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Does the neck effect the tone?

Bluesman1956

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Jul 21, 2019
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As I always will feel the tone is in the hands of the player. With that said how many feel that possibly the neck effects this as well? Example being a 58’ chunky against a 60s thin? And I’m not going down the pick up rabbit hole.
 

DutchRay

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Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer? Yes, with all other parts more or less the same, fatter necks have darker response, thinner necks have brighter response.
 

axeman565758

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Jan 23, 2007
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Short answer NO
Long answer......UGH...both my '18 R7 Goldtop and 60th Ann R0 have over 1" neck depths at the first fret. One has Classic '57's, on has the new CB's. My old '14 R8 ( now owned by my friend) has a .970" neck depth, with stock CB's
My brother has an '01 R7 w/Classic '57's. His neck is in the .925" range.
Both Classic '57 guitars sound close to each other, as do the two with the CB's.
Soooooo....the reality is, although the huge neck feels like a tree trunk and others like a toothpick, the actual wood mass difference is like 4 pieces of copy paper....doesnt seem like much to me.
This could thread prob go on for days....but I think a(ny) number of factors could play into this as well
 

Garincha

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Dec 25, 2005
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Longer answer? Yes, with all other parts more or less the same, fatter necks have darker response, thinner necks have brighter response.

To me it's the other way round. I've built many Partscasters where I swapped necks with all other parts being equal and the general rule of thumb I've found after much experimenting is a fat neck (=more mass) is more stable and doesn't vibrate as much. Vibration means damping the actual vibration of the string and since overtones have far less energy than fundamentals they are the first that got lost when dampened.

So a fat neck with more mass and more rigidity means less damping which means more overtones. That equals a brighter response.
 

Sol

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Oct 26, 2001
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The last poster mentioned rigidity, a neck with optimum rigidity is imo the primary quality without which the guitar will never reach its musical potential , feeling the vibration of the strings through your left hand as you play chords and notes is one indicator of a 'good' neck.

There is a good deal more to this subject where weight and mass come into play but my experience in luthiery is eclipsed by forum members better qualified than I to address these issues.
I'll jump in where relevant.
 

LeonC

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Aug 30, 2002
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IMO, everything matters. In theory, you can talk like an economist and say stuff like "holding all other factors equal", but in reality, all the other factors (e.g., individual pieces of wood, body woods, moisture content, finishes, tuners, bridges, pickups, pots, tone caps, wiring, etc.) are in play when comparing a thin necked Les Paul to a fat necked one. I've got a '61 ES-335 with a very skinny profile neck. While the bridge pickup is really bright, switching to the neck really darkens the sound considerably. I've had several LPs with the '60s carve (currently have two--CC#14 and CC#18)...I don't notice them being much brighter than the two that I currently own with the 50s carve (CC#28 and '54 Oxblood reissue).

I do ascribe to the notion that generally speaking, a bigger neck will result in a bit fuller sound (with perhaps more low end), I still think you need to compare specific instruments and that generalizations about what makes for good tone don't always pan out.
 
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brandtkronholm

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As I always will feel the tone is in the hands of the player. With that said how many feel that possibly the neck effects this as well? Example being a 58’ chunky against a 60s thin? And I’m not going down the pick up rabbit hole.
Correct answer: You said it.

(Neck size/shape has nothing to do with it. Scale length - yep, you bet! Fat Gibson necks are sonically indistinguishable from skinny Gibson necks.)
 

DutchRay

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So, you want the longest answer?

Yes.

First of all, the is no better or worse it's only nuances. For instance, when I type, darker, I mean a hair off the treble of your amp, not switching from bright to normal input.
We all know it's impossible to change necks on a Les Paul and I don't play much of those bolt-on things, so my experience is mostly set-neck based. So let me tell you how I got to my conclusion.

I've worked in the guitar business since 1990, the past 9 years at a large Gibson Custom dealer doing repairs and setups for the shop and customers. I've serviced well over 10.000 new and used guitars, and there's is a tonal difference.
To be clear, it's not night and day but it is clearly audible, I'd rate it about the same going from 10's to 11's, you lose a little brightness but gain a bit of weight. The skinnier necks are just a little bit brighter, more aggressive sounding.
Every big neck reissue, I've played was a bit darker, sweeter or fuller, than their skinny neck counterparts we had in stock at the same time. Currently I own a CR8 and CC3 with bigger necks and an R0 and CC18 with skinnier necks and while all of them have the distinctive Les Paul sound, they are very different guitars. The CC18 and R0 are pretty close and so are the CR8 and CC3. The get the CC18 to sound more like the CC3 I have to turn down the 18's tone knobs a bit or use the amps tone controls to get it closer.

I've also been on stage with a guitar collector and friend. We had three original bursts to compare, a '59 and two '60 both with skinny necks, all setup by the same tech with the same strings and action. Plugged into a couple of old tweed Twins. We spent the afternoon comparing and all came to the same conclusion, the two from '60 were almost identical sounding: snappy, aggressive, in your face, even with one of them having the pickups replaced with Seymour Duncan PAF's. The '59 was a different guitar, more distinguished, more mature, fuller and maybe a richer overall tone, maybe a bit more jazzy if that makes sense... That would make the '60 a bit more rocky... And remember, we're talking small nuances, not night and day, but at arena volumes the difference was crystal clear.

Physically is also makes sense that the natural pitch goes up when you remove more wood, that's why Xylophones have short pieces of wood for high pitch and long pieces for low pitch.

But by all means, don't take my word for it, go find out yourself, that's where the fun begins!
 

sanhozay

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Feb 14, 2003
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162
I prefer a slimmer, smaller neck & any argument that makes the case for big necks = big tone is lost on me. in other words, the logic makes perfect sense but it doesn't matter because a les paul with a baseball bat neck is going to vibe me out. if it's an inch at the 12th fret, I'm out. les pauls have too many great playing attributes because of the shorter scale length and flat radius to get hung up on the neck thickness. if you have the digits that don't sour from too big, or too thin, then you're in a way better spot than me. if it ain't goldilocks "just right" I'll pass it or shop it.
 

bursty

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Dec 25, 2012
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I played cello from age 11 to age 15; the last two years I played in an 85 piece orchestra.
In my opinion the neck of any stringed instrument plays an important role in the overall tone of the instrument.
I believe this is also true for electric guitars in general.
Anyone can debate, 'til the cows come home, to what extent the neck has any effect on tone, good, bad, worse, better, etc., but that is a different can of worms.

The player of any given instrument also affects 'tone' but the player is not the instrument.
 

GotTheSilver

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Apr 14, 2007
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A neck contains, what, 20-25% of the wood in the guitar? So I am sure it has an influence on tone. However, I would be willing to bet that the characteristics of the particular piece of wood (e.g., density) make more of a difference than the thickness of the neck. Of course, we have no empirical evidence, so we will never know for sure!
 

Big Al

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The neck is the single most important factor in primary tone. Thin necks are not brighter, they tend to be thinner. Hard to make geral assessment for size as stiffness is the important spec. Truss rod, fingerboard and neck joint have big effect as well as headstock. Variables in construction have big effect. Alltogether it makes for a structure that has a huge impact on a guitars primary tone.
 

El Gringo

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The neck is the single most important factor in primary tone. Thin necks are not brighter, they tend to be thinner. Hard to make geral assessment for size as stiffness is the important spec. Truss rod, fingerboard and neck joint have big effect as well as headstock. Variables in construction have big effect. Alltogether it makes for a structure that has a huge impact on a guitars primary tone.
This has been my findings as well on my guitars with thinner necks .
 

brandtkronholm

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The neck is the single most important factor in primary tone. Thin necks are not brighter, they tend to be thinner. Hard to make geral assessment for size as stiffness is the important spec. Truss rod, fingerboard and neck joint have big effect as well as headstock. Variables in construction have big effect. Alltogether it makes for a structure that has a huge impact on a guitars primary tone.
Thin necks tend to be thinner just as maple necks tend to be maple and blue necks tend to be blue? Is this what you're saying?
 

NYCBURST

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May 11, 2016
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Yes, and The truss adjustment is key.. On a Burst its huge, too much relief absolutely kills the tone of a Les Paul... The straighter the better.
 
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Sol

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The neck is the single most important factor in primary tone. Thin necks are not brighter, they tend to be thinner. Hard to make geral assessment for size as stiffness is the important spec. Truss rod, fingerboard and neck joint have big effect as well as headstock. Variables in construction have big effect. Alltogether it makes for a structure that has a huge impact on a guitars primary tone.
I agree, I mentioned earlier that rigidity or stiffness trumps all else, if your neck can't resist/counter the strings vibration and tension, then the depth, width and weight of the neck count for very little.

If thinner necks appear to be brighter as some attest to, could it be that it's actually the attenuation of the lower frequencies, creating the impression of a brighter guitar? loosing a little low end giving emphasis to the brighter frequencies perhaps ?

This would allow a greater level of aggressive gain levels due to attenuation of lower frequencies, where the presence of these lower frequencies can mush up and flub out the low end definition taking emphasis away from the upper midrange where much of the magic happens.
 
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marshall1987

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Jan 30, 2005
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The neck is the single most important factor in primary tone. Thin necks are not brighter, they tend to be thinner. Hard to make geral assessment for size as stiffness is the important spec. Truss rod, fingerboard and neck joint have big effect as well as headstock. Variables in construction have big effect. Alltogether it makes for a structure that has a huge impact on a guitars primary tone.
Indeed and I would add the guitar's neck behaves somewhat like a tuning fork. Somewhat like a tone filter.
 

ourmaninthenorth

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Mar 28, 2009
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I think the neck makes a huge difference.

If anyone disagrees try taking it off...
Along the same lines.

It's makes a huge difference on tone...I don't play guitars with necks I don't like...nothing affects tone like silence.
 
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