In Search of the Perfect Guitar

There are a lot of guitars out there. Millions of them. Trying to find a good one can be a difficult and a never-ending task. Obviously, guitarists have their own preferences too. So, it helps to know what to look for. I decided to investigate this more closely.

Not enough electric guitars

Being a bit of a nerd, I made a spreadsheet of measurements of each guitar I own, from weight to fret size. The logic was that I would probably find clues buried in the data, and a pattern would emerge.

Half of my guitars have a Fender scale, the other half a Gibson scale. I seem not to care. Using 10-gauge strings, Gibson scale guitars tend to be slightly slinkier, but that’s a double-edged sword where you trade lightness for grip sensitivity. However, all of my guitars have Rosewood fretboards. So I can definitely tick that box.

The number of frets seems not to matter. I have a mixture of 21, 22 and 24 fret guitars. I generally don’t get up that high. But what about the frets themselves? After straining to check, it seems that I have acquired a mixture of Jumbo, Medium Jumbo, Medium, Modern (tall thin), and Small.

Nut width seems to be pretty consistent around 42.2mm to 43.2mm. I doubt that 1mm makes a lot of difference. If anything, the neck profile is more important, and I think that I’m very much in the slim ‘Oval C’ camp. My guess is that the neck has to be comfortable in your hand, and I have a nasty habit of wrapping my thumb around. A satin finish helps with mobility too. Gloss necks can be a bit sticky.

I had thought that fretboard radius would be important, because I love the 7.25″ radius of the 1960-style Strat. But it turns out that 9″, 10″, and 12″ fretboards can be just as nice to play.

What about string spacing? The narrowest is 49mm and the widest is 55mm. That’s a 1.2mm difference in string gaps at the bridge. That’s quite a lot, though I’m not so sure it matters. I’m starting to think that I’m missing something.

What about tonewood? Besides the rosewood fingerboards, it appears that maple necks and mahogany bodies are a common factor — apart from the alder Strat and the ash 12-String. Maybe we’re getting somewhere. Or maybe they’re just the most common tonewoods.

I know, weight. The Les Paul and 335 style guitars are both almost 9 pounds and have great sustain, but so does the SG, which comes in at a rather skinny 6.6 pounds. Hmm.

Looking at three single coil guitars and three humbucker guitars, I decide to quit while I’m ahead. Finding the magic formula is harder than it seems. The only commonality betweeen my guitars is the neck profile (slim/oval C) and fretboard material (rosewood). I am disappointed that the results of my experiment are so uninteresting.

On the other hand, I’d look pretty silly if all my guitars were the same. Vive la difference!

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