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Sentry

Replacing Neck?

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Sentry    0

I've discovered that my hands are not quite up to the task of playing my strat as well as I'd like. Granted, my skill level is far below par, but my hands themselves are rather small, with shortish, pudgy fingers. Even worse, my index and pinky fingers curve inwards towards my middle and ring fingers. The result of all this: it's literally impossible for me to span the first four frets and very, very difficult to fret notes near the nut without touching adjacent strings. I figure my options are:

A) Deal with it and just avoid playing anything that requires spanning four frets near the nut and work harder at being precise enough not to touch adjacent strings.

B) Replace the neck.

C) Replace my hands.

Option A doesn't appeal to me, option C will only work if my life were a sci-fi movie, so that leaves B. An option that will cost nearly as much as the guitar cost new and requires some advice.

I know that I have to have a neck that is the same width at the base as the one I have now if I want to avoid costly body modifications, but I'm pretty sure I could probably get a custom guitar neck that is wider at the nut than the current one, one that is the same width at the nut as it is at the 22nd fret, and that would solve the problem of hitting adjacent strings, but what about spanning four frets with my short, misshapen fingers? Would a shorter scale length mean less distance between the 1st and 4th fret? Could I use a neck with a shorter scale length without having to move the bridge? Moving the bridge isn't an option, I've got a trem and the saddles only have about a quarter of an inch total movement range. If it IS possible to go to a shorter scale length and that would reduce the distance between frets, wouldn't that mean that I'd have less tension on the strings and thus have to raise my action to avoid fret buzz, thus causing intonation problems due to fretted notes moving the strings further out of line? Or could I get roughly the same tension on a shorter scale length by going to heavier gauge strings? (I'm using 10's now). Yes, I realize that shorter scale length and/or heavier strings would result in a completely different sound, but I'm not 100% in love with the sound quality I get now anyway, so I'm perfectly willing to change the sound if it improves playability.

Any help and advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,

Sentry, the Prince of Dorkness

P.S. My guitar = 1986 MIJ Fender Strat with a System I tremolo. 22 frets, 25.5" scale length, neck width at 22nd fret = aprox. 5.5 cm, neck width at nut = aprox. 4.3 cm. Yes, I realize that the saddles not having individual height adjustment means that I'll need a fretboard with the exact same radius as I have now, 12", unless I also replace the trem (which I may do sooner or later anyway, the strings don't lock at the bridge, just the nut, so it tends to go out of tune if I use the trem).

P.P.S. Yes, my fingers are a bit on the short side, but my palms are big, so I don't think a neck that's 5.5 cm at the nut would give me any trouble insofar as reaching all the strings goes.

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Sentry    0

Oh, and by the way, please don't be shy of answering my questions because replacing the neck means running a high risk of ending up with a ruined piece of junk. I know that. I'd be having it professionally done but I need the answers to those questions to know what to ask for. If I end up blowing a huge wad of cash and still not being happy, I won't blame anyone here. I know the risks I face, I just need some technical info before I decide for myself whether or not those risks are worth it.

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fly135    5

Replacing the neck with a shorter scale is not likely to work. The distance from the bridge to the 12th fret must be the same as the distance between the 12th and the nut. Unless that just happens to work out (it probably won't) then will have to drill and reposition the bridge on the body. Of course the pups and pickguard are where you probably want the bridge, since it will likely need to be closer to the neck.

Just find a nice shorter scale guitar. The Epi Dot has a shorter scale and a wider fingerboard.

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Sentry    0

Replacing the guitar altogether isn't an option. I love this guitar and the woman who gave it to me.

Umm..... are guys sure it's not possible to put a shorter scale neck on without body modification? Have you read this? If I'm understanding it correctly, this company makes 24.75" scale necks specifically for strats that were originally 25.5" scale. Unfortunately, the nut width options are too narrow on the conversion necks so I'd have to either get something custom done or go with a different company.

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wjp01908    0

Hi Sentry

My advice, at least at this stage, is to stick with what you have got.

Many, many beginners have hands and fingers that are far to big,small pudgy,weak - that will never do X,Y or Z etc etc.

It does come together with practice.

Maybe borrow a shorter scale guitar for a while to see if it does actually help before making a big cash commitment

Will

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fly135    5

Sentry, a conversion neck is a different story. I didn't even know anyone made them. They are designed specifically to make the 12 fret divide the string length in half. Then the position of all the frets is calculated to readjust the scale.

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Sentry    0
Hi Sentry

My advice, at least at this stage, is to stick with what you have got.

Many, many beginners have hands and fingers that are far to big,small pudgy,weak - that will never do X,Y or Z etc etc.

It does come together with practice.

Well, I hadn't planned on doing anything for two or three months at least; during which time I practice nearly every single day. I feel that it's quite possible for me to get accurate enough not to touch adjacent strings, but getting my fingers to be able span four frets near the nut might not be possible ever. My index fingers are curved inwards towards my middle fingers and my pinky fingers are curved inwards towards my ring fingers. Quite a lot. When I try spanning four frets, at maximum stretch my pinky finger touches the string just after the third fret while my index finger is fretting as close as possible to the first. It's hard to get a note to ring true when you're fretting closer to the fret above than the fret you want. Maybe eventually my pinky will get strong enough to do it, but I doubt it will ever stretch further.

Maybe borrow a shorter scale guitar for a while to see if it does actually help before making a big cash commitment

Actually, since I posted I discovered that my girlfriend's Gibson SG has a 24.75" scale length and the neck width at the nut is about 1/16" more than that of my strat. 1/16" wider and 3/4" shorter scale length doesn't sound like it should make much difference, but I tried it out last night and amazingly it does. Her guitar is much easier for me to play. My pinky still won't reach to just before the fourth fret where it should be, it lands about halfway between the 3rd and 4th, but it's easier. Why don't I try to talk her into trading guitars? Because I don't like the feel of her SG's ebony fingerboard and I like the looks of my strat better. Perhaps those are silly reasons, but.... *shrugs*.

Sentry, a conversion neck is a different story. I didn't even know anyone made them. They are designed specifically to make the 12 fret divide the string length in half. Then the position of all the frets is calculated to readjust the scale.

Yup, I didn't mean that I'd just stick a neck from a 24.75" scale length guitar on my strat. I lack playing experience but I have as much technical knowledge of how a guitar actually works as the internet can give, so I know that wouldn't work. What I don't know is what the ramifications of using a conversion neck would be.

By the way, so far I've found two companies that make conversion necks for strats (and other 25.5" scale length guitars with bolt-on necks). USA Custom Guitars and Warmoth.

At any rate, I would not be laying out any cash at all for a couple months at least. I'm wondering if through use my fingers will "learn" to stretch further apart than they do now, or get stronger, or both. I'd still like to know the answers to the following questions:

1) Would the reduced string tension of a shorter scale mean I have to raise my action to keep the strings from buzzing?

2) If the answer to 1 is "yes", could I compensate by going to a heavier gauge string and thus have roughly the same string tension as before?

3) If the answer to 1 is "yes" and the answer to 2 is also "yes", would heavier gauge strings produce a "warmer" or "twangier" sound? I know a heavier string creates a greater disturbance in the pups magnetic field and thus greater/louder output, but in what ways do they affect the sound?

4) Would the shorter scale length result in a twangier sound due to shorter strings or warmer due to narrower harmonics? (yes, I realize that neck wood, body wood and fingerboard wood are critical factors in wether the sound is "warm" or "twangy", and that bolt-on necks are usually twangier than glued-on necks like my gf's SG. I think I've decided on mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard for the conversion neck if I get one. I believe my current neck to be maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. I think the body is basswood because some googling tells me that most MIJ strats have basswood bodies, but I'm not sure)

What I'm looking for:

A) Increased playability

B) A slightly "fatter"/"warmer" tonal quality than the strat has now, but not as fat as my gf's SG

Anyway, I don't want to replace the entire guitar, even if doing so would be cheaper. I love this guitar. I love the way it looks (silly, I suppose), I love the way the body fits against my body. The forearm cutout feels like it was made for my forearm, the rib cutout feels like it was made for my torso. Besides, my gf gave it to me and that in itself makes the guitar very special to me.

So if anyone knows the answers to questions 1-4, please don't be shy of answering. I fully realize that if I ruin my guitar, go bankrupt, and wind up all alone under a bridge somewhere with nothing for company other than an unplayable guitar the responsibility for that is 100% my own. Besides, since I've discovered that at least two companies make conversion necks that don't require modifying the body, ones that fit the body's existing neck heel cutout, then if it doesn't work out I could still put the original neck back on. I'm willing to risk the roughly $450 if I like the answers to my questions 1-4.

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karcey    42

G'day Sentry,

I think the answer to your dilemma is to wait until you learn how to play music before you settle on a guitar.

From what you've written so far it seems that you like playing the Gibson, but you want/need to keep the Fender. So why don't you do both? Don't take the spanners to the Fender ... you'll waste a lot of time and money and change the gift radically.

Get yourself a learner guitar that suits your hands and learn how to play. I know I bore people spitless by saying this all the time, but as beginners develop playing skills their needs change. What seems desirable in the beginning often gets replaced by something not even considered in the first place. You may develop an interest in bass, or even classical. Who knows? But first you need to learn how to play! So forget the cosmetic features, and get yourself some serious skills. As an accomplished player you won't need to come to the forum with guitar choice questions ... you'll be playing every guitar you come across or even getting one custom made.

Good luck with the decisions, and keep in touch.

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Sentry    0
G'day Sentry,

I think the answer to your dilemma is to wait until you learn how to play music before you settle on a guitar.

Well, I get cramps in the palm of my left hand when I practice more than 15 minutes at a time, regardless of whether I'm playing my strat or my gf's SG. I never used to get cramps in the palm of my hand back when I was 16 and had a Harmony flying V, at least not that I recall. Sore fingers, yes, of course, but I don't recall cramps in my palm. I seem to remember that my flying V had a neck that was both wider and thicker, but maybe my paws were smaller back then. I didn't pay attention to the cramping at first, figured it was normal and I just didn't remember the cramps from way back when. Maybe it is normal, but is it normal for me to still be getting them after 2 months of playing about every other day?

Anyway, neither guitar feels right for my hand. My palms are rather large, my fingers are a bit on the short side and crooked to boot. Hard to learn to play when I don't have access to a guitar that fits my hand.

From what you've written so far it seems that you like playing the Gibson, but you want/need to keep the Fender.

No, not exactly, BOTH guitars give me cramps in my palm, it's just easier to span four frets and not touch adjacent strings on the SG than it is the Strat. I don't like the sound of the SG, though, and I don't like the feel of it's ebony fingerboard. It's pretty, sure, but it doesn't feel right to my fingers, somehow. Hard to explain. *shrug* I love the strat in part for the fact that my gf of the past 10 years gave it to me and in part for it's looks. I think the sound of the strat is a little too bright and shimmery, but I like it's sound better than the SG's. The SG sounds too far the opposite extreme to my taste. Of course, like you said my tastes may change. Who knows?

Get yourself a learner guitar that suits your hands and learn how to play.

Yes, I think that's what I need to do. Fortunately, I'm about 10 blocks from 48th Street's "Music Row" in Manhattan (the block of guitar shops after which Fender named it's "48th Street Custom Stratocaster"), so this weekend I'll spend all day Saturday trying out every electric they have. When I find one that feels right to my left hand (and surely there will be at least one in four huge, two-story guitar shops) I'll make note of the make, model, price, scale length, neck thickness, neck width, neck and body materials, fret size, fretboard radius, everything. Then I'll do some searching online and see what other guitars sport similar necks, then compare the cost of a new or gently used one with those specs versus the cost of a replacement neck for the strat.

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Sentry    0

RE: Cramping in my palm,

Some googling about pointed me to several posts on other forums by other people who had the same problem with strats and teles, apparently I'm not the only one for whom the combination of thin neck and narrow nut causes palm cramps. One suggestion that caught my eye was to try pressing the back of the neck with the tip of my thumb instead of the pad of my thumb so that my palm is not curved so tight. I'll try it out when I get home, don't know why I didn't think of that myself.

Any other suggestions?

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Sentry    0

Update:

After trying out every almost every guitar at Sam Ash and Manny's Music to see what kind of guitar neck I want, I decided that my initial desire for one that is 1.75" wide at the nut with a 24.75" scale length remains. 13/16 or so inch thickness at the first fret seems to be about right. I wasn't able to find many guitars with necks that wide at the nut except for a few acoustics and archtops. Acoustic guitars are out of the question. I live in an apartment building with little or no insulation between apartments, I can't sneeze without the neighbours saying "gezundheit". So I've ordered a new neck from USA Custom Guitars. Price of new neck = $358 including satin finish and shipping. USA Custom Guitars won't pre-install the nut, so I bought a graph-tec graphite nut for about $10.

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Sentry    0

It will be about a month or so before the neck arrives because, as I'm sure you know, they custom make each neck to order when the order is placed. As soon as it arrives, I'll let you know how it works out and post some pics (assuming I can find or replace the usb cable for my digicam).

P.S. btw, just noticed that I mentioned in my first post that because of the bridge I'll need a 12" radius neck. That's no longer the case because I have since then replaced the original POS system I trem with a Super Vee trem bridge. I didn't get the Super Vee locking nut, though. The neck I ordered will have a 14" radius. On the guitars I tried, I liked the slightly flatter fretboard a bit better than the 12", and didn't like the 9" radius necks at all (though a think a completely flat fretboard would probably be a pain to do barre cords on).

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seabiscuit    0

I do this trick even though I don't have small hands. It helps in 2 ways, although I'll bet I'll get some people saying it's unorthodox. This is how I always play and it works great for me.

1. It will make it easier to hold down strings near the nut

2. It makes it easier to stretch your fingers between the 1st and 4th fret, because it's technically going from the 3rd to the 6th, which makes a huge difference.

Answer: Use a capo on the 2nd fret and tune down the guitar 1 step. I actually tune it down to D flat, and when I put on the capo, it's in E flat.

Before I did this, stretching was sometimes a pain, and the strings really dug into my fingers when I held them down at the 1st fret, where the nut elevates the strings fairly high. And adjusting the nut to be lower can cause buzzing, because I like to lower the action at the bridge as much as possible, so you can't just make the nut really short, and holding down C or F chords a lot can be painful.

Works for me. I'll probably do it to a bass if I ever play that again.

Another bonus is that you can take the capo off and suddenly play in dropped tuning, which is a different sound and works great for some songs.

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