Guitar Nut Width Comparison

Published Categorized as Buying Guides, Guitar Accessories Selection

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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 guitar nut width and how it impacts your playing.

Choosing the right guitar nut width is critical for playability and comfort, yet many guitarists don’t give it a second thought. This oversight can hamper your progress and enjoyment. In this comprehensive guide, we cut through the confusion surrounding nut widths so you can find your optimal fit. You’ll better understand how nut width impacts tone, playability, and fretting hand positioning. Arm yourself with practical knowledge from expert insights and real-world experience so you can avoid common pitfalls. Whether you’re beginning your guitar journey or looking to upgrade, you’ll discover how to select a guitar nut to best match your needs and playing style.

Table of Contents

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.

The nut of an acoustic guitar is a small strip located at the top of the neck, where the headstock meets the fretboard. Its purpose is to properly space the strings across the width of the fretboard and set string height off the frets. The nut helps align the strings in a straight line along the length of the fretboard so notes fret cleanly without buzzing.

Specifically, guitar nut width refers to the internal width between the E strings from the inside edges of the slots that the strings sit in. This measurement has a significant impact on overall playability. Narrow nut widths lead to tighter string spacing, while wider nuts create more room between each string.

How Nut Width Impacts Playability

Nut width affects how comfortably you can fret notes and chords, especially in fingerstyle playing. If the strings are too close together, you may find your fingers cramped and accidentally muting adjacent strings. But if string spacing is too wide, it can require uncomfortable stretches to fret certain chords.

The ideal nut width balances comfort and playability based on your hand size and playing style. Fingerstyle players tend to prefer slightly wider nuts around 1 21/32″ to allow more room between strings. Guitarists who strum chords may opt for narrower widths between 1 5/8″ and 1 3/4″ since they don’t need as much space between notes.

Types of Guitar Nuts

The nut is a critical component of acoustic guitars, responsible for proper string spacing and height. Guitar builders utilize different materials and designs to craft nuts optimized for sound quality and playability. Understanding the pros and cons of various options helps match the right nut to your playing style and tonal preferences.

Bone Guitar Nuts

Bone is a popular choice for high-end acoustic guitar nuts. Bone, often cattle bone, offers a smooth surface that prevents string binding while providing a crisp, bright tone. The natural oil in bone also helps the strings glide effortlessly along the nut slots.

The dense composition of bone nuts also prevents premature wear. They are less likely to indent from string pressure compared to softer materials. This makes bone an excellent option for aggressive strumming and picking styles.

However, bone nuts must be expertly cut and filed to precise dimensions. This specialized skill and manual labor increase the cost of bone nuts. Exposure to humidity can cause the bone to swell and shrink, potentially creating string buzz.

Plastic/Synthetic Guitar Nuts

Modern plastics and composite materials offer cost-effective and stable alternatives to bone nuts. These synthetic nuts provide accurate string spacing consistency. Materials like graphite and Tusq replicate the slick surface of bone to minimize string friction.

While plastic nuts offer reliable performance, they may not transfer vibrations as freely as natural materials. So, guitars with plastic nuts can sound slightly less open or responsive. However, technology continues improving synthetic nut properties.

Plastic nuts also better withstand climate changes and everyday play without warping. This makes them a practical choice for working musicians and gigging guitars exposed to varying environments.

Alternative Guitar Nut Options

Some luthiers craft guitar nuts from alternative materials like brass, micarta, and exotic woods. Brass nuts add mass and heighten treble resonance. Wood varieties like ebony contribute their tonal characteristics to the nut’s performance.

Is Nut Width The Same As Neck Width?

Guitar Nut Width Comparison_Six Strings Acoustics

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?

Guitar Nut Width Comparison_Six Strings Acoustics

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 BrandsGuitar Nut Width (in inches)
Martin D-281 3/4″
Taylor GS Mini 111/16″
Guild D-240E1.688″
Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy 111/16″
Yamaha FG800 111/16″
Gibson J-451.725″
Seagull S61.72″
Fender Newporter Classic1.69″
Taylor 314CE1.75″
Ibanez AW541.692″
Breedlove Organic1.692″
Epiphone EJ-200SCE1.68″
Gibson Dove1.725″
Martin D-181.75″
Taylor Baby Taylor BT11.6875″
Gibson Hummingbird1.725″
Martin LXK2 Little Martin1.6875″

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.

FAQs

Perhaps you still have some questions about what is nut width on a guitar. Don’t worry — here’s a quick summary: 

What is standard nut width?

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″.

What is the best nut width for guitar?

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.

Is nut width important?

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.

Can you change the nut width on a guitar?

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.

Which guitars have the widest nut?

Usually, classical guitars have the widest nuts. Their nut widths can reach 2″ or more.

How does nut width affect how the guitar plays?

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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