Thin vs. thick electric guitar necks

Thin vs. Thick Electric Guitar Necks

When you look at an electric guitar, you’ll find four neck shape designations. Each one is given a specific letter based on what it looks like at the back: C, D, U, or V.

Each neck receives its letter designation because it is an accurate description of its look.

If you like a thick electric guitar neck, you’ll want a 1950s Gibson D-neck guitar or a 1970s Fender U-shaped neck.

When you prefer a thin neck, the best options come from the shredder-style instruments that Ibanez and ESP make for the casual user.

They’re also U-shaped like the older Fenders, but it is trimmed down more for more effortless playing.

Thin vs. Thick Electric Guitar Necks

Thin and thick electric guitar necks have their place in the musical world. A slimmer design works better when you need to play complicated note sequences or play with a tapping style. If you want vintage sounds and power cords, a thicker neck is better.

Gibson tries to keep their electric guitar neck designs straightforward and unassuming. When you think about this brand, the first instrument that comes to mind is the Les Pauls.

If you play a Les Paul guitar, you’ve got three neck thicknesses for one shape. Gibson uses a D-neck for these models.

Your thickness levels are an early 50s profile, the 1959 version, and a “slim taper” option that most beginners and intermediate players tend to use.

When your Les Paul has the early 50s profile, the neck will be seriously thick.

It feels like a massive chunk of wood in your hands to the point that if you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were playing an acoustic.

The 1959 profile is a little less meaty with its neck design, but it can still be unwieldy for younger players or individuals with smaller hands or shorter fingers.

What Guitar Neck Styles Does Fender Use?

Fender offers many different choices to consider when you’re looking at thin vs. thick electric guitars.

If you go to the 1960s versions, you will get a lightweight instrument that offers a thick C-shape neck that works well for most playing experiences.

Older Fenders from the 1970s are on the other side of that spectrum, delivering a rich playing experience with a massive neck that can be hard to control.

The 1970s Fender guitars are comparable to the 1959 profile of the Les Pauls from Gibson for size and weight.

There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer about the thinness or thickness of the guitar neck you prefer.

If your instrument contributes to a positive playing experience that lets you be a consistent musician, then you have what you need.

It is essential to remember that the guitar neck shape is only one part of the structural playing equation. It also helps to think about the instrument’s weight before settling on a specific make and model.

Why Does a Guitar’s Weight Matter?

Although the recipe for a comfortable guitar often starts at the neck shape, it must also include the instrument’s weight.

If you have a heavy guitar, the added weight puts extra stress on your shoulders, hips, and knees. When you’re young and energetic, you might not feel the difference of a few pounds.

As you get older, the heavier guitars that seem to do no wrong are suddenly weighing on your playing style.

What Guitar Weight Works Best for Me?

Here are the various weight categories to consider if you’re shopping for a new guitar today or in the near future.

Extra Lightweight:● Guitars in this category typically weigh five pounds or less.
● Although you’ll find some custom models in this category or ones with paper-thin necks, the primary brand you’ll encounter is Strandberg.
Lightweight:● This category includes instruments that weigh about six pounds.
● The SG guitars from Gibson fit into this category.
Middleweight:● Anything you can find in the seven- to eight-pound range for an electric guitar fits into this category.
● Most brands produce instruments that have this sizing.
● Some of the most popular models include the Ibanez RG, the Telecaster, and the Strat.
Light Heavyweight:● You’ll find the lighter Les Pauls in this category, along with Paul Reed Smith (PRS) instruments.
● These guitars typically weigh above eight pounds, but they come in under ten pounds.
Heavyweight:● When you play the heaviest guitars ever produced, you’re looking at something that weighs over ten pounds.
● Some of the older Fenders fit into this category, but you’ll find that the Gibson Les Pauls can get up to 12 pounds.

Please remember that the average weight for an electric guitar today is eight pounds.

Guitar weight is a factor when selecting a thin or thick neck because the heaviness impacts your playing style.

When you have a thin neck on a lightweight guitar, you’ll pick out fast solos, melodies, and rhythms with relative ease.

You can create the same result on a heavier model, but you’ll also find that more fatigue enters the picture.

If you’re tired and try to play a complicated riff or hook, you’ll have a greater risk of creating an error.

What Impacts a Guitar’s Weight?

When you compare thin vs. thick electric guitar necks when shopping for an instrument, you’ll find that a couple of factors can influence your decision when looking at its weight.

The first issue involves the wood type used by the manufacturer to produce the instrument.

If you pick up two identical guitars and feel a weight difference, the change is almost always due to the materials used to create the guitars.

Have you ever picked up a piece of bamboo or balsa wood and experienced the product’s lightness?

If you were to grab a chunk of oak to build a guitar of the same shape and size, it would be much heavier.

Even the wood type used for the neck and fretboard contribute to this experience.

When you look at the modern electric guitar, you’ll find several different wood species used to create specific playing results.

If you want a lightweight option, you’ll want to consider the table below.

Alderwood:● 400 to 700 kg per square meter
Swamp Ash:● 450 to 550 kg per square meter
Maple:● 550 to 700 kg per square meter
Mahogany:● 450 to 650 kg per square meter
Basswood:● 300 to 600 kg per square meter
Walnut:● 650 to 700 kg per square meter

As you can see, most of the wooden blocks that manufacturers use for making electric guitars can have significant weight differences.

That’s why one run of instruments from the same series can have a different feeling than others.

If you’re using wood from a different region to create a guitar, one instrument could be 50% heavier than the other.

That’s why you must pay attention to the weight rating in the specs to avoid an uncomfortable experience.

What Happens If I Play a Heavy Guitar?

If you play a heavy guitar for a few gigs here and there, you won’t notice much of a problem.

When your instrument is heavier than what your body wants to support, it won’t be as much fun plucking notes or hitting power cords.

You’ll notice more tension around your shoulder and neck during an extended gig or practice session.

If you’re sitting while playing, you can feel the extra weight in your hip and along your leg.

Heavy guitars can also pull out wall brackets, cause premature wear and tear on instrument stands, and even leave blisters along your body’s contact points.

If you have a heavy guitar that doesn’t feel manageable, especially with the neck’s size, you can take these steps to improve the playing experience.

  • Purchase a wider guitar strap. When you play with a broad strap, you’ll distribute the weight over a greater area along your shoulder. It won’t solve the problem, but you’ll get more time to play before the pain starts setting in at the joint.
  • Adapt an appropriate guitar stand. Carlos Santana uses a stand to help him play some of his guitars because of the instrument’s weight. If you prop up the back while sitting, you can accomplish a similar outcome.
  • Create a counterweight. If your guitar is out of balance, it’ll pull at the neck to put pressure on your spine. When you encounter this issue, the best way to resolve the problem is to place a counterweight on the instrument to prevent the overall movement.

You can take some unique approaches to distribute a guitar’s weight to take some of the pressure off the back, shoulders, and hip.

Here’s an example where a string loop holds the instrument’s back to the top of the guitar strap.

I would not recommend following that example.

Not only are you increasing the risk of warping a thin neck, but you’re also adding interference to your playing style as the strap comes across the instrument’s body.

If you need a wider strap for your guitar, I highly recommend the 4.5-inch Levy’s Leathers padded electric and bass strap.

It features a ladder-style adjustment system with internal foam padding to offer additional comfort.

Each product is handcrafted in Canada, and I especially appreciate the reinforcement stitching that prevents the strap from stretching.

When you play the heavyweight guitars or a double-neck style, this strap can extend your playing session.

What Are the Benefits of Playing a Shredder Guitar?

If you prefer a lightweight guitar, the shredder-style models are your best choice. You’ll get a paper-thin neck that lets you dominate each song.

When you want a slim neck profile for your guitar, it’s challenging to find something useful in the Gibson or Fender instrument series.

Even when you find a slim-taper or a modern C, it’s still larger than what players want when managing the crab-claw or tapping style of getting the notes out there.

You could still put in the crab-claw motion on a thicker neck, but you would also generate lots of humming and buzzing as you played.

When you prefer a shredder guitar, your best options come from ESP, Ibanez, or Jackson. You’ll get a balanced profile and a thin neck to support your overall playing style.

Here are some of the best options you can find available today to start playing.

Ibanez RG550 Electric Guitar
  • Body, Back, and Top: Basswood
  • Neck: Maple/Walnut
  • Fretboard: Maple
  • Number of Strings: 6
  • Guitar Pickup Configuration: H
  • Guitar Bridge System: Edge Locking Tremolo
Get it on Amazon Learn More

1. Ibanez RG550 Electric Guitar

With the Ibanez RG550 Electric Guitar, you receive a basswood body that works to keep the instrument light.

It features the V7 neck from the brand, V8 bridge pickups, and the Edge tremolo system that promotes an impressive sound.

You’ll shred with ease thanks to the five-piece construction for the Super Wizard neck.

The electronics on this instrument include a single-coil pickup between two humbuckers at the bridge to deliver a wide range of tones.

You won’t get the case you need with this guitar, but it does come with a 60-day price protection policy.

2. ESP LTD EC-256 FM Electric Guitar

If you don’t mind a midrange guitar with fewer tonal choices, the ESP LTD EC-256 FM electric guitar is a shredder’s delight.

It delivers a similar playing style to the Gibsons of the past while having the neck size and overall balance you need for comfortable playing.

It offers a three-piece neck, featuring roasted Jatoba for the fingerboard, while providing the classic look of a flamed maple top to round out the aesthetics.

You receive passive pickups, 22XJ frets, and support for most musical genres.

Jackson JS Series Dinky Arch Top JS32 DKA Electric Guitar
  • Body and Back: Poplar Wood
  • Top and Neck: Maple Wood
  • Number of Strings: 6
  • Guitar Pickup Configuration: H
  • Guitar Bridge System: Tremolo
Get it on Amazon Learn More

3. Jackson JS Series Dinky Arch Electric Guitar

This electric guitar gives you the look and feel of a Tele with sharp corners.

The triangular top matches with the Pearloid angular inlays to create a remarkable visual experience.

It uses a bolt-on maple neck with graphite reinforcement to ensure you have consistency in any playing environment.

The Jackson JS Series Dinky Arch electric guitar also features sealed die-cast tuners, a double-locking tremolo, and a poplar body that promotes incredible sustain.

It’s light enough to work for beginners, provides a challenge to experts, and can work with any genre.

Do You Prefer a Thin or Thick Neck on Your Guitar?

When you ask the average guitar player what they prefer, most people describe the modern C-style neck from Fender or the tapered D-style that Gibson produces.

You’ll find that C-style neck on virtually all Squier models that Fender produces. If you want a Strat without added heft, the 1970s Stratocaster is an excellent choice.

If you prefer Gibson, the Epiphone G-400 PRO electric guitar delivers a tapered D-style neck that works well. You’ll need to stay away from any of the Les Paul models if you want a thin neck.

When those models aren’t thin enough to meet your needs, consider ESP, Ibanez, or Jackson to enjoy the benefits of a shredder-style guitar.

What neck size and style do you prefer for your instrument?


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