Set-neck guitars have long been a favorite among musicians, and it’s a type of construction used by famous brands like Gibson and PRS. However, is there something special about these types of guitars that it has over the other kinds of neck joints?
This guide will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of set-neck guitars and compare them to other types of neck builds, helping you make an informed decision when considering your next instrument purchase.
Table of Contents
- What Is A “Set-Neck”?
- The Pros of Set-Neck Guitars
- Improved Sustain & Fullness
- Enhanced Stability & Durability
- Cons of Set-Neck Guitars
- Neck Repair & Maintenance Challenges
- Limited Customization Options
- Comparing Set-Necks To Other Constructions
- Bolt-On Necks
- Tips For Selecting The Best Guitar For You
What Is A “Set-Neck”?
A set neck refers to a method of attaching the guitar’s neck to the body, mainly by using a strong glue that’s used to securely bind them together.
This construction technique differs from other common methods that guitars are built, such as bolt-on and neck-through, which you will learn about later. The set neck design provides several benefits and challenges worth exploring in detail in the coming sections.
The Pros of Set-Neck Guitars
Below are some big reasons why a guitar with a set neck may be a good choice for you!
Improved Sustain & Fullness
One of the most significant advantages of set-neck guitars is the enhanced sustain and resonance they offer.
The solid connection between the neck and body allows vibrations to transfer more efficiently, resulting in a fuller and longer-lasting note!
This characteristic is particularly desirable for players who prefer sustained and expressive tones, such as those found in blues, rock, and metal.
Aside from its other specifications, this is why the Les Paul has historically been an iconic guitar in these types of music genres.
Enhanced Stability & Durability
Due to the nature of it, another benefit of set-neck guitars is their inherent stability and durability.
Because the neck and body are firmly secured by glue such as TiteBond, it eliminates any potential movement or shifting over time, ensuring consistent performance and tuning stability.
This construction method also provides a robust and reliable instrument that can withstand the rigors of live performances and frequent use, making set-neck guitars a great choice for touring musicians.
Despite this, owners of set-neck guitars, especially ones who like to play gigs, will need to be careful with their instrument, and you’ll learn exactly why next.
Cons of Set-Neck Guitars
While set-neck guitars offer some advantages, they do come with a couple of drawbacks too, which are covered here:
Neck Repair & Maintenance Challenges
A notable disadvantage with set-necks is repairing them if it becomes damaged or outright broken, which is also a concern some people have with neck-thru guitars.
Unlike bolt-on necks that can be easily removed and replaced, repairing a set neck requires more intricate and time-consuming work.
Any issues with the neck, such as warping or damage, will require professional assistance, usually from a well-trained luthier, adding to the overall cost and inconvenience.
While accidents can happen, making a conscious effort to take care of your set-neck guitar can reduce the likelihood of something unfortunate happening to it.
Limited Customization Options
Another potential drawback of set-neck guitars is the limited customization options compared to bolt-on necks.
With a bolt-on neck construction, players have the flexibility to interchange necks and bodies, experiment with different wood combinations, and fine-tune their instruments to their exact preferences.
For example, many people are able to order bolt-on roasted maple necks because they like how it looks and sounds.
However, since the neck is typically glued in on them, set-neck guitars offer little-to-no versatility in terms of modifications like these, limiting the ability to customize the guitar to suit individual playing styles and tonal preferences unless you buy a custom guitar, to begin with.
Comparing Set-Necks To Other Constructions
To truly understand the pros and cons of set-neck guitars, it’s essential to compare them with other standard neck constructions, such as bolt-on and neck-through.
As the name suggests, bolt-on necks are attached to the body using bolts or screws.
This construction method allows for easy removal and replacement of the neck, making repairs and modifications more straightforward. This is one of the biggest benefits of bolt-on-neck guitars.
However, bolt-on necks may sacrifice some sustain and resonance compared to set necks due to the slight distance between the neck and body, which can affect the vibrations traveling through the guitar.
Neck-through construction involves a single piece of wood extending from the headstock to the end of the body.
This design provides excellent sustain, resonance, stability, and, more often than not, great access to higher frets. There is a lot to like about neck-through guitars, but there are some disadvantages too.
Like set-neck guitars, neck-through guitars can be very costly to repair, depending on the type of damage. However, sometimes, it can be impossible to fix with these guitars.
Tips For Selecting The Best Guitar For You
While the type of neck joint can help you decide, choosing the right guitar requires careful consideration of several factors. Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:
- Playability: Ensure that the guitar feels comfortable and suits your playing style. Pay attention to factors such as neck profile, fret size, and overall ergonomics.
- Tone: Consider the tonal characteristics you desire. Different woods, pickup configurations, and electronics can significantly impact the guitar’s overall sound.
- Quality and craftsmanship: Assess the build quality and attention to detail. Look for solid construction, smooth fretwork, and reliable hardware that will withstand years of playing.
- Budget: Set a budget range and explore options within that range. Remember that while higher-priced guitars often offer better quality, exceptional instruments are available at various price points.
You can find fantastic guitars that utilize any type of construction; for example, almost all Stratocasters have bolt-on necks, so consider these other aspects when choosing your next guitar.
That said, if you’re set on getting a guitar with a set-neck guitar at an affordable price, I highly recommend looking into Epiphone guitars, whether it’s a Les Paul, SG, Flying V, or an Explorer design.
To sum things up, set-neck guitars offer distinct advantages in terms of sound and stability; however, they also come with challenges like neck repairs and your ability to customize the neck if that’s something you’re interested in ever doing.
Now, if you like to keep things as they are, you can’t really go wrong with getting a guitar with a set-neck. Just keep it safe by storing it properly, and it can potentially last you a lifetime.
Look around, and you can find some amazing guitars for equally amazing prices, and that goes for bolt-on and neck-thru guitars as well. Every type of guitar has its pros and cons, it’s all about finding an instrument that resonates with you!