for that matter don't bother me as much of at all like the d,g and b- the e will be set very low at the nut, then I set the nut up with slots that don't grab the string.

I've made other stuff like uke's and Renaissance guitars vihuela with less than 10 degrees with pegs, doesn't hurt. In fact on those sometimes uke tuners poke up so much that the string winds on the post too high for shallow head angle. Pegs can be wrapped close to the veneer.

I did notice a long time ago that past 17 degrees I didn't like the look or feel, even though you can find old condes with that much and more head angle. It's over kill in my observation. Cases also become a problem. It lowers the d and g pegs quite far and that can be a situation.

However, I used to think pegs themselves needed to b fit with as much shaft after length on the back of the headstock, not so anymore. I set the rings and grip closer to the head, leaving about 25 to 28 milli of shaft not counting the rings. It makes less sheer force on the peg and I think they work better. Another thing about peg head angle is that you can also pitch the axis of the peg towards the nut a degree or two in order to pull the peg to the nut. It helps thwart that spinner peg if one works back out of the hole. These tricks were passed onto me by Gene Clark and the shorter shaft after length was a tip from Aaron Green.

I also like Chuck Herrin and his line Pegheds, the same principles apply, but the axis of pegheds needn't be tilted. I used some of his first batches of pegs and he's always been extremely kind and helpful. Other than that one set I put in backwards.........the pegheds always please.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Beowulf
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Beowulf » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:30 pm

Alan Carruth wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:04 pm
Trevor Gore points out that reducing the angle of the strings over the nut can reduce the change in tension when the strings are fretted. This is a consequence of the string sliding a little in the nut slot, so that the back strings between the nut and the tuner rollers can stretch a bit. It should also reduce intonation issues, particularly in low positions. For this reason he advocates 'straight pull'.
Interesting...what would a listener notice with reduced intonation issues (assuming the intonation problem was slight/moderate to begin with, and not so severe it hurt the ears)?
1971 Yamaha GC-10 (Hideyuki Ezaki)
2017 Yamaha GC82S (Akio Naniki/Naohiro Kawashima)

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Beowulf
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Beowulf » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:36 pm

Stephen Faulk wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:44 am
That's my great, great uncle George.

You won't invent anything new in headstock angle unless you invent a force field that will allow a headstock to be pitched forward and the force field holds the strings in the nut slots.

There's a science project.
I'm not trying to "invent" something new in head stock angle, I'm trying to explore the question: does head stock angle influence tone? If it does, then the "new" would be a consideration of the contribution that variations in this parameter make to the overall tone character of classical guitars.
1971 Yamaha GC-10 (Hideyuki Ezaki)
2017 Yamaha GC82S (Akio Naniki/Naohiro Kawashima)

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Beowulf
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Beowulf » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:53 pm

Trevor Gore wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:27 am
Alan Carruth wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 7:04 pm
Trevor Gore points out that reducing the angle of the strings over the nut can reduce the change in tension when the strings are fretted. This is a consequence of the string sliding a little in the nut slot, so that the back strings between the nut and the tuner rollers can stretch a bit. It should also reduce intonation issues, particularly in low positions. For this reason he advocates 'straight pull'.
One of my numerous guitars is a Strat. They weren't around when great uncle George was a lad, though one or two of you may be familiar with this style of guitar. I use it without string trees, and I would guess the break angle at the nut on the 1st string is ~2 degrees. It's well set up (of course) and works fine with this minuscule break angle. Interestingly, some of the slingers playing bluesier stuff (SRV was one) used left handed necks on their Strats (as right handed players) which did a few things. It made the tuner buttons more accessible and very much shortened the overall length of the 1st string as well as increasing the 1st string break angle. What it did was make bends "easier" in that the string didn't have to be pushed as far across the fretboard to get a semitone (or three) of bend. This is because a shorter string is longitudinally stiffer and so rises in frequency more for a given bend displacement.

Shift over to classical guitars, I've made them with head stock angles of 7.5 degrees (the 0.5 is important) to 15 degrees. The 7.5 degree ones are slot heads and that's my standard for classical guitars. I use 11 degrees or 15 degree if I'm using planetary pegs. If you're in to intonation (I am) one of the things you want to know is whether or not the string moves over the nut when the string is fretted, or sticks at the nut. It's important to know because if it sticks it plays sharper than if it doesn't on fretted notes due to the aforementioned difference in longitudinal string stiffness. If you drop the head angle and keep the string pulls as straight as possible there is less wrap angle over the nut, less "capstan" friction, and the string will almost certainly move over the nut when fretted. With higher head stock angles sometimes it moves, sometimes it doesn't, which subtly affects your intonation. So for me, low angles work best because they are more predictable in performance with the added feature that the string tension feels less, because the tension doesn't rise as much when the note is fretted or plucked harder.

As to the tone, no difference, except it plays more in tune with the lower head stock angle.
What is the effect of that additional 0.5° in the 7.5° classical head stock angle, and why is it important? It seems to be a very small change.

This intonation effect is most interesting. Might the interaction of fundamental and harmonic variations due to intonation errors result in changes to the timbre of the instrument? I know when my instrument is as "right on" in tuning as I can achieve, the overall sound smooths out, sings and sounds sweeter and more lyrical. The same occurs when my wife's piano is "perfectly" voiced. Undesired dissonances disappear and the harmonic envelope blooms. This is not to say that a sharp attack is blunted, rather, it sounds cleaner and with no harshness. Harshness sounds as though there is too much distortion in the sound.
1971 Yamaha GC-10 (Hideyuki Ezaki)
2017 Yamaha GC82S (Akio Naniki/Naohiro Kawashima)

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Stephen Faulk » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:18 am

Beowulf wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:36 pm
Stephen Faulk wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:44 am
That's my great, great uncle George.

You won't invent anything new in headstock angle unless you invent a force field that will allow a headstock to be pitched forward and the force field holds the strings in the nut slots.

There's a science project.
I'm not trying to "invent" something new in head stock angle, I'm trying to explore the question: does head stock angle influence tone? If it does, then the "new" would be a consideration of the contribution that variations in this parameter make to the overall tone character of classical guitars.
If headstock angle were a significant factor, we'd be constantly talking about it. It's one of the things that's been explored to death to see if there is anything there, from adding lead wieghts and asking if it is tone enhancement....etc., but the convention keeps coming back.

If you're not familiar with Richard Schneider's work on headstock it might be interesting to review. Or read Aaron Green's GAL essay on peg head guitars, or the studies by Stewart Pollens or A. Batov on headstock design in early instruments. Or look at transitional headstocks from Spanish double course to single six string guitars. There's a lot of things to study- but one thing you see over a few hundreds years span is that headstock pitch doesn't change very much, it's almost one of the only constantly returning conventions in design.

But you could set up your own test by building a neck with a headstock that can toggle from 0° flat to 45° - make a neck with a hinge under the nut ( maybe use a cheap or broken guitar) then use drafting table hinges to lock the head at different angles. You can get the hinges in almost any good hardware shop. ( Or lock the angle by whatever means you can come up with.)

Then string up the guitar, set up the nut carefully and test the intonation at progressively steeper angles. You probably want to set a control test at the original neck angle. Then analyze the intonation there. Then start from zero and to higher angles at a regular interval.

Does the tone get better anywhere? Do you learn anything about intonation ? Some people arrive at this by just having made lots of guitars, but you could blast through that with one good experiment. The only thing to remember is not to get 'analysis paralysis'.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Beowulf
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Beowulf » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:33 am

Stephen Faulk wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:18 am
If headstock angle were a significant factor, we'd be constantly talking about it. It's one of the things that's been explored to death to see if there is anything there, from adding lead wieghts and asking if it is tone enhancement....etc., but the convention keeps coming back.

If you're not familiar with Richard Schneider's work on headstock it might be interesting to review. Or read Aaron Green's GAL essay on peg head guitars, or the studies by Stewart Pollens or A. Batov on headstock design in early instruments. Or look at transitional headstocks from Spanish double course to single six string guitars. There's a lot of things to study- but one thing you see over a few hundreds years span is that headstock pitch doesn't change very much, it's almost one of the only constantly returning conventions in design.

But you could set up your own test by building a neck with a headstock that can toggle from 0° flat to 45° - make a neck with a hinge under the nut ( maybe use a cheap or broken guitar) then use drafting table hinges to lock the head at different angles. You can get the hinges in almost any good hardware shop. ( Or lock the angle by whatever means you can come up with.)

Then string up the guitar, set up the nut carefully and test the intonation at progressively steeper angles. You probably want to set a control test at the original neck angle. Then analyze the intonation there. Then start from zero and to higher angles at a regular interval.

Does the tone get better anywhere? Do you learn anything about intonation ? Some people arrive at this by just having made lots of guitars, but you could blast through that with one good experiment. The only thing to remember is not to get 'analysis paralysis'.
Thanks for the suggestions...I will see if I can track down a few of those articles. The variation in head stock angles is not large and there seem to be only a few makers who prefer the flatter style. My 1971 GC-10 has 14° and my 2018 GC82S has 7° (also the GC71). The GC82C on the other hand has the steeper angle. Quite different instruments, so in comparison it is really not possible to isolate the effect of the head stock angle. I am not sure of the choice made by the present Hausers. So, it seems I will be left with the question as to why a change was made if there is no difference to the sound? I still suspect that Akio Naniki (designer of the GC71 & GC82S) heard or thought he heard some change that was desirable in conjunction with the complete instrument.

I have my old Harmony classical (1962) and I may give a shot at working out a way of changing the effective head angle and trying a little experiment... :mrgreen:
1971 Yamaha GC-10 (Hideyuki Ezaki)
2017 Yamaha GC82S (Akio Naniki/Naohiro Kawashima)

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Trevor Gore
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Trevor Gore » Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:39 am

Beowulf wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:53 pm
What is the effect of that additional 0.5° in the 7.5° classical head stock angle, and why is it important? It seems to be a very small change.
Sorry, that was a joke to wind up the OCs among us. It had been a long day...
Beowulf wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:53 pm
This intonation effect is most interesting...
Yes, in tune always sounds a lot better, as you well know. Unfortunately, it's not all that common. Getting the open strings in tune is rarely good enough. A truly in tune guitar is a revelation. A pro player was playing a couple of my instruments today. One had generic saddle-only compensation, the other was customised to the string set at nut and saddle. Chalk and cheese.
Trevor Gore: Classical Guitar Design and Build

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Stephen Faulk » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:43 am

That's great if you can get a player to finally settle on a set.

Nice 0.5 joke....I've never fallen for that one. It looked like a land mine.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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Beowulf
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Beowulf » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:26 pm

Trevor Gore wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:39 am
Beowulf wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:53 pm
What is the effect of that additional 0.5° in the 7.5° classical head stock angle, and why is it important? It seems to be a very small change.
Sorry, that was a joke to wind up the OCs among us. It had been a long day...
:lol: ...being a flaming intuitive, I resemble that remark... :mrgreen:
Beowulf wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:53 pm
This intonation effect is most interesting...
Trevor Gore wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 4:39 am
Yes, in tune always sounds a lot better, as you well know. Unfortunately, it's not all that common. Getting the open strings in tune is rarely good enough. A truly in tune guitar is a revelation. A pro player was playing a couple of my instruments today. One had generic saddle-only compensation, the other was customised to the string set at nut and saddle. Chalk and cheese.
Perhaps in a few years when I become dissatisfied with the intonation on my instruments, I will try making a compensated nut. Oh dear, by that time my hearing will have deteriorated to the point where I will be unable to discern the difference...what a terrible fate: lacking the resources to exercise one's OC inclinations... :wink:
1971 Yamaha GC-10 (Hideyuki Ezaki)
2017 Yamaha GC82S (Akio Naniki/Naohiro Kawashima)

ernandez R
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by ernandez R » Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:10 pm

Stephen Faulk wrote:
Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:01 pm
You use almost the same degree as I do. About 12-13 on rollers, and 14 -15 on pegs. I've built a lot of wood peg flamencos and they don't need any more than 15. I've done 17 maybe 18 once or twice. Not needed.

What does help is to not jamb the two 'e' strings right up on the nut like some mid 20th century Spanish guitars do. It's nice to have some distance between the first two pegs and the nut because that makes the after length of the G string in particular more strechy.

I also set the roller tuners a wee bit higher than most people and that makes for a slightly longer string ramp, but so what... I like a slightly longer peg head that allows the pegs to take the string coming off the peg about 1-3/4" off the nut. And maybe more. The two 'e' strings or the A for that matter don't bother me as much of at all like the d,g and b- the e will be set very low at the nut, then I set the nut up with slots that don't grab the string.

I've made other stuff like uke's and Renaissance guitars vihuela with less than 10 degrees with pegs, doesn't hurt. In fact on those sometimes uke tuners poke up so much that the string winds on the post too high for shallow head angle. Pegs can be wrapped close to the veneer.

I did notice a long time ago that past 17 degrees I didn't like the look or feel, even though you can find old condes with that much and more head angle. It's over kill in my observation. Cases also become a problem. It lowers the d and g pegs quite far and that can be a situation.

However, I used to think pegs themselves needed to b fit with as much shaft after length on the back of the headstock, not so anymore. I set the rings and grip closer to the head, leaving about 25 to 28 milli of shaft not counting the rings. It makes less sheer force on the peg and I think they work better. Another thing about peg head angle is that you can also pitch the axis of the peg towards the nut a degree or two in order to pull the peg to the nut. It helps thwart that spinner peg if one works back ther with the expeout of the hole. These tricks were passed onto me by Gene Clark and the shorter shaft after length was a tip from Aaron Green.

I also like Chuck Herrin and his line Pegheds, the same principles apply, but the axis of pegheds needn't be tilted. I used some of his first batches of pegs and he's always been extremely kind and helpful. Other than that one set I put in backwards.........the pegheds always please.
Not sure I've the ear to discern the intonation changes or issues but a fasanating discussion.

What I really love is the little nuggets that come out of the wood work like the peg info in this quoted post.

I just strung up my second with machine heads etc and I don't care for the heft and poor balance. Want to just build peged classicals and not bother with the expense of the planetary pegs.


H R
I hate sanding wood or anything else for that matter I just happen to be good at it...

Stephen Faulk
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Re: Revisiting Head Stock Angle

Post by Stephen Faulk » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:31 am

The classical world is resistant to pegs, they don't like them, or about 85% of players are not interested for various reasons. And they'll tell you in no uncertain terms why your interest in pegs sucks. If you want to learn first hand about the phenomenon called ' mansplaining' start talking about pegs to classical guitarists. Lol - they will explain it to you, and they'll almost all be void of any practical or performance experience with peg guitars.

However, I love wooden peg guitars and many other people too, just not the majority. Pegheds are a good product, and not any harder to use and install than wood pegs. Actually wood pegs are more difficult to get perfect, it takes a lot of set up and sharp accurate peg shavers and reamers.

You can use a guitar tuner with a strobe light and a needle indicator to assess a lot of intonation issues, and the great thing is you can train your ear to hear finer and finer details in intonation.
Patience at the bending iron pays in rounded dividends!

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