Comfort is important when playing the guitar. Not only do you need a guitar that is comfortable to hold, but you want a guitar that makes it easy to play the music that you want to play.
There is a lot about a guitar that can impact this. One of the most important is the neck width. So, how wide is a guitar neck?
Guitar neck widths can vary between guitar models. While most guitar neck widths will be either 41mm (1.61 inches) or 42mm (1.69 inches), guitar neck widths can go as low as 38mm (1.50 inches) and, on nylon string guitars, sometimes as wide as 52mm (2.05 inches).
When you buy a guitar, pay attention to the neck width. It will impact how comfortable the guitar is.
If you read on, we will take a deep dive into the width of guitar necks. We will also tell you a little about how the width of the guitar neck will impact how comfortable the guitar is to play.
We will even let you know how you can measure the guitar neck yourself! Whether you are a new or experienced guitarist, this information will be incredibly useful.
How Wide Is a Guitar Neck?
There is no one right answer here. This is because neck widths can vary between guitar models, brands, etc. It will also be heavily impacted by the purpose of that guitar.
For example, you will often find that guitars designed for shredding will have thinner necks than guitars designed for strumming a few chords. Well, as a general rule. Rules are made to be broken.
Assuming we are talking about the typical guitar (i.e. something not explicitly designed for very young children), the width of guitar necks can vary considerably.
Guitar neck widths on electric guitars can vary between 38mm (1.50 inches) and 47mm (1.85 inches), with the vast majority of electric guitars sitting somewhere around the 41mm (1.61 inches) or 42mm (1.69 inches) mark.
Acoustic guitars tend to have wider necks. It makes them easier to play, and the sound will often be a lot louder as a result. Most acoustic guitars (including nylon string guitars) will start at 42mm (1.69mm) and go all the way up to 52mm (2.05 inches).
Things get a bit more complicated than this too. This is because guitars do not have a consistent neck width. As you will see shortly, neck width is measured from a very specific part of your guitar’s neck (the nut), but as you go down the fretboard, the guitar’s neck will get narrower.
This means that you may struggle to do some of the things that you could easily do at the top of the fretboard. Although, for most people, the slight narrowing of the neck on the higher notes isn’t going to matter too much.
If you want to know how wide a guitar’s neck is, then you can always look at the specs for the guitar. It will be listed clearly since it is one of the most important pieces of information about a guitar.
If the guitar’s specs don’t list a width, then you should probably give that guitar a skip. In a couple of sections, we will tell you how you can measure the width of your guitar’s neck. Don’t worry. It is easier than you may think!
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The Importance of Width on Guitar Neck
Before we talk about how to measure the width of your guitar’s neck, let’s talk about how important neck width actually is. This may help you to decide which guitar neck width is right for you. Although, do bear in mind that the information that we give here will just be general rules.
You don’t have to follow the rules. You should always go with the width of the guitar neck that you feel most comfortable with. Many people will try out a few different guitars to see which one feels better to hold.
Your Hand Size
Your hand size is going to play a major role in the width of the guitar neck you need. Generally speaking, the larger your hands, the wider you need that guitar neck to be.
If you have hands on the larger side of things and you start fumbling around on a 38mm guitar neck, then it is going to be incredibly uncomfortable. You will struggle to hit the frets. Your playing will be much sloppier.
This is where you really need to test out a few guitar widths, to be honest. It is impossible for us to say “if your hands are this wide, then get this width of neck” because that isn’t how it works.
The neck width for your size of hand will be a very personal choice. We have seen people with huge hands even feel comfortable with narrow necks, although that is quite rare.
On the opposite side of things, if you have smaller hands, then you will want a thinner guitar neck. The wider the neck, the more difficult it will be for you to play certain chords or hit certain notes without stretching your hands.
In fact, we have seen people with smaller hands really struggle to even hold something like a simple C chord on a wider neck.
Style of Play
You will also need to pay attention to the type of stuff you plan on playing. Again, this is going to be a personal choice here.
For example, we are going to say that if you want to shred, you will probably want to buy a guitar with a thinner neck. However, there are plenty of shredding guitars with thicker necks on the market.
Make sure you test a few guitars. These are general rules. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to play style.
General Purpose Playing (Electric Guitar)
If you are doing a little bit of everything with your guitar e.g. a bit of chord strumming here and there, and maybe jamming some scales over a chord progression, then we recommend a guitar neck width of either 41mm (1.61 inches) or 42mm (1.69 inches).
This is the most common neck width, particularly on electric guitars, for a reason. If you have smaller hands, then you may be able to go down to a 38mm (1.50 inches) neck width.
Acoustic Guitar Playing
For most acoustic guitar playing, you want something that is fairly wide. As we said, most acoustic guitars start at 42mm (1.69mm) and go up from there. There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, a lot of people that play acoustic guitars will dabble in fingerpicking. If the neck is too narrow, it forces the strings closer together.
This can make it exceedingly tough to fingerpick. In fact, we would say that proper fingerpicking is impossible on narrow-neck guitars.
Secondly, having the strings further apart can add a bit more depth to your notes. It can even help to add volume. The tone sounds a lot less muddied.
For rhythm guitar, we also recommend wider necks. When you are playing rhythm guitar, you are going to be doing a whole lot of playing chords. It is your main role.
A thicker neck makes it easier to hold those chords without getting tired. You will also find it a bit easier to zip from chord to chord.
Now, there is some argument to be made that wider necks are not so great if you are playing barre chords. However, we don’t see that.
Because a thinner neck tends to offer less support to the hands, you will often find it much harder to hold your barres on a thin-neck guitar.
Lead or Shredding
For lead or shredding, you will want those strings to be close together. This way, you will find it much faster to dart between the frets.
Having a wide neck would greatly slow down the speed at which you play. You will also find that having a narrower neck makes it easier to hit string bends, etc.
Of course, the slower you play, the wider that neck can be. So, slower bluesy leads may be fine with a wider neck guitar, but if you are doing Dragonforce-style solos, then the thinner, the better.
Although, you still need to weigh up overall comfort levels. You don’t want to go too thin if you have larger hands, because you will be less precise with your fretting.
Remember, while the width of your guitar neck is important, it is not the only thing that you need to think about when purchasing a guitar.
The shape of the neck, the neck’s radius, etc. can all play a major role in determining which guitar neck width is right for you. We suggest that you watch this YouTube video for more information.
How Do You Measure The Width Of Your Guitar Neck?
Measuring the width of your guitar neck is simple. All you need is a digital pair of calipers. You want to measure from end to end on the nut (i.e. the piece where the strings sit close to the headstock of your guitar).
Some people will measure the width at the 12th fret, as this is when the guitar neck is at its thickest. However, since you will be doing most of your stuff near the top of the fretboard, measuring at the nut is your best bet. The difference between the 12th fret and the 1st fret isn’t huge anyway.
You can also read the manual for your guitar. Unless you have purchased something very cheap, it should list the neck width.
The width of a guitar neck can vary considerably. Acoustic guitars tend to have wider necks than their electric counterparts, mostly to make it easier to fingerpick and get more clarity to the tone.
Your choice of guitar neck thickness will be based on how big your hands are, as well as your playing style. Faster playstyles often lend themselves to thinner guitar necks.
Which guitar manufacturer offers the thinnest necks?
While Ibanez does offer a few wider neck guitars, the bulk of their range has been designed for fast solo play. If you want the thinnest necks, then looking at the Ibanez range may be your best bet.
What guitar type has the widest neck?
Nylon string classical guitars have the widest necks. So wide that you will often need two hands to grip them. This is because these guitars have been designed for fingerstyle play.
What guitar neck width is best for new players?
This will depend on your hand size. Most newbies should start with either 41mm (1.61 inches) or 42mm (1.69 inches).
This should cover you for most styles of play. Later on, you can always buy a different guitar that is more specialized for your way of playing.