Wide nut or “wide neck” guitars have been around for pretty much as long as the instrument itself, and only in more recent decades of human history have they become their own distinguished design style. As its name suggests, this style of guitar has a wider neck than is typical, resulting in more spacing between the strings. Today, wide nut guitars are considered to be a more unique choice, but there are actually numerous benefits that come with playing one. For many, a wide nut electric guitar is the only way to go.
What Exactly is a ‘Wide Nut’ Guitar?
Generally speaking, a wide nut guitar is defined as any guitar that has a diameter at the nut (the piece at the end of the finger board that controls guitar string spacing) around 1 7/8” or 47.6 mm. The nut itself can be made from a variety of materials (usually plastic, graphite, brass or bone) and can be adjusted to control string height in addition to spacing. While some may feel that the simplest solution to create more space between strings is to just replace the nut on a regular guitar with a wider one, this can actually render the instrument unplayable if its standard neck is not wide enough to accommodate the tapering effect that will result from wider string spacing. A poorly fitted nut in general will negatively alter sound on any guitar.
A specifically designed wide nut guitar is therefore the best choice for those who desire greater string spacing. Sound quality will not be compromised, and one that is designed well will never feel bulky.
Bigger Hands Means Bigger Guitar
We’ll put it bluntly: if you have larger hands or thicker fingers, then a wide Nut Guitar may be just the right choice for you. The truth is that the dawn of the electric guitar in the mid 20th Century saw guitars start to get even narrower than they already were, making the standard nut width across guitars everywhere become thinner. Today, the usual nut width is 1 11/16″, as opposed to the wide model’s 1 7/8″. For those with average size to smaller hands, this is perfectly fine. However, players with larger hand widths, finger lengths or circumferences often find that the spacing here is just too narrow for them to get good finger placement, resulting in limited note and chord range. Things can particularly get frustrating at higher tempos, as the player may not be able to strum fast enough on narrow strings. It’s therefore only natural that larger hands should mean larger guitars, specifically when it comes to string spacing.
Wide Neck Guitars Are Better for Arthritic Hands
Arthritis unfortunately does not discriminate, affecting a wide range of people. Guitar players are no exception, and many already know that there’s just as much emotional pain as there is physical when it comes to no longer being able to play the instrument you love. Wide nut guitars can actually be a lifesaver here, as they require fewer small, precise movements. This results in the hands not having to bend as much, and can provide a great source of relief. For many guitar players with arthritis, using a wide nut guitar is the only way they can continue playing for years to come.
Some Playing Styles Are Best on a Wide Nut
Virtually any style of guitar playing can be played on a wide nut design, and the same can usually be said for standard designs. However, there are certain styles that are actually a lot easier to play on a wide nut version. For example, both finger-picking and plucking are made easier by the wider spacing, helping the player to master this style more efficiently. Both picks and plain fingers can be used.
The Bottom Line
Picking up and playing a wide nut guitar can take some getting used to, especially for those who are have been playing standard designs for years. Nevertheless, the benefits far outweigh this, and both beginners and experienced players alike can learn quickly. What are you waiting for?