Guitar Neck Shapes and Types Explained: Electric & Acoustic

There are a lot of different guitar neck shapes available, and it can be tough to know which one is right for you. Depending on your hand size, some types will be more comfortable than others. This can have a huge impact on your ability to learn and perform some techniques.

In this article, we’ll explore the different neck shapes and which are the most common. We’ll also see which ones are best for beginners, intermediates, and advanced players. So let’s find the perfect guitar neck shape for your playing style.

What is a Guitar Neck?

The first thing to understand is the neck itself. When considering the type of neck or even the shape, it shouldn’t be confused with the fretboard. Or even the headstock for that matter. The neck is made from wood in most cases and attaches to the body of the guitar.

The fretboard then gets mounted to the neck. But it’s the neck that is responsible for the shape you feel when you play the guitar. This is important to understand. Because two necks made from different wood materials can have the same fretboard. They may even have different profiles too!

Most Common Guitar Neck Shapes

Guitar Neck Shape Diagram

The neck on a guitar is one of the more important parts and is designed with a special purpose. Not only does it hold your fretboard, but it also needs to be the right contour for your hand. This is why guitar neck shapes come in different sizes and profiles.

The Neck profile is the shape of the back or underside. It’s not the width or fretboard radius measurement.

There are four main types of guitar neck shapes:

  • C-shape
  • V-shape
  • U-shape
  • D-shape

The shape of the neck will affect your hand position and how easy it is to reach certain chords and notes. Depending on your style of play, some shapes will be better suited than others.

C Shape Neck

C Shape Guitar Neck

The C shape is the most common type and is considered to be the standard guitar neck profile. It’s comfortable for a lot of players and is easy to get used to. It’s also one of the more versatile shapes, as it can be used for a variety of genres.

This oval profile is often found on acoustic and electric guitars and is a good choice for beginners. The C-shaped neck is also popular with intermediate and advanced guitarists. Those who are looking for a comfortable profile that they can play for long periods.

This guitar neck shape was very popular in the 1980s. So popular that Fender began using it exclusively on most of their model lineups. Today there are many variations of the C shape neck including:

  • Slim
  • Extra-Slim
  • Fat
  • Nut Shaped
  • Huge

Because everyone is different, more options mean a better fit for some players. So, if you don’t feel comfortable with the standard C-shaped neck, be sure to try out some other profiles.

Guitars With C-Shaped Necks 

You can find C-shaped necks on guitars like:

  • Fender Guitars American Standard
  • Fender American Special Series
  • Ibanez JEM or JCM
  • Wizard Super

V Shape Neck

V shaped Guitar necks

The V-shaped necks are a more vintage design and are typically found in older models. It’s rarely seen on stock guitars except for some reissues, but some players like this profile a lot. It’s less popular than the C shape, but is still very playable.

The V shape can be found in two main profiles:

  • Rounded V or soft
  • Hard V-neck shape

The soft V-shaped necks have a bit more of a rounded profile, while the hard “V” has a more dramatic point. The hard version can be a bit more uncomfortable for some players, so the soft V is often the better choice.

The V shape neck is typically seen on only certain electric guitars. Instruments like the 50s Classic Stratocaster and the SRV Stratocaster.

U Shape Neck

U Shaped Guitar Neck

The U-shaped guitar necks are not as common as the C or V, but they are still seen on some models. This neck profile is thicker than the others and can be a bit more uncomfortable for some players.

It’s known as the baseball bat neck profile by some, but is similar to the C shape except for a wider radius. The U shape neck is great for players with large hands, as the almost round profile can give them more room to grip.

This rounded shape was very popular on older models like the Fender Nocaster and Gibson Les Paul. Eventually, Gibson moved away from U-shaped necks. If you’re looking for a thicker neck, this might be the right choice for you. But those with small hands may find them difficult to play.

D Shape Neck

D Shaped Guitar Neck

The D shape guitar neck profile is not as common as any others. They are typically only found on heavy metal and hard rock models. This profile is very thin and flat and is designed for players who want the fastest possible action. It’s also sometimes referred to as the modern flat oval profile.

The D-shaped neck is very comfortable and easy to fret. The thin neck allows you to get your hand around it very easily. It gives you more space between the strings and the fretboard. This can be helpful for players with smaller hands.

It’s becoming very popular among modern guitar builders today, as the D shape neck is so close to the C profile. It’s popular with builders like Epiphone and Ibanez. They make some great rock and metal guitars that use this profile. Some of these models include:

  • Ibanez JP20
  • Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Asymmetrical Necks

Asymmetrical Guitar Neck shape

Some guitar necks are not symmetrical, meaning that the profile is not the same on both sides. These asymmetrical profiles can be found in both C, and V shapes. They are designed for players who want something different.

Gibson’s Les Paul HP is a popular example of an asymmetrical neck, as it has a much more drastic curve on one side. These necks can be a bit more difficult to get used to, but some players prefer them.

The design intends to support the thumb and fingers near the top of the neck. This creates a better profile for a strong grip because of the reduction in the material on one side.

If you’re looking for something different, an asymmetrical neck might be the way to go. But be aware that they can take some getting used to and are not for everyone.

Acoustic Guitar Neck Shapes

The acoustic guitar neck shapes are similar if not identical to the ones we have touched on already. Yet, some manufacturers like Martin and Taylor have names for their profiles. This can be confusing for someone who is not familiar with them.

Low Profile

This is, as the name suggests, a low-neck profile. It’s designed for comfortable playability and easy action. The low profile is found on many models of acoustic guitar from a variety of manufacturers. It’s like a C-shape profile, but a bit flatter. It’s where C and D shapes meet.

Modified Low Oval

The Modified Low Oval Profile is the most common acoustic guitar neck shape. It has a rounded bottom and a flatter top. This makes it comfortable for acoustic players.

The Modified Low Oval is like a C-shape but has a more round extreme curve on the bottom half of the neck. This makes it better for acoustic players as it gives them more space to grip the neck.

Performing Artist

The Performing Artist Profile is found on higher-end acoustic guitars. Normally from brands like Taylor and Martin. It’s a high-profile neck that is designed for speed and comfort.

It has a sharp bottom and a curved top, similar to the Modified Low Oval. Yet, the Performing Artist Profile is a bit more extreme. The bottom is much sharper and the top has a more drastic curve.

It’s like a C shape but is more wide and shallow, a sort of combination of the modified and low profiles.

Modified V Profile

The Modified V Profile is found on some older acoustics from Martin. It’s a variation of the V profile that is more rounded.

It has a rounded bottom and top, making it easier to play for those who are used to the standard V profile. Likewise, it’s also less drastic, which makes it more comfortable for most players.

PRS Neck Profiles

Anyone who knows of Paul Reed Smith is well aware of the innovations that his company has made. Especially in electric guitars. The neck profiles that PRS makes are a bit different from the ones that are more common.

They take great pride in how their electric guitars play. They have designed their own neck shapes to get what they want. These are known as pattern neck profiles and are exclusive to PRS as their current shapes.

Many players love the way they feel as they fall between soft V and C shapes. Paul designed what was known as a wide fat neck shape that was very popular before his factory days began. The pattern neck profile is an updated version. You can find three shapes in this family:

  • Pattern
  • Regular
  • Thin
PRS Pattern Neck Shape Diagram

In the picture above, you can see these shapes and how the “pattern” profile looks like a deeper soft V but is more round. Anyone who has ever played a PRS neck knows that they are very comfortable and feel great.

How To Choose A Neck Shape

There are many types of guitar neck shapes available on the market today. It can be overwhelming trying to decide which one is right for you. Do you what style of music you want to play? Even the size of hands you have? It will be much easier to choose the right neck shape.

Some things to keep in mind when choosing a guitar neck shape:

  • What style of music do you want to play?
  • What size are your hands?
  • Do you want a symmetrical or asymmetrical neck?
  • Do you want a fast or slow performance?

Once you have answers to these questions, you can narrow down your choices. Then find the perfect guitar neck shape for you. But to truly know what will fit best, you will have to try a few different shapes and get a feel for them.

Because not all guitar necks are created equal. They are made to satisfy music styles and playability in unique ways. Over time, you also may find that your tastes change. You may want to start with some common neck shapes like C, V, and U.

From there you can experiment with the ones that feel the best. The ones that make it easy to play your style of music and are comfortable doing so.

Neck Shapes For Small Hands

Some guitar neck shapes are better for small hands than others. These necks have a smaller radius and are thinner than the standard profiles.

The most common guitar neck profile for small hands is the C-shaped slim, or extra-slim. This makes it easier for players with small hands to get around the fretboard. The D-shaped profile is also a great neck as it’s flatter, which makes it easy to reach around to the strings.

Another guitar neck shape that is good for small hands is the asymmetrical profile. This neck has a different profile on each side, so it can be customized to fit the player’s hand perfectly.

If you have small hands, make sure to check out the profiles of the guitars you’re interested in before you buy. There are some great shapes out there that will make it much easier for you to play.

Neck Profiles For Large Hands

If you are a guitarist with larger hands, then a thicker neck profile might be a better fit. This doesn’t mean that you cannot play others. But there will be some that are simply uncomfortable, like thinner necks.

The recommended guitar neck profile for larger hands would be the U-shape. They are thick necks and should offer better grip and support. A thicker asymmetrical neck might also be beneficial, but would have to be played to know for sure.

C, U, and V are common guitar neck shapes that should fit a person with larger hands and support most playing styles.

Disadvantages Of Some Neck Types

While each neck size has benefits as we have seen, and there are a lot of them, they also have some issues.

Thin Necks

While thin necks are easier to play and offer some great speed, they are very delicate. Thin guitar necks are far more likely to warp when the conditions are not right. This could mean that the temperature and humidity will need to be optimal for the profile.

If it’s not, the neck could warp and in some cases be unfixable. Even the tension of strings will have an effect to some degree. So when it comes to a thin neck, it is good to keep this in mind.

Thick Necks

Thick necks on the other hand are less likely to warp. This does not mean that it is impossible, but they are not quite as sensitive. The drawback of really thick neck profiles is that they are harder to play. For anyone who has smaller hands, this could be a very big issue.

They can also get very uncomfortable after long sessions. Even though your hands might fit a thick neck, it is possible that you may get fatigued sooner. This can be a very big deal if you play in a group that does lengthy sessions of a few hours.

How to Identify Your Guitar’s Neck Profile

We have explored the different guitar neck shapes and types available. You may be curious to know what you have on your guitar. Identifying the profile of a guitar neck is quite difficult. Because some of the shapes available resemble each other.

The best way to find out what guitar neck shape you have is by looking at the specifications. These can be found on the manufacturer’s website. They will normally have the neck shape and type clearly marked. You can also look at the dealers and retailers that carry the brand and guitars. They too may have this information available.

If you are not able to find this information, then you can compare your guitar neck to one of the diagrams we offer here. Study the shape of your neck and try and find some similarities between it and the profiles you find here.

For example, in the pictures below, I was able to study the PRS and Charvel guitar necks. I was able to come to the conclusion that the PRS neck is more of a soft V profile, while the Charvel has more of a D shape. The PRS is the darker neck, the Charvel is the one with the wood grain. You can see the thickness is much different between them.

PRS Neck Shape
Charvel Neck Shape

Conclusion

Finding the right guitar neck for your hand and the performance you desire is very important. Whether it is bolt-on or set doesn’t matter as much as the type. So try a few and see what fits you best before ending up with an uncomfortable guitar neck.

FAQs

What guitar neck shape is best?

There is no correct answer to this question, as it depends on the player’s preference. Some guitarists prefer a V shape neck for its comfort and speed. Others may prefer a low oval or performing artist profile for its easier playability.

Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide what guitar neck shape is best for them. Try out a few different neck profiles and see what is the most comfortable for your play style.

What neck shape is a Gibson Les Paul?

The Gibson Les Paul has normally used U shape profiles. But as time went by, players were fatigued by the baseball bat size. They eventually moved to a D shape and have had different versions of the profile.

You can find some that are smaller and even asymmetrical depending on the year and make. Modern guitars tend to adjust to new players’ tastes and requirements.

Why do guitars have different neck shapes?

Guitars have different neck shapes to offer players a different feel and grip. Every player differs in hand size. So many sizes of guitar necks offer a wider range of comfortable options. Players with smaller hands might struggle when playing with thicker necks.

Thinner necks also allow players to move faster when there is less material in the way. A lead player, or shredder, might be able to move across the fretboard much more quickly. And so different neck sizes allow for many techniques as well as comfort and feel.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!