Does a slotted headstock have any bearing on sound difference vs solid headstock?


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Sep 13, 2020
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Why slotted? Aesthetically pleasing? Weight? Do the slots make any difference in sound? Just curious. I realize all headstocks can be heavy or light depending on structure and wood. But what about sound?
I have always heard that slotted headstocks were because of weight and aesthetics. I have never heard anyone mention it impacting the timbre of the instrument. I have custom ukes and always avoid slotted headstocks because I think they are ugly; the more wood the better. But I do concede that slotted headstocks are much easier to string up
I have always heard that slotted headstocks were because of weight and aesthetics. I have never heard anyone mention it impacting the timbre of the instrument. I have custom ukes and always avoid slotted headstocks because I think they are ugly; the more wood the better. But I do concede that slotted headstocks are much easier to string up
Ugly, that I agree on.
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No and slotted headstock are harder to string up IMHO as the string rub against the side is the slotted headstock and the finish.
Well, yea. Some are strung up, as I have seen, are backwards. Too close and they do touch.
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slotted headstock are harder to string up IMHO
This is my (admittedly limited) experience, too. Changing the strings on the one ukulele I had with a slotted headstock was horribly fiddly.

I don’t much like the look of them on ukes, either. With the exception of the very elegant, slimline slotted headstocks that are on some high-end brands, I think they tend to look bolted on, like a bit of an afterthought.

FWIW, I find it hard to imagine that the headstock could make a perceptible difference to the sound on a ukulele.
Classical guitars have slotted headstocks almost exclusively. They are a nylon stringed instrument so is a ukulele, maybe there is a correlation. Yes they are harder to string, the break angle is greater going over the nut, some say this can contribute to better tone. A slotted headstock is heavier then a paddle head. I love the look of a well done slothead, I own three of them.
I doubt the weight is a factor in general. The slotted headstock might be lighter on something like a Kanile'a but the one on my AMM3 is very chunky and large.

The one practical reason I have read is the angle might be beneficial since the strings are tied lower under the neck without the headstock needing that angle. That might contribute to sound or at least prevent some buzzing in theory?

I think the main reason is that people simply like the look and it makes the ukulele look more premium to the average person?
It's definitely harder to restring. Given the choice, I will avoid it on my future ukes. I don't mind it too much but I see no practical benefit on a well set up uke, I don't find it any more attractive than a solid headstock and it's little harder for me to restring.
My understanding is that the technical reason/advantage of slotted headstocks is the greater string break angle over the nut that it allows.
Guitar luthiers are trained to be very serious about getting the right string break angle over the nut and saddle.
This is all assuming that the headstock in question has been designed and executed properly.

I own a Scott Wise tenor ukulele that has a flat headstock and VERY slim string break angles over the nut and saddle.
Some guitar luthiers would be beside themselves if they saw it.
I have people talking to me all the time about how wonderful this instrument sounds, so, so much for needing (x) degrees of string break angle over the nut and saddle.
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I really like a slotted headstock on a guitar; the tuners all point straight back and you turn them all in the same direction in the same plane to tune the instrument. On a uke, they do look a little chunky due to the short peghead and overall compact nature of the instrument. I’m thinking UPT are the way to go on a theoretical maybe tenor uke in my future. Besides, I’ve never seen pic of a Loprinzi with a slotted head 😉
I like a nicely done slotted headstock. As for stringing them, I put it in the same category as tying on strings. The 1st couple of times it was watching Youtubes and painfully slow (does the tail come out left or right, how do I thread the last tail the other direction so all tails are held under the tie of the neighboring knot...). Now I don't even think about it. I've heard the discussions of string break but it doesn't make sense to me at the nut. A good string break at the saddle puts downward pressure on the bridge which disperses it to the soundboard. But how does more pressure on the nut help anything (except for maybe Blackbirds with hollow necks)? I do prefer the look and function of backwards facing tuners over "ears", and find tuning easier. But would I pay extra for that, all things being equal? Probably because as I said, I like the look and all these things together make a difference to me. Would I not buy an excellent uke because it has a paddle headstock? Absolutely not, my uke family is probably 60% paddle, 40% slotted. But if I was getting a new uke made to order, it would have a slotted headstock. At the end of the day, it's a look, just the same as a cutaway body (except for 2 or 3 famous players who play up there). And with looks, some like them and some don't. Oh and as for best looking slotted headstocks, definitely I'd vote for the Kanile'a long, thin cobra model with the Gotoh Stealth tuners!

Which brings me to a cool side story, I once bought a Kanile'a Diamond model super body with a crack in it (priced accordingly). Took it to my luthier to get the crack repaired and when I went to pick it up he wanted to give it a buff-out on the buffing wheel. While he was doing it, the wheel grabbed the uke, pulled it out of his hands and slammed it onto the concrete shop floor. Smashed the beautiful Koa body into a million pieces. He felt so bad, all the years he'd buffed guitars, never had a problem. But the neck was untouched. So instead of paying me for the destroyed uke (which I never would have let him do... we'd built 2 guitars and 1 uke together), I told him I'd like him to work with me to make a new body and attach the Kanile'a neck. He had some great bear-claw Adirondack spruce and I had some Ziricote I had bought for my next build. The result came out great and sounded wonderful. I named the uke KaniRick'a

I don't know nothing but I think a lot of things. First off I have two Koolau's one T100 "the worlds best ukulele and one CS slightly different in size and shape. the T100 is all koa and has a paddle head and weighs 23.5 ounces. The CS has a slot head and Koa with a spruce top. It weighs 23.25 ounces. As far as break angle goes Ive chatted with more than a few luthiers over the years and the consensus is that it makes no difference on a ukulele. My CS is my forever uke but if I ever have another built it would be a Ko'olau with a paddle head and machined peg tuners.
from the book on Moore Bettah ukuleles:

"I've always noticed that my slot head ukes usually sound slightly better than my ukes with a standard headstock".

According to Moore, a slotted headstock can often be a bit heavier than a traditional one. As a result, "the extra weight of the heavier tuners on the end of the headstock on a slotted model give the uke more depth and sustain."
I have read several takes on necks and head stocks. Each arguing that one type produces better sound than another. One wood in the neck makes for better sound. Some claim a slotted headstock is lighter because the weight of the wood removed for the slots makes it so. I think they are usually heavier because they tend to be thicker to accommodate the horizontal peg (barrel, shaft?). I have no clear idea about how much the neck and the headfstock really contribute to the sound of the instrument.

I don't think a slotted headstock is more or less difficult to string. It depends on familiarity. If you're used to stringing them, it's no big deal. If you mostly string paddle headstocks, then the slotted ones are going to seem awkward and slower. I suspect that the gear ratios on the tuners for slotted heads are slower than those on paddle style heads. Then again, you have to use more string to get one wrap around the shaft than you do on a peghead tuner. But I haven't tested that theory.

I like the look of most slotted headstocks. Though some are very chunky. (The one on my 1st generation Pono MTSH-C-MS Cedar/Mahogany Master Series was so thick I could barely get a Snark tuner on it.) Some are quite elegant.

I think my tenors are about 30% slotted headstocks.
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