There are four main guitar neck shapes: C, D, V and U. Out of the four neck shapes, the C-shape and D-shape are the most similar, but there are some key differences between them meaning they lend themselves best to different types of guitarists.
In this article I’ll directly compared these two shapes so you can decide which is the most suitable for you.
C vs D Shape Neck
The D-shape neck is flatter compared to the C-shape and has squarer shoulders. The C-shape has rounded shoulders and is considered the most universally comfortable. The D-shape neck is very popular for shredding and fast-playing, and suits players who anchor their thumb on the back of the neck.
|Curved with rounded shoulders||Flat with broad shoulders|
|Suits most hand/ thumb positions and is the best for a “floating thumb”||Suits players who anchor their thumb on the back of the neck|
|Most universally comfortable and popular shape||Best for shredding and fast playing|
C-Shape Neck 101
C-shape necks are also referred to as oval shape necks. They have curved shoulders and are often regarded as the most universally comfortable neck shapes. For this reason, a C-shape neck is chosen for many guitars by Gibson, Fender, Schecter and Ibanez.
C-shape necks suit most playing styles and hand sizes. A C-shape neck is the best choice players who like their thumb to be floating and don’t like resting their thumb over the top or on the back of the neck. With that said, if you like to rest your thumb on the neck, a C-shape is still suitable and it’s actually what I do personally.
There are several variants of the classic C shape.
For example, Fender has the standard C, deep C and modern C. The modern C feels the slimmest whereas the deep C feels more chunky and reminiscent of older Fender guitars.
Most Gibson guitars also have C shape necks, however they are often given unique names. For example, the “Slim Taper” neck profile is a slimmer C-shape, whereas the “Rounded” neck profile is a thicker C-shape.
Guitars with C-Shape Necks:
- Fender Player (modern C)
- Fender American Performer (modern C)
- Fender American Professional (deep C)
- Fender American Original ’60s Stratocaster (thick C)
- Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s (vintage C)
- Gibson ES-335 (rounded C)
- Gibson Les Paul Standard ’60s (slim taper C)
- Gibson Les Paul Studio (slim taper C)
- Gibson Les Paul Classic (slim taper C)
D-Shape Neck 101
D-shape necks aren’t as common as C-shape necks but they do still exist on a lot of electric and acoustic guitars. They’re often considered a hybrid between the C-shape and U-shape.
The D-shape neck has broader shoulders compared to the C-shape, but it’s not as deep as a U-shape. It’s kind of like a flatter C-shape/ flat-oval, so most D-shape necks are relatively thinner but wider in most cases.
The D-shape is often regarded as a great choice for lead playing, as it suits players who drop their thumb down on the back of the neck as it has a flatter shape to help keep it anchored. Since D-necks are often quite thin, they are also great for fast-playing and an excellent choice for shredders.
Again, there are some variations of the D-shape, but not as many compared to the C-shape which can vary more significantly.
One thing to note is that old-fashioned D-shape necks were typically much thicker than the vast majority of D-shape necks on the market today. For example, older ’50s Les Paul models had a chunky D-shape neck, however this isn’t seen today and the D-shape is much more synonymous with thinner “shredders” necks instead.
Check out the best guitar necks for shredding to learn more.
Guitars with D-Shape Necks:
- Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker
- Fender American Ultra Telecaster
- Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster
Which Neck Shape is Best for You?
C-shape necks are more universally comfortable compared to D-shape necks. If you’re buying an electric guitar blind and you have no idea which neck shape you might prefer, then I’d recommend going with a C-shape neck. Not that I’d ever recommend buying a guitar without trying it first though!
If you play a lot of lead and like to have your thumb anchored on the back of the guitar, then a D-shape neck will probably be more suitable than a C-shape due to its flatter design. If you like to play fast and like a thin and flat neck, then opt for the D-shape.
Both C and D neck shapes are good options for players with small hands, but the C-shape is the better choice for beginners as it is more likely to feel comfortable.
With either shapes it’s possible to get different versions so it’s important to recognise that not every C and D shape feels the same. You should also consider the width and thickness of the neck as well and understand that the shape is only one parameter to consider.
Like most things electric guitar, it really comes down to personal preference.
If you don’t know if you prefer a C or D shape neck then I’d highly recommend going to your local guitar store and asking to try a range of neck shapes so you can really work out what suits your playing style.
Here are some more articles you might find helpful:
In the market for a new guitar? I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.