Am I Uncool? I Like Skinny Neck Guitars.

Somewhere along the way, the trend in neck profiles has gone toward larger and larger profiles. I spend some time on a few of the guitar forums (fora?) and discussion often runs to neck profiles. This is more a Gibson player phenomenon than a Fender players. Maybe because Fenders have usually had skinnier necks. Anyway, the folks on the Les Paul Forum love their big fat boat necks-the bigger the better.  There’s a bit of “mines bigger than yours” going on but its mostly good natured as the folks on LPF tend to be-unlike some other forums who shall remain nameless.  Gibson started the 335 with a big fat neck with a
1 11/16″ wide nut. That remained fairly constant until early 1960 when the profile (not the nut width) started getting thinner. The depth of the neck at the first fret averaged in the range of .90 or a bit more for 58 until early 60 and then it creeped down to .86 (my 60 ES 345) to .83 (my 61 dot) to .81 (my ’62 block). I found all of these necks extremely comfortable to play even though they are very different. It seems that nut width is more important to me. I have small hands and fairly stubby fingers. My 62 was one of the most comfortable guitars I ever played. As I read posting after posting extolling the virtues of fat necks, I started to try some of them. I had a 69 Les Paul Goldtop that was huge-1 3/4″ at the nut and close to 1″ in depth at the first fret. I found I could play it just fine but I lost some velocity but gained some accuracy-maybe more room to put my stubby fingers.  I find a really large neck wards off some fatigue as well-maybe because my hand has more area to “lean” on. When I had the opportunity to play some of the later Gibson 335s (65-66-67-68), the nut had shrunk to 1 9/16″. One eighth of an inch makes all the difference in the world. I found I was sloppy and my hands got tired. After about an hour of playing, that wasn’t the case any more. I was playing with accuracy and speed. When all is said and done, I think neck size is a bit overrated. If you find a guitar that you can play that has the tone you want, then don’t listen to fat neck guys. So your buddy has a 59 dot neck that’s twice the size of your 67.  That doesn’t make you uncool, just perhaps a bit more flexible. I took guitar lessons for a year when I was 12 from an old jazz guy (Mr. Orsini in Schenectady) who insisted that I get a guitar with a wide fingerboard and a thin neck. I took that to heart and bought a 62 ES 330 that was just that and played it in my band throughout the 60’s until I became enamored of the SG that Clapton played and switched to an SG Standard in 1969 which I bought new (at Manny’s in NYC). It had a huge neck and I thought I had made a big mistake. But no, in a few hours I was comfortable and playing SWLABR and sounding just like EC (well, almost).  I still love the 64 profile best but I’ve done some of my best playing on that 62 ES 330 and the 62 335 I got much later. I sold the 62 ES 335 a couple of years ago to, what else, a wide flat neck playing jazz guy. The skinny neck 335’s are a relative bargain that you shouldn’t dismiss out of hand. Just play one and see if it works for you. If it does, you can save yourself anywhere from a couple hundred to many thousands of dollars.

That’s me in 1968 (age 16) playing my 62 330 at Scotia High School in Scotia, NY. Note the Vox Royal Guardsman with the head turned around. How cool was I?

And below, at age 15-same guitar
different gig. Dig the sideburns on a 15 year old

2 Responses to “Am I Uncool? I Like Skinny Neck Guitars.”

  1. Jonne says:

    I think Gibson really had a some idea changing to a flatter neck profile in 1960. We all know Gibsons at that time were mostly addressed to jazzers. I’m not an expert in jazz guitar playing positions but I know that at some of them likes to keep their left hand same way like classical players do. And most of us have tried classical (or even started playing guitar with a one like I did) guitars at some point and necks tend to be quite flat and wide.

    My vocabulary isn’t good enough to describe it but your left thumb will be in upright position and touches the neck mostly in the middle and suddenly the flat neck starts to make sense. The quite opposite of “Clapton way” where your left thumb can often be over the neck on the fretboard side.

  2. Little Leroy says:

    So, here I am going back over your entire oeuvre and what do I find but you playing a beloved ’62 ES-330! You were Very Cool, indeed, not to mention fortunate.

    ~ LL ~

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