Guitar machine heads are six pegs that sit on the headstock of a guitar. On a headless guitar, they are installed underneath the guitar’s bridge on the body. These machine heads are considered essential parts of a guitar without which the guitar’s strings cannot be tuned according to their standard pitches. With machine heads, you can tune the pitch of each string by controlling its tension. The pegs are called machine heads because unlike violins’ friction pegs, they use gear-based mechanism whereby users turn a pinion gear to wind a string around the peg’s cylinder.
Because machine heads are constantly exposed to tension, twist, rotation and friction, they may eventually become worn out or damaged. When that occurs, replacing them with new or used machine heads is needed. To buy the right machine heads, you need to identify first the type of your guitar. You can then decide whether to buy in a set of three or six or whether to buy individual heads. You should also mind important factors like material and design for durability and aesthetic reasons. Here are the types of machine guitars that you can buy for specific guitar types.
Classical Guitar Machine Heads
Classical guitar uses 3+3 machine head formation with machine heads that point backwards. You can buy either a set of three machine heads for each side of the headstock or a single screw in heads. Based on the design of classical guitar machine heads and their material, there are several types of machine head for classical guitar available. In general, classical guitar machine heads are made from resin, plastic, and metals. The metal plating of the head can be made from chrome, gold or nickel. Because the heads point backward, classical guitar cannot share machine heads with other guitar types.
Acoustic Guitar Machine Heads
Acoustic guitar uses either 3+3 or 6-in-line machine head formation with machine heads that point sideways. Just like classical guitar machine heads, machine heads for acoustic guitar are also available as a set of multiple heads, be they 3 or 6, or as a single head. They are generally made from metal-plated material.
Electric Guitar Machine Heads
Electric guitar machine heads share almost similar design with machine heads for acoustic guitars. The heads point sideways and they are available as a set of 3 or 6 heads or as a single head. In fact, you can actually use acoustic guitar machine heads on electric guitar and vice versa, provided that both guitars use 3+3 machine head formation and share the same type of tuners. The 6-in-line machine heads for acoustic and electric guitars are mostly mutually exclusive, so you cannot exchange them between both guitars.
Bass Guitar Machine Heads
The standard 4-string bass guitar uses 4-in-line guitar machine heads. They are designed to be sturdy because they are used to bear the tensile weight of larger strings. If you use bass guitar that uses 5 or 6 strings, you should buy the right machine heads for the respective bass guitars. Bass guitar machine heads with 5-in-line and 6-in-line formation are also available.