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guitar nut/neck size

23 Jul 03 - 04:31 PM (#989060)
Subject: guitar nut/neck size
From: GUEST,dbgrate in Boston

Could I get some opinions on which nut widths are recommended for fingerpicking and/or flat picking.I enjoy playing in both styles.My current guitar has a 1 and 11/16ths nut.I'm considering a guitar with a 1 and 3/4ths nut.Is that a good move or is one width good for one style and the other width good for another style?? Appreciate some good old Mudcat input. Thanks!

23 Jul 03 - 04:44 PM (#989072)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Ed.


You're looking at a diffence of 1/16th of an inch here. I'd guess whatever feels most comfortable to you would be the right answer.

There aren't any 'rules' here...

23 Jul 03 - 05:25 PM (#989101)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: PoppaGator

Well, it's about a 5% difference -- looking at it that way, it might be just a bit more significant a difference than 1/16". But . . .

Can anyone tell me what difference the width of the nut could possibly make, anyway? My understanding is that the vibrating part of the string stops at the near edge of the nut, anyway -- how might the length of string resting on the nut behind the edge affect anything? To me, it would seem to be as arbitrary and meaningless as the distance from nut to machine-peg, which varies greatly from one string to the next and from one instrument to another.

Hey, I'm not trying to be sarcastic; I suspect thst there might indeed be something to this -- I just can't see it without further input.

23 Jul 03 - 06:05 PM (#989128)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Don Firth

The width of the nut has a lot to do with left hand technique. Most fingerpickers I have known personally like a fairly wide neck (i.e., fingerboard). If you play mostly chords, and if you like to wrap your thumb around the neck, the narrower the better, I guess, but this doesn't make for agility. If you do a lot of rapid left-hand fingerwork (as in classic and in fingerpicking), you need some room to maneuver. I've played classics (2" at the nut) almost all my life, and to me, most steel string guitars feel like I'm trying to keep track of six strings on a toothpick. But, then, that's just me.

Don Firth

23 Jul 03 - 07:11 PM (#989180)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Midchuck

I played "standard" (1 11/16" at nut) width necks for 40 years or so. Never had any problem with them.

But when I got a couple of instruments with the wider (1 3/4" at nut) necks and played them most of the time for a while, I found it very uncomfortable to go back.

I can manage either width, but have a strong preference for the wider necks. But then, I have thick, short fingers. They feel crowded in first position.


24 Jul 03 - 07:23 AM (#989389)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: mooman

I agree with Don and Peter. These days I play a guitar with custom wide neck (48 mm at nut - haven't got my converter to hand for imperial measurements). This is excellent for fingerpicking for the reasons Don explains and I find it fine for chord work as well (but I have quite big hands and can still manage the wrap around thumb as an alternative to barre chords which may not be the case for all players).



24 Jul 03 - 08:38 AM (#989437)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: GUEST,woody

3/4 inch width nuts are getting harder to find these days. Nearly all dreanoughts have 1&1/16 although many smaller bodied guitars ie 000 &and OM 28 style still have the larger size as an option.

I/16 may sound small but if you're a finger style player it feels like a lot and IMO is preferable.

Also the smaller bodied guitar is often chosen by pickers for not only its sound but it is more comfortable to hold for the smaller player.

Happy picking,

24 Jul 03 - 08:48 AM (#989446)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: GUEST,woody

Ooops sorry, of course i meant 1&3/4" and 1&11/16" !!

I blame all this metrication they make us use over here!


24 Jul 03 - 11:32 AM (#989611)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: GUEST,Les B.

I played a wide-necked nylon-stringed guitar in fingerstyle for quite a few years, and then decided to learn flatpicking and went to a narrower necked steel string. At first I could barely get my left hand to make those itty bitty chords, but then got used to it.

My sense is that the wider neck allows your right hand fingers to slip between the strings easier for fingerpicking and the narrow neck allows faster string crossings with the flatpick, so the widths both are useful for the particular picking style.

24 Jul 03 - 12:16 PM (#989657)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: PoppaGator

Silly me -- I assumed we were discussing the *other* dimension of the nut, which is down in the neighborhood of 3/16 to 1/4 inch, not an inch and 3/4. If I had read more carefully, visualized the dimensions under discussion and thought about for a moment, I wouldn't have posted my comment/question yesterday -- at least, not the same one.

Having learned to play on a nylon string guitar before switching to a dreadnaught, I'm very much aware of the difference between the wide fingerboard on classical-type guitars and the narrower one on steel-string models. Since I'm not a collector or connoisseur, having owned only the two instruments, I was not really aware of the more subtle differences between nut-widths from one steel-string instrument and another -- I just assumed that there were the two widths, one standard size for classical guitars and the other for all steel-string acoustics and electrics. Obviously I was wrong.

Seems to me that the width at the nut would have more effect on LEFT-hand technique and habits, and have little to do with whether the player is flat- or finger-picking with the right hand. It would be the width at the *other* end, at the bridge and/or saddle, that would be in question in regard to picking styles. The strings are spread a bit wider apart down there at the bottom end than they are at the nut, if I'm not mistaken, and assuming that there are subtle differences between one guitar and another in the saddle width as well as the nut width, I'd suggest that *that* dimension might be considered in relation to right-hand technique.

I can't imagine that it would make a lot of difference anyway, and I'm not sure which dimension would be considered preferable for which style: Is a narrower configuration preferable for flatpicking and a wider one for fingerpicking, or vice versa? Narrower might be better for just-strumming, but flatpickers and fingerpickers both need to strike individual strings as well as chords.

24 Jul 03 - 01:49 PM (#989761)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: GUEST,Maurice

The difference between 1+11/16 and 1+3/4 is almost nothing, but the ones with the wider nut also have wider string spacing at the bridge and really do feel different. You need to try both for a while...

24 Jul 03 - 01:52 PM (#989762)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Bert

I would imagine that the length and thickness of one's fingers would be the most deciding factor. In which case I should be playing a Classical guitar but I'm not. Perhaps THAT'S why I fluff a chord now and then (For 'now and then' read often) ;-)

24 Jul 03 - 03:58 PM (#989867)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Don Firth

I can't really buy the idea that a 2" classic guitar fingerboard is all that difficult for a person with small hands. Years ago I had a guitar pupil, a young woman who stood all of about 4' 8". Full grown, she was about nineteen and a sophomore at the UW. She wanted to accompany folk songs, but she wanted to learn some classic guitar too. She had a standard size classic guitar with a full width fingerboard (2" at the nut). Her hands were so small that, so help me God, she had dimples in her knuckles, like a baby! I really wondered if she was going to need a guitar with a narrower fingerboard.

When we got to learning chords, instead of showing her the first position G chord that classic guitarists tend to favor (3rd finger, 3rd fret, 6th string; 2nd finger, 2nd fret, 5th string; and 4th finger, 3rd fret, 1st string), I showed her the one most folk guitarists seem to favor (2nd finger, 1st finger, and 3rd finger respectively) because I really didn't think she could make the stretch between her 3rd and 4th fingers. She noted the fingering as written in the classic guitar manual we were using (she had taken piano lessons before, she could read music very well, and the little numbers by the notes told her what fingers the manual wanted her to use). She insisted on trying the classic fingering. It was a good stretch for her, but after a couple of attempts, she got it. When she came for her lesson the following week, she could grab the G chord either way, but she liked the classic fingering best because she didn't have to turn her hand as much and it was faster.

Now, if this young woman could make the stretches that she was making (and she got pretty darned good with both classic and folk guitar) on a full-width classic fingerboard, you guys with your ham-sized hands should have no trouble at all!

Don Firth

25 Jul 03 - 12:47 PM (#990544)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size

Me I like a wider nut with correspondingly wider string spacing when using finger & thumb picks for ragtime & blues.There is room, I dont keep snaggling up my fingers or the picks. But I have diiferent guitars for different purposes, no one guitar seems to be just right for the broad range of styles I play. I have a Telecaster and that has the silliest narrow width,but you CAN get used to playing them all but you need to conciously "adjust" BOTH R & L hands to compensate when moving from one instrument to another. I also play mandolin and I don't find it hard to move from that to a guitar and back again in the course of a set. The trouble is that it takes weeks,even months of regular playing to really decide whether you really like a particular instrument - the time spent trying them out in shops really is'nt sufficient to make the right decision.

25 Jul 03 - 07:33 PM (#990813)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: KateG

In my -- admittedly limited -- experience, neck shape and string height are at least as important as nut width. My "re-starter" guitar that replaced the classical one I played as a teenager, has a 1 11/16" nut, but the action and neck shape make barre chords, thumb overs and the like virtually impossible. Its successor is a Martin 000 sized 12 fret with a 1 3/4" nut. Not only is there more room to finger a 1st position A chord, but barres and thumb overs are a piece of cake despite the slight increase in width. Go figure.


25 Jul 03 - 07:39 PM (#990815)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: CraigS

There are some tunes you can't play without wrapping your thumb over - Gary Davis sometimes covered the three bass strings with his thumb, and there are an awful lot of ragtime things where you need a G chord which is just the thumb on the third fret of the bass E string and the index finger on the third fret of the treble E string - you ignore the A string and use the other two fingers to access up to the sixth fret. The nut size is not the critical factor, the string spacing is critical. You can often have the spacing changed a little, but you have to be careful - the thing to avoid is having the outer strings so close to the edge that they fall off during playing. I've known a lot of people who prefer a fat neck, and people with big fingers who prefer a wide neck, but once you've found what you like the general rule is that you should play on the narrowest neck you are comfortable with - this may mean having the spacing widened on a narrow neck, but you'll play better for it. Most factory guitars have the strings spaced closer than necessary to avoid having to work to close tolerances (ie avoid the strings being too close to the edge of the neck), and there's often an eighth of an inch of extra spacing available.

26 Jul 03 - 01:21 PM (#991124)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Don Firth

Well . . . I dunno about widening the string spacing.

I've played full-size classics since 1955, and I recently acquired one of the few travel guitars that comes in both steel-string and nylon string models (I got the GO-GW nylon). This turned out to be an amazing instrument. For all of it's small size and funky shape, it is surprisingly loud, and it sounds like a real guitar. I was amazed when I took it out of the shipping box full of Styrofoam peanuts and first tuned it up.   

Anyway, the string spacing is exactly the same as on my full-size classic, but the fingerboard is 1 7/8 inches rather that the full 2 inches. That's only 1/16th of an inch less freeboard on the outsides of the fingerboard and one would think that's negligible. Sam Radding says that he makes them that way because many of the nylon playing jazz guitarists he has sold them to like a slightly narrower fingerboard. But—I find it's very easy to fall off the edges of the fingerboard. I also find that something like Fernando Sor's Variations on a Theme from the Magic Flute by Mozart is very tricky to play on this instrument because it contains a lot of fast slurs (hammer-ons and pull-offs) on the 1st string, all up and down the neck. You're walking a tight-rope right along the edge, and it's a distraction to have to worry about staying on the fingerboard. And more than once, while accompanying songs, I've reached for the 3rd fret 6th string G and managed to push the string off the edge. Wonky sound! Damned annoying!

Sam Radding said that for an extra $50.00 above the base price ($262.90), he can build me one with a custom neck—full classic width. I like this little guitar so much that I think I just might. Too bad it didn't come that way in the first place.

That's my experience with unorthodox string spacing and neck widths. Really nice instrument, but tricky to play.

Don Firth

P. S:    Incidentally, Sam Radding is the guy who taught Bob Taylor (you know—Taylor Guitars) how to make guitars. The craftsmanship on these little canoe paddle travel guitars he makes is top rate, which is why they sound so good. Other than the neck width problem, I love the thing and play it all the time.

26 Jul 03 - 06:11 PM (#991186)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Murray MacLeod

For the record, Don, it is not strictly true that Sam Radding was "the guy who taught Bob Taylor how to make guitars."

Bob Taylor had built several guitars before he went to work for Radding, and his time there was just another part of an on-going learning process.


27 Jul 03 - 04:19 PM (#991567)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: CraigS

Don - your experiences are a practical expression of the drawbacks of widening the string spacing. It really does depend on the player's technique and style as to whether widening is a good idea - thanks for putting it into words for me.

27 Jul 03 - 09:27 PM (#991690)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Rapparee

Oops. Please excuse a trumpet player, who quietly sidles to the door. He thought this was about the collar sizes of guitar fanatics.

28 Jul 03 - 01:12 PM (#992063)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Don Firth

Murray, what I probably should have said was that Sam Radding was one of the guys who taught Bob Taylor. Everybody picks up their knowledge from a variety of places, but usually one source predominates. I tend to think that Radding probably had the strongest influence on him. Taylor was trying to make guitars and kept dropping into Sam's shop to show him what he had done and ask him for advice. Sam eventually took him on as an employee. We don't have an apprentice system in this country like they do in Spain, for example (where most of the best guitar makers begin as somebody's apprentice and learn the trade by observing and working with the "master"), but considering that Taylor was only eighteen years old when he went to work for Sam, I would say that the relationship was comparable.

Some information Here. Relevant material starts at about the ninth paragraph.

Not that I'm necessarily trying to sell Go guitars for Sam, but I would say that anyone who wants a small, convenient travel-type guitar with a surprisingly big sound for its size and a tone that starts good and only improves with time ought to give these a look.

Various models. And photos of the Go guitar under construction. Reviews.

Okay. Back to the discussion.

Don Firth

28 Jul 03 - 02:34 PM (#992124)
Subject: RE: guitar nut/neck size
From: Cluin

The width of my nut has little to do with my guitar playing (except in the string breakage area) although it, along with my neck size contibute to the lower end of my vocal range considerably.