Elements That Contribute to Your Guitar Sound - Part 2: Attachment of Neck to Body

AKA how to get the best toanz...

Ultimate Guitar
The tone wars debate continues... If you're up for finding out what Berklee experts have to say about the wood's impact to a guitar's tone, feel free to read on.

Additionally, we are looking at a concise guide on how other factors such as neck attachment affect the final sonic attack. Dig in!

Attachment of Neck to Body

How the neck is joined to the body of a guitar also affects its overall sound. Most guitar necks are either bolted onto, or glued into, a cavity in the body.

Bolt-On Necks

Bolt-on necks are the most common and least expensive means of attachment.

The Fender guitar sound is partially due to the bolt-on neck. And with a bolt-on, it's possible to swap one neck for another to change the sound and feel of a guitar. For example, a bright, snappy-sounding solid maple neck could be exchanged with a maple neck with a warm-sounding rosewood fingerboard.

Glued-In Neck

The heels of Gibson style necks are glued into the neck cavity and are thought to have a "tighter fit," contributing to sustain. Many guitar makers offer guitars with both styles of neck attachment.

Neck-Through Body

Some necks run all the way through to the strap button with body side pieces attached on each side. The Gibson Firebird and the Jackson Soloist both have "neck through body" construction and are well-known for their sustain capabilities.

Nut Material

String vibrations are transferred by the nut to the guitar neck. Due to its hardness, bone is preferable over factory-installed plastic nuts. Graphite nuts are more "slippery," allowing the strings to slide through with ease. They are a popular choice for tremolo arm enthusiasts!

Stay tuned for Part 3: Types of Electric Guitar Bodies

Elements That Contribute to Your Guitar Sound - Part 1: Wood

Elements That Contribute to Your Guitar Sound - Part 3: Body Types

About Berklee Online:

Berklee Online is the continuing education division of Berklee College of Music, delivering access to Berklee's acclaimed curriculum from anywhere in the world. The material above was excerpted from the Berklee Online course "Getting Your Guitar Sound" by Dan Bowden. Learn more about Berklee Online's guitar courses, certificate programs, and Bachelor of Professional Studies degree program. Also, be sure to check out Berklee's Online Guitar Tuner, a free tool for getting your best guitar sound.

28 comments sorted by best / new / date

    The reason "fenders are snappy" and "gibsons are dark and mellow" is just because they have different electronics. Neck joint is exactly like contours, or neck profiles, changing it will change next to nothing to the sound of the guitar. I'd also like to point out that 3/4 of the article is literally about "sustain", which is stupid because any guitar can be made to sustain a ridiculous amount of time with the right compression, or feedback; and sustain is never an issue on mid-range and more guitars. Here's some actual differences. Bolt on makes it incredibly easy to work on the neck whether it is for fretwork, cleaning, or even setting up the neck angle to get your guitar to suit your personal preference It's also rather bad on a lot of guitars because the heel is too thick (as opposed to that, the AANJ on Ibanez makes the upper register very comfortable) Glued-In is a slightly worse Neck through, or a slightly worse Bolt on, as it generally keeps a small heel, and takes away any possibility of removing the neck. And by no way it is easier to do than a Bolt On neck. Neck through gives a perfect, smooth access to the upper frets as the cutaways and contouring can be done to a greater extend without having to deal with a joint. Unfortunately, it's more work for the production line (and as an extension, it costs more for the consumer). Also as a final addition, I'd like to congratulate UG on removing the "Sponsored Content" mention. edit : post final addition, I forgot to mention that the strenght of the neck joint is actually the more important factor. If you have a neck through, but the wood inside of it can't withstand the tension, it's bloody useless. a weak or unstable joint is something that actually affects your sound.
    "Neck joint is exactly like contours, or neck profiles, changing it will change next to nothing to the sound of the guitar." False. The type of construction has a huge impact on the attack of a note. Bolt-on having the most. In my experience bolt-ins also have the longest sustain as proved/backed up by countless lutheirs/players in recent years. The whole setnecks/neckthrus sustain more is a myth that has long be debunked.
    Oh look at it, there it is again, "sustain", "My guitar is a bolt on, and it has BETTER SUSTAIN than yours because of [REASON], it says right here in the advertising, and by having such guitar I am better than you !" ; I never spoke of differences in sustain even. And no, changing the neck joint doesn't change the attack, Jackson Soloists have the same attack as Dinkys or any other jackson model. String gauge, tension, scale lenght, pick, angle of attack, pickups and their placements, all of these are much more important factors in the attack of a guitar, and in the traditional exemple of "fender sound bright and gibson sound dull", you have a slightly contoured (or not even contoured at all in the case of a telecaster), single coil guitar, with a 25.5" scale lenght and a rather large tremolo/hardtail bridge ; while the other is arched, has humbuckers, 24.75" scale lenght, and a small, tune-o-matic bridge. And this is going to matter a whole lot in how you put your picking hand on the guitar.
    If you can't hear a difference in neck construction then you have poor ears or are just inexperienced. Or you don't understand what attack is. I've owned 6 set necks and 14 bolt ons. On all there is a clear difference and tonal impact thats evident in both constructions. The sustain part was addressing the article above since like I said its now a debunked guitar myth.
    and now we lack any kind of concrete data, evidence, or even simple reasoning, so let's resort to simply ad-hominem, "I've owned more guitars, you are stupid, and I am better than you !" But hey next time at least try a more believable lie, I really doubt someone would go through 20 guitars and still stay on a peavy vypyr.
    Read my first post, I already posted evidence there. There is lots of concrete data, how about using google. Misha Mansoor and his signature Jackson? Doug Campbell(Blackmachine)? Ola Strandberg(Strandberg)? Jeff Kiesel(Kiesel Guitars)? Jaden Rose? Any of those ring a bell, they all have the same findings on bolt-ons having more attack. Thats fact as all those builders with countless years of experience will tell you. If you're going to disregard actual builders findings then this debate is pointless. What lie would that be? I used a Vypyr for about a year and sold it. Not sure where you made that up from or drew that conclusion from? I use an Axe-fx II and Kemper, well used to but I downsized to a good interface instead.
    Your first post contained precisely no evidence to back your claims. You only stated that it was 'proven by numerous luthiers/players/goatse enthusiasts". Guess what? The same can be said for pretty much every statement about tone and sustain. Your last post just drops random names. Again, that is not actual evidence. Evidence would be taking multiple guitars, with the same exact pick ups, pots, and capacitors, running through the same amp at the same amp settings, in the same room, and actively testing which one sustains better. Preferably with accurate testing devices, rather than a rough guess with a stopwatch. As you are the one making the claim, and then claiming that you have all the hard evidence to back up your assertions, then the onus is on your to provide that proof. Not "random dude says so", even if they're a recorded musician that doesn't matter. Actual, hard evidence that a bolt on neck can make notes remain audible for longer than set neck or neck through designs. So far, your entire argument is "I'm right because I say I'm right, and I say I'm right because I'm right". But hey, you've got a promising career as a used car salesman or politician.
    You think the top leading innovative electric guitar builders in the world are random dudes? Wow you really shouldn't be trying to discuss guitars if you don't know who some of those guys are.
    Reading comprehension > you. Try again. As everyone who has ever came to UG before or will in the future can understand, dropping names is not proof. You provided no evidence to back your statements. By deliberately refusing to provide actual backing to your statements, then insulting everyone who didn't fall over and agree with you, you prove yourself to be a liar. All you did was go to wiki and pick a few names of people who built guitars in the past, and not a one of them will back you up. Maybe you shouldn't argue guitars if you don't understand anything about them. You do, however, have a promising career choice of used car salesman or politician ahead of you. Lack of basic first grade comprehension skills and an inability to provide coherent arguments backed by evidence are requirements for those jobs.
    I've had steak dinners with two of those guys I mentioned so your petty insults are a terrible attempt to try and cover up that you don't know who those builders are and why they proved long ago that construction makes a huge difference. "Maybe you shouldn't argue guitars if you don't understand anything about them." http://www.sevenstring.org/forum/showthread.ph... Have a read
    Lol. This series should be (if we're talking about the guitar solely): Part 1: Pickups Part 2: Hollow and Solidbody Part 3: Strings and Gauges
    Ehm, first: some real data on the sustain thingy? Second: at least to me, maple fretboard sounds actually warmer than rosewood (in fenders anyway)
    The other day, a fly landed on the neck of my guitar, and wow, the tone was fantastic!!! Too much fret buzz though
    The saddest part about that comment is that there will inevitably be someone, somewhere, who genuinely believes a fly will affect their guitar tone.
    The Fender guitar sound is partially due to the bolt-on neck. Partially as in 1% of the sound?
    yes, probably even less. however, it's that one percent that can make a difference for some people.
    Another voodoo bulls..t lesson. Could someone please make a course about some facts that heavily contribute to your guitar sound and not just post some urban legends.
    These articles aren't BS, but they're missing the most important part - as are most of the responses. Bolt-ons, set-ins, and neck-throughs don't NEED to have any tonal differences whatsoever. If they do, it's because somebody screwed up. Take a bolt-on, since it's sort of 'in the middle.' A bolt-on that is tightly, properly fitted, with a grain on the neck that runs the same direction as the body, and has no gaps of shims between neck and body will vibrate exactly the same as a neck-though. If it doesn't, it's because there is a slight gap, or it has been shimmed, or it doesn't fit right, or there is too much finish to mate the parts properly. Those 3-4 screws just don't have enough mass to greatly impact vibration - not nearly as much as having a slight gap, or an ill-fitting shim. A neck-though "sustains better" because there is no neck joint to screw up. A bolt-on "sustains better" because it is way easier to find a shorter piece of wood with no flaws, and way easier to maintain it via truss rod. It's also way cheaper to make - good luck finding a perfectly set up neck-through with flawless wood and construction for less than a grand. Set necks are the worst, which is why many manufacturers have a 1" tenon or so as pictured - the joint isn't actually at the end of the guitar. But again, too much glue, poor fit, too much finish for the glue to adhere properly, etc. Physics says that the set neck should have the worst sustain, because it is neither a solid piece, nor is it compressed into a solid piece like a bolt-on. However, many of the best-known sustainers have set necks. So .... clearly it doesn't matter. The way the neck is attached is only relevant insofar as some of them are prettier, allow better access, or are harder to screw up. Anything that is done CORRECTLY is as good as anything else. And if you're building yourself, bolt-ons absolutely are the best, since that's the one that's most likely to be done correctly.
    These articles are pure bullsh*t. All that was mentioned before may affect pure acoustic guitars or hollowbodies at most. For solid body electric guitars, these elements contribute virtually nothing to your sound. You have exactly these things: * String material and gauge * Pickups (mostly the number of windings of the pickup wire and the magnets of your coil) * Electronics (characteristics of capacitors and resistance value of potentiometers) * Toggle switch and tone knob (use them, people) * Own skill and playing style (obviously) Everything else is purely aesthetics and is pushed by either people who build guitars or by people who don't want to realise they spent 3k on a sound they could've gotten for a fraction of that. If you don't believe me, I recommend watching this video where Joe Satriani plays on a setup that is mediocre at best:
    All this text is nice, but I want to actually hear some examples for myself. Even some spectrograph images would be helpful to point out the differences. Surely these guys have the means to do such experiments?
    they could, but there would be such minute differences, that it would show the rosewood/maple argument is complete bullshit. There are so many variables in the wood itself (two maples will look different on a spectrograph) that its a moot argument.
    If executed well I don't think there is a notable difference between the methods. Neck attachment is important but I think it comes down to good neck joint vs bad neck joint not type.
    Yup. I've been to factories where they test the fit of a bolt-on neck into the cavity by flailing the damn thing around- without the bolts in!