He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Headstock

The Ergonomic Body Design of the Pasquale Revelator 8 Guitar

I realize that most of the players who will view this blog are too young to get the reference to the song in the title above. I am definitely dating myself here by using a reference from The Hollie’s 1969 Classic Song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” as part of the title for my latest blog about the design of our Pasquale Revelator 8 Guitar, but I felt it was an appropriate segue as we begin our dialog about the ergonomics and balance of guitars, in particular to new Revelator 8 design.

As I had mentioned earlier in my previous blog about our latest extended range instrument, we had the chance to develop an entirely brand new design for an 8 string guitar for our PCG Artist, Drew Creal. One of the features that Drew wanted in his design was the use of our Pasquale Modern 24 HTM body style. As we set out to design the guitar, the first challenge we faced was getting 8 strings in the space of a guitar body that was designed for 6. We would need to enlarge and expand on the design of our original Modern 24 design to accommodate the wider neck without sacrificing the balance of the guitar.

So let’s get back to our clever little title of this blog. In setting out to design this guitar (or any guitar for that matter) there is one very important detail that cannot be overlooked. You guessed it boys and girls… the headstock! Why is the headstock so important? Because you must factor in the weight of the headstock fully loaded with tuners, locking nuts and whatever else will be on there in order to correctly balance the guitar.

If the headstock is too heavy, the guitar balance will be off. If full weight of the headstock is not accounted for in the body design, then the headstock will outweigh the body and the second that you take your hand off the neck to “Raise Your Goblet Of Rock” and get the crowd cheering, the headstock will drop to the floor and you will experience a phenomenon known as “Pants on the Ground Syndrome”. It’s that feeling that you have when you always have to pull up your pants. This is the case for just about every Jackson V model guitar (and every other V guitar for that matter) that was made in the 80’s and 90’s. It is incredibly annoying and makes for a miserable playing experience.

How does the weight of the headstock factor into the body design? In order to “counterbalance” the headstock, the weight of the body in one direction must be in direct proportion to the weight of the tuners pulling down in the other direction.

To fully understand how this works we need to understand the concept of the “Center Line”. It’s a pretty simple concept. The Center Line runs directly down the center of the neck and the body. It starts in the dead center of the nut and runs dead center through the heel and hits dead center at the bridge. It is the single standard of measure that allows the neck, bridge, pickups, tuners and strings to all align properly so the that everything fits where it’s supposed to.

Once the center line is established we must take into consideration the weight of the tuners on the headstock, which will pull the neck down, and then counterbalance with enough weight below the centerline to pull the headstock up and allow the guitar to hang in perfect balance when it’s slung over your shoulder on a strap.

It’s not enough just to use a heavy piece of wood to offset the weight because the weight of the wood in the wrong place can actually add to the weight of the headstock and not counterbalance it.  The weight must be in the guitar body design below the centerline in order to counter balance properly.

With that concept in mind we had an even more daunting task with this design because we were going to use and Extended Fret Scale for this model. In order to get the maximum sonic performance from this model we were going to use a 27.5” fret scale which was a full 2” longer than all of our other guitar designs. This meant that the weight of the tuners would be greater than our previous models because in addition to having one more tuner than our 7 string model, the tuners would be 2” further away from the bridge, thus moving the fulcrum point of the guitar which is the balance point that the guitar tilts on when playing.

To understand how this concept affects the design, try to imagine moving a very large heavy stone with your bear hands. It will probably be very difficult, but it would get easier if you used a pry bar. It would get even easier with a longer pry bar because the longer the bar, the less force you would need to use.  What this translates into in our design world is the fact that the headstock would now drop even faster because the scale was longer and it would take more body weight to counter balance it.

Now at this point you are probable saying to yourself “I thought this blog was about the body design, why are you wasting all this time talking about the headstock?” Well hopefully now you understand all the elements that are considered before we ever lay a stroke to the drawing board of a new body design. Because no matter how cool it looks, if it’s uncomfortable to play then none of the cool stuff matters. The balance had to be right before we moved forward with the design.

So, we had our challenges and we were off to the races. We factored in all of these variables of headstock weight, the added scale length, the additional space needed for the 8th string as well as the 8th tuning peg and set out to overdrive our Modern 24 design into the New Revelator 8 Guitar.

The first thing we did was add a full 1/2” around the entire body design of our Pasquale Modern 24 Guitar template. This would add one full extra inch from the top to the bottom of the guitar and allow all the space we would need to get a full 8 strings onto the guitar while still allowing us to keep our custom contour heel which allows access to all 24 frets.

While this would accommodate the spacing needed for the strings but this would not compensate for the added weight of the tuners and the scale length. To accommodate for that we added an additional 3/4" of wood below the center line to the design of the lower bout of the guitar to add the additional weight on the bottom to compensate for the counter balance. The result we got was ideal. When slung with a strap either high or low the guitar hangs perfectly with the neck is always angled slightly upward in a playing position. Of course this means that there will be no more “Pants on the Ground Syndrome”.

Once we had the balance where we wanted and we had the extra spaces need for the additional strings we set our bridge design for the 27.5” scale. Once we had the bridge placement we located our pickups to get the maximum harmonic frequency response and our design was done.
Thus, the Pasquale Custom Guitars Revelator 8 Guitar body design was complete.

Stay tuned for our next blog articled called…

“Is That A Fret Scale In Your Pocket or Are You Just Glad To See Me?”

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