Calling out to builders: neck influence

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Millul, May 30, 2008.

  1. Millul

    Millul Member

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    Hi everyone!
    First of all, I'd like to thank Mr. Terry McInturff for his great idea, and every luthier that will answer me for their time and sharing their knowledge and experience.

    Thus said, I've got some questions about guitar necks and their influence on the electric guitar's tone.

    So, here we go:

    - what the influence of the neck thickness on the guitar's sound is? and how are those differences identifiable? In other words, if I have 2 guitars, identical in every detail except for two different neck thicknesses, wich sound characteristics one could expect from the guitar with the thicker neck? and from the one with the slimmer neck?

    - how does a non tapered (ie with the same thickness from the 1st to the last fret) neck influence the guitar (if at all)?

    - if we take a given thickness/taper, how do different shapes (c, v,d, asymmetrical) influence the guitar's tone (if at all)?

    Thank you.
    Marco
     
  2. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

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    As far as taper, i really think that is a feel thing. Thickness, I believe that thickness= better sustain. But not a great deal, it is still the sum of all the parts! At least a fat neck will help you fight your way out of a bar brawl.
     
  3. Millul

    Millul Member

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    But..wait!! if you have a set neck guitar..! Would you imagine, to use a '59 Paul to smash dudes on your way to the parkin' lot! THAT would be a great way of relicing an axe!
     
  4. tdarian

    tdarian Gold Supporting Member

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    An Explorer would probably make for a great "battle axe" regardless of neck thickness or taper.

    As to the original question, I love the feel of a fat neck but i'm not sure what the tonal impact would be vs. a thin neck.
     
  5. RSRelic

    RSRelic Member

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    I think neck size translates to mass, so bigger necks are fuller sounding, but neck size is not what it's all about. Wood selection and Truss rod style have a big effect as well. As far as necks the don't taper (at least in thickness) Hamer necks have little is any taper from end to end and they play great to me because you don't have to change you playing position as much.
     
  6. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

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    Yeah but you may pull a hernia with a Paul:messedup.
     
  7. gkoelling

    gkoelling Member

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    I imagine a Tele has a much nicer swing.

    I do know one player whose Tele has teeth marks in it.
     
  8. John Page

    John Page Member

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    I think RSRELIC said it well "I think neck size translates to mass, so bigger necks are fuller sounding, but neck size is not what it's all about." You have to take the entire construction of the instrument into account, but "mass = fuller" works okay... with like materials. A thin Maple neck will probably sound thinner that a thicker maple neck on the same body. More mass to excite to produce tone. But my experience is that many of the players that like a beefier neck, also like bigger strings, so that adds to the fuller tone.

    Whoops, I feel another thread coming...

    Oh, and based on experience, an old Tele is a great weapon if you've got to smash your way to the parking lot!
     
  9. Seegs

    Seegs Member

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    I've done neck replacements to more than one guitar as I can't play thin necks without pain...same string gauge...in every case the tone was fuller and the sustain better and it was very noticeable...

    for reference...I don't build guitars but I do mod them:)

    Chow,
    Seegs
     
  10. drezdin

    drezdin Member

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    I'm considering building a guitar with a thinner neck.

    Would having a thicker body help to make up for any thickness in sound caused by the thinner neck?

    This would be a Limba neck and body
     
  11. DamianP

    DamianP Member

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    My theory(and I must stress it is only that) is that neck stiffness and it`s relationship to resonant frequencies is the most significant issue.

    Neck thickness obviously has considerable effect on stiffness, but so do lots of other factors. Such as: type of wood, grain orientation, method of construction (1 piece vs multi piece), scale length, fingerboard stifness (including material and a multitude of fretting issues), the type and detail of neck/body joint and not least the contact points of the individual player.

    I don`t pretend to have complete answers to any of this but I, like most builders I suspect, chose methods and details of construcion by empirical means.

    Damian.
     
  12. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    Every builder has his/her own theories about what effect a certain method of construction will have on a particular instruments overall tone..

    it should be noted that what "Claims" I may make about "tones"
    are strickly regulated to my own understanding of the princples at work within an instrument.. and that it's specific material resonances can and will severly affect the total outcome.

    That said, here is my own theory;

    If we restrict this particular conversation to "neck thickness effects only" then the long and short of it would be .

    The less stiffness a neck/headstock has. ( PLEASE NOTE! this is contengent on SEVERAL different factors such as, one piece construction or multi-laminated construction, or types of material used, truss rod type/style, graphite added or not, fingerboard type/thickness etc etc.)

    the more likely it will be that the total neck length will disipate larger amounts of vibrational energy into the surrounding air resulting in a loss of sustain over a neck with a higher degree of stiffness.

    and then we have the "neck joint" equation to figure into this senario as well. as well as the headstock size /thickness. tuning key mass, headstock overlays..etc etc.

    now to talk "Tone" it gets REALLY hairy, as each different material will add or subtract something from the total resonance of the neck structure.
    ANYTHING THAT CHANGES THE RESONANT FREQ. (of the neck as a part) WILL EFFECT THE TOTAL TONE OF THE INSTRUMENT.
    Thats a little over simplified, but basically correct.. which is why we have so MANY builders and each of their instruments sounds different.. there is a nearly infinite set of combinations available to builders. so there is room for each new design to increase our available palate of tones
     
  13. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    Your statment is not entirely accurate in that "thickness in sound" really doesn't fit the known profiles of excepted neck construction theories.

    I would not catgorize a thinner neck as being able to give a "thicker" or "thinner" sound.. only a difference in sustain.. in reguards to stiffness of the completed neck structure.

    White Limba is a great lightweight material with excellent resonant properties. I would suggest useing a quasi-quartersawn multi-laminated approach for strength. especially if you plan to go below .800 in thickness. truss rod choice will be critical. as would be fretboard choice/thickness

    good luck.
     
  14. Bruce Bennett

    Bruce Bennett Senior Member

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    One of the most important factors of a bolt neck is it's attachment job..
    the better it's attached the better tone you will get out of it..
    you could have simply done a better job than the factory ( not hard to do) when you installed your replacment necks..

    In fact here's tip;
    All the holes (8) in a bolt neck pocket should be chamfered slighty.. this will greatly improve energy transfer between neck and body and should increase sustain and overall tonal responce.
    adding a thin brass shim ( .005) inbetween the neck and pocket can help as well.
     
  15. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    I am delighted to see the role of the neck as a tonal influence being discussed so freely these days. It was not so many years ago when this topic was not a matter of concern to many.

    There are many great points raised by the builders already!
     
  16. drezdin

    drezdin Member

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    Yikes, I got that totally backwards.

    What I was trying to say was...
    Would having a thicker body make up for any loss of sound quality caused by the thinner neck?

    Sorry about that Mr. Bennett

    What would you recommend for the truss rod?
    I was considering indian rosewood or macassar ebony for the fretboard.

    thanks
     
  17. Terry McInturff

    Terry McInturff 40th Anniversary of guitar building! Gold Supporting Member

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    May I be so very rude as to "jump in" and comment upon the truss rod question?

    This is just my opinion..but...there is no substitute for the original, single-action, curved steel rod...captured under a curved spline...similiar to the one developed in the mid 1920's by Lloyd Loar (or someone on his team).

    The curve has to be just right. It is best not to have an arbitrary curve. And I cannot reccomend a straight rod.

    Properly fitted, this is the rod to use above any other. There is the least amount of voids inside the neck, it is tight and rigid, and if the proper neck design and construction routines are in place, there will never be a need to counteract for a backbow (important since this type of rod will only correct for a forward bow).

    Also, importantly...there is no need for any sort of sleeve over this type of rod (to prevent it's being glued-in-place)....I do not suggest using a sleeve. Simply wax the rod and the underside of the spline with parrafin prior to installation. :)

    1) Use a 3/16 rod
    2) Rout a 3/16 curved channel in the neck using a 3-winged shaper cutter (bull-nose cutters) and shaper, with appropriate fixture (of course! :) )
    Back in the old days I used a plunge router with a curved jig that guided it. This worked...ok...but as you can guess, there was enough deflection to cause a somewhat sloppy channel. Use a shaper, one pass.
    3) It's important that the spline have a very very nice fit!
    4) Glue in the rod/spline with plenty of clamps...but be sure to use ONLY ENOUGH clamp pressure to seat everything in place.

    Truss rods...an example of when the simpler...the better.


    Again...pardon my jumping in!
     
  18. Sol

    Sol Member

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    drezdin,
    A few more details will help us to help you more, such as the depth of the neck (Front to back thickness at 1st fret to 12th fret) and the orientation of the end grain(Flatsawn, riftsawn, or quarter sawn).

    The weight of the body and its thickness, has it been routed for pickups, bridge, and neck pocket yet, or do you have just the bare body?

    Get back to us with this and either I or other qualified members will be able to advise you with some really usefull information,

    Cheers,
    Sol
     
  19. Guitarpentry

    Guitarpentry Member

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    Roger that. Sounds simple in theory, but I'm not even sure what a bull-nose cutter is :Spank. This process is something I would definitely be interested in taking a hands-on class in someday. If I could actually visualize the steps you mentioned above completely, I'd be tempted to practice in some scrap wood for a while.
     
  20. jfalcs

    jfalcs Member

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    Terry, could you elaboate? How much deeper do you want the middle of the rod to sit in relation to the ends? Where to you put the apex of the curve? Under what fret?
     

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