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Neck profiles

vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
Are the classic Selmer-style U-shaped necks less popular now? Are luthiers like AJL, Olivier Marin, and Hahl using modern thinner necks, or the Selmer-style?

Just curious — I play a Latcho Drom now with a U-shaped neck (which I love), and I'm wondering if I upgrade (in the distant future) if there'd be a change.
I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
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  • Tele295Tele295 San Buenaventura (Latcho Drom), CA✭✭✭ Gitane DG300, D500
    Posts: 629
    I think it depends on the model. I played Doug Martin's AJL-XO, and it had a fairly big neck, although not quite as squarish (U shape?) as my Gitane DG-300. Jorgenson told me the squarish neck shapes are more true to a vintage Selmer. I like that shape.
    Jill Martini Soiree - Gypsy Swing & Cocktail Jazz
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  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,410
    Tele295 wrote:
    I think it depends on the model. I played Doug Martin's AJL-XO, and it had a fairly big neck, although not quite as squarish (U shape?) as my Gitane DG-300. Jorgenson told me the squarish neck shapes are more true to a vintage Selmer. I like that shape.

    That's interesting, Tele - I've played so few guitars, such so that I thought my DG-300 was fairly thin. Good to know, actually.
    -Paul

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,941
    Paul, my Gallato has a big U shaped neck I think only because Serg copied an original Selmer for the design but I don't like that. Other than that I love the guitar.

    I think a more 'modern' neck shape is preferable for playability but it would be slightly less stiff so might have a small effect on tone. The originals were I think walnut so maybe a smaller profile out of rock maple would have equivalent stiffness (might be a bit heavier though).
  • vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
    Posts: 133
    Sorry for my ignorance, but this is interesting — how does neck stiffness affect tone?
    I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,410
    vince wrote:
    Sorry for my ignorance, but this is interesting — how does neck stiffness affect tone?
    Agreed, I didn't know it, either. That's cool. Bones?
    -Paul

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • According to Bob Benedetto, the lighter the neck the more responsive and tonally rich the guitar is.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,410
    Cool. Never heard this before.
    -Paul

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    Jay, I had heard Benedetto said this about guitar bodies before, but never heard that he said it about necks. It is also contrary to every guitar experience I've ever had. I've never noticed any drop in sound quality or volume in guitars with fat necks. On the contrary, the best-sounding guitars I've come across usually have substantial necks, and I've had a bunch of both fat and skinny necks.

    Sound is way more complicated that weight alone. Resonance is what's important, and there are a lot of ways to achieve it.

    For the record, Selmer 103, from 1932, has a C-shaped neck. Selmer 862, from 1951, has a more d-shaped neck. I've played a bunch of Selmers, but have never come across what I would call a U-shaped neck on one. I'm not saying they don't exist, but until the late 40's, the Selmers I have played had what I would call C-shaped necks. I recently played Selmers 717 and 763. The former had a C-shaped neck, as I recall it, and the latter had a D-shape, like 862, but shallower. I think it's possible that Pierre Roulot introduced the D-shaped necks at Selmer. My Busato Grand Modeles have very pronounced (and deep) U-shaped necks, although The Beast has a d-shape.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 2,941
    Well, I don't have any scientific basis for what I said, just speculative.

    I like a smaller shape neck since I have relatively small hands and it is more comfortable.

    A small profile (for, say, a given piece of wood) will yield a lighter AND less stiff (more compliant) neck.

    A floppy (i.e. less stiff) neck HAS to be bad tonally since I would think that it would result in a loss of energy. I don't think that you want the small amount of energy in a vibrating string being used up ringing the neck rather than the body.

    Mass of the neck (for a given stiffness) is probably a more complicated question since resonance is basically the square root of stiffness divided by mass (from physics class) and how that affects tone I'm really not sure.

    In general, I would think you want as stiff a neck as possible without having it be overly large or massive.

    For the purposes of a player evaluating whether to purchase an instrument I always 'flex' the neck to make sure that it isn't a 'rubber neck' but that takes some knowledge/feel/experience to do so I wouldn't recommend it if you don't know what to look for. Suffice it to say that you can support the body on the carpet, grab the peghead in your left hand and grab the middle of the neck with your right hand and flex it GENTLY (while sighting straight down the neck) to get a feel for how stiff it is. If you've tried this on a lot of guitars you can instantly tell a 'rubber neck'. Plus you can visually check if the neck is straight or warped at the same time.

    All that said, bottom line, if you like the way it sounds and feels then it will make you happy.
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    Sorry, Bones... I wasn't trying to sound pedantic, so mea culpa if it sounded that way.

    I agree about neck stiffness, stiffer just has to be better. I'm sure Bob Holo, or Rodrigo Shopis, or Craig Bumgarner could explain the ins and outs. I would think a rigid, light body would resonate best, but the number of braces, would, I think, play a role.

    Craig Bumgarner spec'd a few of my guitars at Django in June, and later shared the results with me. If I remember right, the Joseph di Mauro (brother, not son) weighed 3.86 pounds, but had thicker wood than the Selmer (3 - 3.5mm vs. 2.6mm), and a bigger body), but only four braces (3 top, one back). The Selmer weighed a 4.45 pounds (it has a solid rosewood neck, remember), but also has twice as many braces inside (five and three), the Busato he spec'd, was 4.16 pounds (it's maple), with Selmer bracing on top, and no back braces. A Favino/Busato body will be bigger, ad therefore weigh a bit more on balance, than a Selmer. So it just can't be about thin wood, but also how much and what kind of bracing. I would kill to understand this stuff as well as Holo does...

    The Selmer is heaviest, with that solid rosewood neck, but it is also the best-feeling and playing neck of any guitar I have ever crossed paths with. I don't know if the heavier/denser wood is a hindrance or a help, but it it sure makes for a stable platform. It can literally stay in tune for weeks at a time.

    Bob Holo really knows his stuff, and since he makes featherweight guitars, there must be a scientific basis for it. Still, those old Busatos with their baseball-bat necks are louder than about anything. So maybe the neck is the one place where weight doesn't matter as much as rigidity.

    Maybe Bob, Craig, or Rodrigo can explain it in a rare quiet moment.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
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