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…
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!
What’s the Nut Width of a Wide Neck Guitar?
A regular guitar may have a width at nut of 1 11/16″, while a wide neck would have a width at nut of 1 7/8″, for instance.
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?
Guitar Companies Who Make Wide Neck Guitars
There are brands who’ve been adopting the wide neck design, 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:
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!
44 thoughts on “All You Need To Know About… Wide Neck Guitars”
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.
I’ve looked at my hands, now what?
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.
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.
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.
Here’s what some folks are doing to get a wide-necked guitar… and it’s an Eastwood!
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.
This is not intended as a dis to anybody but it always seems the guys with yellow #2 fingers say there’s no need for wide neck guitars. For years I struggled with tiny guitars and my playing suffered a lot. I finally found a Seagull acoustic with a 1 7/8 nut. It was like the clouds parted and the sun shown down on me. My playing improved instantly. Guys in my band asked if I had found some Limitless Guitar Pills. Just for reference I wear a size 15 wedding ring and a size 18 middle finger ring. Wide neck guitars are needed.
Wide neck is for me. I am a beginner. It is not a question of giving myself time to strengthen my fingers etc. I exercise them every day with practice and finger exerciser for guitarists. It is a question of my big fingers on my fretting hand and their shape. The shape of the 2nd and 3rd finger from the middle joint is not straight from having them broken working and broken in fist fights when I was young. I could not make some chords with the guitar I first started with. I made a list of those chords and went to buy a new guitar. I bought a wide neck because I could make every chord.
If I recall the specs correctly (and I may not), the wider Gibson necks did not offer any difference in the string spacing, there was just more room on the outside of the E strings. It’s no wonder that the buying public rejected the idea since it seemed to create an obstacle with no benefit. I tried a few of them in stores, and the neck felt wide, but the guitar played no better. Had the strings been spread out a bit I think feedback would have been positive from those who played such guitars.
I’m a strong believer that there’s a market for wide neck guitars.
Unfortunately the few companies having economical muscles to do their guitars optioned with wide neck does not understand that (yet) and continue to focus on supplying the guitarists with updates of the same guitar over and over.
I ordered a bespoke neck for my Fender Telecaster. 48 mm (aprox. 1,9 inch) and it’s awesome for me as a novice playing finger picking.
Looks really good, not as good intonation (yes it has been at pro for customization).
But I would definitely prefer buying a ready made Fender before doing a custom order having to wait for a large amount of weeks etc.
The Gibson 2015 models has to my understanding almost the same string spacing as a 43 mm nut? Just adding more space at the neck sides instead. To my opinion that’s not a wide neck.
I learned (sort of) to play guitar on a Goya 12-string acoustic. Hard to imagine a wider neck. I have big hands, but fairly long and slender fingers, so frankly, I prefer the “standard” neck. What makes a difference for me is not the width of the neck, but its profile. Having now owned and played many guitars, the most comfortable neck for me is what I’ve seen referred to as a “Soft-V” neck, which is deeper/thicker than the “shallow C” neck that electric guitars often have, but it’s not any wider. So, as long as “regular” necks are being produced, that’s what I’m likely to use more often. I’ve adapted to narrow, shallow necks, and since I don’t finger-pick, a wide neck doesn’t really offer me any advantage in terms of playability.
I got a Big Lou strat, http://www.biglouguitar.com/. Nice guitar. Nut is almost as wide as my basses.
Older, 6’4″, large hands. Fender width generally inadequate, Gibson width better. Also MUCH prefer 24.75 scale, rather than 25.5. Also MUCH prefer 12″ radius to 9.5 or rounder. And no skinny depth necks! Must have at least some beef in the back or horrible hand cramps! Profile is important, folks. Would try something bigger than 1&11/16 tho for sure.
There was one glaring exception to the assertion that manufacturers did not cater to players preferences for different neck widths. If you look at a Fender price list from the mid 1960’s you will see a note that you could custom order neck widths of 1 1/2″, 1 3/4″, and 1 7/8″ (1 5/8″ was standard) for a small upcharge. This applied to Strats, Jazzmasters and Jags only and was similar to the option for custom colors. I’ve asked people from Fender about bringing back this option and got blank stares.
One interesting development is that Martin are now making a number of their standard models with 1 3/4″ necks.
I have an Eastman t486b and I appreciate that my left hand doesn’t get cramped on it. It’s 1.75 inch nut like many of the Eastman electrics and acoustics. It also supports my occasional fingerpicking. One of the reasons I’ve never bought an Eastwood. I like that the 12 strings have a 1 7/8 inch wide fingerboard. I’d love that on a 6 string!
Having fitted a ‘ big Lou ‘ 1,75” neck to a Fender Squier and found it a huge improvement I’d recommend this concept. However, the shape of the neck is equally important. slim is good, and for my money, 1.75” is the max, 1.7 would be better. The Warren Ellis neck is great to play on.
Like others, I think 1 3/4″ for an electric 6 string would be perfect.
I have a big lou roadster (les paul copy) absolutely love it! I changed pickups to seth lovers.
I would like to try a Gibson 2015 neck.
Yes! I Would LOVE❤️A WIDER NECK😁😉👍!
That’s An ISSUE I’ve Had With MOST Guitars ALL
MY LIFE😖! That’s What I’ve HATED, LOATHED &
DESPISED About The “RICK”👎! Both 6 & 12
MODELS 😡! I Have Some BIG A$$ HANDS & FINGERS😱!
I started making PCGC wide neck guitars around 13 years ago and they sell steadily on ebay and reverb each year.
Sometimes I make acoustics with a 48mm (1 7/8th inches) neck fro twelve string guitars, but my solid electrics are made from 7 string guitars which have a 48mm nut width… that gives you 40mm from E to E and at the bridge from top E to bottom E is 62.5mm.
Big Lou makes a nice product, but just has a wide nut of course and tapers to a narrow bridge and pickups.
Mark D Phillips……. (Phillips Cleartone Guitar Conversions)
Mark D Phillips,
What are these guitars you say you’ve ‘made’? I’ve seen your work on nuts and bridges of guutars you’ve ‘converted’ on eBay but these were all name brands. You are stating that you also build guitars from scratch, which is not the case. Why do you persist in stating this?
Another point regarding wide neck guitars that I think warrants a mention is:
That with regard to making a wider neck for someone who requires it for finger-picking, is that most wider guitars are wide nut guitars and still have a standard narrow bridge size, so the finger picking hand is not helped as much as is the chord hand.
Not meaning to sound too over-promoting, but my PCGC guitars are wide at top and bottom.
Mark D Phillips…… PCGC
A great training for wide necked guitars is NecKNotes Guitar Trainer for classical guitars. Search “NeckNotes for Classical” on Amazon
I had a 70 Les Paul and an Ovation Celebrity and there was a huge difference.
Someone earlier queried if I should say I build guitars from scratch: I have never built guitars from raw timber and never claimed that I have; I ‘make’ guitars out of what parts I need, and sometimes it involves some carpentry but everything I do is described in detail in each listing when I sell my guitars… my guitars cost in the region of £200.
Wide nuts are not just for heavier folks. I’m quite skinny, with thin fingers and much prefer the extra real estate. Feel too cramped on smaller nuts.
The superb Furch guitars= company will make you an acoustic with a 48mm, 45mm, or 43mm nut width
I have a Gordon Smith Gladiator (Strat-ish style) guitar, built in 1991. I bought it secondhand, in amazing condition. It has a 1 3/4″ nut and I love it to bits. Wonderful low action too.
I think GS (now taken over by Auden acoustics) will still make 1 3/4″ nut to order.
I haven’t played in 15 years. But now I’m having the mid life crisis and want to return. I’ve always had enormous hands, and recall getting frustrated when playing back in the day.
My question here would be, what’s a good entry level wide neck to start on?
Some of the higher end Japanese Takamine’s are available in 45mm. I have CP7MO-TT (Thermal Top) with solid Ovangkol B/S. Love it!
I have short, stubby fingers, but I play a Martin 00-28VS with a 1-7/8″ nut. It is the easiest to play acoustic guitar I have tried. This is at least partially due to the fact that about half of my playing is finger picking. I have a Les Paul, which I loved until I tried to use it for finger picking.
I have a 67 Gibson FJN (folk jumbo). Its a whopping 2″ at the nut. Its like a classical in that it has only 12 frets to the body, which although not desirable, is less of an inconvenience than I thought it would be. It was made to use either nylon or steel strings. I love it. I alternate between it and a classical without muscle memory delays.
Is the any consensus on whether or not the tone of a guitar is affected goodbye a wider neck and/or a thicker neck?
I have to PRS guitars. One is a single cut and the other a Hollow-body II. Both are 1 + 11/16 at the neck but we’re only available in wide / thick. I had a top luthier shave the thickness off face singlecut and you couldn’t tell that the guitar had any work done on it. The color match is perfect. Well I have medium large hands I find the shaved guitar to play easier then the wide / thick neck of the hollow body. But since they are different guitars I really can’t tell if shaving the neck on the singlecut change the sound in any way. I’m no expert in structure, but is a slightly deeper neck really contributing anything different to the tonal qualities of the guitar? I read a lot of comments here but I didn’t see any that lead me to believe these changes I made for anything other than comfort. Thank you for any replies
I have been playing on and off for a year’s still learning really I’m 6 foot 1 inch and 290 lbs. I have pretty big hands was playing a Mexican strat and a Epiphone Les Paul I just got a Agile Les Paul style 1 7/8 damn big neck guitar and I love it looks feels and sound’s great and easy to play.
I loved playing my Yamaha classical guitar because of its wide neck. When I tried to learn electric it was painful and discouraging because of the narrow necks so I stopped trying altogether. My fingers are not fat, but my fingers do not have much flesh protruding past the fingernail line. This causes the strings to go under the nail and hurt badly. I would love to have an electric guitar with a wide neck to alleviate this problem.
Age 60+ with bigger-than-average hands and wide fingers when measured front to back rather than side to side. Recommend: Framus FG-14SVCE VNT Legacy Series (Grand Auditorium)
48mm nut (almost 1.9″)
Roughly 40mm (1.57″) from E to E, centre to centre.
Scale length 648mm (25.5″)
From Warwick in Germany (www.warwickbass.com); has own distributor, Framus & Warwick Music USA,Inc Distribution Center, Nashville,TN; and seems to have five dealers in US. Even output across high, mid, low. Very versatile: great for fingerpicking and flatpicking, and OK for strumming. Meaty neck if you like that. Fishman Isys onboard pre-amp.
Just look for “wide neck” on ebay and Reverb and yoo will find plenty of guitars to suit you there… a few might even be the ones I have for sale, and both acoustic and electric.
Mark D Phillips……. (PCGC)
Agile 310SE comes in a DAMN WIDE at 1 7/8″ wide at the nut.
Does a wider neck with more wood to it affect the sound of an electric guitar? TIA
Flamenco players prefer wider necks on their nylon string guitars so they can play faster. I’m referring to top players, not beginners!
If you can wrap your fingers around your nuts , your nuts are to small.
Yes Yes Yes i build my own telecasters with a 45/46 mm nut with. Widening standard fender necks is no problem also al my necks have a shorter scale of 63.5cm. Standard necks get a new fret board. Al is to compare acoustic parlor necks and for slide play. I´am an acoustic parlor player by hart.
Standard necks take out the frets then rasp of the fingerboard glue a fresh wide finger board on the base replace frets to fit scale length specs and fill the fret board overhang with wood strips. It works fine. Damn did i made a few Telecasters slide king guitars. Just do it no rocket science is applied.
Also you can make a 6 string out of a wider 12 string do it yourself kit it will work fine without fret board overhang. A wider 45/46mm nut is king in my book.