#1
I am a pretty poor guitar player, and I learned to play mostly on my own, so I'm not sure about the right position of left hand (the one which frets the strings). I used to hold it in any way that I felt was comfortable for me (mostly thumb on top of the neck) and didn't think anything was wrong, but that was mostly when I didn't care about playing that much. When I began trying to learn to play more serious things and hold left hand in the right, straight position (according to info found on the internet, filtered though my understanding of that info) I found it pretty hard to do so, mostly because of my guitar's neck thickness.
I have a guitar based on on '59 Les Paul. The neck is thicker than on the guitars that I had before this one (those were cheap useless guitars), but my memory of them is blurry. All I know is that it's more difficult to play with this neck for me. When I tried a slightly thinner neck recently, I found it feels more comfortable and is easier to play, but that was a Stratocaster (maybe the difference in the string tension had to do with it?). Therefore I wonder:

Is this normal that I struggle with a neck of this thickness?
Should I try to push myself to learn to play and feel comfortable with this neck - because every good guitarist should and can handle it with no problems? OR should I get a guitar with a thinner neck? Jimi Page had shaved a neck on his Les Paul afterall.

I assume it's important to mention that among other stuff, I play some thrash metal, and I suppose guys from Metallica and Slayer might have used thinner necks in the eighties - but I'm not sure about that (I'm sure they use thinner necks nowadays).

I remember trying out a custom-made guitar with ultra thin neck very long time ago and that was VERY uncomfortable for me. So I guess I'm not the type who needs the thinnest neck in the world afterall.

To paraphrase my question: should everyone who wants to become a good guitar player push themselves to feel comfortable with that early Les Paul neck thickness (in this case '59 model) or is it okay to give up on it?
#2
I would suggest that you're finding it hard because it's new and different to what you were doing before and that it has relatively little to do with the thickness of the neck you're playing on.
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#3
I've found that thicker necks benefit those with smaller, weaker and/or arthritic hands. That seems counterintuitive at first, but it turns out that many of those folks are using the meaty muscle at the base of the thumb to bring the muscles of the forearm into play to help them bend, etc. They're also more likely to flatten out their thumb (even bending it back a bit) when they have it on the back of the neck, so thin necks cramp up their hands (usually on the thumb side), particularly when they've got high action or are clamping down with a gorilla grip. A guitar with a fairly rounded radius fretboard will also appeal when they're chording.

Those with stronger or larger hands and those with "good" technique (more classical technique) who keep their thumbs mostly on the back of the neck (rather than wrapped), who have lower action and a lighter touch and who do NOT flatten out their thumbs, will do well with nearly any neck thickness, but will often prefer thinner necks.

I'm one of the latter -- I have XXL-glove-size hands and have played piano all my life. I really prefer wide/flat neck profiles, and I can even get along very well with 12-string Chapman Sticks. My favorite neck has a 16" radius, a 1 13/16" nut width (JimSolowayguitars) and is fairly thin (about 20-21mm thickness at the 12th fret).

The more classical technique becomes a bit more important if you're playing all over the fretboard on extended range guitars with 7, 8, 9 and even 10 strings, or if you're playing bass and moving around the neck a lot.
#4
I have several Les Paul's with a variety of neck profiles. The palms of my hands are fairly big but I have relatively short fingers (compared to someone like Eric Clapton or Eric Johnson). I like thicker necks like the '59 profile necks on Les Pauls but I also really like the "D" shaped neck on the Epiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute. I stopped playing my Strats because the necks are just too thin for me and I can't get the individual string definition I can get from a larger neck. I guess what I am saying is I think you should play what makes you feel most comfortable but I agree with Zaphod that it may be something you just need to get use to. Speaking for myself, I get much more defined string bends on a thicker neck. (If it matters I play with with Ernie Ball Slinky 10s on all my Les paul guitars)
Last edited by Rickholly74 at Aug 20, 2014,
#5
If you don't like the feel of the thick '59 style neck, get something that feels good to you. Most of my guitars are 1 11/16" or 1 3/4" wide at the nut with approx 18-21mm depth, which are fairly thin neck profiles compared to a '59, because I really dislike the thick feel of the '59 as well. I play all sorts of styles from old VH to blues to Paul Gilbert & Zakk Wylde, & it feels MUCH easier to me to use a thinner neck profile. The thick neck doesn't allow fast transitions to different positions for me. I have very long fingers(XXL glove size), & most blues solos I play are with my thumb lightly hanging over the top of the neck so I can stabilize for vibrato, but for playing a solo like Van Halen's "On Fire" from the VH1 record, you have to adopt the thumb-on-the-back-of-the-neck technique or you're pretty much unable to to execute it. IMO, it's best to practice both styles because it will make you a more versatile player, & it also builds different sets of muscles.
If you practice both ways & it still feels uncomfortable to you, ditch the old LP for something else fun to play.
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#6
Of course it's normal. We guitars always say to get something that sounds and feels good to you, if the neck makes it so that it doesn't feel right, then it doesn't feel right.

I, too, hate the neck of Les Pauls, but it's probably because I'm so used to a Strat, I sometimes play a Tele and I fret with my thumb. Then again, I just think everything about it is too hefty, as I did on my search for my first guitar.
#7
Everyones hands are different.My fav neck seems to be a Telecaster neck,Don't mind LP's but prefer Tele's.Not as keen on Strats as i find the fret spacings a little wide for my short fingers.
#9
I have small fingers and play a Stratocaster with a C neck. I find it comfortable but recently played an old Mustang and I liked the small neck. I am considering buying a Kurt Cobian Fender Mustang mainly because of the small neck at nut width 1.625. I also like the shorter scale. Something different from my current guitars.
#10
I don't like the 50's necks on lps since they are so thick and uncomfortable to me but the 60's necks are fine. I have somewhat small hands. If you want to keep using a lp, might want to try one out with a 60's profile, think more recently call it the slim taper d.
Last edited by cdouglas at Aug 30, 2014,
#11
I've found that thicker necks benefit those with smaller, weaker and/or arthritic hands. That seems counterintuitive at first, but it turns out that many of those folks are using the meaty muscle at the base of the thumb to bring the muscles of the forearm into play to help them bend, etc. They're also more likely to flatten out their thumb (even bending it back a bit) when they have it on the back of the neck


In my case, sometimes I have no other choice but to flatten out my thumb with that thick neck BECAUSE of it being to thick.
I started this thread wanting to find out whether I should get a guitar with a thinner neck. I got one and it feels more comfortable. Glad I made this decision.