Learning to play the guitar is a useful skill, and one certainly worth learning and practicing. There are varieties of guitars though, so figuring out which one works best for you can be an advantage in your pursuits.
Wide-neck guitars can be easier to play depending on your circumstance and the style you want to play. There are some benefits to a wide-neck guitar if you have larger hands and thicker fingers. Overall, the difference is quite negligible for beginners and best discovered through experience with that instrument.
In this article, we are going to review the workings of a guitar and what the different parts represent. We will discuss what a wider neck does for a guitar and how it could help beginners.
The Neck as Part of the Guitar
Like with most modern instruments, the guitar has a lot of different components involved that make up its structure. Each contributes vital aspects to the way you play the instrument, the sound produced, and the overall feel of playing it.
Starting from the top of the guitar, where the tuning is done, we have the head of the guitar.
This then leads into the tuning keys, followed by the nut. The neck and frets come next, creating the fretboard. This leads down to the guitar body, passes the soundhole on an acoustic guitar, then the saddle and onto the bridge (source).
While it is not that important to know what each of these parts does, it is useful to get a rough gauge on how the guitar fits together. Also, each of these aspects does play some part in creating the sound and, therefore, does affect playing experience.
Defining a Wide-Neck Guitar
The history of guitars is a very long one, layered in a variety of adaptations. Over the years, there have been many different types of guitars, each trying to perfect the structure.
The fact that there is not a single type of guitar already shows that there is no perfect shape that fits all users.
Currently, the different widths in guitar necks are mainly oriented around the difference between acoustic or classical. The average acoustic guitar has a narrower neck than that of the wider classical guitars. We find the reason for this in their traditional use.
An acoustic guitar is designed more towards strumming and making chord changes. It also generally utilizes steel strings, which are thinner than the nylon strings of the classical guitars.
The steel strings allow for faster playing and produce a louder, more modern sound.
The nylon strings of a classical guitar are an ample reason for why they are wider at the neck. Another aspect of a greater width is that it allows for the more common fingerstyle playing favored with classical guitars and their music.
The Different Neck Widths Available
The first thing to understand about the neck width of guitars is precisely where this width is measured. Traditionally, the neck width refers to the length of the nut of the guitar.
The nut is the hard material strip that holds the strings above the fretboard and keeps them aligned.
For an acoustic guitar, the average width of the nut is 1 3/4 inch, while an electric guitar is usually a little narrower than this. For the classical guitar, this average sits around 2 inches.
Within each of these, there are, of course, variations, but the most common instruments will be around these widths.
For an acoustic, steel-stringed guitar, the wide-neck variant is commonly defined as 1 7/8 of an inch (source). This is notably wider than the standard option but also rarer to find.
Another important thing to remember with the width of the guitar is that it generally expands outward as it moves away from the nut. This is something to be aware of when picking out an instrument, as it can affect the playing of the guitar.
How Does a Wide-Neck Affect Playability?
When it comes to musical instruments, different people will have different experiences.
The size of the instrument plays a significant role in this. For some, this is more pronounced and notable, while other instruments are inherently more flexible in their use.
Guitars have minimal variations because, fundamentally, most people can use them anyway.
The different widths, of course, do make a difference, but it is important to note that this difference is marginal. It is also very dependent on personal use and the feel.
The most notable area a wide-neck guitar can affect is in the users’ hand and finger size. Naturally, a wider neck allows wider fingers more freedom to move around. It makes it less likely that certain strings might be muted while playing chords.
The reverse is also true. A narrower neck width can be easier to play for those with smaller, thinner fingers.
These are also rare variations of the standard guitar width, but they are still available for those that may require something in the other direction.
Another area that a wide-neck guitar might make playing more comfortable is if you are planning to use fingerstyle extensively. This style focuses on plucking the strings, which often requires more significant space between the individual strings.
This style is often found with classical guitar playing but can be employed on an acoustic guitar as well.
Overall, these differences tend to develop as you get more involved with playing the guitar versus learning the basics, which means that when you start, it does not matter so much which width you use.
There are no specific sizes that make learning a guitar significantly easier, and often you can better gauge which one is best for you after you have some experience with playing guitar.
Should You Use a Wide-Neck Guitar?
The simple truth of picking out the best guitar for you is to go with what feels the most natural. For beginners, this means being willing to try out different options to see what makes a difference. In this pursuit, there are some things you can do.
The first is to try and get your hands on any guitars you can. Trying out friends’ guitars, especially experienced musicians who can offer advice, is the preferred option.
If this is not possible, then it could be worth consulting any music tutors or teachers to whom you may have access.
Otherwise, you can also try out a few options in the store, and ask the people selling the instruments for some further advice.
It can take you some time and experience to figure out which type of guitar neck is best for you. This makes it challenging to pick out a guitar straight off the bat.
With this in mind, it may be beneficial to consider renting a guitar first. This can be a great way of testing out the neck width to see if it feels comfortable.
Additionally, the availability of the different neck widths is worth keeping in mind, and one may be worth learning simply because it’s what’s available.
Other Factors that Can Affect Guitar Use
While neck width is worth consideration, other factors may change the comfort and feel of the guitar.
One such consideration is the string spacing on the instrument, which is related to the width of the neck but can differ even within the same widths.
String spacing can also play a significant role in the feel of the instrument and deserves attention when picking out your guitar.
There are also different styles of neck shape. These can affect the string spacing and change the experience of the neck width. There are a variety of these styles, and trying them out may improve comfort.
The V shape of a guitar neck is a common option. These come in different gradients, from hard to soft V shapes. As the name implies, they have a naturally sharper contour to them.
The C and U shapes are more rounded than the V option, and, for some, this creates a more comfortable grip. Alongside this, there are variations of all of these, subtly changing the feel in your hand when gripped (source).
Another essential factor to consider is the feel of the strings and the string gauge. The tension created and the sound they produce can all affect playability.
While this can be less important than the width involved, it can have enough of an effect that it is worth taking into consideration.
With such a complex and detailed instrument like the guitar, many other subtle aspects might make a difference. Still, these are generally only factors when you have acquired a certain level of experience and feel for the instrument.
Things like the type of wood employed can affect performance. Not just for the nut of the guitar, but also the neck and body.
The scale length can also make a difference (source). Scale length is the distance from the base of the nut to the saddle, which is essentially the entire active part of the strings while playing.
It can change the sounds produced by the instrument and how it feels when played.
Many things might determine which guitar is right for you. Depending on your circumstance, a wider guitar neck may be easier for some people to use. The best way to discover which guitar type works for you is to experiment with different options.