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Neck thickness vs tone?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by nemo, Apr 14, 2005.

  1. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    How would you describe difference in tone if I let make my fretless neck thinner? (take off wood from back of the neck)
    Neck is custom made - five string, maple with ebony board, two graphite rods, and profile is actually a copy of MTD airplane shape. Now it seems to me a litle bit chunky and tone is somewhat muted. Can I expect that thinning will make the tone open up and be more lively?

    What about other fretless makers? I have heard that Roscoes and Pedulas have pretty thin necks.
    Thank you.
  2. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    Body is alder with maple top.

    Bump. :)
  3. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    I wouldn't think the thickness of the neck would have too much impact on tone- but if you decide to try it, be careful how much, and even how, you take material off the neck. Sanding is the safest way, I think. Do you know where the truss rod is, exactly? If not, take it to the builder and let them do it. If you built it yourself, you'd know if you were getting too close to the truss rod. I would tend to think that the more mass you have in the neck, the more punchy the sound. If you're really unhappy with the tone, wouldn't trying new pickups be cheaper and faster? Remember to refinish the areas on the neck that you modify. Good luck!
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    IMO, the neck and body wood have much more effect on tone than just thickness.
    Like: thin-necked Ibanez bass I still have: unlively, muddy, dead-sounding.
    My thick-necked Corvette even with old strings: very lively, agressive, punchy. ;)

    Still, I wouldn't think thinning the neck will open the tone up...
    Though it could make it more comfortable
  5. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    To get the most of the tone form the strings, the neck must be as stiff as possible, both to bending and to twisting.
    As long as you do not add any material, a decrease in thickness will not add but remove stiffness - and tone.
    You could take some away and add a shell of reinforced polyester or epoxi, which would do a lot to both feel and tone.


    Apr 18, 2005
    I am definitly convinced that if the neck is too thin, the envelope of the sound will not be so great. Every time I have done some experiments in using a thicker neck, it was better.
  7. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    Thank you all for replies.
    It seems like my problem is solved for now. I disassembled neck from body, and found that it was thin maple shim inside. I *very* gently sanded the rough surface of the shim to make it smooth and carefuly did the same with back of neck heel and bottom of neck pocket. Put the shim back, and fastened neck to the body with as much force as possible. Voila, tone opened up and gained some air and sustain!
    It looks like the neck-body joint was the damping element here (maybe also small clamping force applied to screws before). Cured now and I am happy with the tone!

    However, back to the neck thickness, why do you think the Pedulla Buzzes and Roscoes use thin necks? Is it only for playability? If you all say the thickier-the better tone, aren't those manufacturers sacrifying tone for playability here? Judging by the tone of these great instruments it doesn't seems so...
  8. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Glad that it worked out!

    As for the second part:
    Yes, you have to find a compromise between tone and playability. However, it's not only thickness, but also as Suburban said, stiffness. You can add trussrods for greater stability and stiffness. Most mid- and boutique level instruments feature trussrods made of steel or graphite or carbon fiber or something else.

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