Neck

The neck is the part of a string instrument, which protrudes from the body of the instrument and is the base of the fretboard. Guitars, basses, banjos, ukuleles, lutes and the mandolin family are the instruments with necks.

Contents

Neck structure

The guitar neck carries the frets, fretboard, tuners, headstock, and truss rod. The wood used for the fretboard will normally differ from the wood type of the rest of the neck. The bowing stress on the neck is significant, especially when heavier gauge strings are used, so the ability of the neck to resist warping is important to the guitar's ability to keep a constant pitch. The rigidity of the guitar neck is a crucial factor, which determines its quality.

The fretboard is usually lightly rounded across its width. The shape of the neck may range from a soft curve to a more pronounced "V" shape.

Marker dots are normally placed on the front of the fretboard. But it's also common when they are placed on the "upper" side of the neck, near the edge of the fretboard. Classical guitars rarely have position markers, especially on the fretboard's front, while electric guitars usually do. This is due to several reasons:

  1. Electric guitars do not rely on a resonating body chamber to produce sound and consequently, the inactive body may be formed in a way to allow better access to higher frets.
  2. Electric guitars also feature an extended range up to 24 frets.
  3. Electric guitars have various scale lengths and quantity of frets (usually between the 21st and the 24th). In contrast, classical guitar properties are standardized: the 12th fret aligning with the neck-end of the body, the fretboard has only 19 frets and a scale length of 25.6".

Attachment

The method of connecting the neck to the body differs according to the instrument. Some necks are simply screwed onto the body of the instrument, while other can be attached with glued joints.

There are basically four ways of attaching the neck to the body using glued joints:

  • With a dovetail joint, where the dovetail is cut into the end of the neck assembly and fits into a mating mortise in the instrument's end block. This is typical for acoustic and hollow-body electric guitars.
  • With a simpler mortise and tenon joint, which is similar to a dovetail joint, except that the tenon is straight instead of tapered. Sometimes these joints are strengthened with screws or pins. Since this joint is substantially weaker than a dovetail joint, it is usually used for violins and instruments with less string tension.
  • With a neck that ends in a "foot" that is glued to the instrument body proper. This method is mostly used in building classical and flamenco guitars. The "foot" is on the bottom of the neck, and affords a large gluing surface to the back of the instrument.
  • With neck-through, making the neck part of the body. This method is used on solid-body electric guitars or bass guitars, where the piece of wood that is the neck runs the entire length of the instrument and is laminated to the rest of the body. This makes an extremely strong joint.

There are two factors, which determine what type of neck joint to use:

  • Strength: the ability of joint hold under the instrument's string tension without pulling out.
  • Repairability. Because of the fact that using a "foot" and laminating the neck in the instrument makes very tough joints, they aren't pretty repairable and require splitting the instrument apart if repairs are required.

Types of attachment

There are 3 main types of attachment neck to the guitar body:

Bolt-on neck

Bolt-on neck is a method of guitar construction that involves joining a guitar neck and body using screws or bolts.

Set-in neck

Set-in neck is a construction method, which requires connecting neck and body with a tightly fitted mortise-and-tenon or dovetail joint, ensured with some sort of adhesive.

Neck-through body

In neck-through body guitars the neck extends the entire length of the body. The strings, fretboard, pickups and bridge are all installed into the thru-body neck. The ears or wings are joined to the central stick.

The thru-body neck is mainly used on high-end guitars since this design is not preferred by mass-production manufacturers. It is more frequent on basses than guitars. The thru-body neck provides easier access to the higher frets because there is no heel and is considered by some performers to offer greater sustain.

Neck-through construction on Ibanez Studio guitar