Learning to play the guitar is no doubt one of the coolest yet most difficult things that anyone can face. Once you’ve learned the ropes, you’ll be able to rock out with your friends, play covers of your favorite songs, and maybe even write your own! However, before you can do all of that fun stuff, there are a lot of challenges in your way.
From doing the initial research to purchasing the guitar and its accessories, I found my first guitar purchase pretty stressful. Every guitar looks different, with unique bodies, strings, and necks. I struggled with that last part as a beginner guitarist – should I get a thick or a thin neck, and does it make a difference?
I’m here to tell you that it does, especially when it comes to acoustic guitars. Interested to find out more? Well, read on to hear all sorts of exciting details in my thin-neck acoustic guitars guide! I’ll be covering why thin necks can sometimes be exactly what you need, how to size up a guitar, and I’ll even be recommending to you my favorite thin-necked acoustics. Let’s get into it!
Bottom Line Up Front: Thin neck acoustic guitars usually have a neck of less than 1.9″ when measured from the nut, and can greatly benefit children or adults with small hands. The thinner neck has no negative effect on the sound of the guitar as demonstrated by acoustics such as the Taylor 214ce, and overall can have great benefits in terms of ease of use.
What is a Thin Neck Acoustic Guitar?
You might have read that heading and think it sounds like a bit of an obvious question – thin neck guitars are simply guitars with thin necks, right? That is correct, but I thought that I would cover it in slightly more detail for any beginner guitarists out there.
The neck of an acoustic guitar is the long piece of wood that comes out of the body, usually having a wooden finish on the back whilst being covered by frets on the face. On the face of the neck is the fretboard, a literal board of guitar frets that allows the guitarists to play different notes. This is worth mentioning as many people get confused between fretboards and necks – they are two different things. The fretboard is on the neck, not the other way round.
The neck of the guitar is the main place where a guitarist’s left hand will be navigating, constantly moving around it to hit different frets on the fretboard. As a result, guitar builders have experimented for years to find the ultimate depth for the neck. Generally, they measure out at around 1.9 inches around the bolt, but some of them are significantly thinner than this. Why exactly? Let’s take a look!
Why Would You Buy a Thin Neck Acoustic Guitar?
I remember when I was first learning to play the acoustic guitar – I was only about eight years old and I thought I was the coolest kid in town, especially since I had decided to learn the guitar. I was at that sort of age where I thought bigger always meant better – I wanted the biggest burger, the biggest shoes, and I certainly wanted the biggest guitar.
My Dad had taken me guitar shopping and I had my eyes on a gorgeous jumbo acoustic guitar, and I walked out of Guitar Center with it. If only my Dad knew how bad of a decision that was! Why exactly? There were several reasons – let’s break them down.
Navigating the Fretboard
Perhaps the most obvious reason that someone would purchase a thin-neck acoustic guitar is so that they can navigate the fretboard properly. That’s right – if a guitar neck is too thick, you simply will not be able to wrap your hands around it, especially if you are a child like I was! I would sit down at my guitar stool ready to practice my new favorite hobby, and my left hand would barely fit around the neck.
This meant that I was very limited in terms of what I could do. Sure, I had no problem hitting the high G, B, and E notes as they were closest to where my fingers were placed when wrapped around the neck. This meant that I had no issues with playing some basic open chords such as D Major, but as soon as I started to learn chords on lower strings, problems arose.
I couldn’t even reach the low E string with my fingers, let alone play a basic bass chord such as E Minor! It was a serious problem, as every song I tried to learn had an E Major in it, and I wouldn’t be able to play them.
I did temporarily solve this problem by applying to a high fret at a point where the neck was thinner, allowing me to navigate the neck easier. However, it was a solid year or so until I was finally able to move my hands around and reach the full range of strings.
Learn from my mistakes – if you’re purchasing a guitar for a child, or perhaps you just have small hands, consider buying a thin neck acoustic guitar over a thick one.
I mentioned how it’s not just children that may struggle with thick-neck acoustic guitars, but adults too. If you have small hands like my wife, you could struggle with a thick-necked guitar just as much as any child. Sure, you could probably just about reach all the strings, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a comfortable experience.
That brings me to my next point – discomfort. Even if you can successfully navigate the entire fretboard of a thick neck guitar, it may be an uncomfortable experience. You may experience this discomfort whilst playing, distracting you from having fun learning your new favorite song, or you may instead experience the discomfort after you play. Warping your hands to reach those hard-to-access frets is no doubt going to cause discomfort and perhaps even a finger injury.
Why put yourself through all that pain when there is a simple solution? Get yourself a thin neck acoustic guitar, and you won’t have to worry about experiencing such pain. There is no shame in doing this – sure, thin neck acoustic guitars are great for kids who are just starting to learn the instrument, but they can also be fantastic for adults with small hands. There’s no shame in that!
Believe it or not, some adults and children will not realize that their acoustic guitar neck is too thick for them. They’ve gone through all of the beginning stages of learning the instrument, learning to navigate the fretboard, and developing calluses on their fingers, without realizing that they have a serious problem – they are unable to fully develop their guitar technique.
That’s right – this is perhaps one of the most common problems I have seen with thick-neck acoustic guitars. You may be able to comfortably navigate the fretboard of a guitar and feel like there is no problem, but the reason for this is that you are limiting yourself without even realizing it. You’ve never bothered to learn hammers-ons and pull-offs, and you’ve never mastered that tricky B chord.
It’s a darn shame that some people put themselves through this. They would rather choose a ‘normal sized’ guitar neck just to fit in over a thinner neck, at the complete detriment of their guitar playing ability. Imagine a world where you are unable to truly master your favorite instrument, just because you are worried about what people think!
If you’re reading this and that sounds like you, consider testing your guitar-playing ability on a thin-neck acoustic guitar and see if this has any effect. You might just find that you are capable of achieving much more complex technique and masterful playing simply because the neck is thinner!
I’ve saved this last point because I relate to it on a very deep level. It encompasses all of the other points but has a much more significant consequence.
When I began to learn the guitar on the jumbo acoustic that I mentioned earlier, I suffered from all of the problems that I have listed – I couldn’t navigate the fretboard properly, playing the guitar was uncomfortable, and I was unable to even think about learning advanced techniques.
I complained about this to my parents, but unfortunately, they were none the wiser about guitar necks. They simply told me to keep practicing, and the skill would develop naturally.
I took my parents’ advice and persevered, but it was only going to take me so far – at the end of the day, my hands were simply too small for the thick jumbo acoustic neck that I had. Day by day, my motivation to play the guitar got lower, dreading my classes and practice sessions for the discomfort that I knew that I would experience. I began to practice less and less, and I began to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, I put down the instrument altogether.
Just like that, I had decided that the acoustic guitar was not the instrument for me – I simply wasn’t good enough, and I might as well give up and try a different instrument. It wasn’t until a year later that I visited my friend’s house and I realized that all of this was wrong.
He had a thin-neck acoustic guitar, and it was an absolute delight to play! Not only was it more comfortable and easier to navigate, but I realized that I was suddenly able to pull off techniques (no pun intended) that I previously was not able to.
I eventually convinced my parents to give me a second chance with a thin neck acoustic guitar, and just like that, my passion for the instrument returned. However, that was a pretty expensive mistake to make for my parents, and I was away from the instrument for a whole year because of it! Learn from our mistakes – playing guitar with too thick of a neck may just prevent you from playing the instrument altogether.
Finding the Right Neck Depth for You
Now that we’ve discussed all of the reasons that you might choose to purchase a thin-neck acoustic guitar, it’s important to consider whether you could fit within this category. After all, you may be a victim of the technical problem that I mentioned, comfortably playing a thick neck guitar simply because you are not experimenting with advanced techniques.
There is one way to find out whether you would benefit from a slim neck acoustic guitar, and that is to visit a music store such as Guitar Center and find out! You can achieve this by speaking to a member of staff, explaining your problem, and testing out a variety of guitars with different neck sizes. If possible, I would also recommend bringing your own guitar for comparison.
Show the guitar store worker how your hand fits around the fretboard and how far you can reach. Explain to them if you have noticed any discomfort or inability to play certain chords or techniques. They should be able to instantly recognize whether you would benefit from a slim-neck acoustic guitar.
Don’t feel bad about doing this – people work in those shops for the sole reason to help you find the right guitar, so feel free to ask them for you to try out as many guitars as necessary. By the end of this, it should be pretty clear to you whether your current guitar has a neck that is too thick for you.
My Top Thin Neck Acoustic Guitar Recommendations
So, we’ve covered tons of information regarding when you should use a thin neck acoustic guitar, how to know if your current guitar has a neck that is too thick, and why a thinner one may benefit you.
I’m now going to complement this information by providing you with my four favorite thin-neck acoustic guitars. This way, you can go into a music store like Guitar Center with a few examples of guitars that you can try out. Who knows, you may end up purchasing one of them just like I did!
The first thin-neck acoustic guitar that I’d like to talk about is the Oscar Schmidt OG1FYS. This dreadnought acoustic guitar is perfect for anyone who finds that they struggle not only with thicker necks, but larger guitars in general – it’s a 3/4 acoustic, meaning it is slightly smaller than a full-sized acoustic. This allows the guitar to have an extremely thin neck of just 1.45″! You won’t find many other guitars with such a thin neck.
Don’t let that make you think it’s a bad guitar though – for the price, this acoustic sounds pretty stunning, looks beautiful, and will guarantee comfort for anyone who struggled with full-sized necks.
- A very reasonable price for the quality
- Insanely thin neck of just 1.45”
- Comes in four finishes – natural, transparent blue, and flame yellow sunburst
- The ¾ size is perfect for people who struggle with full-sized acoustics
- You get what you pay for, so the quality isn’t amazing
- The ¾ size is going to be too small for most guitarists
Alvarez AD6012CE 12-String Electro-Acoustic
The next guitar on this list is one that I own – the Alvarez AD6012CE 12-String Electro-Acoustic. I absolutely love this guitar – it’s got all the bells and whistles. Not only does it suit the thin neck criteria at 1.87″, but this guitar is also a 12-string! Furthermore, it’s also electroacoustic, meaning that you can plug it into any amplifier for extra volume.
It’s a similarly priced guitar to the Oscar Schmidt mentioned earlier, yet it’s full-sized, amplifiable, and has double the amount of strings. Obviously, this isn’t going to be for everyone, but it’s a guitar that I couldn’t do without in my collection.
- A full-sized guitar, despite the relatively thin neck
- Electroacoustic, meaning you can play it both acoustically and through an amplifier
- 12 strings, giving it a rich and harmonic tone
- The full-sized body makes it more suitable for adults, not children
- 12 string acoustics are not for everyone and are more difficult to play
OK – I have to admit that I saved the best for last. The last two guitars I listed had some quirks such as being electroacoustic, 12-stringed, or ¾ sized, and despite them being great choices that I would highly recommend, I mainly picked them to cover a lot of ground. The thin-neck acoustic guitar that I really wanted to recommend is none other than the Taylor 214ce.
If you’ve never heard of Taylor guitars, I have no idea where you have been hiding. They are well known for producing some of the greatest acoustic guitars in the world, with high-quality wood, beautiful craftsmanship, and a tone that is to die for.
I’m particularly fond of the 214ce due to its 1.68″ neck – it makes it so much easier to play than some of the other Taylor guitars that I’ve tried out, but it doesn’t compromise on the size or quality of the instrument even slightly.
The build is a Grand Auditorium, Taylor’s signature shape which supports excellent comfort and maneuverability whilst standing out from typical dreadnought designs. It’s also made from Rosewood which is fantastic at resonating with rich bass frequencies, in addition to a Sitka Spruce soundboard facilitating a rich and balanced high end.
I could go on all day about this guitar – the price is undeniably significantly higher than the other two options I’ve listed in this guide, but you pay for what you get, and in my opinion, the price is very reasonable for the insane quality of the thin neck acoustic guitar.
- Taylor is well known for producing some of the best acoustic guitars out there
- A full-sized guitar yet with a 1.68” neck, providing the best of both worlds
- Stunning Rosewood and Sitka Spruce build
- A great example of how Taylor’s Grand Auditorium design shines brightly
- Excellent value for money
- Relatively expensive in comparison to other options
- More of an upgrade guitar for intermediates than for beginners
I hope that you enjoyed reading this guide as much as I enjoyed writing it! In traditional style, I’ve decided to finish things up with a quick FAQ just in case you have any questions remaining. Hopefully, you’ll now be able to walk away from this guide knowing exactly what to look for in your thin neck acoustic guitar purchase!
Question: What Defines a Thin Neck Acoustic Guitar?
Question: What are the Benefits of Thin Neck Acoustic Guitars?
Question: Is Taylor a Good Producer of Thin Neck Acoustic Guitars?
Question: Are There Different Types of Thin Neck Acoustic Guitars?
I hope that you learned a lot from my shared experience in regards to thin-neck acoustic guitars! This variety of guitar is an excellent option for anyone struggling with the typical thick necks of acoustic guitars, especially something such as the Taylor 214ce. If it helps you get more practice in and enjoy playing the instrument more, I say that you should just go for it!
Always remember to ignore anyone who says that thin necks compromise the quality of a guitar because that is just rubbish. It doesn’t matter if you’re an adult or a child – these guitars can be incredibly useful, as everyone’s hands are different. I wish you all the best on your journey, and good luck – I hope you enjoy playing your thin neck acoustic as much as I do!