Electric guitar necks are typically between 0.7″ and 1.0″ thick at the first fret. Anything thinner than 0.8″ at the first fret is typically considered thin, whereas anything thicker than 0.9″ is fairly thick, with 0.8″-0.9″ being pretty moderate.
In this article I’ll explain the pros and cons of thick and thin guitar necks to help you decide which is the best option. First, here’s the quick answer…
Thin guitar necks suit smaller hands and are often preferred for fast playing as they make it easier to perform single-note runs quickly. Thicker necks provide more hand support and are less likely to cause hand cramping, particularly for guitarists with larger hands.
|Thin Necks||Thick Necks|
|Suit smaller hands||Suit larger hands|
|Typically better for beginners||Provide more hand support|
|Often preferred for fast playing||Less likely to cause hand cramping|
Advantages of Thin Necks
- Suit smaller hands and fingers
- Makes it easier to play faster
- Usually better for beginners
It probably goes without saying but thinner guitar necks are better for players with smaller hands and fingers. I have super small hands and find it incredibly difficult to play using a baseball-style neck found on a ’50s Telecaster and I feel much more comfortable on something like a Fender modern-C which is much thinner.
In general, thinner necks are also preferred for playing faster. I say “in general” because neck thickness is a personal preference. There also becomes a point where the having a thinner neck will not help you play any faster.
Shred-style guitars typically have very thin but also quite wide necks. This means that the depth of the neck is thin, but the fretboard width is large. This forces the hand into a more classical position which makes it easier to play single-note runs faster.
Thinner necks are also generally preferred by beginners as they feel a lot more manageable. It’s best to still stay within the moderate range if you’re a total beginner and have no idea what neck dimensions you prefer, but it may be worth leaning towards the thinner side.
Advantages of Thick Necks
- Suit larger hands and fingers
- Provide more support
- Less likely to cause hand cramping
Neck thickness is a personal preference, however there is the general idea that players with larger hands will prefer guitars with larger necks as these will simply feel more comfortable. If you have hands like spades and try an Ibanez Wizard neck, the chances are it’ll just feel way to thin.
Thicker necks can be preferred by rhythm guitar players as they provide more hand support which is useful for chording. Sometimes super thin necks can feel uncomfortable when trying to hold barre chords and can lead to hand cramping for some players. This is because it can cause them to grip too tightly.
Some players also find that thicker necks make it easier to bend strings and typically suit players who like to have their thumb over the top of the neck.
Does Neck Thickness Affect the Tone?
There’s been a lot of debate in the guitar world as to whether the thickness of a guitar neck affects the tone. Having a thicker neck should in theory result in more sustain and low-end giving the guitar a more resonant quality. A thinner neck on the other hand should sound a bit sharper with more attack.
In my opinion, the differences are quite subtle and the neck thickness has a minimal effect on the tone compared to the body size and thickness. I think the differences are too subtle to consider when choosing the neck size, and instead it’s far better to focus on feel and playability instead.
Darrell Braun did a great experiment on his YouTube channel comparing the sound of a thick and thin electric guitar neck. Make sure you check out his video below.
It’s Not All About Neck Thickness
Up until now we’ve only focused on the neck thickness (depth), but there are other factors to consider:
- Neck profile/ shape e.g. C-shape, D-shape, U-shape or V-shape
- Neck width: how wide the fretboard is
- Fretboard radius: how curved the fretboard is
I’d strongly recommend heading to your local guitar store and trying a range of necks which differ in terms of their shape, thickness, width and fretboard radius so you can really get to grips with (pardon the pun) what neck dimensions are best for your hands and playing style.
Examples of Thin Necks
- Ibanez Wizard
- Schecter Ultra Thin U or C
- ESP Thin U
- Fender Modern D/ Modern C
- PRS Thin Wide
Examples of Thick Necks
- Gibson Rounded C
- Fender Early ’50s U
- Fender Soft V
- PRS Pattern Vintage
Check out my ultimate guide to neck shapes for everything else you need to know.