Priorities for finding the "perfect" neck shape/size?

Stratafied

Dr. Stratster
Oct 29, 2019
12,754
North of South
I seem to find the opposite is true for me. All the guitars in stores have too high action.

Anyway, after many years, and many necks I have concluded that there is no such thing as the "perfect" neck, but I like some more than others.

I'm 6'3'' (190.5 cm) and I have pretty big hands, not crazy big, but not small, but I don't like chunky necks (so I wonder how much hand size really plays into it?). The exception to that is my Baja Tele. It has a pretty fat neck, but it's a V shape, so it has no shoulders, and that actually makes it feel fairly slim.

These days I prefer a slimmer C shape, like a Fender modern C. I don't like too much shoulder, because that makes the thumb over thing less comfortable. My Les Paul has a fat D shape with lots of shoulder. It does not get played much.

I don't like nut widths narrower than 42 mm. 42 to 43 mm is fine, and that's pretty standard on a lot of necks.

9.5 to 12 inch radius works for me, and I like big frets. Anywhere from medium jumbo to extra huge is good.

String spacing is not as important to me. I can get along with a pretty wide variance there, but that's more of a right hand thing than a neck thing.

Sharp fretboard edges are a no no.

None of these things are absolutes other than nut width. I don't feel comfortable on a narrow neck, because my fingers are to bunched up.
Have you ever tried a 8.5 radius ?
 

Scott Baxendale

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
May 20, 2020
5,182
Athens Ga
Lately, I've been trying to figure out what the "perfect" neck shape/thickness/size is for me but have ultimately realized it might be impossible.

In terms of general size preference, I would think it's simply based on how large the players hands are and if they can comfortably play with a given neck thickness. In terms of neck profile shape, I have no clue if there is an objective way to guess what would work for a player other than to try every single shape possible. For fretboard radius, I often hear how it's easier to play chords on smaller radiuses but easier to solo on larger ones. But then I realized, I only play bar chords using the thumb over technique, so I wonder if that idea even applies to people like me. This is all multiplied by differences in neck width at the nut and possibly even string spacing at the bridge.

If I were to take the 40 possible neck shape/sizes available on Musikraft (they seem to have the widest selection of shapes), multiply that with the number of nut widths (I guess that would be 3), and string spacing (2), that would give me a total of 240 possible combinations to try out if you want to know what the "perfect" neck is for you. Maybe 80 if string spacing isn't a factor.

Ok, so maybe it's impossible to find the SINGLE most perfect neck combo, but maybe there's an order of priority for vetting necks? For example, first find your preference for string spacing, then nut width, then neck thickness, then neck shape? Maybe we can discuss a possible ranking for various factors for necks that can help someone logically go about finding a preference that is relatively accurate. Because in my mind, mindlessly trying every neck at Guitar Center does not seem like an effective way to do this, considering how many factors there are in play here.
Rather than going down such a rabbit hole on futility I have always had the approach that every guitar is unique and the neck shape is part of that and it is always my goal to discover what it is about the uniqueness of that particular guitar and it’s neck profile that makes it cool. I play dozens of guitars and they all have different necks. I never feel like that a certain guitar is not good based on the neck profile. I some guitars with thin necks and some with chunky necks, some with deep V shapes and some with a C shape. They are all great and I don’t have playability issues with any of them.
 

Ebidis

Providing the world with flat bends since 1985
Nov 14, 2013
28,303
Alabama
Have you ever tried a 8.5 radius ?
The only guitar I know of that has an 8.5 radius is the PRS SE Silver Sky, and I have not encountered one of those in person.

However, I have played and owned many guitars with a 7.25 radius, and while they are ok, it's not my preference.
 

Ronkirn

Most Honored Senior Member
May 26, 2006
7,017
Jacksonville, FL
"finding the "perfect" neck shape/size?"

That is as enigmatic as finding the perfect woman.... Just when ya do... bingo.. another one rises to the forefront...

my recommendation to ya all.. stop being so damn picky .. those that can master that quality live a much happier life than those that can't..

I mean.. what do those that hafta have a specific shape on their electric do when they pick up their acoustic?

Today, my criteria for being satisfied with a guitar neck.. it has to be attached to a body, strung up and plugged in... it's that simple..
 

knh555

Most Honored Senior Member
Dec 6, 2016
6,346
Massachusetts
Once upon a time, I didn't know or think anything about neck size or profile. I just knew if I liked a guitar. Then the internet. And I had "opinions" based one what I read combined with somewhat limited experience. Then I bought a bunch of different guitars and decided an "imperfect" neck on the right guitar is still the right neck and, for me at least, just taking the guitar as a whole based on feel is not only more than sufficient, it's the preferred way to evaluate these things. And yes, there are certain specs I prefer, but it's part of the bigger package.

I'm glad I'm cured of overthinking guitar specs. YMMV.

Same goes for color. I like what I like but a good guitar can change my mind.
 

kyleTheDude

Strat-Talk Member
Mar 22, 2022
33
Bethesda, MD
Thanks everyone for their input. Seems like the general consensus is that there's no one perfect combo but work can be done to find something that is close enough.

I will say that the modern c on my AM deluxe has worked totally fine for me the for the past decade. It was gifted to me by my father for my 13th birthday. I had no other guitar to compare it to other than my squire which had a considerably thicker neck, thinner at the nut, and possibly more of an oval c shape. I just remembered that at the time I liked the thinner neck of the deluxe but not the thicker nut width which probably went from 1.65 to 1.685". Having played the heck out of this one guitar for nearly a decade now and having just received a classic player 60's neck last night, I think I have a better idea of what I might like.

First, I now know for sure I do not like flatter necks. Online, I've seen about 50% of people saying they can't tell the difference but man, I instantly knew the 12" on the cp60 neck was not going to work, even though I'm already coming from a flat-ish 9.5". I'm probably more sensitive to this because I use the over the thumb technique. In fact, now knowing how terrible a flatter neck feels for me, I'm almost inclined to think a 7.25" radius would feel better to me than my current 9.5". Next, a thinner 1.65" width over my current 1.685", but at the same time a wider vintage string spacing at the bridge. I think this combo, although seemingly unintuitive, would offer me a more comfortable grip for my hands, but also more room for my fingers to play comfortably. In terms of shape and size, I'm totally fine with a modern C .82"-.87", but the shape of the modern D neck from the Ultra series strat I tried felt just slightly better. Although even the increase from .82 to .84 at the first fret was noticeably thicker to me, probably because of the added shoulder. So maybe a something like a D neck with a thinner .80"-.85" thickness would be just a cut about the modern c for me.

The only thing that leaves me unsure still is the fret sizing. I have an inkling that I'd like the vintage tall frets over my current medium jumbos, but only because everyone seems to complain about small vintage frets. Actually, the reason I'm looking for a neck replacement is my frets are just too worn so having taller frets would give them more life and give me more peace of mind, I guess.

And yeah, I know I'm overthinking this but that's what happens when you recently have that realization that this one hobby means more to you than any other hobby you've picked up over the years. I just sold most of my overpriced audio gear, pc components, and video game junk because I realized they are meaningless to me (personally) in comparison to playing and learning guitar, particularly the stratocaster, which has a history that really intrigues me. Also, I'm just that kind of guy that likes to tweak things to perfection. As a jewelry maker, my father is the same way except maybe a bit more extreme. Whenever he buys something and it's not perfect, instead of returning it and forgetting about it, he has to take it apart and make it his own. A bit of a curse to be honest.
 
Last edited:

Ebidis

Providing the world with flat bends since 1985
Nov 14, 2013
28,303
Alabama
just taking the guitar as a whole based on feel is not only more than sufficient, it's the preferred way to evaluate these things. And yes, there are certain specs I prefer, but it's part of the bigger package.
This is a good way to approach everything about a guitar. Not just the neck.
 

6stringslacker

Strat-Talk Member
Apr 2, 2022
68
USA
I have small hands for my height of nearly 6' 2" / 187cm. Never been a fan of baseball bat style necks. Today was the 1st time I've ever measured the neck on a guitar.

Turns out that all three of the necks on the ones I own have similar characteristics:

'80 Gibson SG-R1
'96 MiM Strat
'11 Martin D-28p (more of an electric-style neck)

For anything other than classical nylon string acoustic guitar, I like nut widths of 42-44 mm or so and a slim taper or oval c-shape (measuring 22 mm or so of thickness in the middle of the 1st fret). Took me some time to find guitars that were a good fit- purely by the feel of playing them.
 

RL21980

Senior Stratmaster
Jun 10, 2014
1,493
Somewhere in the Ford Galaxy...
Neck shape and feel maybe the most important aspect of the guitar to me. I've sold more guitars due to not getting along with the neck than any other reason.
The 10/56 soft V is my all time fav. Just feels like home. I recently got a strat with a "63 C" that I'm absolutely loving right now. My tele is a "U" and thats "almost" too big but I still really like it. I picked up a R8 Les Paul in a store years ago and that one got me. It was absolutely enormous. I couldn't play it. It's like they didn't even carve the thing. They just glued on a sanded tree branch. I'm a bigger guy 6'4"+ but I don't have giant hands. Not small, but not paws. I really like larger neck profiles. Fender Hotrod strats and the Mayer sig. are really nice big necks too.
 

StratUp

Most Honored Senior Member
Sep 5, 2020
7,307
Altered States
For me, wider is better, thinner is better, flatter is better.

That said, I'm OK with playing almost anything except a baseball bat. I have a variety of necks. A Deep V ws fine for me. I have a Strat neck that's .88 at the first to .89 at the 12th, and I'm OK with that. Of course, having the action low is the key. Playing that Strat when the action was too high was unbearable.

Recently tried an LP with a Baseball bat - just under .9 at the first fret, almost an inch at the 12th. Not for me.

But when I pick up one of my uber thin necks, it's always a pleasure.
 

StratUp

Most Honored Senior Member
Sep 5, 2020
7,307
Altered States
I have small hands for my height of nearly 6' 2" / 187cm. Never been a fan of baseball bat style necks. Today was the 1st time I've ever measured the neck on a guitar.

Turns out that all three of the necks on the ones I own have similar characteristics:

'80 Gibson SG-R1
'96 MiM Strat
'11 Martin D-28p (more of an electric-style neck)

For anything other than classical nylon string acoustic guitar, I like nut widths of 42-44 mm or so and a slim taper or oval c-shape (measuring 22 mm or so of thickness in the middle of the 1st fret). Took me some time to find guitars that were a good fit- purely by the feel of playing them.

If you like slim... those are actually kind of thick for slim Gibson necks. My thin Gibsons are < 20.9 at the 1st fret and mostly 22.5 ish at the 12th. My LP starts there and is 23.9 at the 12th. For uber-thin, my Epi LP Jr style wins at < 19.9 to 22.5, shallow D.
 

RL21980

Senior Stratmaster
Jun 10, 2014
1,493
Somewhere in the Ford Galaxy...
Thanks everyone for their input. Seems like the general consensus is that there's no one perfect combo but work can be done to find something that is close enough.

I will say that the modern c on my AM deluxe has worked totally fine for me the for the past decade. It was gifted to me by my father for my 13th birthday. I had no other guitar to compare it to other than my squire which had a considerably thicker neck, thinner at the nut, and possibly more of an oval c shape. I just remembered that at the time I liked the thinner neck of the deluxe but not the thicker nut width which probably went from 1.65 to 1.685". Having played the heck out of this one guitar for nearly a decade now and having just received a classic player 60's neck last night, I think I have a better idea of what I might like.

First, I now know for sure I do not like flatter necks. Online, I've seen about 50% of people saying they can't tell the difference but man, I instantly knew the 12" on the cp60 neck was not going to work, even though I'm already coming from a flat-ish 9.5". I'm probably more sensitive to this because I use the over the thumb technique. In fact, now knowing how terrible a flatter neck feels for me, I'm almost inclined to think a 7.25" radius would feel better to me than my current 9.5". Next, a thinner 1.65" width over my current 1.685", but at the same time a wider vintage string spacing at the bridge. I think this combo, although seemingly unintuitive, would offer me a more comfortable grip for my hands, but also more room for my fingers to play comfortably. In terms of shape and size, I'm totally fine with a modern C .82"-.87", but the shape of the modern D neck from the Ultra series strat I tried felt just slightly better. Although even the increase from .82 to .84 at the first fret was noticeably thicker to me, probably because of the added shoulder. So maybe a something like a D neck with a thinner .80"-.85" thickness would be just a cut about the modern c for me.

The only thing that leaves me unsure still is the fret sizing. I have an inkling that I'd like the vintage tall frets over my current medium jumbos, but only because everyone seems to complain about small vintage frets. Actually, the reason I'm looking for a neck replacement is my frets are just too worn so having taller frets would give them more life and give me more peace of mind, I guess.

And yeah, I know I'm overthinking this but that's what happens when you recently have that realization that this one hobby means more to you than any other hobby you've picked up over the years. I just sold most of my overpriced audio gear, pc components, and video game junk because I realized they are meaningless to me (personally) in comparison to playing and learning guitar, particularly the stratocaster, which has a history that really intrigues me. Also, I'm just that kind of guy that likes to tweak things to perfection. As a jewelry maker, my father is the same way except maybe a bit more extreme. Whenever he buys something and it's not perfect, instead of returning it and forgetting about it, he has to take it apart and make it his own. A bit of a curse to be honest.
May sound simple minded but it’s true. Go play a bunch of different stuff and see what feels good and what doesn’t. Neck profile affects playability and is a very personal preference. If you don’t play it, it’s an ornament not an instrument.
 

charlie chitlin

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Feb 17, 2007
1,224
The Berkshires
Years ago, I bought an old Gibson ES-225.
It has 1 mid-mounted pickup and it's hard for me to get a sound I really like out of it, but it has the neck shape that is perfect for me. It just feels like a part of my body.
I guess it's a 58/59 carve.
I've since found 2 more Gibsons with the same neck.
 

FrieAsABird

Senior Stratmaster
Mar 18, 2020
2,984
Germany
I have pretty small hands, but I’ve been able to play most guitars comfortably. The one neck profile I like best in strats is the V with a 7.25 inch radius, but I also love the thin modern C on my CV strats, the U profile on my Gretsch, the whatever it is on my Goldtop Les Paul etc :)
 

Ronnie Fn D

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 1, 2022
1,153
Valrico FL
All necks but one are good. I picked up a PRS acoustic and for the first time in my life understood what a terrible neck profile was (for me). Other than that... Ibanez wizard 7 string neck, LP 50's neck, Fender C, etc....they are all good.
 

charlie chitlin

Senior Stratmaster
Silver Member
Feb 17, 2007
1,224
The Berkshires
I had a beautiful Guild acoustic that I could play for about 10 minutes before my hand cramped up.
It wasn't too big, or too small, just....crampy.
 

blasphemoustrat

Most Honored Senior Member
Jan 9, 2011
7,178
Pa
For me it was luck. There is a scalloped neck that I liked the looks of and I knew I preferred scallops and wanted arrived. It turned out that it was a v profile. I'll never play anything but a v for my main guitar again. The soft v is just so comfortable in my hand.
 


Top