Set Neck Explained: How This Neck Joint Impacts Your Guitar’s Sound

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  January 30, 2023

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There are three ways to attach the guitar neck – bolt-on, set-thru, and set-in.

The set neck is known as the glued neck, and it’s part of the classic method of building guitars. That’s why players like the set neck – it’s secure, and it looks nice. 

But what does set neck mean exactly?

Set Neck Explained- How This Neck Joint Impacts Your Guitar’s Sound

A set neck guitar neck is a type of guitar neck that is attached to the body of the guitar with glue or screws rather than being bolted on. This type of neck provides a more solid connection between the neck and body, resulting in better sustain and tone.

Set neck guitars have a neck that is glued or screwed into the body of the guitar, as opposed to bolt-on or neck-through designs.

This construction method can offer a number of advantages for both the sound and feel of the guitar. 

I’ll cover what a set neck guitar neck is, why it’s important, and how it differs from other types of guitar necks.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, this post will provide you with valuable information about set neck guitars and help you decide if they’re the right choice for you.

So, let’s dive in!

What is set neck?

A set neck guitar is a type of electric guitar or acoustic guitar where the neck is attached to the body of the guitar with glue or bolts. 

It’s different from a bolt-on neck, which is attached to the body of the guitar with screws.

Set neck guitars usually have a thicker neck joint, which gives them a better sustain and tone than bolt-on guitars.

Set neck refers to the conventional method of attaching the neck to the body of a stringed instrument.

The actual name is a set-in neck but it’s commonly abbreviated to “set neck”.

Usually, a securely fitting mortise-and-tenon or dovetail joint is used for this, and hot hide glue is used to secure it. 

Its features include a warm tone, a long sustain, and a huge surface area to transmit string vibration, creating an instrument that sounds “live.” 

A set neck guitar typically has a warmer, more resonant tone compared to a bolt-on neck guitar. 

The reason for this is that the glue used to attach the neck to the guitar’s body creates a more solid connection, which can transfer more of the guitar’s vibrations to the body.

This can result in a more pronounced bass response, a more complex harmonic content, and a greater sustain. 

Additionally, the construction of set-neck guitars often involve a thicker neck, which can give the guitar a more substantial feel and can also contribute to the overall tone.

The Gibson Les Paul and PRS guitars are well-known for their set-neck design.

Also read: Are Epiphone guitars good quality? Premium guitars on a budget

What are the advantages of a set neck?

Set neck guitars are popular with many professional guitarists, as they provide a great tone and sustain.

They’re also great for playing styles that require a lot of vibrato or bending, as the neck joint gives them a lot of stability.

As mentioned above, a set neck allows for a large surface area on which the string vibrations are transmitted and this gives the guitar a more “live” sound. 

Set necks also provide better access to the higher frets, which is important for guitarists who want to play lead guitar.

With a bolt-on neck, the neck joint can get in the way of accessing the higher frets.

With a set neck, the neck joint is out of the way, so you can easily reach the higher frets.

The neck joint also makes it easier to adjust the action of the strings. 

Set neck guitars are usually more expensive than bolt-on guitars, but they tend to have better sound quality and playability.

They’re also more durable, so they can last longer. 

Although some luthiers contend that a properly completed bolt-on neck joint is equally sturdy and provides comparable neck-to-body contact, it is generally believed that this results in a stronger body-to-neck connection than an affordable mechanically attached neck.

What are the disadvantages of a set neck?

While set neck guitars have a number of advantages, there are some drawbacks to consider as well.

One of the biggest disadvantages is the difficulty in making adjustments or replacing parts.

Once the neck has been glued into place, it can be difficult and time consuming to make any major changes or repairs.

To be able to separate the body and neck, the glue must be taken off, which requires removing frets and drilling a few holes.

Inexperienced players might need help with this and may need to reach out to professional luthiers.

This makes them more expensive to maintain than bolt-on models, and can also require a skilled technician to help with repairs.

Additionally, set neck guitars tend to be heavier than their bolt-on counterparts due to the additional strength and stability provided by the glued joint. 

This makes them less comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and may lead to fatigue more quickly during long performances.

How is a set neck made?

Set neck guitars feature a neck that is made from one solid piece of wood, as opposed to bolt-on necks which often have several pieces.

They are commonly made of mahogany or maple.

The neck is then carved and shaped to the desired shape and size.

The neck is then attached to the body of the guitar using a variety of methods, such as bolts, screws, or glue (hot hide glue)

This can be done in a variety of ways with the most popular being through the use of a CNC machine.

This process involves cutting and shaping the neck out of a single piece of wood before gluing it into the body.

Other methods include traditional hand-carving, where a luthier will shape the neck by hand using chisels and other tools.

This method is considerably more time consuming but can also produce beautiful results with excellent tone and playability.

Why is a set neck guitar neck important?

Set neck guitars are important because they provide a more stable connection between the neck and the body of the guitar. 

This stability allows for better sustain and resonance, which is essential for a great-sounding guitar. 

With a set neck, the neck and body of the guitar are connected in one solid piece, which creates a much stronger connection than a bolt-on neck.

This means that the neck and body will vibrate together, producing a fuller, richer sound.

The stability of a set neck also allows for better intonation, which is the ability of the guitar to play in tune. 

With a bolt-on neck, the neck can move around and cause the strings to be out of tune.

With a set neck, the neck is securely attached and won’t move, so the strings will stay in tune.

Finally, set necks are more durable than bolt-on necks. With a bolt-on neck, the neck joint can become loose over time and cause the neck to move around.

With a set neck, the neck joint is much more secure and won’t move, so it will last much longer.

Overall, set neck guitars are important because they provide a more stable connection between the neck and the body of the guitar, better sustain and resonance, better intonation, better access to the higher frets, and more durability.

What is the history of the set neck guitar neck?

The history of set neck guitar necks dates back to the early 1900s. It was invented by Orville Gibson, an American luthier who founded the Gibson Guitar Company

He developed the set neck design to improve the tone of the guitar by increasing the surface area of the neck joint and allowing the neck to be more firmly attached to the body.

Since then, the set neck design has become the most common type of neck used in electric guitars.

It has evolved over the years, with different variations being developed to improve the tone and playability of the guitar. 

For example, the set neck joint has been modified to include a deeper cutaway, which allows for easier access to the higher frets.

In the 1950s, Gibson developed the Tune-o-matic bridge, which allowed for more precise intonation and improved sustain. This bridge is still used on many set neck guitars today.

Today, the set neck design is still the most popular type of neck used in electric guitars.

It has been used by some of the most iconic guitarists in history, such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page.

It has also been used in many different genres of music, from rock and blues to jazz and metal.

Is a set neck the same as a glued neck?

No, set neck and glued neck are not the same. A set neck is a type of guitar construction where the neck is attached directly to the body with either screws, bolts or glue.

Glued necks are a type of set neck that use wood glue for extra stability and resonance.

While all glued necks are also set necks, not all set necks are necessarily glued. Some guitars may use screws or bolts to attach the neck to the body without glue.

A glued neck is a type of neck construction where the neck is glued to the body of the guitar. 

This type of neck construction is usually found on acoustic guitars and is considered to be the most stable type of neck construction. 

The advantage of a glued neck is that it provides the most structural support to the neck, which can help to reduce neck dive.

The disadvantage of a glued neck is that it can be difficult to replace if it becomes damaged or worn out.

Which guitars have a set neck?

Guitars with set neck construction are known for their classic look and feel, as well as their strong resonance and sustain.

Some of the more popular models include:

  • Gibson Les Pauls
  • PRS guitars
  • Gretsch guitars
  • Ibanez Prestige and Premium series
  • Fender American Original series
  • ESPs and LTDs
  • Schecter guitars


Is set neck better than bolt-on?

Set neck guitars are generally considered to be of higher quality than bolt-on guitars, as the neck and body are joined together in one piece. 

This results in a stronger connection between the two, which can help to produce a better tone and sustain. 

Additionally, set necks are usually made from high-quality materials, such as mahogany or maple, which can also contribute to the overall sound of the instrument.

Can you replace a set neck on a guitar?

Yes, it is possible to replace a set neck on a guitar. 

However, it is a difficult and time-consuming process and should only be attempted by experienced luthiers. 

The process involves removing the old neck and installing a new one, which requires a great deal of skill and precision.

Is a set neck glued on?

Yes, a set necks are usually glued on. This is usually done with a strong adhesive, such as wood glue or hot hide glue.

Hot hide glue can be re-heated so it’s easier to work with.

Glue is often used in combination with other methods, such as bolts or screws, to ensure a strong and secure connection between the neck and body.

Set neck guitars are often glued on in addition to being bolted or screwed into the body.

This increases stability and resonance further, resulting in improved sustain and a richer overall tone.

It also makes minor adjustments much easier for technicians and luthiers.

However, it’s important to note that not all set neck guitars are glued on – some are merely screwed or bolted into place. 

This is usually done to reduce production costs and make the instrument more lightweight and playable.

The type of glue used for set neck guitars is typically a very strong wood glue, such as Titebond.

This ensures that the bond between the neck and body remains secure for many years without compromising tone or playability. 

Does Fender make set neck guitars?

Yes, Fender does make set neck guitars. Some more vintage Stratocaster models have set necks but most Fenders are known for bolt-neck design.

So, if you’re looking for the classic look and feel of a set neck Fender guitar, you may want to check out their American Original Series which features classic guitars with set necks.

Alternatively, there are a few Fender Custom Shop models that feature set neck construction as well.


Set neck guitars are a great choice for those looking for a guitar with a classic, vintage sound. 

They offer more sustain and resonance than bolt-on guitars, but they’re typically more expensive.

Yet without a doubt, set neck guitars offer many advantages to guitarists of all levels. 

From improved sustain and tonal response to better playability and aesthetically pleasing looks, it is no wonder why so many players opt for this style of instrument over others. 

If you’re looking for a guitar with a classic, vintage sound, a set neck guitar is definitely worth considering. 

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

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