I was playing guitar for at least a year and a half before anybody told me about the significance of the nut and how it can affect playability. There I was thinking I’d just about got this instrument figured out, then boom!
There was a whole component I hadn’t even acknowledged, despite it playing an integral role on the guitar.
It’s not that the nut wasn’t on my radar; I had, of course, interacted with it every time I replaced my grotty old strings with some shiny new ones, but I was completely in the dark about how important nut width was to my playing… to everyone’s playing.
However, I have lived the mistakes, so you don’t have to.
In this article, I’ll be discussing everything you need to know about nut width, as well as providing you with a handy comparison chart, so you can see how a bunch of different guitar nuts stack up against one another.
Sound good? Excellent. Let’s get nutty!
Just What The Heck Is Nut Width?
The nut is a thin strip of material that divides the neck and the headstock of a guitar.
Normally made of plastic, graphite, synthetic ivory, synthetic bone, or (on posh 6-strings) actual bone, they have little notches through which our strings run, so they can be sent off to their corresponding tuning keys without affecting their position on the fretboard.
Each notch has different width and depth to accommodate a specific string gauge, which is why, unless somebody is using a guitar the wrong way around, the notches will go from big to small.
The width of the nut is precisely what it sounds like… the distance from one side of the nut to the other. It dictates the spacing of the strings towards the farthest section of the fretboard (the headstock end).
The wider it is, the greater the space between strings, and the thinner it is, the smaller the inter-string gap will be.
Now, bear in mind that the nut width does not determine the string width of the guitar as a whole. The neck of a guitar has to taper towards the headstock, which means it requires two string-spacing components.
A thin one at the top (the nut), and a wide one at the bottom (the saddle).
Typically speaking, the nut width of an acoustic guitar tends to fall somewhere between 1 and 11/16ths of an inch and 1 and 3/4 of an inch; however, some may be as wide as 1 and 7/8ths of an inch or perhaps even 1 and 23/32nds of an inch.
Nut width changes the entire feeling of playing the first 4 frets or so, so it should be a key consideration when picking out your new guitar.
Is There Any Difference Between Nut And Neck Width?
Nut and neck widths are often used interchangeably, yet they are not synonymous with one another. Neck width is more of an umbrella term that covers nut, fretboard width, and string spacing.
Okay, But What About Nut Width And String Spacing? Are They The Same Thing?
While nut width does relate to the spacing of strings towards the headstock end of the instrument, these two measurements are not one and the same.
Remember earlier when I mentioned that the neck tapers towards the headstock? Well, this means that string space is in constant flux. The gaps start off wider at the saddle, and thin out the further they travel along the body and fretboard of the guitar.
Nut width, on the other hand, is a single, consistent figure, and imparts no specifics about the individual gaps between the strings.
Although a wider nut does often mean the strings will be set further apart in the open position of the guitar (frets 1, 2, 3, and 4), the two measurements aren’t necessarily bound to one another in any empirical way; both can vary a great deal.
Furthermore, the nut width is really only responsible for a small fraction of a guitar’s string spacing. The majority (4th fret onwards) is determined by the saddle, so manufacturers tend to measure string spacing from the saddle or the 14th fret.
Got It! But How Exactly Is Nut Width Measured?
Nut widths are usually measured in inches and fractions of an inch, which is why I’ve chosen to use inches in my comparison chart. For example, a nut width might be expressed as 1 ⅞”, which means it’s 1 inch + 7/8ths of another inch.
You may also run into nut widths expressed in decimals rather than fractions, so, for instance, 1.⅞” becomes 1.875”. Sometimes nut widths are communicated in millimeters too, transforming our 1.875” into 47.625mm.
Okay, I Think I’m Ready To See Some Nut Widths Of Steel String Acoustic Guitars
Guitars are shockingly unstandardized instruments. Even terms that define overall instrument size are a little vague, so it stands to reason that something like nut width would have zero universal reference figures.
There are simply no set standards that determine what a nut width should be.
Every manufacturer will work to their own custom standards, which likely change from one guitar model to the next.
Though confusing for new players, this isn’t a bad thing at all, as it means there are more options out there for guitarists to experiment with and find what truly works for them.
But that’s enough of a preamble, I believe. Let’s get down to business and check out some nut width comparisons.
In the chart below, I’ve included guitars at a wide variety of price points, not because there is any correlation between nut width and price tag, but to make it as relevant to as many interested parties as possible.
Measurements are given in inches, with either a fraction or decimal.
|Guitar Model and Brand||Nut Width|
|Martin HD-28||1 3/4”|
|Epiphone DR100||1 3/4”|
|Tanglewood TVC X PW||1.692”|
|Taylor 414CE||1 3/4”|
|Washburn Festival NB EA20S||1 11/16”|
|Yamaha FG800||1 11/16”|
|Martin LX1||1 11/16”|
|Gibson SJ-200 Standard||1.73”|
|Taylor GS Mini||1 11/16”|
|Gibson G-45 Standard||1.725”|
|Blueridge BR-160||1 11/16”|
|Fender TA Hellcat||1 11/16”|
|Seagull S6||Usually 1.72”|
|Yamaha APX 600||1 11/16”|
|Guild M120||1 3/4”|
|Alvarez Artist Series AF30||1 3/4 “|
So, as you can see, nut widths are really all over the place, but there are common threads depending on the type of acoustic in question, so let’s check out a general acoustic guitar nut width comparison chart.
Found on pinterest
Woah, What’s Going On With The Nut Width On Classical Guitars?
Yes, it’s true, most classical guitars have massive nuts (no laughing anyone!), with the average falling around the 2” zone. There are a couple of reasons for this freakish supersizing:
1. Nylon strings are a little bit thicker than most steel strings, so there needs to be more clearance space between them.
2. Larger spaces make it easier to play complex multi-string passages.
However, we are starting to see some innovation in this space, with brands such as Córdoba opting for slightly narrower nuts, around the 1 7/8” mark.
Cool, So How Can I Expect Nut Width To Affect My Playing?
Much like the body shape, scale length, fret size, neck profile, and bridge type, the nut width has a huge impact on how a guitar feels to play.
It doesn’t really matter for your picking hand, as it’s the saddle that determines string space at that end of the instrument, but it does affect your fretting hand.
Those with larger hands and fingers will typically enjoy the extra space a wide nut brings to the open position equation.
It can help to prevent the accidental muting of strings while playing chords, and it can make little flourishing hammer-ons and pull-offs feel a lot more comfortable and natural.
The additional room allows you to pay a lot cleaner, reducing fret buzz, unintentional fretting, and hand cramp.
On the other hand, wider string spacing means it’s harder to reach across the full fretboard to play notes and chords, which can be an issue for guitarists with smaller hands and fingers.
But that’s not to say someone with large hands needs a wider nut width, or that someone with smaller hands must use a guitar with a narrower nut.
It all comes down to personal preference and what feels right to you, so don’t be afraid to play the field a little and experiment. Try guitars with varying nut widths and see what happens.
Are Certain Nut Widths Better For Certain Genres Of Music?
Nut width doesn’t have all that much to do with genre, but I suppose if you’re a country, folk, or blues player that really lives in that open area of the fretboard, then it’s extra important to find the nut width that suits you and the biomechanics of your hand.
As you saw from the visuals earlier in the article, wider nut widths often lend themselves well to fingerstyle and classical playing, but other than that, there’s not much else to consider.
String space at the bridge is really more of a concern when it comes to genre. For example, if you’re a fingerstyle guitarist that vomits at the thought of a pick, then you may want some extra room to really flex those fingers while avoiding accidental “jazz” notes.
Acoustic Guitar Nut Width — Frequently Asked Questions
Before we go our separate ways, let’s roll through a quick nut width FAQ section, just in case you haven’t yet found the info you came here looking for.
What Is The Best Nut Width For A Guitar?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to which nut width is best. The right one for you will feel comfortable, reduce hand and finger strain, and facilitate your best playing.
What width that ends up being depends on how you like to play and the size/biomechanics of your hand.
Does Nut Width Matter?
Nut width does indeed matter to guitarists, as it has an effect on string spacing in the open position.
Those with larger hands may find it uncomfortable to play the first 4 frets of a guitar with a narrow nut, and those with smaller hands may find it difficult to reach all the strings on a guitar with a wide nut.
Can You Put A Wider Nut On A Guitar?
While you can replace a factory nut with a better quality one of the same size (people often replace plastics with bone), it’s not possible to replace it with one of a different size.
Your guitar neck determines the dimensions of the nut. If you were to deviate from the factory specs, it could cause a whole host of problems, and may even render your instrument unplayable.
Are Plastic, Graphite, Or Bone Nuts Best?
Bone is thought of as the premium nut material due to its durability and bright, sonorous tone, but there’s a pretty solid argument for why it might be better to choose plastic or graphite.
Bone isn’t uniformly dense, and a high, even density is absolutely essential in a good nut. Plastic and graphite, on the other hand, have a consistent density, so as long as they’re manufactured to a high standard, they’re a smart choice.
As a self-lubricating material, graphite is also perfect for guitars with trem arms, as it facilitates smoother string movement, although it’s claimed that it doesn’t sound quite as nice as bone.
There you have it, my fellow guitar nuts — Nut width can vary wildly from guitar to guitar, and although it implies certain things about string spacing, it doesn’t communicate anything specific, so the best thing to do is get out there, start strumming some acoustics, and seeing what feels right to you.