The Best Neck Profiles for Large and Small Hands

A closer look at U-shaped, V-shaped, C-shaped, Flat C-shaped Neck Profiles.

While variety is mostly a good thing, for those new to electric guitars and guitar assembly in general, you may have noticed the term 'neck shape' (also referred to as neck profile) under our product descriptions and wondered what the terms C, V, Flat C, and U mean in a practical sense, and how to decide which will best suit your needs. 

Kit Guitar Neck Profiles

Customers typically want to know the following:

  • How does the neck profile affect playability?
  • What profile is best?  
  • Does it affect tone?
  • What hand sizes are best suited to each?

In the following article, we’ll discuss what neck shapes or profiles are, their influence on tone and playability, and the different shapes available and how they relate to hand size. 

What is Neck Profile?

Simply put, a guitar’s neck profile refers to the shape of the underside of the guitar neck. Essentially the section that fits within your palm. 

And while the profile doesn’t have a measurable impact on tone (at least on electric guitars), it plays a role with regard to playability which indirectly affects tone.

If you take a cross-section of two different guitar necks (as per the example below) that utilize different profiles the differences between them become much easier to observe.

 

Difference between V and C shape neck profiles

It’s important to keep in mind, neck profile specifically refers to the shape of the underside of the neck and should not be confused with other related terms such as:

Neck Width: The width of the guitar fretboard, measured at the nut.
Neck Width
Neck Depth: The depth of the neck, from top of the fretboard to underside of the neck.

Neck Depth

Fretboard Radius: The curvature of the fretboard (Also commonly referred to as Fingerboard radius)

Fretboard Radius


*Just in case you are wondering...No, the neck profile has no real bearing on the strength of the neck.

C shaped necks

C shaped neck profiles are quite common, and are shallower (lower profile) than either V or U shaped neck profiles. They are mostly considered a comfortable, good ‘middle ground’ option and tend to suit guitarists playing a range of different styles.

Flattened C shape (Also referred to as the ‘modern C’ shape)

As the name implies the flattened C shape is a shallower version of the C profile and is quite common. They are the neck profile used on modern Stratocasters®.

V Shaped Necks

V Shaped neck profiles are more often associated with vintage instruments and reissues that remain loyal to the original design.
They are typically a deeper neck than C shaped neck profiles and are preferred by some players as it allows them to keep their thumb position on the back of the neck more consistent due to the less gradual arc of the V profile.

U Shaped Necks

U shaped neck profiles are similar in depth to V shape profiles and are commonly seen on Telecasters®. The U shape profile is wider at the base than the V shape profile and because of this can often be better suited to a larger handspan.

Which shape is best?

It would be easy if there was a definitive guide for guitarists e.g. if your hand span is greater than or less than ……… choose a ………… neck profile.

But, in reality this really isn’t the case, and most of the time the profile that best suits your particular style of playing, at least for the most part will be completely subjective. 

For example, your posture, including the angle of your arm and wrist will play a role in how comfortable a guitar neck feels in your hands. Your ability and experience will also play a role e.g. when first starting out it takes time for the necessary motor skills to develop that allow for some chord shapes to be played or to span large areas of the fretboard. It's also very much the case, that as guitarists we become accustomed to the neck profile of the guitar we first learn on, and over time this familiarity tends to make it more difficult to adjust to different neck profiles.

However, all things being equal, there are some basic guidelines you can follow if new to the guitar, or you have limited experience in playing guitars with different neck profiles and are interested in finding the best fitting neck for your particular hand size.

If you have small hands: Generally the shallower the profile the better e.g. C or flat C, provided it is in combination with a thin fretboard. 

One of the challenges of playing guitar with small hands is the ability to span frets. Deeper necks make this more difficult as much of your handspan will be utilized at the back of the neck. A shallower profile provides more room to stretch across frets.

If you have large hands: New guitarists with a larger than usual hand span often feel clumsy on the guitar and wonder if this is due to their hand size. While this can contribute, it’s also the case that almost everyone new to the guitar feels a little clumsy when learning. 

However, if you have large hands, a deeper profile can often make a good starting point. Perhaps more importantly however is the width. The wider the neck the larger the spacing between strings. This can be beneficial for guitarists with large hands, as large hands tend to also mean large fingers. If the string spacing is wider than normal this provides extra room between strings, and is especially beneficial if you play fingerstyle for example.

Summary

It’s often the case when it comes to guitars, especially when first starting out, that too much consideration is given to the technical aspects such as neck profile, fretboard radius, scale length, fret wire size and the list goes on. 

Golfers are often guilty of the same thing, changing clubs or buying the latest putter, or driver to help improve their game at the expense of improving their technique.

And while understanding how the different components affect playability is important especially when assembling a DIY guitar kit, it shouldn’t come at the cost of good technique. If your chords do not sound clean, or you have trouble playing at speed, much of this will come back to your technique and the best way to improve this is practice and repetition.

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