52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
edcat7
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52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by edcat7 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:41 am

The standard nut width is 52mm and 65cm whatever it's called. It seems to me the better CG players all have this as standard. As a newbie to CG I find the 50mm nut width more comfortable and easier to play than my other guitar at 52mm. Is there any difference in tone; why the difference?

I'm about to put a deposit for a new luthier built guitar. Should I request 50mm, which I find more comfortable or go for the standard 52mm in the hope I will grow into it?

Thanks

Ed
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Doug Ingram
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by Doug Ingram » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:56 am

Nut width has no effect on the tone. Scale may have a slight difference, but no more than any number of other elements, so you'd be hard pressed to attribute it to scale length.

Older guitars were usually built with a narrower nut. Torres often used 49mm, which is what I use, and I like it very much.

ThatGuy

Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by ThatGuy » Sun Jun 22, 2014 1:56 am

Keep in mind I am merely an avid amateur on the guitar, however -

Go with what feels the most comforatable.
Go with what will make music making the easiest for you.
Go with what will allow you to enjoy yourself the most.

edcat7
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by edcat7 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:45 am

Thanks for the reply. But why is 52 mm and 65cm scale length the standard? Why do professional players use this size?
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ashworth
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by ashworth » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:58 am

Hi edcat, I'm not sure I can answer your question directly, but many threads have discussed this general topic. Here is one you might find of interest:

viewtopic.php?f=107&t=84306&p=921899&hi ... ow#p909640
- Donnie

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David Norton
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by David Norton » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:36 am

The width of the neck at the nut is not the critical metric. What you want to check is the string spacing at the nut, center-line E1 to center line E6. I prefer 42mm space, and have seen 43 and 44mm spacing offered. For me, 43mm is tolerable, but 44 is too much. However, the 44mm spacing DOES give more room for the fingers if they are a mite pudgy.

A 42mm spacing on a 50, 52, or 54mm neck width simply determines how much edge-space exists between the string and pulling/pushing it off the edge of the fingerboard.
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SusanGRas

Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by SusanGRas » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:46 am

I would personally think about what size I wanted for a bit before ordering. 52 and 50 are a big difference to me. I have small hands and do not like 50 mm. 51 is very comfortable and 52 works. As was mentioned they may have started thinner but then went much wider, wider than todays standard. Standard is always an interesting concept. I guess it fits the majority of people. I also find that 52 mm of one luthier can be different from a 52 mm of another because of the actual neck profile. Perhaps the luthier you are going with might have a sample or two to try out.

simonm
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by simonm » Sun Jun 22, 2014 9:24 am

edcat7 wrote:Thanks for the reply. But why is 52 mm and 65cm scale length the standard? Why do professional players use this size?
In the days of the Model-T ford, Henry Ford is reputed to have said "you can have any color so long as it is black". As guitars became mass produced items someone somewhere standardised on the 52mm/650mm set up. It became a de facto standard for mass production. So the chances are that many professionals today learned on it.

However, not so long ago many professionals would have been using something more like a 52mm to 54mm with a 660mm scale. The 660mm is less popular now but check out older top of the range Spanish guitars and that is what you will see.

If you are happier with a narrower neck, then by all means go for it. As has also been pointed out the string spacing is at least as important as the width of the nut so that two different guitars with the same nut width may feel quite different. You could try the 50mm nut on your other guitar to see if that string spacing makes it feel more comfortable. If yes, you could get a new nut made.

I doubt very much is neck or nut width has any hearable effect on the tone. 99.9% * of the tone is from the player, not the guitar. A top class player could make a tin box strung with rubber bands sound good.**




* freshly invented statistic.
** minor exaggeration for dramatic effect.

Intune
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by Intune » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:47 pm

I agree with those who've said that string separation (that is, the center-to-center distance between the first and sixth string) at the nut is more important for playing comfort than the total neck width at the nut. Sometimes players moving from narrow-neck steel string guitars find the wider necks of classicals uncomfortable at first, but may grow to appreciate the wider widths for the additional working room they provide the fingers and for helping to limit the possibility of accidentally pushing the E string over the edge of the fingerboard. That being said, if I were you I'd be tempted to order a 52mm neck width at the nut, but with a narrower-than-normal string separation at the nut...say 41 or 42mm. Try playing a number of guitars first before settling on the string separation you like. When you find one that's comfortable, measure the string separation carefully and pass on that information to your luthier. Another thing worth considering: ordering your new guitar with a "normal" 52mm width neck would also make it easier to sell your guitar in the future if you ever decide to do so.
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mmapag
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by mmapag » Sun Jun 22, 2014 2:57 pm

SusanGRas wrote:I would personally think about what size I wanted for a bit before ordering. 52 and 50 are a big difference to me. I have small hands and do not like 50 mm. 51 is very comfortable and 52 works. As was mentioned they may have started thinner but then went much wider, wider than todays standard. Standard is always an interesting concept. I guess it fits the majority of people. I also find that 52 mm of one luthier can be different from a 52 mm of another because of the actual neck profile. Perhaps the luthier you are going with might have a sample or two to try out.
I think Susan makes a couple of great points here. I have medium size hands and slightly pudgy finger tips. I like 52mm much better than 50 and liked the one 54mm I played. In some ways it is easier to get to certain positions with the smaller nut width and narrower string spacing. But, for me, it is less difficult to play each note more cleanly without muting or buzzing strings with more space. I'm sure there gets to be a point of diminishing returns on that and I didn't play the 54mm for more that half an hour so I don't know if there would have been issues with playing it long term.

You mention that you are a newbie, yet are about to order a luthier built instrument. That is a significant investment in money. You may want to consider getting more experience playing different instruments with different nut widths and string spacing before spend a good bit on a guitar that you may find yourself dissatisfied with in a year or so as you know more about the guitar and what you really want in one.
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hesson11
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by hesson11 » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:20 pm

There's a well-known book titled, "The Classical Guitar Book." In it, noted luthier and authority R.E. Brune includes measurements he has made of instruments from leading luthiers through the ages (Torres, Hauser, Ramirez, Rodriguez, you name it—a pantheon of great makers). The nut widths he found on these instruments included 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, and 56mm. So even though 52mm seems to be "standard" today, many of the great makers of the past would, it seems, beg to differ. By the way, string spacings Brune found were 40, 41, 42, 43, 45 and 48mm. I'd say to go with whatever is comfortable and forget about the notion of a "standard." Good luck!
-Bob

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Michael.N.
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by Michael.N. » Sun Jun 22, 2014 3:53 pm

Nut width is more important than string spacing IMO. String spacing can be altered, it's much harder to alter Nut width once it has been established.
John Mills used to have (perhaps still does) a 'test' for the left hand size. Place fingers 1,2 & 3 on the 1st 'E' at frets 1,2 & 3. Keep those fingers in place and reach over with finger 4 to the G# on the bass E. If you can't reach it, you need a neck that is narrower. Don't know how he took into account pre stretched fingers (or not) but that was the test.
I don't understand why some people seem to have problems with inadvertently damping adjacent strings with 50 mm Nut width. . . unless you happen to have fat fingers. Mine are a little pudgy, I can freely play on 48 mm Nut widths and I can assure you that I'm no John Mills. I don't see any advantage to a wider Neck unless you happen to have fingers that really do require 52 or 54 mm's.
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David LaPlante
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by David LaPlante » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:11 pm

As most guitars are built "on spec" (i.e. not for any particular individual) a nut measurement and scale tends to be used that will suit the most people (though by no means all).
At this point I would agree that 52mm and 650mm are probably those measurements, though I've built custom classical guitars with a nut measurement as small as 43 mm (which very few would find comfortable).
Do pay close attention to string spacing (I usually use around 43.5mm overall with 8.7mm string to string) though this is far easier to modify than the overal nut width as Michael mentions.

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romanticguitars
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by romanticguitars » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:16 pm

I have arrived at a standard for my guitars at 48 mm at the nut and 60 at the 12th fret. I like a little bit more board for the 1st string beyond the 12th fret. O begin my string spacing a 5 mm from the board to the edges of the two E's. Depending on how I dress the frets I can increase that by .05 mm. This is what I like and so far what my customers want except for one who wanted a 50 mm. But then, I build small bodied 630 mm scale guitars almost exclusively and my customers tend to be steel string players and complain if I don't get it close to the Strat they've been slinging around. Of course, I don't. A really strange one is the 1920's L-0 I'm building with a nut of 1 and 13/16th and a scale of 610 mm.

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bear
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Re: 52mm nut compared with 50 mm nut

Post by bear » Sun Jun 22, 2014 7:15 pm

I think both David Norton and Michael.N. are correct. The nut width first must be wide enough to accommodate alterations in string spacing. I think the "standard" is irrelevant, except that unless otherwise noted, guitars for sale are often assumed to be 650x52 (of course this is not always the case). It's like buying a pair of gloves. Several pair may be the same size but one pair may fit better than the others.
I think each of us has a particular "feel" that they like in a guitar. When I switched from steel to cg wanted something that felt like my ES 335, but with a wider (classical style) nut and fret board. I found that in my Rodriquez guitars but not in some of the others with the same 650x52.
The string spacing on one of my guitars feels good but the 1st string is a little too close to the edge and I have to be careful.
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