If you’ve ever played a beefy guitar like an SG or Les Paul, you’ve likely come across the term “neck heavy.” This heavy feeling puts a lot of strain on your body, making it difficult to practice or play for a long time.
Headless guitars face a resurgence, especially among progressive rock and metal players, for their ergonomic and lightweight design. These funky looking guitars are the staple for modern design and a unique synthetic sound that frankly you won’t get from standard guitars.
In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know headless guitars including what they are, the best headless guitar brands, and the top headless guitar models that you should consider.
What is a Headless Guitar?
Compared to the standard electric guitars, the headless guitar does not have a headstock, which means the tuner is moved to the guitar’s bridge.
As a result, the guitar’s weight is much more evenly distributed, lighter in weight, and smaller in size. Headless guitars make an excellent choice for progressive rock and heavy metal players.
These headless guitars have been around since the 1980s and first invented by Ned Steinberger. Now they’re back and trending as a futuristic style of guitar. Many manufacturers produce these guitars like Kiesel, Ibanez, Steinberger, and Strandberg.
The most significant benefits you receive from headless guitars are it’s ergonomically friendly design, better intonation on open notes, easy to use pitch fine-tuning and convenient restringing.
With a headless guitar, you may notice a change between your fretted notes and open notes. These guitars utilize a zero fret nut meaning your open and fretted notes will sound much similar. With standard guitars, the fretted notes rest on a metal fret, while the open notes rest on the plastic nut. This removes the fret buzzing sound across your fretboard and provides a more steady sound.
Additionally, you won’t have to worry about not having your usual design features from the standard guitar. Headless guitars can still incorporate semi-hollow bodies, neck-through-body builds, customized scale lengths, single or double cutaways, and more.
Headless Guitar Features and Benefits
Headless guitars are in a category of their own because they attempt to innovate on the classic electric guitar shape that has essentially remained the same since the 1950’s.
But are headless guitars actually practical enough to warrant purchasing one over a tried and true guitar design, such as a Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster?
Well, here are some the of the main features and benefits of a headless guitar that separates it from a traditional guitar shape.
Ergonomics & Playability
Due to the lack of headstock and the weight that it will bear on you while playing, the headless guitar provides less tension on your shoulders, making it more ergonomic.
If you’ve got a heavy 10-pound guitar with a strap that weighs down on your shoulder, it pinches off the radial and brachial nerves in your shoulder. These nerves run down from your shoulder into your arm and down to your hand. Headless guitars are an excellent way to prevent potential back, shoulder issues.
Generally, headless guitars are better balanced than your typical guitar, meaning that there isn’t any neck dive. Even when you throw a strap on, the guitar sits in the exact same position as the classical style. This reduced weight helps stabilize your guitar in an upright holding position, so that you don’t have to lean forward to play your guitar when standing up.
Additionally, headless guitar players enjoy faster string changes. Because of the guitar hardware and the locking nuts are set up, you don’t have to wrap the strings around the tuners like with a standard guitar. Since the bridge now locates the tuner, you never have to move your picking hand off the bridge to tune or play. When you’re tuning the guitar, you can easily access the tuners with your picking hand and fret notes with the fretting hand. Overall, it’s quite handy and improves makes the instrument incredibly playable.
Having the headstock chopped off means you get a shorter guitar without sacrificing the scale length. A lot of these guitars have a scale length of about 25.5 inches with a ¾ scale.
Since the guitars are much smaller, it’s super portable to travel with. In fact, many of the cases fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane. Some headless guitars may be compact enough to fit a suitcase. Additionally, you’ll enjoy the benefits of lugging a smaller guitar to rehearsal and shows.
Headless guitars tend to be quite lighter than traditional guitars by eliminating the headstock, and a significant portion of wood out of the guitar. Removing the conventional tuning machines reduces the weight. Many headless guitars like the Strandberg weigh about 5 to 6 pounds, while heavy electric guitars can weigh between 9 to 12 pounds.
A reduction in weight also means your guitar may take on less damage. If your headless guitar falls down, there is less momentum built up, and the guitar is much less likely to crack or suffer severe damage.
In the past 25 years, headless guitars have been quite the laughing stock. Many legends such as Tosin Abasi, Misha Mansoor, Pearl Nelson, and Lee McKinney have popularized the headless guitars.
When playing a guitar, the looks matter—many guitar players at first cringe at the sight of these guitars. However, if you’re somebody that is into contemporary playing and the latest modern designs, the headless guitar is an excellent choice. These guitars likely won’t suit your taste for those who only enjoy the vintage Fender or Gibson guitars.
When a guitar looks different, the player tends to play differently. A player must visually see themself playing this instrument and truly enjoy its unique aesthetics to get the most out of this guitar.
Best Headless Guitar Brands
When it comes to headless guitars, there are handful of guitar manufacturers that stand out above the rest.
The best headless guitar brands are:
Manufactured and designed by Ned Steinberger, this brand is best known for its Spirit Collection, which features revolutionary headless design and high-performance pickups. Most Steinberger headless guitars run as low as $300 and usually no more than $1,000.
A popular design was the L-series instrument categorized as the shape of a broom or cricket bat. The headstock was removed, and the tuner was installed on a tailpiece that mounts to the face of the guitar body. The purpose of its design was to remove the unnecessary weight to evenly distribute it’s weight throughout the guitar and use a lighter material like graphite instead of wood.
It had an all synthetic construction giving this guitar a very even tonal response, immediate note attack, and an incredibly smooth feel and sound. For many, the sound of the guitar was very controversial since it had become a bit unnatural and synthetic.
On the other hand, some enjoyed the new sound because it was much more sonically clean. They also have a patented transporting vibrato system called TransTrem designed to adjust the string tensions to allow accurate tuning immediately by using a transposing vibrato lever.
The company was founded in 1979, and since then, it’s drastically come out with new iterations. The M-series guitars had a bolt-on graphite neck, and two twin-cutaway wooden body that had a more traditional look. In it’s latest design is the Synapse series, which includes baritone guitars with a built-in Transcale capo. The build of the series includes a cigar box-style body shape and incorporates many of its popular innovations over the years.
Some of the iconic guitarists and bass players have rocked the Steinberger. A few notable players include Eddie Van Halen, David Bowie, Don Felder, David Gilmour, Cliff Williams, and Peter Cetera.
In 2007, Strandberg launched their unique Ergonomic Guitar System, which later led to their patented EndurNeck™ neck shape. Their design and construction goal was to produce a guitar that eliminated all potential losses of energy in the strings vibration and use the higher performance materials.
EndurNeck™ uses flat surfaces instead of a round profile to offer a more restful grip for the thumb. The neck is purposely built thicker to allow for a better grip. Thinner necks mean your grip is much looser, causing slippage. Its neck is contoured so that the wrist position is guided up to the neck.
Additionally, the chord at the far end of the neck is made to feel easier. The rear section offers unique angles and curvatures to encourage a straighter wrist and correct playing position. It also improves upon the fret access and soloing. In the end, the design is ergonomically friendly to prevent potential injuries and easier playing. These changes put less stress on your muscles, tendons, and joints, so you can relax while playing.
Strandberg offers the 6-string, 7-string, and 8-string guitars along with the 4-string and 5-string basses. Many beginner or intermediate guitarists purchase their Boden Orginal Series. These guitars include a 21st-century modern design featuring a chambered Swamp Ash body with a Roasted Mape neck, Birdseye Maple fretboard, and premium grade Flame Maple top. This helps to produce a lively resonance that players can feel in their hands and body.
Most of the Strandberg guitars typically range between $1500 and $2500. For example, the Strandberg Boden Classic 6 costs $1,495, and the Strandberg Boden Metal 6 costs $1,995. Some of the most famous prog rock guitarists use the Strandberg, such as Plini, Alex Machacek, Per Nilsson, Yvette Young, Paul Masvidal, Sara Longfield, Richard Henshall, and Jack Gardiner.
Founded in 2015, the Keisel guitar brand quickly rose to fame and became one of the leading headless guitar manufacturers. It’s best known for its Vader guitars and basses and their Allan Holdsworth HH2 signature model. This company is located in Southern California and took over the Carvin Corporation. Although the company builds all types of guitars such as acoustic, electric, synthetic, sem-hollow, chambered, and MIDI guitars, their headless guitars are still wildly popular.
Many of their guitars range from $1300 to $2,000. The Vader 6 costs about $1,349, while the Vader VM8 costs $1,749. Many guitarists sang the praises of Kiesel such as Chris Letchford of Scale the Summit using the multiscale signature series. Other endorsers were Michael Hermes, Anna Sentina, and Allan Holdsworth.
One unique service that Kiesel provides is the ability for customers to customize their own guitar. Players can design their guitar exactly how they wanted, whether they have an over-the-top or subdued taste. These guitars are best known for their exotic finishes and wood. They usually have custom controls and colored Kiesel Treated fingerboards.
Established in Poland, Mayones is a guitar manufacturer that specializes in handcrafted and custom instruments. Players have the option to choose from thousands of custom combinations to fit their style. They can pick their desired wood, electronics, pickups, bridges, tuners, and other features. Their guitars have specifically drawn a lot of attention from the Metal community.
Mayones recently released their two headless Hydra BL series guitars featuring a profiled black limba body, 24 extra jumbo stainless steel frets, 5-ply wenge purpleheart neck with an S-Clamp brass element, and ebony fretboard. Also, there are sentient pickups, and ABM 3801 single fine tuner bridge. The S-clamp helps to hide the balls of the strings located at the peak of the neck. The neck is carefully contoured to make the upper frets much more comfortable to play.
Some notable musicians who endorse Mayones guitars are Aaron Marshall from Intervals, Gregor Mackintosh from Paradise Lost, Lena Abe from My Dying Bride, Daniel Antonsson from Dark Tranquility, Ville Friman from Insomnium. Since their instruments are handcrafted and custom made, their guitar prices tend to fall into the premium category.
Mayone guitars range from $3,000 to $5,000. For example, the Mayones Hydra Elite 6 costs $3,218, while the Mayones Hydra Elite VF costs $4,346.
The 5 Best Headless Guitars
So, now that we’ve discussed the best headless guitar brands, now it’s time to look at some of the most popular headless guitar models on the market.
And since headless guitars vary greatly in price, we’ll be looking at the best headless guitars in every price range to help you find something that is within your budget.
So in short, the best headless guitars on the market are:
- Strandberg Boden Original 6 Headless Guitar
- Steinberger GT-PROWH1 Headless Guitar
- Kiesel Vader V6 Headless Guitar
- Mayones Hydra Elite Headless Guitar
- Traveler Guitar 6-String Acoustic-Electric Headless Guitar
Since 1982, Strandberg has pride themselves on innovation and modern design. They are best known for their ergonomically friendly guitars and unique EndurNeck™design.
- Body Type: Solidbody, Chambered
- 6 Strings
- Neck Shape: Endur Neck
- Neck Material: Roasted Maple
- Scale Length: 25″ to 25.5″
- Nut Material: Graphite
- Controls: 1x master tone, 1x master volume, 5-way blade pickup switch
The Stranberg Boden Original 6 is designed for ergonomic playing, an optimal balanced tone, and clear articulation. The Boden is built with a chambered swamp ash body to produce quality resonance with a three-piece roasted maple neck that is carbon fiber reinforced to add a bright tone and defined attack.
Strandberg offers it’s patented EndurNeck™ design to eliminate the weight of the headstock and relieve muscle tension from playing. Its carbon-reinforced construction prevents your neck from snapping. Its roasted maple 25.5-inch multiscale fingerboard allows each string to have its own scale length.
Players have greater diversity by bending high notes easier and low strings to intonate better at higher tensions. It includes a locking nut style system that works by clamping down the strings’ ends for tuning. This headless guitar features 2 Suhr passive humbucking pickups that generate heavy tones.
The Boden 6 is ideal for intermediate to advanced players who want a lighter alternative to playing the guitar. But who also love the synthetic sound and heavy tones that this instrument can offer, especially when playing heavy metal or progressive rock. The prices of the Boden Original 6 range from $1500-$2500.
- Light and portable
- Comfortable to play
- Ergonomic, reduces risk of injury
- Easier bend, tighter lows and great intonation
- Heavy tones, ideal for prog rock
- It takes time to get used to fanned frets and neck profile
The Steinberger brand is one of the most well-known headless guitar brands in the world. They’ve been continually iterating their guitars since 1979, and their latest headless guitar is the Steinberger GT-PROWH1.
- Body material – Solid-wood
- Color – White
- Guitar bridge system – Tremelo
- Neck material type – Hard maple
- Number of strings – 6
- Dimensions – 44” x 18” x 8”
- Guitar pickup configuration – Humbucker
This Spirit GT-Pro guitar offers a similar body shape as their famous Steinberger GL series, except with a few key additions. The Spirit GT Pro sports a 3-piece hard Maple neck-thru construction and has an adjustable truss rod for additional stability and sturdiness.
For its size, their wood construction allows for excellent resonance and sustain. When played through a Fender Reverb, you’ll find that the instrument is packed with a clean and punchy sound. Also, no muddiness comes out. The tone is clear and bright. Using it’s patented double bridge with R-Trem locking Tremolo and their 40:1 ratio direct pull tuner stays in tune despite frequent and long travel.
If you’re always commuting and trying to learn the guitar, you can easily increase your practice time with the Spirit GT-Pro. The price of the Steinberger solid-body headless guitar ranges from $300 to $650. It’s a great budget guitar for traveling and practicing on the go.
- Excellent travel guitar
- Resonates well and great sustain
- High gain, good saturation, and tight sounds
- Excellent value
- Pickups could be better
Kiesel guitars have been designing custom guitars to fit the needs of their players. They’ve recently expanded to headless guitars with the customizability for you to select your choice of body, neck woods, inlays, finishes, fretwire, hardware, and electronics.
- Scale length – 25.5”
- Body – alder
- Fingerboard – 20” radius, ebony color
- Hardware – black
- Neck – Maple eastern hardrock
- Frets – 24 stainless steel
- Pickup – Kiesel K12 humbuckers
- Weight – 6 lbs
- Dimensions – 31.5 long, 1.66” thick body and 12” wide body
Kiesel intentionally constructed the V6 with wood instead of composites to match the tone of standard guitars. The material and construction guitar mimics many of the larger Kiesel with headstocks. By using their standard tuning, you will notice this guitar produces clean and crunchy sounds along with heavy distortion.
The harder the strings are strummed, the more tightness and drive you’ll be able to generate. Also, the guitar’s base includes an Alnico V magnet that creates an open without sacrificing its huge dynamics or powerful tone.
This guitar is ideal for advanced players looking to remove the burden of heavy guitars, but still want amazing tones from their headless travel guitars. The price of the Kiesel Vader 6 headless guitar ranges between $1,350 and $1,600. Although these guitars are marketed as boutique luxurious style instruments, it’s not quite as expensive as other boutique guitars.
The reason is that Kiesel can cut out the middleman who marks the prices and sells it at a small fraction of what would be sold at retail. You likely won’t find the Kiesel Vadar anywhere else besides their official website.
- Lightweight and easy to hold while playing
- Ergonomically friendly
- Neck dive is non-existent
- Exceptional full tone with responsive string action
- Less multi-scale options
Mayones a is Polish guitar brand that is known for making some of the most prestigious guitars in the world. They are main catered to the metal guitar audience, but are versatile enough to play anything. They're a premium guitar brand and have the price tag to match.
Mayones brings a unique value to the market by individually handcrafting all of their guitars and specifically gearing their guitars for the progressive rock and metal world only. As the trends of headless guitars become increasingly popular, the company released its latest Mayones Hydra.
- Body – mahogany
- Neck heel – special contour
- Frets – 24 extra jumbo
- Nut – Graph Tech Black
- Scale Length – 25.4″
- Radius – 16″
- Double action truss rod
- Neck – 5 plug wenge-purpleheart
- Pickups – H-H/Mayones TKO by Bare Knuckle
- Controls – Mayones Treble Bleed Mod, 3-way lever switch, 1x volume, push-pull pot for pickups with coil-split option
Why it’s good – The first thing you notice when you feel the Mayones Hydra is how exquisitely crafted it is. It’s 16″ flat ebony fretboard and contoured heel makes it easy to access the upper section of the 24-fret neck. This improves the overall playability and allows players to do fast runs easily.
Both of their pickups allow for a substantial amount of volume and articulate sounds. This guitar offers a neck pickup split that enables players to hear an acoustic-like clarity even when strumming open chords. Using the coils split and cranking the gains up high, you will hear surprising vintage sounds. You’ll find a tighter low end and clear articulation for fast rhythms.
This guitar is ideal for players who enjoy customization in their guitar and plan to make this their primary guitar for performance and live gigs. Due to the handcrafted construction, the Mayones Hydra Elite headless guitar ranges between $3,000 and $4,500.
- Surprising clean tones
- Impeccably built
- Excellent access to whole fretboard
- Power sounds
- Expensive guitar
Traveler Guitars are an excellent headless guitar brands that cater to audiences on a budget or those who specifically want a guitar for traveling. They have a very compact design while offering all of the features you would expect from a full sized guitar.
The Traveler Guitar brand was inspired by the beautiful surroundings in Redlands, California, in 1992. Their product is based on portability and playing on the road. Their guitars are versatile for playing on the beach, mountain, or even open mics.
- Weight – 2 lbs
- Dimensions – 28” x 12” x 5”
- Number of Strings – 6
- Hand Orientation – Right
- Body Material – Maple
- Back Material – Maple
- Pickup – Acoustic Piezo
- Output – standard ¼”
The Traveler’s guitar claims to be the lightest and smallest full-scale guitar on the market today. Compared to a full-sized acoustic, it is 43% lighter and 31% shorter, making it ideal for travel. It measures 28″ long and only weighs 2 lbs, so you can just pop it in the handy gig bag and easily fit this in the overhead compartment bin. Essentially this guitar has everything a full-sized acoustic and electric has but compact.
This guitar is versatile enough for you also to play amazing sounds with an amp. Use it’s ¼ inch output to plug into an amp and jam away. Also, their under-saddle piezo pickups offer a bright and punchy acoustic sound.
The Traveler’s acoustic and electric guitar is the ideal instrument for travelers who want to practice and play at a full-scale experience using a tiny guitar. This guitar produces extremely clean acoustic and country songs, but has the power for heavy metal songs. These quiet headless guitars typically range from $200 to $800.
- Great bargain
- Good option for silent practicing
- Light and easy to carry
- Action, sustain, and color are fantastic
- Has some fret buzz
The headless guitar is by far one of the most functional and diverse guitars out there. It might feel awkward to play such a thin and lightweight guitar at first, but with a bit of practice, you’ll enjoy the benefits. Your body will thank you for it! These guitars offer a lot of upside in terms of ergonomics, playability, convenience, and sound with very little downside.
With that said, it’s important to familiarize yourself with each manufacturer and the popular headless guitars to see what suits you best. We hope you’ve gained a lot of insight from our complete guide on headless guitars.