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Red Pilled! Error in the Neck Deficiency Cramp Corollary


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  • Corollary: necks smaller than around 0.87" in cross section at the first fret cause my hand to cramp after only a short time of playing.  Time-to-cramp is inversely related to the cross section measurement.
  • Corollary: the Gibson '59 neck represents a happy medium between the larger '58 neck and the more slim '60's slim taper.

Been stewing on this for around a week:  I really don't know what to say and my world, in a tiny way, has been twisted a few degrees on its axis.  Most of the long-time HFCers have seen photos of my 1991 Gibson Howard Roberts Fusion.  Bought it new (NOS) in 1994.  The HRF (III) has the much discussed "'59 neck," acclaimed as a great Goldilocks "just right" neck for those preferring a bit more beef.  Old Photo:

LYyVNyn.jpg

Long-time HFCers will also recall me, along with Veatch and many others, selling off guitars with smaller necks due to cramping (started around 45 years of age).  In my purge I let go of everything save the aforementioned Gibby.  I have replaced them with larger-necked (and to be more specific, we're talking about cross section, back to fretboard) variants including the much-treasured Kiz Senior, and a new Les Paul Standard 50's I've not yet had time to share with the HFC.

The HRF was hanging out under the bed, having been modified most recently (like six years ago) with a set of Lollar Imperials and a traditional trapeze tailpiece.  I was bored and decided last weekend I would put the old fingers tailpiece back on, put on new strings and get it playable again.  In all the nearly 30 years of ownership, I've never taken the time to measure the neck - It's a '59, you know.  Also, I can play this neck all day.  Not because it's mine, but this is among the best playing guitars I've ever had hands on.  Butter.  Absolutely everything is easier on this guitar.

The strings are off and it occurs to me that I could measure the neck.  Grab my calipers out of the garage and I am shocked.  0.81" at the first fret and 0.94 at the twelfth (!!!!).  WHAT?  I cannot express how many guitars (GREAT guitars) I've passed on because they've had necks I deemed too small, in many cases larger than this neck.  If it is not apparent, I was able to play none of these guitars due to geography, so all I had to go on was the neck measurement I thought was all-important.

 

So here I sit.  The corollaries blown.  All I can say is larger necks seem to work better for me, but it could be in some cases a smaller neck would work, but I have no idea what would be the salient factors of such a situation.

I put this out there for others that might have similar issues with smaller necks.  There is obviously more to the story than thickness at the first fret.

Edited by velorush
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Profile is just as important as total thickness.  Also depends on whether you put your thumb on the back of the neck. A D-shape neck is quite a bit different from a C shaped neck.

That said, I like a more substantial neck. You get better leverage and this minimizes cramping.

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This old Kay acoustic of mine measures 1" thick at the first fret and 1.168" at the 10th! Definitely NOT a thin neck.

DSCN0666.jpeg

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I used to like medium necks until I bought the R8. Once I got used to the R8, everything else seems small. It done ruint me!!

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I was a total thick-neck person until I realized that I prefer jumbo frets.  I have a Suhr shredder guitar with jumbo frets and the smallest neck imaginable (to me).  It doesn't cause hand pain - go figure.

...I still like huge necks...

 

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Forgive the attempt at drama (and believe it or not, humor), but it was very surprising that this guitar had such a thin neck, yet hasn't given me problems.  

I've always said it plays so easily it's like cheating, but now I am curious about why.  I think the ease of play is why I don't encounter cramping, but what makes it so easy to play?

The adjustable fingers tailpiece allows changes in string tension and I keep it as loose as I can while ensuring adequate bridge pressure.  Maybe that, coupled with fairly low action is the secret.

The new Les Paul (50's neck - a perfect-feeling 0.90" / 1.00") didn't play quite as easily, so I began copying settings like string height and relief from the HRF.  I got it pretty close and it plays even better, but, thinking about it, string tension seems to be the difference.  A top wrap may be in order.

(Like I need any more guitars) I now understand I don't need to be quite so dismissive of smaller-necked (thinner) guitars.  I do absolutely prefer larger necks, but I now understand a smaller neck might work in the right context.  The Les Paul and Senior are around the 0.90" mark at the first fret.  That seems to be just right.  The Allparts neck on the partscaster is 1.00" all the way up.  That works great on the longer scale.

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1 hour ago, velorush said:

Forgive the attempt at drama (and believe it or not, humor), but it was very surprising that this guitar had such a thin neck, yet hasn't given me problems.  

I've always said it plays so easily it's like cheating, but now I am curious about why.  I think the ease of play is why I don't encounter cramping, but what makes it so easy to play?

Maybe a beer break would help:

 

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Buy thin neck guitars cheap from HFCers and sell for more elsewhere.

My 73 Les Paul has a thinner neck, no issues for me as I know. Joe Walsh made the 1960 model popular and everyone started shaving necks.

Maybe there is also something to the body shape, how that could modify the a game your wrist and hand make with the neck.

There is something to be said for variety as well. Best when your guitar tech can swap from your collection every song or two.

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2 hours ago, crunchee said:

Maybe a beer break would help:

Coming up (this month) on 30 years alcohol free!  Trust me: the world is a much better place for it.

 

2 hours ago, BoogieMKIIA said:

Maybe there is also something to the body shape, how that could modify the a game your wrist and hand make with the neck.

Absolutely have never considered this.  Body shape affects a lot of how the left shoulder / arm / hand interacts with the neck.  Very interesting idea.

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Mike says my new Shishkov measures .93” depth at the first fret. I am very excited about the neck.

 

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9 hours ago, velorush said:

Body shape affects a lot of how the left shoulder / arm / hand interacts with the neck.  Very interesting idea.

Thirty minutes with one of these makes it very clear-

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Hand cramps for me usually are due to these factors in this order:

1.  Hands just generally being out of shape after not playing for too long.

2.  Not staying hydrated.  I try to down water in a rational but consistent way day of and remember to drink at least twice as  much of it as Wild Turkey at the show.  I drink liquor neat generally because it plays better with my diabetes than beer, but it does sure as hell wring you out faster if you aren't careful. 

3. Being a little too jacked with energy at the front end of a set and fretting a little too hard and/or not getting a little warmed up before going all guitar hero on the solos early in the set. 

4.  The neck shape. 

That's not to say net shape makes no difference to me, but I've noticed the first three matter a lot more for me.  

When y'all get cramps, how do they usually manifest?  For me, I think it's my ring finger starts getting stuck at a 90 degree angle. 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, LucSulla said:

When y'all get cramps, how do they usually manifest?  For me, I think it's my ring finger starts getting stuck at a 90 degree angle. 

Absolutely every time it is when playing chords in the C shape (think CAGED method) for extended periods.  That shape is so very versatile for adding melody lines and extended voicings, but the way that the pinky and ring fingers are up high (positionally), on the lower strings is a tough grip - weaker fingers on heavier strings.  If I ever got to play with a band again, such large chords really wouldn't be necessary as the bass player and keyboards could pick up a lot of the notes.

ETA: okay, maybe "absolutely every time" is kind of strong...  I can get it, too, when playing full barre chords in the "E" shape, as well.  That doesn't seem to be as frequent.  And, come to think of it, I do a lot of those with the thumb over the neck on the E string - seems to help.

Edited by velorush
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 Try squeezing a tennis ball or larger depending on your hand size to stretch out the ligaments and tendons in your hand and forearms for 5 to 10 minutes before you play.  My physical therapist has me be doing that before I play for my screwed up right hand.  

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  • 1 month later...

Another common cause of hand (and feet) cramping is statins. Lipitor,  atorvastatin, red rice yeast, etc. Common side effect of these is cramping of the hands and/or feet. A good countermeasure for this is B12. But then, too much B12 can make your skin break out. 

Life is full of choices. : )

Normal disclaimers apply - i am not a doctor, nor have i played one on television. Consult your doctor before attempting to play a 60 Les Paul with a shaved neck without proper back support, blah blah blah...

Oh, and the feet cramping only impacted a gig once. I was trying to adjust the speed setting on a Phase 90 pedal mid-song with my foot. Not too abnormal. But, my foot cramped up so bad, I had to finish the song on one leg....

 

Good times...

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A ‘59 shape is pretty much as stout a carve that I’m comfortable on. My ‘95 LP Classic is perfect; I can wrap my thumb around it, very easy to play. The Edwards Strat I got from currypowder has a bigger neck (esp. compared to my other Fenders/Charvels), but is a joy to play. Neck carves are all over the map with my guitars...

My fave of all time are the mid-90s Hamer medium necks. Just enough shoulder to fill the hand and extremely playable.


 

 

Edited by RobB
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13 hours ago, RobB said:

My fave of all time are the mid-90s Hamer medium necks. Just enough shoulder to fill the hand and extremely playable.

I definitely have to agree with this. I have a 1993 Archstop Studio, with the medium neck, which is my Desert Island Guitar. I have a 1995 Archtop Custom that is the back up desert island guitar, and a 1996 Special that is as well.  I also have an incoming NGD today for another 1996 Hamer.

As much as I love the sound, the 1993 Candy Apple Red special is going to head to greener pastures once covid is over, along with both Diablos. The necks are just not working for me.

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15 hours ago, veatch said:

Another common cause of hand (and feet) cramping is statins. Lipitor,  atorvastatin, red rice yeast, etc. Common side effect of these is cramping of the hands and/or feet. A good countermeasure for this is B12. But then, too much B12 can make your skin break out. 

Life is full of choices. : )

Normal disclaimers apply - i am not a doctor, nor have i played one on television. Consult your doctor before attempting to play a 60 Les Paul with a shaved neck without proper back support, blah blah blah...

Oh, and the feet cramping only impacted a gig once. I was trying to adjust the speed setting on a Phase 90 pedal mid-song with my foot. Not too abnormal. But, my foot cramped up so bad, I had to finish the song on one leg....

 

Good times...

VEATCH!  Did you ever measure the neck on your red HRF?  That's what started this ridiculous thread.  I was shocked mine measured so thin at the first fret as I don't recall it ever giving me issues even when thicker necks (e.g., Fender's 0.83" "modern C") did.

 

15 hours ago, RobB said:

A ‘59 shape is pretty much as stout a carve that I’m comfortable on. My ‘95 LP Classic is perfect; I can wrap my thumb around it, very easy to play. The Edwards Strat I got from currypowder has a bigger neck (esp. compared to my other Fenders/Charvels), but is a joy to play. Neck carves are all over the map with my guitars...

My fave of all time are the mid-90s Hamer medium necks. Just enough shoulder to fill the hand and extremely playable.


 

 

really like the Kiz' Senior's Vintage Carve - I assume 0.90" at the first fret, as Hamer advertised, but I've never measured it.  In addition to being thicker, it has a really great C shape.

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15 minutes ago, velorush said:

VEATCH!  Did you ever measure the neck on your red HRF?  That's what started this ridiculous thread.  I was shocked mine measured so thin at the first fret as I don't recall it ever giving me issues even when thicker necks (e.g., Fender's 0.83" "modern C") did.

I don't think I did. That guitar had a very comfortable neck, though. I only sold it as I was thinning the herd...

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