Most bass guitars are plagued with balance problems. The long neck, large headstock, and giant tuners all pull the bass off balance, causing the player to waste a ton of energy holding the bass up – energy that could be better used to actually play the thing.
Our friend Ron has a bass that has a balance problem that’s pretty egregious: a vintage Ovation Magnum II. This bass has a short upper horn, a mahogany neck with graphite reinforcement, and tuners that seem to weigh around 8 pounds each. As you can see here, the upper horn stops short of the 15th fret:
The solution to this problem is not to add more weight to the already heavy solid mahogany body (which wouldn’t really work anyway), but to remove weight from the headstock. Since this bass was made in the early ’70s, there have been great advances in plastics, allowing manufacturers to make tuners that are as strong as the old, heavy metal ones, but weigh much less. We found some lightweight Schaller tuners that were almost a direct replacement for the old Ovation tuners, which weigh only 50 grams each (we don’t know how much the original tuners weigh, but they feel to weigh about 4 times as much).
The new tuners have a smaller plate, and the nubs that stabilize the tuner on the back of the headstock were in different places, so we needed to do a bit of routing to get them to fit. We created a template, mapped out the placement on the headstock, drilled the new holes, and installed the tuners at a perfect right angle to the headstock sides. Ron didn’t want to fill the original holes, just in case he wanted to put the old tuners on, so we left them open (normally we would fill them and match the plugs to the original finish).
They fit perfectly, are super stable, and most importantly, dropped a ton of weight off the headstock. Ron can now play his bass without wasting energy holding the neck up. Success!