Choosing the right neck profile for your guitar is really important. It might not directly influence the tone, but it does play a massive role in determining how the guitar feels to play.
The Quick Answer
C-shape necks have more curved shoulders compared to U-shape necks which have flatter shoulders. U-shape necks suit players with larger hands who like to rest their thumb on the back of the neck, whilst C-shape necks are usually comfortable for most hand position and sizes.
It’s important to note that we’re just discussing profile here. You can get thick and thin versions of both C and U shaped necks. In general U-shape necks tend to be thicker than most C-shape necks, but it’s important not to get the terms thickness and profile confused.
C-shape guitar neck profiles have curved-shoulders and are comfortable for most players. Many guitar necks have a C-shape including most Fender models produced today. C-shape necks tend to be thinner than most other neck profiles including U-shape necks.
There are a couple of main variants of the C-shape including the deep-C and modern-C. The deep-C is thicker and is found on models such as the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster and Telecaster models. Whereas the modern C, also known as the “flat oval”, has a slimmer feel to it and is found on models such as the Fender Player and American Performer Strats and Teles.
Many other brands use C-shape necks including Gibson, however their naming system is slightly different. Gibson guitars with Slim Taper and ’50s profiles also have C-shaped necks. In this case, the Slim Taper is closer to a Fender modern-C, although not quite as slim, and the Gibson ’50s is closer to the Fender deep C.
Who Do They Suit?
C-shape necks are comfortable for most players, particularly those who do not have their thumb resting on the back or side of the neck. Modern-C necks are slimmer and suit players with smaller hands compared to deep-C necks which are better for players with larger hands.
Guitars with a C-Shape Neck Profile:
- Squier (modern C)
- Fender Player (modern C)
- Fender American Performer (modern C)
- Fender American Professional (deep C)
- Fender American Original ’60s Strat (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)
U-shape necks have a rounded shape with much shallower shoulder curvature. These necks are typically very thick and are often referred to as “baseball” necks. Older Fender guitars such as the original Telecaster had a U-shape neck, hence the re-issued version, the American Original ’50s Tele also features this neck profile. Gibson guitars with a “rounded” neck profile have a similar kind of thick U-shape neck such as the Les Paul Junior and Tribute.
However, not all U-shape necks are really thick. Some brands such as Schecter use a thinner U-shape neck which is more suitable for shredding compared to the baseball style U-shape seen on older Gibson and Fender guitars.
Who Do They Suit?
U-shape guitar necks typically suit players with larger hands due to their rounded profile. U-shape necks are popular with players who like to rest their thumb on the back or side of the neck. Thick U-shape necks, also known as baseball necks are not suited to players with smaller than average hands. Thin U-shape necks feel faster to play on but still generally suit players with longer fingers.
Guitars with a U-Shape Neck Profile:
- Fender American Original ’50s Tele (thick U)
- Gibson Les Paul Junior (thick U)
- Gibson Les Paul Tribute (thick U)
- Schecter Banshee (thin U)
- Gretsch Streamliner (thin U)
Which Neck Profile Should You Choose?
The most universally popular neck tends to be the modern C-shape neck which in general, most players find comfortable. The U-shape neck is a little more polarising but will suit some players really well.
Although in-general, U-shape necks suit players with larger hands, you should still try some different necks out in the guitar store to see which one suits you the best. Even if you do have larger hands, you may actually have the way the U-shape feels and prefer a C-shape instead.
The best neck profile for you depends on different factors including your hand size, the position of your hand on the neck and the styles of music you play, for example if you mainly play chords or prefer to shred.
Like with most things guitar related, it’s all personal preference and you’ll only know which neck profile is the best for you once you’ve tried a few different ones.
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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.