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Start Playing Guitar's 'The Bridge', Vol 4, #2 - Updates and Solving A Heavy Headstock Problem
July 31, 2009's 'The Bridge'

Volume 4, Issue 2: Updates and Solving A Heavy Headstock Problem

New Content on

The SOS Strobe Tuner - A Hands On Review

The SOS Strobe Tuner from Planet Waves is a very unique product. Though it looks like a guitar-pick shaped flashlight, this little wonder is one of the most accurate tuners on the planet and it costs less than $20. Read more.... in our latest Hands On Review.

Other Pages Updated With Corrections and New Material

In addition to our review of the SOS Tuner, several pages were updated with new material, new links, and corrections, including: our Guitar Capo Guide, the Guitar Maintenance page, refreshed information on Tuning Your Guitar, updates on Guitar Humidifiers, changes to the Guitar Fretboard and Guitar String Names pages, updates to the popular Easy Guitar Tips and Change Guitar Strings pages (new videos, including a new video on changing classical guitar strings), as well as new additions to our growing Illustrated Guitar Glossary.

SIDEBAR: Keep up to date with all the changes by subscribing to our RSS feed (click to open a window of help and subscription instructions). It will keep you up to date with new pages and other special announcements. I will not overload you with every grammar-fix, new image, or other minor mod.

Letters! - The Heavy Headstock Problem

I recently received a letter asking if any guitar straps can help solve the problem of a heavy headstock.

This is a problem faced by many who play double neck guitars and bass guitars. When you have so much weight in two necks, or a long neck (as on the bass), the neck of your guitar may dip down, unless you hold it up.

Is there any strap that will help with this problem? The answer depends on how you define 'help'.

No guitar strap can change the laws of physics, so the headstock will continue to dip unless extra weight counter-balances the neck. However, at least one guitar strap on the market can provide some relief. I will talk more about this strap after we talk about the physics of the problem.

Stick with me for a very quick review of grade-school physics and the concepts behind a simple scale, such as the one in the hands of Lady Justice (seen in many American courtrooms).

A simple scale works because a lever (usually a rod or a bar) is perfectly balanced on a pivot point. The pivot point is also called a fulcrum. If you add weight to one side of your lever, it begins to dip in that direction. It will continue to dip until the weight is counter-balanced, or the lever strikes something that restricts it's movement.

In our question, your guitar is acting as a lever. The fulcrum is the center-point of your guitar once you attach your strap. If the weight of your guitar to the headstock-side of the fulcrum is heavier than the weight to the body side, your guitar dips. Can anything help?

There are two solutions to this problem: move the fulcrum; or, add a counter-weight.

To move the fulcrum (the center of balance on your guitar) you would need to move the connection points for your guitar strap. I do not recommend this, but if you know a good luthier it may be something to explore. If you can move the strap pins to locations that place the center of balance in the right spot, the guitar will no longer dip. Of course, your manufacturer knows the same thing, so why didn't he already move the pins? In part, because the pins are placed to achieve at least three purposes: balance the weight of the guitar as much as possible, prevent the instrument from flipping forward, and ensuring the guitar strap stays attached. When you move the strap pins, you could create new problems.

Adding a counter-weight is probably the best way to solve the dipping problem. The easiest way to try this solution is to wrap your cable around the guitar strap (the end near the pickups) several times. This may be enough to counter the weight of a heavy neck. Continue to add wraps until your guitar is balanced. This may take a number of wraps using a typical cable. If you can get your guitar balanced in this way, you have solved one problem, but have presented yourself with a new one: a heavier guitar. Heavy guitars cause straps to press into your shoulders, causing discomfort with prolonged use.

Is there a solution to the problem of a heavy guitar? Thankfully, there are several. Options include: wide straps, cushioned straps, or a strap that distributes the weight over both shoulders, such as the DARE strap from Planet Waves. There are many wide straps and cushioned straps on the market, so the rest of this article will describe the Planet Waves DARE strap.

Planet Waves is known for their willingness to work with various designers who innovate new products. In this case, they worked with Troy Dare to refine a strap of his design, which is now known and distributed as the Planet Waves DARE Guitar Strap. This unique innovation uses both shoulders to equally distribute the weight of your instrument. This is great for heavy instruments and players with back or neck conditions.

The DARE strap works by providing two straps that come from behind the back and over the shoulders. These come back together just before the front strap pin. Your existing connections work, but the load is distributed more evenly over two shoulders instead of one.

The Planet Waves DARE Strap has a suggested retail price of $24.99, but you can pick one up for $13.88 plus $5.95 shipping from Select Sounds (shipping is free for orders of $45 or more).

Go For A Big Finish!

I hope you've enjoyed this issue of The Bridge. See you next month!


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