Are gibbon neck angle problems a myth?

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by Silverman, Aug 16, 2019.

  1. Silverman

    Silverman New Member

    Jul 23, 2019
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    Aside from durability, I have never had a problem with a Gibson staying in tune. Granted, my sample consists of 2 guitars, but they both have been remarkably stable. But I don't want to discount the experiences of many.

    So for those who have owned many - does the neck angle really create consistent problems with g/d string tuning stability?
  2. plankton

    plankton Well-Known Member

    Dec 4, 2016
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    Adelaide, Australia
    I think if the neck angle is off then a gibbon can have trouble puffing out its throat sac.


    Sorry, I couldn't resist. I have heard of "issues" with Gibson style head stock angles and tuning stability. I have a few Gibson style guitars and have never had any issues.
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  3. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2017
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    Neck angle has nothing to do with tuning issues. The reason the D and G strings may have issues with tuning stability on some guitars is because of improperly cut nut slots causing the strings to bind in said slots. Since the position of the tuning posts on the headstock do not pull all the strings in a straight line parallel with each other, the nuts slots need to be cut so that they follow the direction of the strings which pull left and right toward the outer edges of the headstock.

    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
  4. Fumble fingers

    Fumble fingers Member

    May 8, 2019
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    Not a problem but what I notice on my 3 is that two have the strings parallel with the pickups and the other one has a radical angle between the strings and pickups which could effect pickup height adjustment but in my case it's no problem , all three of my Epi SG's are parallel between the strings and pickups
  5. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2017
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    That’s usually a result of when pickups are hung from a large guard. Either installing angled pickup rings, foam shims, bending the ears or combination of all the above takes care of that.

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  6. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

    Mar 5, 2014
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    Rhode Island
    If your nut slots are cut properly and you load your strings properly and you tune your guitar properly, a Gibson will hold tune perfectly.

    1. Nut slots: from the factory, the nuts are all cut too high and not fine tuned for string gauge, and not always angled well. A good dealer will fix this for you on delivery, or you can pay for a (one-time) proper set up. Lubing the nut slots will help, but it's messy and not necessary once the nut is taken care of.

    2. Plenty of instructions out there on how to load strings. I use the one over, rest under method. Make sure as you wind the string that you keep the windings even, parallel and tight up against each other. Gently stretch strings until they no longer go flat. Make sure you always tune up, never down. If you go a bit sharp, loosen until string is slightly flat, and retune.

    3. If you have a stop tailpiece, make sure that the strings do not touch the back of the bridge where they can get hung up. Raise the tailpiece, or overwrap if necessary.

    That's it. Barring radical environmental changes, my Gibsons go into their case in tune, come out in tune, and hold their tune throughout.
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  7. Dale

    Dale Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2015
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    I have had 4 gibbys so far all stayed in tune once the nut was tweaked.
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  8. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

    Sep 29, 2009
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    Tucson AZ
    +1 on all that's been said above. Tuning problems usually are caused
    by improperly cut nut slots IMHO, and solved by properly cutting the
    nut slots. This is expert work, and worth paying for.

    People love to bash Gibson, it makes them feel like they are knowledgable
    and sophisticated. But it is mostly blowing smoke. To me, it makes them seem
    arrogant and closed minded. Which is nothing to be proud of.

    Gibson guitars are built with a 17 degree back angle at the headstock.
    This is part of a long tradition, and many other instruments also use this feature.
    The function of it is to bring the strings into firm contact with the nut,
    and this contributes to the awesome tone we get from our Gibsons.
    Especially acoustic instruments, where string vibrations in tone wood are
    essential components of the instrument's tone.
    For electric instruments
    it's not so important IMHO.
    The main problem caused by the Gibson back angle is that the wood for the neck
    is cut across the grain at the point where the headstock joins the neck. You can see
    in the picture above, imagine the grain of that neck. (although that one is likely made of two pieces glued together)...

    This is what I'm talking about (below is a Gibson headstock joint)...
    You can see that the grain of the mahogany runs straight until it gets to the joint,
    and then the millwork cuts across the grain to form the headstock. If you imagine
    the grain in the SG neck below, you can see where the weak point is.

    Fig 09 Shelf Nut.jpg
    Every luthier I've spoken with has described "repairing broken Gibson headstocks"
    as routine work. And this is the main "problem with the Gibson back angle..."
    The fact that the instrument is fragile at this point and needs the protection of
    its owner. As Professor Moody says: "CONSTANT VIGILANCE." We must not allow
    our Gibsons to suffer a blow at this point. Don't let them fall, don't lean them
    against amps or brick tavern walls. Don't leave them where someone could stumble
    on them or trip on them. These are facts of life for Gibson owners.

    It's traditional to make guitar necks out of Mahogany...
    and so Gibson does.
    But this is not essential. Leo Fender designed his guitar
    necks to be more durable than his Gibson competitors, and
    so he made them out of maple, with zero back angle, and
    achieved string tension at the nut by means of the Fender
    String tree, which I regard as a brilliant innovation.
    2 Headstock & neck@100.jpg
    No back angle, no weak point, no tuning problems (see straight string
    path)... a solid maple neck with a different grain structure than
    traditional mahogany, this neck is strong enough to deck a crazed fan
    who jumps onstage (see Keith Richard video), and renders awesome tone that
    no one can argue with. So this is a very practical solution to the weak point,
    and contributes to the success of Fender guitars over so many years.
    Fender designed their neck after speaking with working pro musicians,
    who maybe made these suggestions.

    Gibson also makes guitars with maple necks. I bought one in 2013, not
    knowing what to expect, but curious. What I found was that the maple was
    more rigid and stable on my 2012 SG than the mahogany neck on my 2007 SG.
    Tone is still awesome. I got my SG professionally set up right after buying it, so
    I have no nut problems and no tuning problems. The stock nut on the 2012 is
    made of Corian, which works fine. It seems hard and durable.

    Here's a photo of the maple neck on my most recent guitar purchase: a 2018
    Gibson J-45 AG. This is an innovative acoustic, with Walnut back and sides, Spruce
    top, Maple neck, Walnut bridge and fretboard. I had to have one, as soon as I
    heard about it. Tusq nut works fine... The neck has the traddie Gibson 17 degree back angle, but look at the grain:
    Zelda neck joint@100.jpg
    To me, this seems like a good solution also... Maple has a different grain
    than mahogany, and holds together better in the face of destructive force.
    Ask Pete Townshend about that, he's an expert. My new J-45 does NOT
    sound like an old one, but I like unique guitars so what do I care. My acoustic
    has an excellent tone, which is still evolving as time goes by, but she sounds like me. *grins... I believe that my Gibson acoustic would still break
    at the headstock if subjected to enough force, but also I believe that it's a
    lot stronger than my old Mossman dred, with the mahogany.

    I've never broken a guitar's headstock, but I've only been playing for about
    57 years, so who knows. I have no intention of breaking one, and have learned
    about vigilance in a life of hard knocks. I've learned that expert nut work is
    very worth paying an expert to do, so I have no tuning problems, which is
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
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  9. poppunk

    poppunk Member

    Jun 24, 2017
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    When he went to Music Man they came up with an even better improvement - the 4+2 headstock where everything is straight and string trees aren't required because the last two tuners don't get so far away from the nut that the angle gets to shallow. Since I recently started paying attention to Music Man guitars I didn't realize why they would do this, but now that I'm a recent owner I appreciate it.

    Another more recent improvement is staggered height tuners. I have a Fender Jaguar with a Warmoth neck I had built (compound radius + thick neck profile, oh yeahhhh), and I put staggered tuners that get lower the farther you get away from the nut on it. It works great; I think some people get weirded out by the lack of a string tree, but I'm not so traditional that it's an issue for me.

    I have three Gibsons, and they don't have "tuning issues" because they have properly cut nuts. I mentally roll my eyes any time I start reading about somebody on the internet insisting that Gibsons have "tuning issues" because of the angled headstock. It's certainly something you can't be as sloppy with when the nut goes in, but it's not as if that angle inherently creates guitars that can't be kept in tune. If that was true, they wouldn't have worked for the hordes of professionals who have used Gibsons since the 50s.

    On the headstock breakage: yes they are more susceptible to that because of the grain and angle change. But it's really exaggerated and is an internet meme at this point. It's a constant joke on the subreddit (on Reddit) r/guitarcirclejerk because of volume of posts/comments in which it pops up in the r/guitar subreddit. You'd think the vast majority of Gibsons would have had their heads popped off at this point, yet I've only known one person in real life this has happened to. And he's kind of an idiot and it's more a question of abuse.
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  10. HackeIommi

    HackeIommi Active Member

    May 8, 2019
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    Since I've seen broken headstock photos, I am very careful about my LPs, SGs. I love volute necks but Gibson stopped them. I think this is sad, the volute neck feels secure.

    I don't have tuning issues. If I have, I buy cattle bone and cut a decent nut.
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