Fender Neck Shapes and Fretboard Radius Explained!

If you have ever been in the market for a Strat, Tele, or other Fender guitar, you may have been, or may still be confused as to the different neck shapes available to you, and how the fretboard radius is related to these shapes. These factors are important to consider when you are purchasing a Fender instrument as they can be the difference between a comfortable, effortless feel and a cramped, awkward, not so fun playing experience.

neck-profiles3Fender necks generally come in 3 different “shapes”. These shapes refer to the carve of the back of the neck, where your palm and thumb rest. The 3 most popular shapes are a “C” shape, a “U” shape, and a “V” shape.

The C-shaped neck, or “oval” profile is the most common shape and is widely used on modern Fender instruments. This neck shape is great for all playing styles and represents the middle ground of the most popular Fender neck shapes. These necks have a slim feel and low shoulders, or edges, so they accommodate medium to small size hands very well. The early C shaped necks were a bit deeper than the current modern C shape necks that are often referred to as “flat ovals”.

The U-shaped neck is also known by many as the “baseball bat” neck. These necks have higher shoulders and are more circular than oval shaped. If you have larger hands or like to grip your chords firmly, this is a shape you should look into. (Great for rhythm players!) The U shape will also suit you well if you like to keep your thumb on the back of the neck for support.

The V-shaped neck is not found too often now-a-days but it of course has its uses and has developed a bit of a cult following. V-shaped necks were generally found on vintage Fender instruments from the 50s and 60s and therefore also found on the vintage reissues. They are a match made in heaven for blues players who like to use their thumb to play bass notes as they offer quick “edge access” to the fretboard. They have a similar “fat” or “deep” feel to the U shaped necks while providing some extra space to move your fingers around.

Fretboard Radius:

Commonly misinterpreted or misstated as “neck radius”, the fretboard radius relates to the curvature of the fretboard as it sits on the neck. The most common measurements for fretboard radius are 7.25″, 9.5″ and 12″. The lower, smaller, or tighter the fretboard radius, the fretboard will feel more curved, while a fretboard with a larger radius will feel more flat.

Generally, a more curved radius is much better for chording or rhythm playing, as your hands themselves have a natural curve that needs to be accounted for. But with a curved radius, string can tend to “fret out” when they are bent too far toward the middle of the neck, the highest point of the curve. So the larger, flatter radius was introduced to counteract this annoying phenomenon.

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Modern guitar fretboards and new technologies have allowed for what is known as a “compound radius”, which means that the fretboard has different amounts of curvature all the way up the neck. You might see something like a compound 10″ to 16″ radius, starting at 10″ near the bottom and accounting for curvature in the rhythm playing areas, and a giving way to a 16″ radius for a flat feel up higher on the neck where most bends take place.

Images property of Fender and Warmoth

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Taylor Guitars – Which Body Shape?

With all this Martin talk, we don’t wanna leave our Taylors out of the fun! While they don’t have the rich history of Martin they are very forward thinking builders that have developed their own body styles and discovered new and unique sounding tonewoods. They truly have a guitar for every style and every taste, so it is important to be aware of the tonal differences these body styles possess.

We will start from the smallest shape and move our way on up. We have most if not all of these guitar shapes in stock at any time – so stop by and play one to see for yourself!

Baby

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Body Length: 15-3/4″
Body Width: 12-1/2″
Body Depth: 3-3/8″

You may be familiar with the “Baby” Taylor acoustics. These guitars may sound like they are geared toward children although that is only half the truth. While they are sized just right for younger players or smaller hands, they have a surprisingly big sound and are great as a travel guitar. If you don’t want to take your $1000+ dreadnaught acoustic to that campfire singalong, a guitar like this is a worthy substitute, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. This body style is essentially a 3/4 size dreadnaught so you’ll hear dreadnaught type characteristics in the sound, such as a nice smooth low end and chimey top end. These guitars also have an arched back for added support, comfort, and a nice cosmetic touch as well!

GS Mini

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Body Length: 17-5/8″
Body Width: 14-3/8″
Body Depth: 4-7/16″

The GS Mini is the second smallest Taylor guitar and it is inspired by the full sized GS or Grand Symphony body style which we will get to later. The GS body style is the most versatile Taylor body shape, great for finger or flat pickers. Taylor likes to call it their “modern day” parlor guitar, as it has a very even, balanced sound, with shimmering highs and surprising volume for its size. Its size still makes it a great travel guitar with a different sound than the Baby.

Big Baby

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Body Length: 19-1/2″
Body Width: 15″
Body Depth: 4

The Big Baby is the largest undersized Taylor guitar, a 15/16 sized body makes it practically a full size dreadnaught! It has the same perks and features of the Baby although the larger body style provides a sound closer to a full size Taylor dreadnaught. It still travels well, has an arched back, and is great for all playing styles.

Grand Concert

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Body Length: 19-1/2″
Body Width: 15″
Body Depth: 4-3/8″

The 5 full size Taylor guitar shapes are designated by numbers. The Grand Concert style is designated by a XX2 in the model number. This shape is geared toward the finger-picker. It’s small size causes the top, or sound board of the guitar to vibrate much more “violently” which leads to an increase in volume and very subtle dynamics, important when using your fingers. It also leads to excellent clarity and a balanced tone that is not overly bass heavy. This shape also features a shorter scale length and less string tension which offers a lighter and easier playing feel. The tapered waist of the guitar provides great comfort whether you are in the studio or playing live!

Grand Symphony

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Body Length: 20″
Body Width: 16-1/4″
Body Depth: 4-5/8″

The Grand Symphony or GS body style is designated by a XX6 in the model number. This is one of the more popular Taylor guitar shapes that is great for both finger and flat pickers. The sound of a GS guitar can be described as a parlor guitar on steroids. It retains that excellent balance of tone while providing rich harmonics that only a larger guitar can give you. Many throw around the term “piano like lows” when describing this body shape, along with a thick top end and very prominent mids. Although, because it is still a slightly smaller shape, it has unmatched clarity and a very light attack.

Dreadnaught

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Body Length: 20″
Body Width: 16″
Body Depth: 4-5/8″

Taylor also has their own modernized take on the classic Dreadnaught style guitar. It is designated by a XX0 at the end of a model number. This shape is more geared toward the strummer or flat picker because of the large sound board that likes a lot of string movement to pump out the tones. The Taylor dreadnaught, unlike most dreadnaughts, has a special bracing pattern which keeps the low end under control, which is a problem with even the most expensive dreadnaught guitars from other manufacturers. It also keeps harmonics under control which improves clarity. You get the best of both worlds really, the big sound of a dreadnaught with the clarity and response of a smaller guitar!

Grand Auditorium

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Body Length: 20″
Body Width: 16″
Body Depth: 4-5/8″

The Grand Auditorium body shape is easily the most popular Taylor design. It is designated by a XX4 at the end of the model number. It was first introduced in 1994 and is an original Bob Taylor design. It is a great place to start your quest for tone as it is the most balanced and versatile shape that Taylor makes. Rich lows, clear mids, and sparkling highs give you a very adaptable sound for any style of play. The body is comfortably shaped with a wide lower bout but smaller waist and upper bout – literally combining the best strumming and fingerpicking bout sizes.

Grand Orchestra

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Body Length: 20-5/8″Body Width: 16-3/4″
Body Depth: 5″

The Grand Orchestra is the newest and largest Taylor body shape. It is designated by an XX8 at the end of the model number. You may want to compare it to a “Jumbo” style, which is mostly accurate. If you want a cannon of a guitar with a big sound and lots of projection, this is where your search starts and ends. Because of Taylor’s special bracing system, the harmonics and low end of this Grand Orchestra are kept under control. This shape also provides surprising dynamics for a big guitar. It is the most harmonically rich (but again, under control) body shape that Taylor builds and is well suited for the strummer and rhythm player.

So there you have it! Those are all the body designs that Taylor offers. Come in and try one for yourself!

The Martin D-41

There is not a single guitar manufacturer around today that has as rich of a history as Martin. They were established in 1833 and have been a family owned business ever since. They are responsible for some of the most important innovations in guitar building – from creating the first Dreadnaught size guitar, to their use of scalloped braces, to the 14 fret neck.

The D-41 was first introduced in 1969, right before the Brazilian Rosewood embargo. Only a few were made with this type rosewood and they are highly collectable and incredibly valuable.
The D-41 was designed as a “more affordable” version of the “blinged out” D-45, although only minor cosmetic changes were made. You might recognize those hexagonal inlays and abalone binding as higher end Martin features. The D-41 simply lacked a pearl fingerboard binding and a first fret inlay – so not much sacrifice there for a better price point.

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We currently have two gorgeous brand new D-41 dreadnaughts in stock, in Sunburst and Natural. They feature a solid Sitka spruce top with solid East Indian rosewood back and sides. Classic abalone inlays top the ebony fretboard and an abalone binding and rosette also add to their beauty. They have scalloped X braces for a big, dynamic sound.

D-28 or HD-28? What are the differences?

Have you ever wondered what the differences are between these two nearly identical looking Martins? There is one major structural difference and a few cosmetic details that are important to note when you are deciding which Martin Dreadnaught you wish to purchase. It is important to remember that tone is subjective and each model will appeal differently to everyone depending on their playing style or tonal preferences. When buying a Martin or any guitar, we recommend playing it first! We generally have both models in stock at all times.

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The biggest difference between the HD-28 and the D-28 is the top bracing. All acoustic guitar tops are supported by smaller wooden struts, known as braces, located underneath or inside the guitar. They are responsible for reinforcing the top and helping it withstand string pressure and distortion. Many different bracing “patterns” have been used over the years – X shaped braces were introduced in the mid 1800s and many future patterns were derived from this style. You may have also heard of “ladder bracing” “scalloped bracing” and “parabolic bracing”.

So, on our right, we have a 1965 Martin D-28 with Brazilian rosewood back and sides. (Currently available for sale but it won’t last long!) The D-28 features “Non-Scalloped 5/16” top bracing. These braces run straight across the top and are the same width throughout, unlike scalloped braces which are carved out in the middle to form what might best be described as an elongated “half-pipe” shape. We will get to these later though.

The non-scalloped braces on the D-28 give it a specific sound. It makes the guitar punchy, directional, and gives it a more rounded sound overall with less low end and more balance.

The HD-28, like this 1985 pictured above, features forward shifted scalloped braces. Pre-war Martins used this bracing system as it was thought to “open up” the sound, since the top is able to vibrate more in conjunction with smaller, “scalloped out” braces. The sound of the HD-28 can be described as booming, atmospheric, harmonically rich, and “big” sounding.

Cosmetically, the HD-28 features a herringbone binding, while the D-28 has a white binding. The HD-28 also generally has a tortoiseshell pickguard, while the D-28 pickguard is black.

Both guitars have solid Sitka spruce tops and solid Indian rosewood back and sides. They both have mahogany necks with an identical profile, and both have ebony fretboards.

So now it just comes down to your preference, and what you like in an acoustic guitar sound. If you like a more focused, more intimate sounding guitar that is balanced across the frequency spectrum, I would recommend the D-28. If you like a guitar to sound as big as possible, and want every harmonic to ring out, you would probably prefer the HD-28. Martin also makes an HD-28V, which has a modified V shaped neck profile for an even more historically accurate guitar.

We are a proud and authorized Martin dealer so come by and check out some new Martins – remember we offer great prices on special orders too!

Learn the 2013 Les Paul Lineup!

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Learn the 2013 Les Paul Lineup!

It’s never too late in the year to familiarize yourself with Gibson’s 2013 Les Paul offerings. You friends at Manchester Music Mill are New England’s newest Gibson dealer and we jumped right in with a huge opening order! We have guitars from Gibson and Epiphone for every price range, from $300 all the way up to $5000! Stop in during this holiday season or contact us to get our best price on any Gibson or Epiphone!

If you are looking to purchase a Gibson, or even if you’ve ever wondered the differences and features of the Les Paul line, keep reading, and stayed tuned for more posts on the rest of Gibsons 2013 offerings.

The LPJ

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Gibson’s entry level Les Paul for 2013 is known as the LPJ. The LPJ is in some ways a stripped down Les Paul, but it offers all the most important ingredients for that classic Les Paul sound. It starts with a solid mahogany body and a two piece maple top – the timeless Les Paul tonal foundation. This body is finished with a rubbed nitro lacquer for a “worn in” grainy look and texture.

The LPJ has a set, hard maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. It features the popular “fat” 50s rounded neck profile, trapezoid inlays, a precision cut nut, and 16:1 ratio vintage style tuners.

It is loaded with a Gibson 490R in the neck and a 498T in the bridge, both with alnico magnets for a warm, vintage style tone with output enough for modern music. The tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece offer unparalleled stability and intonation, and help the guitar sustain for days!

Summary of Features:

–       Weight relieved
–       Mahogany body, carved maple top
–       Maple Neck, 50s profile
–       Rosewood Fretboard
–       490R/498T

The Les Paul Tribute Series

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The new for 2013 Tribute Series from Gibson features mid priced, vintage inspired Les Pauls from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. There is also a Future Tribute model.

50s Tribute

The 50’s Tribute model nails the look, feel, and sound of the original Les Paul guitars. It is loaded with a pair of rippin’ P-90s wired to vintage specs. P-90s are some of the most versatile pickups out there – they can go from clean to mean with just a volume adjustment. This model also has a fat 50s neck profile, and of course a solid mahogany body with maple top and quality, USA hardware.

Summary of Features

–       Weight relieved
–       Mahogany body, solid carved maple top
–       Mahogany neck, 50s profile
–       Rosewood Fretboard
–       P-90 pickups

60s Tribute

The 60’s Tribute model is a nod to another golden decade from Gibson. It features the also popular “slim 60s’” neck profile, which is great for ripping a solo or when you need to move very quickly around the fretboard. It also features Burstbucker Pro pickups, Gibson’s modern PAF copy. They are the perfect marriage of output and clarity.  All these features of course rely on the maple topped mahogany body and quality USA hardware to really shine.

Summary of Features:

–        Weight relieved
–        Mahogany body, solid carved maple top
–        Mahogany neck, 60s profile
–        Rosewood fretboard
–        Burstbuckers

70s Tribute

The 70’s were a decade where heavy rock and roll was starting to take over the music scene. Players needed more output from their pickups, which led to some new pickup designs, such as the original Dirty Fingers pickups. The 70’s Tribute Les Paul is loaded with these high output humbuckers, gear toward the heavy rocker. These pickups have tons of sustain and harmonic content, but they also retain string clarity and respond to your playing style. This guitar also features a “medium” 70s neck profile with headstock volute. The volute was designed to strengthen the headstock as many Les Pauls in the past were prone to breaking in this area.

Summary of Features:

–        Weight relieved
–        Mahogany body, solid carved maple top
–        Mahogany neck, 70s profile w/ volute
–        Rosewood fretboard
–        Dirty Fingers pickups

Future Tribute

The Future Tribute Les Paul combines modern aesthetics and features with your classic Les Paul body design. It features Zebra colored ’57 classic humbuckers – one of Gibson’s best pickups. They have an unbeatable combination of output, tone, and clarity. This guitar also features a modern asymmetrical neck profile which is designed to fit the shape of a human hand all the way up the neck. Its most futurist, forward thinking feature is the gearless Steinberger tuning machines!

Summary of Features:

–        Weight relived
–        Mahogany body, solid carved maple top
–        Mahogany neck, asymmetrical neck profile
–        Rosewood fretboard
–        ’57 Classic humbuckers

All these Les Paul Tribute models are also available with Gibson’s new Min-ETune automatic tuning system.

Les Paul Studio

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The Les Paul Studio has been a road warrior of a guitar since it’s introduction in 1983. It still doesn’t quite have the appointments of the higher end Les Pauls but it nevertheless features the combinations of wood, pickups, and hardware that create that “Les Paul” sound. New for 2013, the Les Paul Studios now have coil taps (single coil mode) on both 490R/498T pickups, with the center position being hum cancelling. The Studio has a slim 60s neck profile and of course, a mahogany body with a solid carved maple top. Other tweaks include “speed knobs”, optional MinE-Tune gearless tuners, and an unbound body and neck for a simplistic and elegant look.

Summary of Features:

–       Weight relieved
–       Mahogany body, solid carved maple top
–       Mahogany neck, 60s profile
–       Granadillo fretboard
–       490R/498T pickups w/ coil taps

Les Paul Signature T

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The Les Paul Signature T is a bit under the radar, and quite wrongfully so. It fills in another price point in the product line, and from here on up you start to see more select tonewoods, pickups and construction practices. The Signature T starts out again with a select mahogany body but it features a AA grade maple top, a step up from the previous guitars. It also features a select quartersawn mahogany neck with a 60s SlimTaper profile. The neck is topped with a Grade A Granadillo fretboard. Granadillo is a rosewood substitute that has been used for over 100 years with almost identical results. The Signature T features Gibson ’57 Classic humbuckers, arguably one of the best options out there. It also has a nice body and fretboard binding.

 Summary of Features

–       Weight relieved
–       Mahogany body, solid carved AA maple top
–       Quartersawn mahogany neck, 60s profile
–       Granadillo fretboard
–       ’57 Classic humbuckers

Les Paul Traditional

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The Les Paul Traditional is aptly named, as it features classic Les Paul specifications that are used a bit more sparingly nowadays. First off, the Traditional is non-weight relieved for a thick and meaty tone. It also features vintage spec orange drop capacitors in conjunction with a pair of ’57 Classic pickups. The select mahogany neck has a rounded 50’s profile, again one of the most popular Gibson neck shapes. Other features include upgraded vintage style chrome Tone Pros tuners, AA maple cap, and speed knobs with dial pointers.

Summary of Features:

–       Non weight relieved
–       Mahogany body, solid carved AA maple top
–       Quartersawn mahogany neck, 50s profile
–       Rosewood fretboard
–       ’57 Classic humbuckers


Les Paul Standard

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Gibson is very proud of the 2013 Les Paul Standard, marketed as the most versatile Standard ever. We are inclined to agree as this guitar has PAF-inspired Burstbucker Pro pickups which a plethora of tonal options, from coil splits, to phase reversals, to a “Pure Bypass position which routes the pickups directly to the output jack, skipping the volume and tone controls, for clearer, hotter sound.

The Standard features a select mahogany body with your choice of tops. It includes a AA top at no upcharge but can be ordered with AAA or AAAA tops of Koa or Birdseye. It has a Tone Pros locking bridge and tailpiece, vintage style tuners, and a 60s asymmetric neck profile with compound radius fingerboard, for a comfortable feel all the way up the neck.

–       Weight relieved
–       Mahogany body with AA AAA or AAAA maple top
–       Quartersawn mahogany neck, 60s asymmetric profile
–       Rosewood fretboard
–       Burstbuckers

Les Paul Supreme

The Les Paul Supreme is the top of the line Les Paul (aside from a Custom) and it features a beautiful AAAA figured maple top AND back, as a tribute to the sometimes translucent finishes of the 58-60 Les Pauls. It features a brass and abalone “Earth” inlay on the headstock with Grover Keystone tuners. It has standard gold hardware, a classic 50’s rounded neck profile with Richlite fretboard, and a pair of 490R/498T humbuckers. Top it off with multi-ply binding and split mother of pearl inlays and you have a guitar that looks as good as it sounds.

–       Mahogany body with AAAA figured maple top and back
–       Chambered
–       Quartersawn mahogany neck 50s profile
–       Richlite fretboard
–       490R/498T pickups

Les Paul Custom Shop VOS Series

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We currently have quite the treat of a Les Paul in stock as well! Gibson also sells a line of “VOS” or Vintage Original Spec guitars. These vintage reissues can also be designated by an “R” in front of the year of the 50s decade – they generally go from “R4” (54) to “R0″(60). These guitars often have an aged or “relic” look to them as well.

We currently have a 1959 Reissue Les Paul – this year is highly regarded as the epitome of a vintage Les Paul. Gibson built this reissue very well using a period correct neck shape and heel, custom shop original PAF style humbuckers, a one piece rosewood fingerboard, Kluson Deluxe tuners, and an Aniline dye. All precision construction on these guitars, such as fret and nut work is performed by Gibsons “Plek” machine.