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Electric Guitar Specifications

This is a "top-down checklist" for the assembly of a solid-body electric guitar. It can help you to build a guitar with specific sound and playability characteristics. Please read licence and the contribution guidelines before contributing.

Table of Contents


Sound and Playability Influencing Factors

ComponentSound*Playability*
Guitar Neck+++++
Guitar Body+++++
Guitar Electronics+++-
Strings++++
Scale Length++
Woods (Body, Neck and Fretboard)++

*influence ( "-" stands for little, "++++" stands for very strong)

For example, for building a solid-body 'jazz-sounding' guitar you have to choose (top down by importance):

  • vintage or jazz pickup with convenient po­ten­tiomet­er and capacitor values
  • flatwound strings
  • massive neck, hollow body with wood such as mahagony
  • shorter scale length

Guitar Necks

Neck thickness, neck width, neck contour and fret wire size affect playability and are a matter of personal taste. Important for good playability is balanced interaction of these components. Thicker neck often creates warmer tone.

usacustomguitars.com/necks - many neck shape and thickness combinations
musikraft.com - additional information for understanding of neck features.

Neck Profile

Neck Profile is the combination of contour (C, U, V , asymmetrc) and thickness (.0750" - 1")

ContourThicknessWarmoth*Fender*Gibson*
DthinWizardD Shape
Cthin/mediumStandard ThinC Shape (AM Std)Traditional C
Cmedium59 RoundbackDeep CRound C (1959 LP)
UthickFatbackU Shape (Vintage Tele)
VthickBoatneckV Shape (Vintage 52 Tele)
asymmetrischmediumWolfgangModern C

*warmoth - Warmoth Neck Profiles
*fender - see "NECK SHAPE" Filter
*gibson forum - Gibson Neck Profiles

Neck Nut Width and Nut Slot Spacing

CategoryNeck Nut Widthe1/E6
Many Fenders from Japan41 mm (1-5/8")approx. 34 mm
Standard42,9 mm (1-11/16")approx. 35 mm
Acoustic analog44,5 mm (1-3/4")35 mm till 37,5 mm
Superwide (Warmoth)48 mm (1-7/8")approx. 40 mm

The real e1 to E6 string spread can be controlled not only through nut width, but also by slot spread in the nut. For example, 44.5 mm wide nut can have e1 to E6 distance between 35 and 37.5 mm.

CategoryString spacinge1/E6e1 to edgeNeck nut width
Narrow string spread7 mm35 mm4.75 mm44,5 mm (1-3/4")
Medium string spread7.3 mm36.5 mm4 mm44,5 mm (1-3/4")
Wide string spread7.5 mm37.5 mm3.5 mm44,5 mm (1-3/4")

graphtech - sizing guide and pre-slotted nuts

Neck Heel Width and Mounting

Most guitar parts manufacturer adopted Fender's® neck heel and neck pocket dimensions:

  • 56 mm (2-3/16") - Width
  • 76 mm (3") - Length
  • 16 mm (5/8") - Pocket Depth

These dimensions are not a standard. Only careful measurement ensures that your parts will be compatible.

Strat necks have a rounded base to their heel and Tele necks have a squared-off base to their heel, which makes it difficult to interchange the two types of necks across various bodies.

Standard Fender heel mounting is done with 4-Bolt Holes - 1/8" (3mm) diameter (spread of 2" x 1-1/2").

Fretboard's Radius

Smaller radius means a more rounded shape.

  • 7-1/4" - "Vintage" Fender®
  • 9-1/2" - "Modern" Fender®
  • 10" - Gibson®/PRS®
  • 12" - Ibanez®
  • 16" - Jackson®
  • compound (10" - 16") - Warmoth® and others

youtube.com - understring radius gauges - video demonstration of three different gauges used for guitar setup and fretwork: standard, notched and understring.

Fret Sizes

TitleWidthHeightExample
Smallnarrowlowvintage Fender
Me­di­umnarrowhighmany Martins
Medium Jumbowidelowmany Gibsons
Jum­bowidehighmoderne Fender
High Jum­bowidevery highmany Ibanez

lutherie.net - provides an excellent manufacturer/sizes overview.

Common Neck Head Shapes

  • 6L - Fender Style - left in line
  • 6R - for left-handed
  • 3L/3R - "Gobson Stype"
  • 4L/2R - "Musicman Style"

Tuner Holes

  • approx. 8,7mm (11/32") - "Vintage Fender Style"
  • approx. 10mm (25/64" = 9,9mm) - "Sperzel Style",
  • approx. 10mm (13/32" = 10,3mm) - "Planet Waves Style"
  • approx. 10mm on top and 8,7mm bottom - "Schaller/Grover/Gotoh Slyle"

Small holes can be enlarged with a sunk. Big holes can be retrofited by adapter bushings.


Guitar Bodies

The sound of electric guitar depends mainly on the vibration behavior of the string itself and the reproduction characteristics of the pickup. The vibration behavior of the string depends (very little) on wood. The body itself is very thick compared to the neck, that is why the body wood type and form have very limited influence on the sound of electric guitar.

music.stackexchange.com - how much does electric guitar's body physics affect the tone and playability.

Body Shapes

The shape of an electric guitar can historically be divided into the following categories:

  • ST (Strat)
  • T (Tele)
  • Single Cut (LP)
  • Double Cut (SG)
  • Hollowbody
  • Other Forms

Bridge And Pickup Routing Overview

  • Flat Mount Hardtail (Strat/Tele/Schaller)
  • Tremolo (Strat)
  • Tune-O-Matic (Gison)
  • Other (Jazzmaster®, Jaguar®, Bigsby®, Kahler®, Line 6, etc)

Picture left to right:

  • American Standard Tremolo Routing and Single Coil Strat Pickup,
  • Vintage Telcaster Routing and Single Coil Tele Pickup,
  • Tune-O-Matic Style Routing and Habucker Pickup

callahamguitar.com - technical specifications of some coustom parts.

Flat Mount Strat Routing

               Strat Vintage, Narrow & Standard                   
Sites holes ...o.o.o.o.o.o...
Bridge holes ..o.....o.....o..
ModelE/eSites holes ØSites holes distanceBridge hole ØBridge holes distance
Strat Vintage57 mm (2 1/4")3.18 mm (0.125")10.5 mm (0.413")3 mm (1/8")21 mm (.827")
Strat Vintage Narrow54 mm (2 1/8")4.78 mm (0.188")10.5 mm (0.413")3 mm (1/8")21 mm (.827")
Strat Standard52.83 mm (2.08")3.18 mm (0.125")11.3 mm (0.446")3 mm (1/8")22.6 mm (.89")

Flat Mount Tele Routing

             Tele Vintage                          Tele Standard         
Bridge holes ..o...o...o...o.. Sites holes ...o.o.o.o.o.o...
Sites holes ...o.o.o.o.o.o... Bridge holes ..o.....o.....o..
ModelE/eSites holes ØSites holes distanceBridge hole ØBridge hole distance
Tele Vintage54 mm (2 1/8")3.18 mm (0.125")10.9 mm (.429")3 mm (1/8")21.6 mm (.85")
Tele Standard54 mm (2 1/8")3.18 mm (0.125")10.5 mm (0.413")3 mm (1/8")32.4 mm (1.267")

Flat Mount Schaller Routing

             Schaller Flat Mount
Bridge holes ...o.....o.....o...
ModelE/eBridge hole ØBridge holes distanceDimensions (LxWxH)
Schaller 47X51 mm - 55,5 mm3.18mm (0.125")approx. X73 x 49 x 12(15) mm

Tremolo Routing

Tremolo "Vintage":         Tremolo "Standard":
..o..o..o..o..o...o... .....O.......O.....
ModellE/eHolesHole DistanceHole Ø
Mexico Strat52,4 mm (2 1/16)652,4 mm (2 1/16)3 mm (1/8")
Vintage56,36 mm (2 7/32")655,9 mm (2.2")3 mm (1/8")
American Standard52,83 mm (2.08")255,9 mm (2.2")9,5 mm (.375")
Floyd Rose ("recessed")53 mm (2-3/32")274 mm (2.913")9,91 mm (.390")
Schaller 200053,5 mm256 mm10 mm
Schaller vintage53,5 mm274,3 mm10 mm
Wilkinson ("recessed")54 mm (2-1/8")255,9 mm (2.2")9,7 mm (.382")

Tune-O-Matic Gibson Style Routing

             Tune-O-Matic Recessed   Tune-O-Matic "Strings through the body"
Tailpiece ..........o......
Tailpiece ....o............ ....o.o.o.o.o.o...
Bridge ..o..........o... ..o............o..
ModelE/eBridgeTailpieceTailpiece TopTailpiece BottomTailpiece Ø
Tune-O-Maticca. 52 mm*74 mm (2.91")approx 82 mm*38 mm (1.49")41 mm (1.61")approx. 11 mm (0.44")

Instead tailpiece - there may be "strings through the body" drillings.

Other Rare Bridge Variants

  • Wrap-Around (bridge-tailpiece combo - the strings are installed through the front side and wrapped around)
  • Jazzmaster®
  • Jaguar®
  • Bigsby®
  • Kahler®

Pickup Routing

  • Single Coils (Strat)
  • Single Coils (Tele Neck)
  • Single Coils (Tele Bridge)
  • Humbucker
  • Wide Humbucker *
  • Mini Humbucker
  • P90
  • Lipstick Tube
  • Jazzmaster

*Wide Humbucker (same as Seymourduncans "Trembucker" or Dimarzios "F-spaced Hambucker") can be used for guitars with larger sting distance with standard "Humbucker Routing". Measure from the middle of the high string to the middle of the low string, directly over the pickup. If the distance is greater than two inches or 50mm, go for a Wide Humbucker.

Exact specifications can be found on the manufacturer's website like:

bareknucklepickups.co.uk - dimensions

In addition to classic HH routing (2X hambuckers), there are the following variants: - SSS (Strat, Nashville Tele)

  • HSS (Strat Humbucker im Steg, Modern Player Tele)
  • HSH (Strat),
  • HS (Strat, 72 Tele)
  • SS (Tele),
  • HP90 (Yamaha Pacifica),
  • S (Tele Esquire),
  • and some other exotic combinations

Tuning Machines

Tuning Machines Options:

  • Configuration: 3L+3R (Gibson style), 6-in-Line (Fender style), 4L/2R (Musicman style)
  • Diameters of bore holes for axis (see chapter Tuner Holes)
  • Ratio - for 1x winding around the shaft head - 1x rotation necessary. Larger ratio (1:18 > 1:14) allows finer adjustments.
  • Standard vs Locking - with locking tuners strings are inserted through the axle bore and fixed by a screw from the outside

Bridges

Guitar bridge has large influence on playability (mainly through string spacing). Wider string spacing is better for finger-picking style, narrow spacing gives easier control when playing leads with distorted tone. Bridge and Pickup Routing chapter above describes common bridge categories with string spacing specification.

Bridge form and material have also some influence on sound. Good manufacturers provide detailed product information on their pages:

ABM - Aluminium, Bell Brass and Steel comparison - indicates that Bell Brass and Steel shape the guitar sound with character, while Aluminum acts largely neutral in the transfer of tone.

Hardware Parts Checklist

The following list summarizes the accessories that are required to complete your own guitar building project

  • Jacks & jackplates
  • Neck plate (neck-to-body)
  • Pickguard or pickup mounting rings
  • Screws for all parts above
  • Control plate (only for for standard tele)
  • String ferrules (String-thru Top or Bottom - if you use "string through body" instead of bridge)
  • String retainers. see premierguitar.com article about design and construction
  • Strap holders

For each screw, the hole must be pre-drilled to the core diameter (not outer diameter)


Electronics

Electronics exerts greatest influence on the overall sound of a solid-body electric guitar.

buildyourguitar.com - The Secrets of Electric Guitar Pickups by Lemme - "If you know the resonant frequency and height of the resonant peak, you know about 90 percent of a pickup's transfer characteristics. Some other effects cannot be described using this model, but their influence is less important".

Frequency response of a magnetic pickup may look like this

Sound groupResonant frequencyResonant peakExample Pickup
bright3 - 6kHzhigh peakFender single coils
powerful2 - 3kHzmedium high peakGibson PAF
mellow1.5 - 2kHzlow peakRolling back tone pot

Following topics change resonant frequency and resonant peak:

  • Pickup Properties - position and height of frequency peak vary from type to type.
  • Sound Control With Switches - Hambucker coils are switched in series by default, switching them in parallel or using only one of the coils will increase resonant frequency and the sound will have more treble.
  • Potentiometer and Capacitor Values changing provides also simple way to change resonant frequency and peak.
  • Cable capacitance - longer cable will lead to lower resonant frequency.
  • Amp input impedance

Pickup Properties

  • Dimension and product group - see chapter Puckup Routing
  • Wiring: 1, 2, 3 or 4-Con­ductor (4-Con­ductor allowing most flexible wiring)*
  • Position: Bridge, Neck, Midd­le
  • Symmetrical vs asymmetrical connection type
  • Output: low(vintage), medium, high (vintage used often for jazz and blues)
  • Passive vs. Active (Active often used for distortion sound)
  • D.C. Resistance: indication how much output a pickup will have
  • E.Q. chat: A general idea as to the Bass, Mids and Treble.

seymourduncan.com - pickup selector
dimarzio.com - pickup picker

Classic humbuckers are asymmetrical. They are internally wired in series (i.e. serial - brings more power) in opposite phase (less noise). The current multi-Con­ductor PUs offer the option of switching the coils differently using push / pull pots, mini switches, toggles, mega switches and rotary switches, and allow broad control over the sound directly on the guitar.

Con­ductorsConnection TypeCoil SplitSeriell/ParallelPhase SwitchExample
1xAsymmetricalHumbucker ModeSeriellNoShadow AZ48
2xSymmetricalHumbucker ModeSeriellYesFender Wide Range (Mexico)
2xAsymmetricalHumbucker & Single Coil ModeSeriellNoBenedetto B6
3xSymmetricalHumbucker & Single Coil ModeSeriellYesviele aktive PUs
3xAsymmetricalHumbucker & Single Coil ModeSeriell and ParallelNoPRS 59
4xSymmetricalHumbucker & Single Coil ModeSeriell and ParallelYesall 4-Con­ductor PUs

Sound Control with Switches

SwitchCoil SplitSeriell/ParallelPhase SwitchPU switch
Toggle Switch---y
Blade Switch "Fender"---y
X-Way-Blade "Megaswitch"yyyy
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/ON)y---
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/OFF/ON)y---
Mini-Switch SPDT(ON/OFF/ON)y-y-
Mini-Switch DPDT(ON/ON)yyy-
Push/Pull-Pot DPDT(ON/OFF/ON)yyy-
Mini-Switch DPDT(ON/ON/ON)yyyy
Drehschalteryyyy
  • Coil Split - "Single Coil Sound"
  • Seriell/Parallel Schaltung - "double Single Coil Sound"
  • Phase-Switch - "Out of Phase Sound"

SP = Single Pole, DP = Double Pole, DT = Double Throw

SPDT (ON/OFF/ON):       SPDT (ON/ON):     
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0 0 X X | X X 0

DPDT (ON/OFF/ON): DPDT (ON/ON): DPDT (ON/ON/ON):
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0 0 X X | X X 0 0 X X | X X 0 | X X 0
0 X X | 0 0 0 | X X 0 0 X X | X X 0 0 X X | 0 X X | X X 0

Example: "Seriell/Parallel und Coil Split at same time" are possible with 4 Push/Pull Pots, 4 Mini-switches (i.e. duncan triple shot) or by 5-Way Blade Megaswitch

open.guitars (german) - Hambucker Conductor/Coils switching options.

Potentiometer and Capacitor Values

Sound groupPotCapExamples
standard hambucker500K0.047mFmost hambucker equiped guitars
bright500K0.022mFsome guitars (U.S. FAT Tele)
brighter500K0.01mFsome custom models
brightest1M0.01mFsome custom models
standard singele coils250K0.022mFmost strat & tele models
jazzy250K0.047mFsome teles (ASAT BluesBoy)

http://www.planetz.com/guitar-tone-capacitors-material-types - comparison of tone capacitor material types and capacitance values.

Volume and Tone Potentiometer Options

GroupPot body ØBushing ØBushing lengthShaft lengthExample
standard24 mm8 mm10 mm19 mmmost fender guitars
mini17 mm7 mm10 mm'>' 17 mmmany jazz guitars
long24 mm8 mm20 mm27,5 mmmost Gibson LP guitars
  • Resistance: 250K, 300K, 500K, 1M
  • Taper: Audio, Reverse Audio, Linear, Balance
  • Shaft Type: Knurled, Round & Plain
  • Shaft Diameter: 6 mm (0.236 in), 6.35 mm (0.25 in)
  • Shaft Length: 17mm, 19 mm (0.75 in), 27,5 mm (1.125 in)

Potentiometer Knob Styles

There are 3 common styles of knobs:

  • bell
  • speed
  • domed

philadelphialuthiertools.com - Choosing the correct knob for your guitar or bass.

Electronics Wiring Schemas

Active Pickups Electronics

Active Electronics tries to reduce dependancy from the shielded cable and amp input impedance. However, that needs power to operate, and that's its biggest drawback.

Custom Buffers (german) - used to decouple the guitar electronics from the sound influencing effects on the shielded cable.

Strings

Depending on following options your sound will be more bright or more mellow:

  • Construction (Flat Wound/Round Wound)
  • Material (Steel/Nickel) and
  • Tension

Most manufacturers use following naming convention to describe tension of string set:

Name'e' site approx.'E' site approx.
Extra-Light.008.039
Light.009.042
Regular.010.046
Medium.011.052
Jazz.012.054
Baritone.013.056

There are also other hybrid sets available - like "Light Top/Heavy Bottom" and "Balanced Tension" combinations.

daddario.com - you can choose between bright and mellow sounding electric strings.
ghsstrings.com - also bright vs mellow overview, and tension guide (pdf)
thomastik-infeld.com - good jazz and blues strings

Scale Length

A guitar's scale length is length of string between the nut and the bridge.

Scale has a relatively low impact on sound and playability of the guitar. (Compared with other parameters such as strings or pickups).

Longer scale length sound and playability characteristics:

  • quick response, crisp attack
  • transparent sound with well-defined basses and heights
  • larger finger spread
  • higher string tension at constant gauge

Shorter scale length sound characteristics:

  • warmer
  • more sustain and longer decay

Common Scale Length:

  • 572 mm (22.5") or shorter - 3/4 & some travel guitars
  • 596,9 mm (23.50") - Fender Jazzmaster/Jaguar guitars
  • 629 mm (24.75") - many Gibson guitars
  • 635 mm (25") - many PRS guitars
  • 648 mm (25.5") - many Fender guitars
  • 650 mm (25.5) - typical classical guitars
  • 686 mm (27") or longer - Baritone guitars

Woods

WoodsSound¹Weight²Used for³Looks
AlderbrightmediumT/Bbright, simple
AshbrightmediumT/Bbright, simple
BasswoodneutrallightBbright, simple
BubingabrightmediumT/B/N/Fred, often grained
EbonybrightheavyN/Fdark
Maplevery brightheavyT/B/N/Fbright, often grained
KoawarmmediumT/B/Ndark, grained, attractive
KorinawarmmediumT/B/Ngrained, attractive
MahoganywarmmediumT/B/Nred
PoplarneutralmediumBbright, simple
RosewoodwarmmediumT/B/N/Fdark
Sitka SpruceneutrallightT/Bbright, simple
Swamp-AshneutrallightT/Bbright, attractive
WalnutbrightmediumT/B/Ngray, attractive
WengebrightheavyT/B/N/Fdark

¹ Sound: the diagram for effects on tone stands mainly for acoustic instruments and NOT for solid body guitars, where other components have much larger impact on sound. Thus, a mahogany electric guitar can sound bright despite the representations below. ² Weight may vary for the same variety. ³ Used for: T - Body Top | B - Body | N - neck | F - fretboards

frudua.com - graphical examples for body and neck woods showing relationship between wood hardness, its density and tone.

Contribute to this list: https://github.com/gitfrage/guitarspecs