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All You Need To Know About… Wide Neck Guitars

Playing a wide neck guitar

All You Need To Know About… Wide Neck Guitars

Wide neck guitars – what’s it all about? Do you need one? Here’s a look at all you need to know about this niche (for now) market which is increasingly growing…

Playing a wide neck guitar

A few years ago, Gibson announced their 2015 range of electric guitars, which featured several changes that didn’t please many of their core customers – and one of those changes was a wider neck. The move proved a big PR fiasco, with many players thinking that Gibson had finally lost the plot, and that the wide necks were one of the most visible signs of that.

Looking back, perhaps Gibson had the right idea, but just dealt it the wrong way, by having all their 2015 models being made with wide necks – thus depriving their customers of choice: there is indeed an increasing market for wide neck guitars, no question about that… but it’s not for everybody!

Why play a Wide Neck guitar? Is it for YOU?

The fact is, if we’re honest, that a good chunk of the population is, well… getting chunkier! To be totally blunt about it – fatter people have fatter fingers, and it can (sometimes, for some players) make it harder for  them to play a guitar which has a narrower neck. But also, anyone who’s bigger and thus got bigger hands might find it a bit troublesome to deal with a standard, narrow neck guitar…

For those players, opting for a wide neck guitar can make a huge difference! It’s in fact quite remarkable that for so many years, the industry has not focused on this problem, but now guitars with wide necks are not such a rarity anymore.

Please bear in mind that when we say “wide neck” we don’t refer to the thickness of the neck, which is something else altogether – as most players will be aware, different guitars my have different neck profiles, with different shapes and different thickness (which is a subject that’s itself worth a separate blog!)

We are, of course, talking about the actual width of the fingerboard. Visually, at a quick glance, many people might not notice any difference in some cases, but the relationship between the player’s hand and the fretboard is so crucial and subtle, that just a matter of tiny millimetres can make a huge difference – the difference in fact, between you loving a guitar or maybe even loathing it!

Take two very similar guitars, such as the Airline Tuxedo, and the new Airline Tuxedo WN Wide Neckrecently announced:

Airline Tuxedo

1) Airline Tuxedo

Airline Tuxedo Wide Neck

2) Airline Tuxedo Wide Neck

The first picture is of an original Tuxedo, with a width at nut of 1 11/16″, while the second one is a Tuxedo WN, with width at nut of 1 7/8″.

We’re talking about minimal differences here, but which play a crucial factor on how much playable you will think a guitar is – depending on how comfortable either of them feels on your hand!

Going back to Gibson, here’s another comparison: the maligned 2015 Les Paul had a width at nut of  1.795″, whereas “normal” Les Paul Standard has a width at nut of 1.695″. That’s right – 0.1″ of difference that’s enough to make someone simply hate an instrument!

But that’s the crux here – it’s not about the instrument, because there’s nothing wrong with a wide neck, it’s just a matter of: do YOU actually need one?

Other Guitar Companies Who Make Wide Neck Guitars

Eastwood / Airline is the latest brand to embrace wide necks, but the Airline Tuxedo WN is currently still just a custom shop project. There are other brands who’ve been adopting the wide neck design too, over the years, besides Gibson.

The Zarley Wide Neck Guitars was founded by Tracy Todd, who decided to make wide neck models after years struggling with playing standard guitars, and their instruments have been welcomed by players who fancied wide necks:

Zarley Wide Neck

Zarley Wide Neck

Many “Heavy Rock” brands such as Ibanez, Jackson, BC Rich also make guitars with necks wider than the usual Fenders, Gibsons etc you see around. 

Best Fingerpicking (“Fingerstyle”) Guitars?

Another common use for wide neck guitars is for those who play guitar “finger-picking” style… whatever the size of your hand! Though most fingerpicking guitarists use acoustic guitars, you can also use electrics for that style, and wider necks offer a distinct advantage, due to the wider width at nut and string spacing.

Wide Neck Guitars: for Beginners, too?

Perhaps another angle we could look at, is that wide neck guitars are also perfect for beginners and less experienced players, as it may be easier to try chords. Many people start on guitar playing a cheap Classical acoustic guitar (also known as Spanish or flamenco guitars) which are usually about 2″ wide (approx 49-52mm).

So we can’t see why wouldn’t beginners opting for an electric guitar not enjoy a wide neck model, in fact it could make learning even easier.

Is wide neck right for you? Well… first look at your hands, then let us know!


8 thoughts on “All You Need To Know About… Wide Neck Guitars

tiff tiffinPosted on  1:01 pm - Mar 2, 2017

I started off when I was 10 with a classical guitar. Now there’s a wide fretboard! Being wide it was very forgiving fretting with the left hand. When I moved onto electrics (aged 13) I found the narrower width a lot more comfortable and soon got used to finger accuracy on the strings. I feel there’s room for various widths, similar to how we all have string gauge preferences and neck profile. Adapting between, say, an Ibanez D-profile neck tosay, a 59 Gisbon one soon resolves itself after a few riffs whereas fretboard width seems to take quite a bit longer to adjust to. Either way, it’s an electric guitar, so play it – and whatever we’re handed, we can usually knock a tune out of it pretty well.

SimonPosted on  3:42 pm - Mar 2, 2017

I’ve looked at my hands, now what?

BillPosted on  12:24 pm - Mar 3, 2017

Seeing the topic of wider necks is music to my ears (and fingers). I play both acoustic and electric, mostly fingerstyle, and am much more comfortable with extra space on the fingerboard. As much as I’ve ogled Eastwood guitars for a good many years, I’ve stayed away as most of the neck specs on your guitars are (to my hands) a skimpy 1 5/8″. For me 1 11/16″ is adequate, but I’m definitely more comfortable with 1 3/4″ or even 1.8″ or 1.9″ (for nylon strings, 2″ is optimal, but a little outside the scope of your offerings 🙂 ). Hoping you continue to pursue this in your product development.

MikeDPosted on  1:03 pm - Mar 3, 2017

I’ve got kind of stubby fingers. For that reason I’ve always hated wide neck guitars.. About 15 years ago I bought a used Washburn acoustic/electric, with HSC, on ebay, for a good price. When it arrived, and I first opened the case, I was very happy. It was absolutely gorgeous. But when I played it, my heart sank just a little. Not that it didn’t sound good. Because it sounded great. But the neck was just too darn wide. I could never get comfortable with it. So it wound up sitting in the case for a couple years, until I sold it to a buddy… for about 1/2 what I paid for it.

So while I don’t mind guitars made for those who like wide necks, I’m glad Eastwood will also offer them with standard necks…. for guys like me. Thanks Mike.

Allen LamPosted on  1:09 pm - Mar 3, 2017

Wide necks are wonderful for playing fingerstyle. I once had the chance to play a Del Vecchio Dinamico (now THERE’S a rare guitar, Mike……….jus’ sayin’) and went wild for the 2″ nut width.

Ted PeeblesPosted on  10:34 pm - Mar 3, 2017

Here’s what some folks are doing to get a wide-necked guitar… and it’s an Eastwood!

Charles KPosted on  12:50 pm - Mar 6, 2017

Glad to see Eastwood recognizing the market for wider neck guitars as I really like them. I agree Gibson made a huge error in judgment in 2015 by not offering what their customers were used to as an option, In my opinion (and personal preference) is they should’ve increased the E to e string spacing accordingly, but they kept it at what it had always been. For me that defeats the purpose of a wider neck for my larger hands.

Also, in my opinion going up to a 1.875″ width on that gorgeous Tuxedo model is too much and wouldn’t be conducive to electric playing, at least for me. The perfect electric guitar neck for me is 1.75″, and the same or a tad wider on an acoustic. Although I can’t express a reason other than “feel,” I don’t like going from a wide neck electric to a steel string acoustic that is less wide.

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