Top 6 Amazing Guitarists and Their Headless Guitars

"Plini in 2017" by Raulongo

Over the last several years we have seen an increasing number of new headless guitar models appear on the market as they continue to grow in popularity. Two of the manufacturers that have quickly grown to become the leaders in high-end professional headless guitars, as you’ll notice in this list, are Strandberg and Kiesel. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of these guitars and the amazing guitarists that play them— ranging from fusion virtuosos like the late great Allan Holdsworth, to metal masters like Lee McKinney and Per Nilsson.

 

1. Allan Holdsworth

One of the greatest giants in fusion, Allan Holdsworth, was, quite frankly, hard to place into any one genre. YouTube’s favorite music teacher, Rick Beato, probably put it best: “He was a rock musician who had the improvisatory skill of a jazz musician— and then used the harmonic language of a modern classical musician…” He essentially combined three genres, and did so in a way that no other guitarist had ever done or ever will. When a great number of giants, in their own right, like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan, and Frank Zappa, idolized him, it should tell you everything that you need to know about who he was and the impact he had.

(Holdsworth HH2X)

Since 1996, Holdsworth played his signature Carvin models. In 2012, Carvin (now Kiesel) and Holdsworth collaborated to launch his Holdsworth Headless Series guitar. Since Kiesel is a custom shop, the customizations between each guitar vary. The HH2X (tremolo) shown above features a swamp ash body and top, a 20″ radius birdseye maple fretboard, gold frets, and walnut neck strengthened by a two-way adjustable truss rod and dual carbon-fiber rods. The pickups are Kiesel Holdsworth Passive humbuckers.

To learn more and order this model, head over to: kieselguitars.com

 

2. Plini

Born and raised in Australia, Plini has certainly made a name for himself in the prog rock genre since his first EP releases in 2013 and debut album, Handmade Cities, in 2016. One of his earliest releases, “Selenium Forest,” has gained over five and a half million views on YouTube since 2013. Steve Vai has described Handmade Cities as “one of the finest, forward-thinking, melodic, rhythmically and harmonically deep instrumental guitar records” that he’s ever heard.

(Boden Plini Edition Natural)

Plini plays his signature Strandberg Boden Plini Edition. The multiscale guitar features a chambered swamp ash body and Australian blackwood veneer over maple top. The neck is made of carbon fiber reinforced maple with a 20″ radius ebony fretboard which is lined with green luminescent Luminlay side dots and inlays. The neck profile is the patented EndurNeck shape that comes standard on all Strandberg instruments. It has a Strandberg EGS Series 5 tremolo bridge and string locks. The pickups are Suhr SSV and SSH+ humbuckers.

3. Sarah Longfield

Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Longfield’s style spans across several genres, including metal, prog-rock, and electronic music. Since uploading her first video back in 2008, her channel with over 18 million views, showcases her highly-technical playing which often consists of two-handed tapping. This can be seen up-close as she plays on her 8-string in songs like “First Flight,” “The Fine Constant,” and “The Salient Voyage.” What’s even more impressive is that she is able to get that clear and consistent sound without the assistance of compression.

(Boden Metal 8 Longfield Edition)

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Longfield plays her 8-string Strandberg Boden Metal Sarah Longfield Edition which is also available in 6 and 7-string versions. It features a chambered basswood body and solid maple top. The EndurNeck profile roasted maple neck with a 20″ radius ebony fretboard is carbon fiber reinforced. Luminescent Luminlay sidedots and inlays line the neck for great visibility in the dark. The pickups are Fishman Fluence Modern Alnico (neck) and Modern Ceramic (bridge) humbuckers.

4. Tim Miller

Guitarist and Berklee professor, Tim Miller, is renowned for his intervalic and highly melodic playing. His unique style is derived from the 2-1-2 Intervalic Arpeggio System which he developed out of a desire to emulate the wide intervalic sound achieved by pianists. Miller’s system has now been adopted by guitarists all over the world through his online courses. Some of the artists he’s collaborated with include Mike Stern, Dweezil Zappa, Plini, Eric Johnson, George Duke, Randy Brecker, and Gary Burton, to name a few.

(Zeus Z6)


In the video, Miller is playing his silver Kiesel Zeus. Since Kiesel is a custom shop, you can choose from a variety of woods, finishes, and hardware to customize your instrument to your own unique liking. The neck is highly durable thanks to its two-way adjustable truss rod and added dual carbon-fiber rods for extra strength. Luminescent Luminlay side-dots come standard as well.

To learn more and order this model, head over to: kieselguitars.com

5. Lee McKinney

As the guitarist of the progressive metal band, Born of Osiris, Lee McKinney has shown that he is comfortable going beyond a single genre, or, at the very least, stretching it as far as possible. Infinite Mind, his debut solo album, mixes sounds and even instruments like the tenor sax in “A Clock Without a Craftsman,” that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to see next to a 7-string. In an interview with Guitar World, McKinney described his album as “a bunch of heavy moments mixed with soft parts,” however, “it’s not metal,” he says. His aim was simply to convey the emotions that he wanted to convey which meant, at times, going beyond a heavily distorted guitar and adding more flavors to the mix.

(Lee McKinney LM7X)


McKinney plays his Kiesel Lee McKinney Signature Series which comes in both 6 and 7-string versions. This guitar, like all Kiesel models, is customizable when it comes to the selection of different woods, finishes, and hardware. The particular guitar shown above features a chambered swamp ash body with a buckeye burl top in a “translucent aqua” color. It has a 20″ radius maple fretboard and walnut neck that’s reinforced with a two-way adjustable truss rod and added dual carbon-fiber rods. The pickups are McKinney Illusionist and Kiesel lithium passive humbuckers.

To learn more and order this model, head over to: kieselguitars.com

6. Per Nilsson

Swedish guitarist and producer, Per Nilsson, has a background of providing heavy guitar in metal bands like Scar Symmetry and Meshuggah. In progressive rock band Kaipa, on the other hand, we get to see his less heavy but super melodic playing come out. If you have any doubt about his melodic capabilities, you need only watch the clip above and another video where he plays over Allan Holdsworth’s “54 Duncan Terrace.” Nilsson is, without question, a master guitarist. On top of that, he also works as a producer for many other bands.

(Singularity 7 True Temperament)

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Nilsson plays his 7-string Strandberg Singularity 7 True Temperament Red Blast. The multiscale True Temperament guitar features a solid American basswood body, solid swamp ash top, and carbon fiber reinforced maple neck (EndurNeck profile) with a 20″ radius Indian rosewood fretboard. The pickups are Lundgren Modern Vintage humbuckers (bridge and neck) and Lundgren 7-string single-coil (middle). Nilsson also plays his chambered 8-string Singularity 8 True Temperament Blue Blast.

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2 thoughts on “Top 6 Amazing Guitarists and Their Headless Guitars”

  1. I’ve long been intrigued with the idea of a headless guitar, and if I could, I’d say the headless guitar is the best option. This is an excellent choice if you’re a novice who wants to learn how to play guitar using online tools.

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