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README.md

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.

Electric Guitar Specifications

Awesome

Please read licence and the contribution guidelines before contributing.

Table of Contents


Sound and Playability Influencing Factors

overview

Component Sound* Playability*
Neck - Neck Profile + ++++
Neck - Neck Nut Width and Nut Slot Spacing - +++
Body - Form + ++++
Body - Bridge Form and Material + ++
Electronics - Pickup Properties ++++ -
Electronics - Wiring Options +++ -
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

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")

Contour Thickness Warmoth* Fender* Gibson*
D thin Wizard D Shape
C thin/medium Standard Thin C Shape (AM Std) Traditional C
C medium 59 Roundback Deep C Round C (1959 LP)
U thick Fatback U Shape (Vintage Tele)
V thick Boatneck V Shape (Vintage 52 Tele)
asymmetrisch medium Wolfgang Modern C

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

Neck Nut Width and Nut Slot Spacing

Category Neck Nut Width e1/E6
many Fenders from Japan 41 mm (1-5/8") approx. 34 mm
Standard 42,9 mm (1-11/16") approx. 35 mm
Acoustic analog 44,5 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 space can be controlled not only through nut width, but also by slot spacing in the nut. For example, 44.5 mm wide nut can have e1 to E6 distance between 35 and 37.5 mm.

Category Neck Nut Width e1/E6 2 strings e/E to edge
e/E analog 43 mm neck 44,5 mm (1-3/4") 35 mm 7 mm 2 x 4.75 mm
Ideal solution 44,5 mm (1-3/4") 36.5 mm 7.3 mm 2 x 4 mm
edge analog 43 mm neck 44,5 mm (1-3/4") 37.5 mm 7.5 mm 2 x 3.5 mm

graphtech.com - 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.

neck-heel-strat-vs-tele

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

Title Width Height Example
Small narrow low vintage Fender
Me­di­um narrow high many Martins
Medium Jumbo wide low many Gibsons
Jum­bo wide high moderne Fender
High Jum­bo wide very high many 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

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.

Bridge Routing

Flat Mount Hardtail Routing

 Flat Mount Hardtail:    Vintage Tele:       Standard Tele:       Schaller:
 ...o.o.o.o.o.o...      ..o...o...o...o..   ...o.o.o.o.o.o...
 ..o.....o.....o..      ...o.o.o.o.o.o...   ..o.....o.....o..   ...o....o....o...
Model E/e Sites holes Ø Sites holes dist holes Bridge hole Ø Bridgehole dist
Vintage Strat 57 mm (2 1/4") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 3 mm (1/8") 21 mm (.827")
Vintage Narrow Strat 54 mm (2 1/8") 4.78 mm (0.188") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 3 mm (1/8") 21 mm (.827")
Standard Strat 52.83 mm (2.08") 3.18 mm (0.125") 11.3 mm (.446") 3 3 mm (1/8") 22.6 mm (.89")
Vintage Tele 54 mm (2 1/8") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.9 mm (.429") 4 3 mm (1/8") 21.6 mm (.85")
Standard Tele 54 mm (2 1/8") 3.18 mm (0.125") 10.5 mm (0.413") 3 3 mm (1/8") 32.4 mm (1.267")
Schaller 47X 51 mm - 55,5 mm - - 3 3.18mm (0.125") -

Tremolo Routing

"Vintage":                  "Standard":
..o..o..o..o..o...o...      .....O.......O.....
Model E/e holes holes dist. holes Ø
Mexico Strat 52,4 mm (2 1/16) 6 52,4 mm (2 1/16) 3 mm (1/8")
Vintage 56,36 mm (2 7/32") 6 55,9 mm (2.2") 3 mm (1/8")
American Standard 52,83 mm (2.08") 2 55,9 mm (2.2") 9,5 mm (.375")
Floyd Rose ("recessed") 53 mm (2-3/32") 2 74 mm (2.913") 9,91 mm (.390")
Schaller 2000 53,5 mm 2 56 mm 10 mm
Schaller vintage 53,5 mm 2 74,3 mm 10 mm
Wilkinson ("recessed") 54 mm (2-1/8") 2 55,9 mm (2.2") 9,7 mm (.382")

Tune-O-Matic Gibson Style Routing

Tune-O-Matic:                       TOM "strings through the body":
Steg         ..........o......
Steg         ....o............     ....o.o.o.o.o.o...
Seitenhalter ..o..........o...     ..o............o..
Model E/e bridge tailpiece tailpiece top tailpiece bottom Ø
Tune-O-Matic ca. 52 mm* 74 mm (2.91") ca 82 mm* 38 mm (1.49") 41 mm (1.61") ca. 11 mm (0.44")

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

Moreover, there are other rare variants:

  • Jazzmaster®
  • Jaguar®
  • Bigsby®
  • Kahler®

callahamguitar.com - technical specifications of some coustom parts.

Pickup Routing

Description Av. length/width/depth*
Single Coils Strat mm (")
Humbucker mm (")
Wide Humbucker** mm (")
Mini Humbucker mm (")
Tele Neck mm (")
Tele Bridge mm (")
P90 mm (")
Lipstick Tube mm (")
Jazzmaster mm (")

*Exact specifications can be found on the manufacturer's website.

**Wide Humbucker (same as Seymourduncans "Trembucker" or Dimarzios "F-spaced Hambucker" can be used for guitars with larger sting distance with standard "Humbucker Routing"

Seymourduncan.com says: "A quick and easy way to tell which you need is to 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 Trembucker. If it’s less than two inches or 50mm, go for a humbucker."


Hardware

hardware

Tuning Machines

tuning machine head

Tuning Machines Options:

  • 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

bridge

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 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 - indicates that Bell Brass and Steel shape the guitar sound with character, while Aluminum acts largely neutral in the transfer of tone.
TonePros - bridge and tailpiece sets.

Knob Styles

knob

There are 3 common styles of knobs:

  • bell
  • speed
  • domed

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

More Parts To Complete

jackplate

  • Jacks & jackplates
  • Neck plate (neck-to-body)
  • Pickguard or pickup mounting rings, control plate for tele)
  • Screws for all parts above
  • String Ferrules (if you use "string through body" instead of bridge)
  • String Retainers
  • Strap Holders

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


Electronics

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 resonant peak and frequency

Sound group Resonant frequency Resonant peak Example Pickup
bright 3 - 6kHz high peak Fender single coils
powerful 2 - 3kHz medium high peak Gibson PAF
mellow 1.5 - 2kHz low peak Rolling back tone pot

Following topics change resonant frequency and resonant peak:

  • Pickup Properties - position and height of frequency peak vary from type to type.
  • Electronics Wiring Options - 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

pickup properties

  • Dimension and product group - see chapter Puckup Routing
  • Output: low(vintage), medium, high (vintage used often for jazz and blues)
  • Wiring: 1, 2, 3 or 4-Con­ductor (4-Con­ductor allowing most flexible wiring)*
  • Position: Bridge, Neck, Midd­le
  • 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

Electronics Wiring Options

electronics wiring options

Effect Pot Push/Pull or Mini
DPDT(ON/OFF/ON)*
Mini
DPDP(ON/ON)
Mini
DPDP(ON/ON/ON)
X-Way-Blade
Megaswitch
Rotary Switch.
volume y -/y¹ - - - -
tone y -/y¹ - - -
series/parallel - y - y y y
coil split - y y y y y
series/parallel & coil tap - -
phase switch - y y y y y
pickup switch - y y y y y
 * switch owerview:
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

'¹' DPDP(ON/OFF/ON) available as "Mini-switch" oder "Push/Push-Pot" for volume and tone control

'²' can be done by 4 Push/Pull pots, 4 Mini-switch (as SD "triple shot") or by 5-Way blade megaswitch

'³' c-switch/varitone - Rotary switch for different pots

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

Electronics Wiring Schemas

electronics wiring schemas

More wiring schemas from:

Potentiometer and Capacitor Values

cap values

Sound group Pot Cap Examples
standard hambucker 500K 0.047mF most hambucker equiped guitars
bright 500K 0.022mF some guitars (U.S. FAT Tele)
brighter 500K 0.01mF some custom models
brightest 1M 0.01mF some custom models
standard singele coils 250K 0.022mF most strat & tele models
jazzy 250K 0.047mF some 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

volume and tone pot

Group Pot body Ø Bushing Ø Bushing length Shaft length Example
standard 24 mm 8 mm 10 mm 19 mm most fender guitars
mini 17 mm 7 mm 10 mm '>' 17 mm many jazz guitars
long 24 mm 8 mm 20 mm 27,5 mm most 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)

mouser.de - guitar potentiometer category - showing more options.

Active Pickups Electronics

active pickups

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.
Seymour Duncan BMP-1Standard Blackout Modular Preamp - make any pickup active.
EMG PA2 Preamp/Booster - mini-switch with 0-20dB boost.

Strings

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 - you can choose between bright and mellow sounding electric strings.
Ghsstrings - also bright vs mellow overview, and Tension Guide (PDF)
Thomastik - good jazz and blues strings

Scale Length

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

strings

Woods Sound¹ Weight² Used for³ Looks
Alder bright medium T/B bright, simple
Ash bright medium T/B bright, simple
Basswood neutral light B bright, simple
Bubinga bright medium T/B/N/F red, often grained
Ebony bright heavy N/F dark
Maple very bright heavy T/B/N/F bright, often grained
Koa warm medium T/B/N dark, grained, attractive
Korina warm medium T/B/N grained, attractive
Mahogany warm medium T/B/N red
Poplar neutral medium B bright, simple
Rosewood warm medium T/B/N/F dark
Sitka Spruce neutral light T/B bright, simple
Swamp-Ash neutral light T/B bright, attractive
Walnut bright medium T/B/N gray, attractive
Wenge bright heavy T/B/N/F dark

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 - see on page bottom - graphical examples for body, neck and freatboard woods showing relationship between wood hardness, its density and tone.