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Old 09-30-2008, 08:07 AM
mmapags mmapags is offline
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Default How to determine best neck profile for you?

Another thread got me thinking about neck profile and how best to determine the best one for you. Now I know I hear a lot of "play all the different ones you can and see for yourself" but what I'm really looking for is what are the factors that go into that.

For example, if someone goes to a luthier and doesn't have a guitar they currently own that they really like the neck profile on, how does the luthier determine what might be best for them? Is it hand size, finger length... what??? I have a slightly smaller than medium hand. I tend to gravitate towards thinner C necks. But I've never played a V neck so I don't really know if that's be better. And thicker C necks I find hard to play.

Would one help me play more effortlessly or cleaner than another given my physical characteristics? Should I be playing a different style neck than I gravitate to based on initial impression and comfort?? Is there some objective approach to neck profile?

Luthiers feel free to weigh in!!

Mike
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Old 09-30-2008, 08:09 AM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
..."play all the different ones you can and see for yourself" ..

Mike
Sorry.
That's it.
Ain't no other way.
Too many variables.
I hate skinny necks..except for how Olson carves his.
I like full necks..except for how older Gibsons feel.
You just got to try them.
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Old 09-30-2008, 08:13 AM
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Taylorplayer Taylorplayer is offline
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Mike:

You're asking a great question....one that I've given much time and thought to.

For me, I got lucky. My 98' 612ce has that classic Pre-NT Slim Carve neck profile that many talk about here. It is the perfect profile -- one that fits my hand and playing style to a "T". If fact, if I ever custom order, i will take detailed measurements and drawings of that neck to have it duplicated perfectly. The only other Taylor's I have that are even close is my 512ng - and interestingly enough my XXX-KE.

But, maybe there is a "scientific" method the pro luthiers use? I did understand your point..... that maybe there's a "formula" they can use, or some "tried and true" method of getting you into the right nick size. Sort of like walking into a really great Tailor (that kind) and saying "make me a suit that fit's perfectly.....and they take it from there). That would be interesting to know about.

I can't help but think it might all be "trial and error" -- play as many different profiles as you can until you find one that feels best to you.

Do you live near any of the larger shops (Elderly, etc)? They have such a variety of models on display and accessible. I still play as many as I can when there.... and always come to the same conclusions in terms of what "works best for me".

Hope this helps - and keep us informed.

All the best!
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Last edited by Taylorplayer; 09-30-2008 at 08:21 AM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
Another thread got me thinking about neck profile and how best to determine the best one for you. Now I know I hear a lot of "play all the different ones you can and see for yourself" but what I'm really looking for is what are the factors that go into that.
Hi mmapgs...
I do think other things besides just playing a lot of guitars factor in. I'm not minimizing the ''play and find out what works best'' model, but do want to present a different take.

I own three slim-neck handbuilt guitars with what I'd describe as shallow C necks in 1 3/4'' width. Then I own a Seagull S-6 which approaches a D neck or at least a deep C.

When I first got it, it didn't feel comfortable, and it was work to use it, because I was applying my shallow C technique to it. I took it on a couple extended vacations (three weeks at a time) and since it was the only thing in the RV that had strings, we became 'acquainted.'

Since then, I've adjusted my posture and hand position to accommodate it, and in the process my fingering technique has grown, and now I play it without thinking about what size or shape the neck is. It took one vacation to make the initial investment of time to adjust, and after that it's been a part of the family.

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Old 09-30-2008, 09:41 AM
mmapags mmapags is offline
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LJ, you are getting at one of the things that I am trying to determine. I guess what I'm asking is 2 parts.

One, is there an objective technique for determining ideal neck profile for a given player based on thier physiology?

Two, if a player is fitted with the ideal neck profile for them, will they develop better technique over time even if they are initially uncomfotable with it as you were?
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Old 09-30-2008, 09:45 AM
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I think this is one of the most individual aspects of guitar playing. Somebody probably prefers every single neck profile out there, and I'm not sure there is a formula. I've seen people with large hands and long fingers prefer a shallow neck and narrow nut, and I've seen people with small hands and short fingers who prefer the opposite.

I once thought that big hands would prefer beefier necks. Some do, of course, but there seems to be a great many exceptions. It's an even more subjective thing, I think, than our preferences for body styles or choice of woods.

Does that mean you have to play them all to decide? No, I don't think so. But you do need to try enough to discover what your hands prefer. (And ears, and pocketbook, and eyes...) I don't know of an easy way around that.

On the other hand, many of us can readily adapt to most any profile neck with practice. I'm not sure I fall into that catagory, but I've seen guitarists who seemed to feel comfortable with most any guitar shaped object they picked up.

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Old 09-30-2008, 10:01 AM
Howard Emerson Howard Emerson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
Another thread got me thinking about neck profile and how best to determine the best one for you. Now I know I hear a lot of "play all the different ones you can and see for yourself" but what I'm really looking for is what are the factors that go into that.

For example, if someone goes to a luthier and doesn't have a guitar they currently own that they really like the neck profile on, how does the luthier determine what might be best for them? Is it hand size, finger length... what??? I have a slightly smaller than medium hand. I tend to gravitate towards thinner C necks. But I've never played a V neck so I don't really know if that's be better. And thicker C necks I find hard to play.

Would one help me play more effortlessly or cleaner than another given my physical characteristics? Should I be playing a different style neck than I gravitate to based on initial impression and comfort?? Is there some objective approach to neck profile?

Luthiers feel free to weigh in!!

Mike
Mike,
There really is no substitute for experience in this matter, but there are some factors that are usually overlooked and once pointed out get the 'Wow........I hadn't thought of that' response.

The most overlooked factor in how a neck feels in a players hand is body shape.

I can just hear the collective 'What the h3ll is he talkin' 'bout??'

If you sit when you play then the center line of the neck will be higher, or lower, depending on the waistline of the instrument.

Another factor is the depth of the instrument which will determine how far from the player the front of the instrument projects.

The way in which these factors make a difference is the slight change you end up making in wrist angle which affects lots of things.

Yet another factor that makes a difference in how the neck feels in your hand is fret size, primarily height.

All of these things, coupled with the shape of the neck back, are going to affect each other.

So what's a guy or gal to do?

Pay Attention to yourself. Just because someone tells you that a neck is fast, it's got great action, blah, blah, it is all meaningless when it COMES TO YOU!!!

You're the one that has to feel comfortable in the end.

This kind of knowledge only comes with personal experience, so get out there and pay attention to what feels good, and what does not. Don't listen to salesmen, for the most part.

Happy hunting.

HE
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Old 09-30-2008, 10:03 AM
Jeff M Jeff M is offline
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There are no "formulas".
Generally..smaller hands prefer smaller necks..but not necessarily the same neck shapes.

The "ideal neck profile" is that which you find to be most comfortable.
If it isn't comfortable, it isn't ideal.
Your preferences may change as you get more experienced, but I can't think of anybody who would recommend choosing a profile/neck you are uncomfortable with over one you are already comfortable with.
If it's causing your hand strain/fatigue/pain, it ain't good for you.
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Old 09-30-2008, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
Another thread got me thinking about neck profile and how best to determine the best one for you..

Is there some objective approach to neck profile?

Mike
I am wondering if you are talking about "playability" rather than just one factor of playability, neck profile.

As has been said already, there are a truly a boatload of factors that go into guitar neck comfort, or playability. Howard has raised some factors that I had not considered before. And, while I agree that trying lots of different types is probably the only way to know if you are going to like one or another, in a case where you are going to have to spec one for a custom build, I think it could be helpful to know what some of the factors are so that you can put a name to what you like or don't like.

In terms of neck profile, there are several generally recognized shapes. The V shape, the C shape, and the D shape that is typical on classical guitars. Then of course you have variants of these shapes, the modified V, the soft V, the shallow C, and now, some builders are using offset profiles either to the bass or treble side. Another factor is the thickness of the neck, the distance from the top of the fretboard to the bottom of the neck. Then there are shoulders, beefy or slim. And, of course, fretboard radius or radii. All these factors could be grouped under the "neck profile" umbrella, and, as I said, neck profile is just one of many factors that contribute to playability.

Scale length often gets overlooked. The longer the scale, the farther apart the frets are going to be thus increasing the reach needed to make exotic chords.

I am guessing that most luthiers can and will produce any dimensions you want. So, as Howard has said, play lots of guitars with an awareness of things like string spacing both at the nut and at the bridge, and fret design etc. until you get to a point that you can have an informed conversation with your builder.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post

Since then, I've adjusted my posture and hand position to accommodate it, and in the process my fingering technique has grown, and now I play it without thinking about what size or shape the neck is.
My Uncle used to say, "Son, you can get used to anything. You can get used to hanging if you hang long enough". I think this is true. But, again, if you are now needing to spec playability factors for your dream guitar, you might want to spend some time educating yourself. Besides, being obsessive about these details is part of the fun of being an acoustic guitar nutcase.
LC
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Last edited by El Conquistador; 09-30-2008 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:25 AM
Ken C Ken C is offline
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Mike, that is an interesting question and it could be altered a little to include lounge chairs, bar stools, and perhaps even shoes.

I remember when Martin had a pretty pronounced "D" so it was close to a "V" and I was hearing about people buying new Martins and having the necks shaved during a set up.

There were fewer choices then.

And I heard a similar thing about the pre-1970 Yamahas, only people were just living with them...or using the shape as an excuse for slow learning. <g>

I have ended up with every shape neck there is and here is my take on it.

If I have not been playing for a while and I want to get the left hand and fingers back in shape, I always reach for the same guitars. Each has a great big handful of mahogany and a fellow has to really want to play them to manage them. There are times when it simply feels good to fill up the hand with half-baseball bat of that wood.

I have Gibsons with a rather shallow "D" and that feels good anytime the fingers are more loose.

I have flat back necks that are nice when the action is low and there is finger picking going on and I need a lighter touch. This is not for vigorous, post-6-pack strumming.

The 12-string Framus has a flat, wide neck. Wow! A fellow really has to want to play it to enjoy it.

First, do a little on-line research to learn the terms so when you find one you like, you can transfer that information to someone else.

I believe that playing style, setup, string gauge, even the type of music, is all involved in picking a neck shape...maybe even less so than hand shape.

I remember when a budding horn player told me that he could never play trumpet because his lips were not real thin like Harry James or Ray Anthony. (Who? -- There is a point to this.)

I pointed out that Louie Armstrong didn't have thin lips and he played OK.

And the other night, I was admiring Keb Mo's hands. What a reach! What beautiful fingers! And he was playing a small guitar with a rather narrow neck.

But I remembered pudgy, stubby fingers on Andres Segovia, and he plays guitar OK. And his guitars are sorta' big with wide necks.

So the hand shape might not be that important when chosing a neck shape. Or width.

I babble...sorry...

Ken C.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
LJ, you are getting at one of the things that I am trying to determine. I guess what I'm asking is 2 parts.

One, is there an objective technique for determining ideal neck profile for a given player based on thier physiology?

Two, if a player is fitted with the ideal neck profile for them, will they develop better technique over time even if they are initially uncomfotable with it as you were?
Hi mmaptags...
I think there is a point to be made that if the neck already enhances my play, it will only get better.

I suggest you play a bunch-o-guitars and note which models fit, and then make sure those specs get passed on to any luthier you contact.
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Old 09-30-2008, 11:43 AM
mmapags mmapags is offline
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LC said "Besides, being obsessive about these details is part of the fun of being an acoustic guitar nutcase."

Amen to that Brother!! I am guilty as charged!!\

I'm not really looking to have a custom built. I'm just looking at the whole idea of what makes a neck fit a player well besides comfort. As LJ said, his technique improved as he played the Seagull more. Obviously if a neck is uncomfortable and causes tension or pain, it's not a good one for you. But what if it's just uncomfortable because it's not what you are used to but is really best fit for your physiology and will help you to be a better player over time? For example, when I first started learning about posture and hand position, it was a little uncomfortable and unnatural to get into the proper positions but as I practiced that way, it became more natural and my technique improved as did the quality and ease of my playing. Does the same thing apply to neck profile and all the supporting components. Someone mentioned scale length for example. I am looking at trying a 12 fret or short scale because on my 25.5 scale guitar I get some discomfort in the tendons in my forearm if I play in the 1st position for any length. Is there a way for a luthier to measure someone up (as someone else said, like a tailor) and recommend what is probably best for them? Maybe not but if there is, I would sure like to know a little more about it.

Mike
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:02 PM
mmapags mmapags is offline
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Ken,

You are sure right about those early Yammies! A friend had one and it felt like a sledgehammer handle. I also agree completely about Keb Mo! Sometimes I put him on youtube just to watch those gorgeous fingers glide like silk across the fretboard. It's a 'ting of beauty, as they would say in South Philly!

Mike
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:27 PM
Howard Emerson Howard Emerson is offline
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
LC said "Besides, being obsessive about these details is part of the fun of being an acoustic guitar nutcase."

Amen to that Brother!! I am guilty as charged!!\

I'm not really looking to have a custom built. I'm just looking at the whole idea of what makes a neck fit a player well besides comfort. As LJ said, his technique improved as he played the Seagull more. Obviously if a neck is uncomfortable and causes tension or pain, it's not a good one for you. But what if it's just uncomfortable because it's not what you are used to but is really best fit for your physiology and will help you to be a better player over time? For example, when I first started learning about posture and hand position, it was a little uncomfortable and unnatural to get into the proper positions but as I practiced that way, it became more natural and my technique improved as did the quality and ease of my playing. Does the same thing apply to neck profile and all the supporting components. Someone mentioned scale length for example. I am looking at trying a 12 fret or short scale because on my 25.5 scale guitar I get some discomfort in the tendons in my forearm if I play in the 1st position for any length. Is there a way for a luthier to measure someone up (as someone else said, like a tailor) and recommend what is probably best for them? Maybe not but if there is, I would sure like to know a little more about it.

Mike
Mike,
Scale length and 12 frets to the body have nothing to do with each other. You can have a long scale 12 fret or 14, or a short scale 12 or 14 fret.

How close to YOUR BODY you prefer to keep your fretting hand is another, and probably, pertinent point.

It happens to be one of the reasons I like capoing on the 2nd fret or higher, if the key will allow.

HE
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Old 09-30-2008, 01:18 PM
Ken C Ken C is offline
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Originally Posted by mmapags View Post
Ken,

You are sure right about those early Yammies! A friend had one and it felt like a sledgehammer handle. I also agree completely about Keb Mo! Sometimes I put him on youtube just to watch those gorgeous fingers glide like silk across the fretboard. It's a 'ting of beauty, as they would say in South Philly!

Mike
I have a couple of Harmony archtops and a big Silvertone (Kay) flat top and a Catalina archtop (Kay) and some of these necks are "steel reinforced", but either way, they are a fist full.

I can see the reason for the "V" cross-section from a structural standpoint but less so for comfort. It sure made it tough for those of us who drape a thumb over the neck. Mmmm...new subject. <g>

Ken C.
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Gibson J-50 Mahogany
G-40 Maccaferri arch top (3 ea.)
Kay Catalina arch top w/DeArmond floating p.u.
Harmony arch top
Silvertone (Kay) flat top
Framus 12-string
Harmony tenor arch top
Gakki Yamaha FG-140
DeArmond arch top
And 14 misc.ukes.
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