The different types of guitar necks can be a confusing subject for beginners, but they can be easily categorized in a number of ways. The type of guitar neck has everything to do with the way a guitar sounds, plays and feels and is among one of the most important elements of the guitar itself. One style of neck may be favored over another by individual preference, so the choice is really quite subjective.
Necks are attached to the guitar by several methods. "Bolt-on" necks are secured by the use of bolts through the guitar body and more easily facilitate repairs as necessary. "Set" necks are glued to the guitar body and are known for increased sustain. "Through" necks are also glued to the body, but the neck's length continues through the entire guitar's length, adding increased sustain and strength. There are some variations to the basic attachment methods, but all can be classified in these three categories. No attachment method is necessarily better than another, as the method used adds to the particular attributes of the instrument itself.
Neck radius, or profile, is the curvature of the underside of the neck. Since radius dictates the feel of the neck on your hand, the type of radius is quite personal. "C" radius necks are evenly curved, "V" radius necks are slightly pointed, and "U" shapes are more squared. Combinations of any two types are sometimes used, such as "CV, or "VU" where the top part of the neck favors one shape and the underside favors another.
Neck scale is the measure of the strings from the nut to the bridge. Standard scale guitar necks are typically from 24 to 25 1/2 inches. Shorter scales are used in favor for children or smaller adults, and longer scales are sometimes used for special "baritone" guitars and standard bass guitars.
Wood used on necks is as varied as that used on guitar bodies. Different woods provide a distinct "feel" and dictate resonance and tone, along with the guitar's body wood. Mahogany, maple, rosewood and poplar are popular neck woods, but other types are also used.
Fretboard and Frets
Fretboards attached to the neck sometimes use different woods than the neck itself. Rosewood, maple and ebony are quite popular, and each player has her own personal preference. The number of frets also distinguishes the neck and guitar, and several standard configurations are used on modern instruments. Most electric guitars are outfitted with 21 to 24 frets to allow popular playing styles of the higher notes. Most acoustic guitars contain 20 frets, although only about 14 are easily accessible with a standard acoustic body style. Cutaway-acoustics allow access to about the 18th fret for solo playing in the higher note registers.
Reinforcement and Adjustment
Guitar necks for electric and steel-string acoustic guitars are reinforced by adjustable truss rod. Guitar necks require periodic adjustments due to string tension, humidity, temperature and storage conditions. Adjustments are easy, but should be entrusted to a repair professional, as truss rods can sometimes break if improperly manipulated and are very expensive to repair. Nylon string classical type guitars are usually not equipped with adjustable truss rods, as the nylon strings produce much less tension than steel strings, but may be internally reinforced by a fixed metal, non-adjustable rod.