What’s The Purpose Of Horns On An Electric Guitar?


Have you ever wondered why do electric guitars have horns? Is it only for aesthetic purpose, or is there something else to it?

There are several reasons why electric guitars have horns. First, it’s because horns are providing easier access to higher frets. Second, horns give a balance to the instrument.

There are more possible reasons that give purpose to horns. For example, it’s not that comfortable to play a guitar without horns while sitting.

The most famous example of a guitar without horns are flying V’s. But, they aren’t meant to be played while sitting, anyway.

Most of the electric guitars today have lower horn. A lot of electric guitars have an upper horn, also. Les Paul’s don’t have an upper horn, and Telecasters, too.

Is There Some Difference Between Lower And Upper Horn?

Lower Horn

There are two main purposes of a lower horn. Let’s describe each.

Easier Acces To Higher Frets

As it’s been said already, lower horn on an electric guitar provides easier access to higher frets. This wasn’t so obvious back in the day.

When electric guitars came out, they were mostly played just like acoustic guitars. In other words, most guitar players didn’t use higher frets on their electric guitars.

Mainstream music, in the beginning era of electric guitar, didn’t demand the use of higher frets. That quickly changed with the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll.

That was the main reason why electric guitar manufacturers decided to introduce horns in the electric guitar design. Apart from the aesthetic reasons, of course. It’s very hard to imagine an electric guitar without horns today.

Electric guitars without horns are simply uglier.

Comfort

Another purpose of a lower horn is the comfort it provides to a guitar player. Electric guitars are smaller than acoustic or classical guitars.

They sit on your lap easier. But, they are also denser than acoustic guitars. That means that they have a considerable amount of weight comprised in their tiny body.

Electric guitars aren’t shallow, like acoustic or classical guitars. Their bodies are full, made of wood + electronic parts (pickups, for example).

Without a lower horn, electric guitar wouldn’t be so comfortable to play while sitting. The pressure on your leg would be too strong without a lower horn.

Upper Horn

What’s the purpose of an upper horn, you may ask? Well, there are some.

Easy Carrying

It’s much easier to carry a guitar in your hand when a guitar has an upper horn. You just take the guitar by its upper horn and carry it from one place to another.

Of course, some guitars, like Les Paul’s or Telecasters, don’t have an upper horn. That’s just their design. But the fact still remains – electric guitars with upper horns are much easier to carry.

Strap Button

It’s also more practical to attach a strap to a strap button on an upper horn. That’s another reason why a majority of guitars do have an upper horn.

It’s practical to install a strap button on an upper horn.

Easier Playing On High Frets

While lower horns provide an easier access to higher frets, upper horns also have an impact on that.

If you play some solo on high frets, it’s often not enough to have a room for your fret fingers (provided by a lower horn).

Upper horn is providing your thumb a place to rest while your fret fingers play some solo on higher frets.

Take a look at the picture below.

As you can see, my thumb has a place to rest while my other fingers play on a higher frets. Without an upper horn, it’s slightly more uncomfortable to do it.

Do Horns Affect The Sound?

Electric guitar horns do not affect the sound in a significant matter. Now, there are different opinions about this.

If we follow a simple logic, we can say that maybe there’s a little impact on a sound. For example, Les Paul guitar is rich in MID frequency range of the tone. Is that perhaps because Les Paul doesn’t have an upper horn?

It may be so, since “more” body weight provides more resonance, and therefore louder mid and low frequencies.

Devil Image

Some may say that electric guitar horns were introduced to resemble devil horns. While it may sound plausible, especially if we look at Gibson SG guitar, it’s just a speculation.

Rock ‘n’ roll music was frequently associated with devil throughout the 20th century.

In my opinion, I don’t think horns were introduced to electric guitar design solely because horns resemble devil horns. Especially if you look at the purpose of horns described above.

However, there are guitars with slightly stylized horns for the purpose of resembling devil horns, such as Gibson SG guitar, mentioned above. But that’s definitely not the main reason of existence of horns.

Final Words

I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Don’t forget to check out some other interesting articles from this site about various guitar topics and issues!

Cheers, and rock on!

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