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If you have been playing guitar for a bit, you probably have a decent grasp of the parts of the guitar. But if you don’t, it’s not too late to learn! Today, we’ll be talking about the nut. What is the nut of a guitar? It’s that small piece of bone, composite, plastic, or even metal sitting right below your headstock. Specifically, we’ll take a closer look at the nut width and how it impacts your playing.
What Is a Guitar Nut Width?
Simply put, the width of a guitar nut is the distance between each side of the nut. The nut itself has slots for each string. The slots determine the distance between the strings at the headstock end of the guitar.
Since the strings cross the nut, these slots are very important when it comes to a guitar’s action. If you or someone else is setting up a new guitar, the nut may need to be adjusted to lower the action.
Is Nut Width The Same As Neck Width?
Particularly if you’re a shredder, you’ve likely done an electric guitar neck width comparison or two. When you’re buying an acoustic guitar, be sure to do a similar comparison of neck widths.
Neck width is different than nut width. As we mentioned above, the nut width is just the distance from one end of the nut to the other. And right under the headstock, the nut width and neck width are essentially the same.
But as you follow the neck toward the body, you’ll usually notice that the neck begins to taper, so there is no uniform neck width. Often, though, guitarists will use the terms “nut width” and “neck width” interchangeably.
Are Nut Width And String Spacing The Same Thing?
Acoustic guitars with 1 3/4 nut width are often easier to play for players with larger hands. That’s because a wider nut width usually means wider string spacing.
However, guitar necks frequently taper as they get closer to the headstock. So depending on the position of the strings through the bridge, your picking hand may or may not need to work with wider string spacing.
If you’re trying out guitars, don’t rely on nut width alone to determine string spacing. Pick up and play different guitars to see how widely spaced the strings are over the soundhole. Generally speaking, fingerstyle players prefer wider spacing. This is by no means a rule, though — be sure to choose the guitar that’s right for you.
How Is Nut Width Measured?
If you’re trying out guitars or just getting to know your own a little better, you may be wondering how to measure guitar nut width. Luckily, guitar nut dimensions are fairly easy to measure.
All you need to do is measure from one end of the nut to the other (you’re measuring the longest side of the nut, along the straight edge). Make sure to be very precise, as the difference between many nut widths comes down to fractions of an inch.
How Do I Choose a Guitar Nut?
Acoustic guitar nut width comparison is generally a good thing to do when purchasing a guitar. But make sure you look at the material the nut is made of, too. Here are some of the common materials for guitar nuts and a bit about how they sound:
- Plastic – Usually found on very inexpensive guitars; doesn’t add much at all to sound
- Bone – A very traditional choice that offers balanced tone and enhanced harmonic content
- Composite – A specialized material (like Tusq or NuBone) designed to sound similar to bone; it eliminates the “dead” spots found in some bone nuts and increases harmonic content
If you find a guitar you like but don’t love the nut material, don’t worry — guitar nuts are relatively easy to switch out.
Common Nut Widths On Steel-String Acoustic Guitars
The nut width guitar selection out there is seemingly endless. And most of us can’t tell a guitar’s nut width just by looking at it. To help you get a better feel for the guitar nut size on different guitars, check out this guitar nut width chart’:
|Guitar Brands||Guitar Nut Width (in inches)|
|Martin D-28||1 3/4″|
|Taylor GS Mini 1||11/16″|
|Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy 1||11/16″|
|Yamaha FG800 1||11/16″|
|Fender Newporter Classic||1.69″|
|Taylor Baby Taylor BT1||1.6875″|
|Martin LXK2 Little Martin||1.6875″|
Nut Width on Classical Guitars
If you’ve ever played a classical guitar or just seen one next to a steel string, you may have noticed that the nuts on classical guitars tend to be wider than those on steel strings. This larger width allows for additional string spacing. That spacing gives your picking hand more room to play without running the risk of hitting strings you didn’t intend to play.
That wider spacing also has some advantages for your fretting hand. Classical guitarists often need to play incredibly complex pieces. The spacing helps reduce the risk of fingers crowding, especially on narrower frets.
Perhaps you still have some questions about what is nut width on a guitar. Don’t worry — here’s a quick summary:
You’ve seen the variety of guitars that players have to choose from. So it should come as no surprise that there is no set standard nut width acoustic guitar. However, there are some common widths that you often see. On average, though, the nut width on a steel-string acoustic guitar is 1 11/16″. Classical guitars have wider nuts that usually hover around 2″.
The best nut width is up for interpretation. If you have the chance to play a few different widths, you’ll start to get a feel for what you prefer. Your hand size, genre, and playing style all factor in when picking the right nut width.
The short answer here is yes. The nut width has a major impact on playability. Generally speaking, players with smaller hands will find smaller nut widths easier to navigate. Players with larger hands may find they have more space for fretting.
No — the nut of a guitar is designed to fit in a slot at the end of the neck by the headstock. Unless you change the entire neck (and this process would not be worth it), you can’t change the nut width on a given guitar.
Usually, classical guitars have the widest nuts. Their nut widths can reach 2″ or more.
Often, wider nut widths mean wider string spacing. This can make playing on the fretboard less cramped, especially toward the body where the frets are narrower. But if you have a short hand span, wider spacing may be a challenge.
Whether you’re buying a guitar or just want to know more about the one you already have, having some knowledge of guitar nut width can benefit your playing and help you understand how to get the most out of your guitar. And if you aren’t quite sure what neck width is good for you, don’t worry — the differences are subtle, and it takes every player some time and experience to find exactly what they need.