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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
...aside from tone?
Obviously tone is #1 but not necessarily. Many players have become obsessed with the lightest guitar possible. People will pay extra for a Telecaster or strat in the 6 pound range. For me I prefer them between 7 and 8 pounds. But I wouldn't turn down a really great sounding guitar in the 6 pound range or the 9 pound range.
However the one feature that can be a deal breaker for me is the profile\size of the neck. I like my necks big and chunky. I have a Nocaster thats a U profile and a bit more than an inch thick from first to 12th fret. I have a 52 reissue that is a U, .925 at the first to 1" at the 12th. I have a custom shop strat coming that is a U, .910 at the first and 1" at the 12th. Since I bought on line and couldn't judge by tone this was my first criteria, followed by weight. The guitars are 7.5, 7.79 and 7.42. I could have picked guitars that were in the 6.5 to 6.9 range but all the necks were considerably slimmer.
I know some people can pickup any guitar regardless of neck shape, body contour, etc, and play it so obviously those features aren't important to you.
So aside from tone, what is the most important feature of a guitar that could make or break it for you? A feature that if not satisfactory could make you turn down a great sounding guitar.
 

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I wouldn't even put tone as number 1 for me. A thousand things can be done to modify and improve the tone. I don't even think twice about what a guitar sounds like.

I don't know if I can narrow it down to one thing, so I'll put my two biggest:
1) Comfort - I have a number of physical ailments that seem to be getting progressively worse. The ability to play the instrument without discomfort/pain is pretty important at this point.
2) Properly levelled/crowned/dressed/polished stainless steel frets. I'll never go back to nickel/silver.
 

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The neck is the most important for me too. I don't like thin necks.
 

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The number one factor for me is the neck - I'm very particular about what I like.

If it passes that test, then I start looking at play-ability, general comfort, and balance.
Weight is less of an issue for me, my electric guitars weigh in from 7.8lbs to 9.2lbs - all good.
 

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Character. Personality. Flexibility. Like many here, I like a comfortable neck, and less strain on my back. But if the guitar is able to speak a voice that corresponds to my mood, and changes in it, then I can overlook all that other stuff. Sometimes a guitar can have one stock pickup and do that. And sometimes it can have 3 or 4, but be emotionally rigid.

I suppose, though, if one has enough money to spend, then you don't mind if a guitar insists on being only one way, because you can always switch guitars
 

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You have to be able to set the guitar up with extremely low action, playability.

After that, I prefer a 25.5” scale, it should have a Bigsby, I prefer a 12” radius, anything but a rosewood board, I would like smaller frets, a zero fret would be nice or maybe a metal nut.

Tone can be fixed pretty easily.
 

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The neck shape and feel is big for me. I'm comfortable within a range of sizes that tend toward fatter, but below that it's a no-go. Comfort for playing on my forearm and hands is important, as I have had some arthritis issues in my wrists. Unfortunately, I sometimes don't notice those things even after trying a guitar several times and for several minutes. In some cases, it can take hours before I realize a neck is just not working. Either that, or I like everything else about the guitar and convince myself that this time it will work. It hasn't worked yet (I still miss my Gretsch G6128T-1962, despite the fact that I couldn't play it comfortably for more than 20-30 minutes...what a sweet guitar).
 

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Neck; and I prefer smaller frets but I can get by on medium sorta frets on an electric as long as it doesn’t push out of tune too bad.
 

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I'll agree with most other people here that it's the neck that's most important. My preferences:
  1. Fretboard not glossy (so rosewood is what most of mine are)
  2. Medium to chunky neck profile
  3. Medium frets. I like the feel of little frets, but I had a guitar with small frets once that I just couldn't play. The action was fine, but my barre chords didn't work half the time. I'm probably just doing it wrong though.
  4. Wider nut width is a requirement as I just can't play super-narrow necks. Unless it's a bass, then I like the narrower 1.5 nut.
  5. Rolled fretboard edges for added comfort
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I'll agree with most other people here that it's the neck that's most important. My preferences:
  1. Fretboard not glossy (so rosewood is what most of mine are)
  2. Medium to chunky neck profile
  3. Medium frets. I like the feel of little frets, but I had a guitar with small frets once that I just couldn't play. The action was fine, but my barre chords didn't work half the time. I'm probably just doing it wrong though.
  4. Wider nut width is a requirement as I just can't play super-narrow necks. Unless it's a bass, then I like the narrower 1.5 nut.
  5. Rolled fretboard edges for added comfort
Many years ago having a rosewood fretboard was a must and a guitar with a maple neck was a deal breaker. Since then I've really been seduced by the 50's spec'd tele's and strats and have just learned to compromise with the glossy neck and fretboards. Some are better than others.
With my recent acquisition of a heavy relic, something I was certain I would never buy, I've gotten a maple neck and fretboard with the finish basically worn off (artificially of course) and this has got to be the most beautiful neck\fretboard I've ever played on. Yes to me the beat up look of the guitar over all is somewhat ugly but I've learned that, that isn't a deal breaker for me as this guitar has beautiful tone and plays like a dream.
I also have a 52 reissue(special Wildwood guitar specs) that sounds excellent, I think it sounds better than my masterbuilt nocaster, but the finish on the neck and fretboard are about the worst I've ever encountered. After cleaning up the fretboard and putting fresh strings on it, I'll play it for a couple of hours and the fretboard will be dirty and grungy as well as the back of the neck. It will just feel awful. I wipe the neck with a wet cloth and\or use guitar cleaner but it is very stubborn grime. I find that if I use 1,000 grit sandpaper followed by 0000 steel wool then clean with guitar polish the neck comes up feeling great. I'll also do this to the fretboard when I change strings. Slowly I hope the finish will wear off enough that this won't happen. The other issue I have with the 52 is the over rolled fretboard edges that cause less fret length. Once in a while I'll push the high and low e off the fretboard. The guitar sounds so good and the neck size and profile are so comfortable I just don't want to give up on this guitar. I am going to look in to seeing if there is anything I can do about the fret fall off problem. Replace frets, flatten them out, etc. Any thing to see if I can gain back some extra space at the edge.
 
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