What should your G&L guitar weigh?

Of all the questions I get asked from prospective G&L buyers, “what does the guitar weigh?” is one of the most frequent. Besides reminding me that I should just weigh every guitar as soon as it arrives, guitar weight and its purported benefits is a hotly debated topic.

How much a guitar weighs has obvious implications such as playing comfort, but it has also been ascribed with many other qualities such as tone, resonance, and sustain. There are various theories and schools of thought: Some feel that lighter guitars are more resonant, other believe that heavy guitars have better low end, and so forth. My own experience — and this will seem like a cop-out to some — is that all guitars are “different” and that the tonal qualities of any guitar is the sum of its parts. Personally, having a lighter weight guitar is nice from the viewpoint of playing a 3-hour gig, but a guitar that weighs 8.5 pounds is not onerous either. After all, bass players survive often playing instruments that weigh upwards of 9-10 pounds. And let’s not forgot the Les Paul players out there, and very few of those guitars weigh under 8.5 pounds.

After working on a couple hundred G&L guitars, I’ve got a pretty good feel as to what they are going to typically weigh. So depending on the particular model of guitar, here is a rundown of what you can expect for guitar weights.

ASAT – The ASAT (Telecaster) body style is pretty good chunk of wood, and you can expect an Alder ASAT to weigh around 7.8 to 8.4 pounds. In terms of weight Alder is quite consistent, and these guitars do not vary that much. Guitars with premium transparent finishes are usually Swamp Ash, and this can run anywhere from 7.6 to 9.0 pounds. There is quite a bit more variability in Swamp Ash, and most guitars are in the 8 – 8.4 range, with fewer of them coming in under 8 pounds. There are examples of very light Swamp Ash guitars out there, but it’s difficult to source consistently lightweight material, and a medium-volume builder like G&L does not have the luxury of being that selective. While G&L does not advertise it, you can opt to get a transparent premium finish on Alder. The grain is not as striking, but they can look very nice in their own way, and will generally weigh less.

One way to trim a little heft from your ASAT is to get the optional top and rear body contours (like the Legacy/Strat contours). These contours can increase playing comfort plus shave a few tenths off the guitar weight. The consistently lightest ASAT’s are of course the semi-hollow models. These ASAT Classic and Special semi-hollows are always swamp ash — so there is a little more variability — but they never exceed 8 pounds, and are usually in the 7 – 7.5 range. A customer recently ordered a semi hollow ASAT Special, and was quite unhappy when it turned out to weigh 8 pounds (it’s the heaviest semi-hollow I’ve come across). Chalk this up to two factors: The variability of swamp ash, and that he ordered the vibrato bridge option, also a first for me on an ASAT. Steel weighs more than wood, and weight gain of the bridge is not compensated for by the extra routing of the body.

The Mahogany Body/Maple Top ASAT Deluxe models generally tip the scales at about the same weight as an alder model. The ASAT Deluxe semi-hollow is one of their lightest ASAT models, and ranges from 6.8 to 7.5 pounds.

The limited edition chambered Savannah series are real feathers. Made from Okoume with a Korina top, they rarely exceed 7 pounds. The solid body Korina series from 2012 were quite hefty, but that sure did not hurt how they sounded.

OLS Body Option – In 2015 G&L started offering the “Original Leo Spec” body thickness as a no-cost option for the ASAT. This body is about 1/8″ thinner and can shave off about 1/3 of a pound. It’s kind of a no-brainer in terms of comfort and weight.

Legacy/S-500/Comanche – Being slightly thinner and more contoured than the ASAT, an Alder Legacy with a vibrato bridge is consistently in the 7.6 to 8.0 pound range. As with the ASAT, Swamp Ash guitars will weigh a little more, sometimes in the low 8’s. Hardtail guitars are usually a tad lighter, and we have a hardtail Legacy Special in swamp ash that tips the scales at 7.2 pounds. As we’ve said, you can get lucky with swamp ash and get a really light guitar, but there is no way to predict it. We’ve never had a semi-hollow Legacy in the shop, but you can likely expect those guitars to come in around 7 pounds. There are other Legacy permutations such as the Legacy Deluxe and Invaders, both which have mahogany bodies and maple tops. Generally speaking, these guitars tend to weigh around eight pounds, but we have not handled enough of them to have a feel for the typical weight range.

SC-2 – Those who like the ASAT but are really concerned about weight will find the SC-2 easy on the back. Although it has the same pickups as the ASAT Special, the thinner body and slightly narrower waist is just naturally lighter, and the heaviest SC-2 the we’ve seen was a 7.8 pound swamp ash guitar. We’ve also seen them as light as 6.6 pounds. The new Fallout guitar is the same body as the SC-2.

Wrap Up

Light weight is often a desirable quality, but tends to get overemphasized in the buying process. It’s generally not a highly accurate indicator of tone, although like a lot of things with guitars, the intangible “feel” of an instrument is in the hands of the beholder. How much weight matters is related to how you plan to use the guitar. If you play clubs every weekend, a lighter instrument is a considerable advantage. If you play mostly at home or do studio work, an extra pound should be lower on the list of concerns. There are a lot of great instruments out there that deserved to be played. Don’t let a few ounces stand between you and a great musical experience.

For guitar offerings from Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com

Which G&L: Legacy or S-500?

Hands down, the Fender Stratocaster® is the world’s most popular guitar, and has spawned probably hundreds of copies. Being also designed by Leo Fender, the G&L Legacy is what we can assume to be the evolution of the Strat: Improved floating bridge, updated tone controls, and slightly fatter pickups (compared to a vintage style Fender anyway). The Legacy looks and feels a lot like a Strat, but the tonality of the bridge, slightly beefier neck and the pickups gives it the G&L vibe. Plus you can pretty much spec out your own G&L, but that’s for another day.

The “other” Legacy — the S-500 — often gets left out of the conversation. With it’s G&L Magnetic Field Design (MFD) pickups, the S-500 has slightly different, more industrial look. And while rock ‘n roll is supposed to be the music of rebellion, guitarists can be very conservative, and things that deviate from “vintage” often get rejected. With the exposed socket head pole pieces of the S-500 pickups, the guitar looks just different enough to get passed over by some players as “not right.”

But is the S-500 a better guitar?

Possibly “better” is the wrong word choice, but the S-500 is possibly a more useful guitar in the context of playing and performing. It’s in the best commercial interests of G&L to produce something that is essentially akin to a Stratocaster. While I can’t say for certain, it’s probably G&L’s best selling model too (though I sell more ASAT’s than Legacy’s). But the G&L MFD pickup is intended to be an improvement over the conventional Alnico pickups designs, and in theory the S-500 is supposed to be an evolutionary step forward.

The basic concept behind the MFD pickup is that it’s really built more like a P-90, with a ceramic bar magnet underneath, and with six adjustable steel pole pieces. The MFD pickups also have a fairly low coil resistance, but a stronger, broader magnetic field. The low coil resistance results in a more even frequency response, but the magnetic field creates a greater signal output. The result is a fairly “hot” single coil with a full frequency response, and none of the peaks and hot spots characteristic of an over-wound conventional pickup.

Sound Comparison

The overall sound of an S-500 versus a Legacy is that it’s a little fatter and warmer. The tone is slightly darker, there is less midrange scoop, and they are not as glassy and bright on the top end. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Well not really, especially given the fact that nearly all rock music these days is played with some amount of overdrive or distortion. The greater midrange, output and lack of icy top end of the S-500 makes it a great choice for more modern sounds. Overdrive tones with the S-500 are rich, harmonic, and much fuller than than a guitar with conventional pickups. The bridge pickup is absolutely more useable than a Strat bridge pickup, and the in-between tones of the neck + middle and middle + bridge are also punchier and less brittle. The higher output and slightly attenuated high end works great with pedals too.

In the context of playing live, the S-500 holds up very well, and can be heard in the mix without getting shrill or piercing. The extra heft of the MFD pickups and their fuller, creamier overdrive tones project very well, and fit many styles of music from classic rock to progressive. Bedroom tone and live tone are very different animals, and while the S-500 may lack some of the glassy cleans of a Legacy, it’s a great tool for covering a wide range of musical styles.

I will reference a story that has been told several times in different publications: Jimi Hendrix was known for using a long, cheap Radio Shack coil cable with his Strat. Coil cables are notorious for having a lot of electrical capacitance, which cut high frequencies, boosts the midrange, and makes the tone darker. The net effect of Strat + Coil cable is a warmer, darker Strat with less high end.

Blues legend Buddy Guy has often performed live with a Stratocaster equipped with Fender Lace pickups. These are noiseless dual coil (humbucking) designs that sound very clean but have a lot body and output. For years Clapton Strats have used active EQ and noiseless (humbucking) pickups. While I hesitate to drop names like these in this lowly blog, they are good examples of true guitar heroes that don’t always adhere to tradition and pure vintage setups.

Cheap Advice

If general jamming, low volume playing, or traditional blues, funk and rock tones are your bag, the G&L Legacy is great choice. You’ll hear the sound you hear on the records. And as there is a plethora of aftermarket pickups that will drop right in, you’ve got huge leeway to experiment. If you really like to rock and can deal with the look, go for a Legacy HB with the bridge humbucker.

If you tend to play out, use effects, and cover a wide range of music (such as a cover band) the S-500 is worth serious consideration. While it can’t cop the pure scooped glassy tone of a Strat or Legacy, it’s still single coil in nature, but can morph in many different directions with ease. You can experiment and mix MFD pickups with conventional pickups, but visually the guitar may look a little mongrel. Personally, MFD’s respond differently than conventional pickups, and I don’t mix them.

The S-500 is meant to be in some ways a “better” guitar, and depending on what your needs are, it really is.

For guitar offerings at Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com


What color for your G&L guitar? A few suggestions

Shopping for a guitar, or even better ordering exactly what you want, can be a lot of fun. Considering that G&L offers a myriad of potential options, there are a lot of choices to make. One of the big decisions is what color for the body. While this is a totally subjective decision, we do have the benefit of seeing a lot of guitars pass through our hands. Some colors just look good no matter what they are on, while others are an acquired tasted. So without trying to fan any particular flames of passion, here is an unofficial subjective list. You can usually find examples of all of these colors on the UpFront Guitars site:

Good looking “safe” colors that I like:

  • Gloss Black – Hard to argue with black, except for the fingerprints, and it’s propensity to highlight any scuff or scratch.
  • Cherry Burst – Very attractive, and looks super on Legacy guitars. THE color for a flame maple top.
  • Tobacco Sunburst – Classic, looks good on anything. Also super with flame maple.
  • Three color Sunburst – You’ll never get grief for having sunburst, but if you’re going to special order a guitar, why?
  • Sonic Blue – Pale blue, looks almost white at a distance. Very attractive.
  • Belair Green – Greens are the hardest to photograph accurately, so I fret about getting it right. But people love it. It’s a 50’s color but not dated or tacky looking.
  • Blonde – The later 50’s style whiter translucent creamy blonde
  • Butterscotch Blonde – Way too many out there, but a classic finish of the early 50’s telecasters. Looks out of place on anything else.
  • Fullerton Red – A nice classic medium red. Not burgundy, not pale, and their most popular red. See my comments on satin frost option.
  • Honey/Honey Burst – Tasteful light amber, or as a burst finish with a slightly darker edge fade. Shows the most grain of any burst finish. Works with tinted maple or rosewood fingerboards.

Some interesting more adventurous colors:

  • Clear orange – A great shade that highlights the grain. Lovely with creme guard and tinted maple neck
  • Spanish Copper Metallic – A deep bronze, looks good with tinted necks, and creme or tortoiseshell pickguards.
  • Black burst – When you want black, but don’t want just black. Fades to a light black “wash” in the center. Kinda cool, and not as fragile in terms of fingerprints and scuffs.
  • Tangerine Metallic – Yes, orange does work. Good with rosewood, or tinted maple, and also with their satin frost topcoat option
  • Clear blue – Very classy and really shows the swamp ash grain well
  • Midnight blue metallic – Deep blue with a subtle sparkle, good with rosewood
  • Shoreline gold – More like a pewter, with a very subtle metallic sheen.
  • Emerald Blue – A nice blue/green metallic that is kind of 60’s looking. Goes well with white pickguard, rosewood or maple.
  • Two color Sunburst – Huh? The original Fender ‘bursts were two color, and the G&L two color burst is a black – to – yellowish brown that sometimes has almost a slight greenish tint. It’s hard to photograph and get the color right. It’s a complex and interesting shade, but not what you’d might expect. It’s so “period” in look it should only be on a Legacy or SB bass.

Colors that I find less attractive:

  • Blue burstGreen burst and Red burst – The black fade covers up too much of the grain and makes the overall finish too dark. Shows fingerprints like crazy too. Clear green is not bad, but risky stocking a green guitar. These colors all look better to me as just clear finishes with no burst.
  • Yukon gold – Brash, and winds up looking a bit too Vegas.
  • Candy Apple Red – Actually not a bad color, but someone once said to me, “people don’t buy red guitars.” I have actually found that to be somewhat true, and I don’t order red guitars unless it’s a customer order. Something to consider if resale is a concern.
  • Ruby red metallic – Deep rep with a tasteful metallic sparkle. Same problem as Candy Apple. If you like it, buy it. But I do have my Red Guitar Phobia.

Satin Frost Topcoat – G&L also has a satin frost option that can be applied to any finish. It kills the shine giving a traditional finish a low-sheen look. It’s sort of “vintage” without being aged. On metallic finishes it really changes the whole character of the finish. I have a Tangerine metallic bass with a satin topcoat. It’s kind of sexy and does not show any grime. If you want a guitar to look “older” without physically abusing it, the satin frost topcoat is a good option.

Neck Tints – G&L’s light tint and vintage tint are now available in both gloss and satin finishes. This is really nice because the feel of a satin neck is very smooth and dry, but looks “naked” without some type of tint or a rosewood fingerboard on top. Many customers opt for the vintage tint, but it’s deeper hue has a little orange tint to it, and it does not work with everything. So to me, it’s a matter of getting the best match with the body color. In general the light tint is the most adaptable, but the vintage tint looks dynamite with certain shades.

Satin or Gloss Light Tint – Best with Greens, Spanish Copper, Yellows, Cherry Burst, Blacks, Blues and Blonde. A lighter alternate for Oranges and traditional bursts too.

Satin or Gloss Vintage Tint – Butterscotch, Sunburst, Tobacco Burst, Two color Burst, Reds, Honey, and Oranges. Also a good alternate with Cherry Burst, and Blues.

Plain satin or Gloss – Best on natural finishes and Blonde. If a guitar has a rosewood or ebony fingerboard, plain satin is a very good and economical playing surface. It’s a good way to keep the cost down, as gloss and tint both add cost.

To see how color plays on G&L guitars from Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com

Solid Body or Semi-Hollow for your G&L Guitar?

With just a few exceptions — the SC-2, Invader and Rampage come to mind — just about every G&L guitar is available in solid body or semi-hollow format. On the bass side, the ASAT bass is also available in both flavors. Here is a rundown of the things to consider when selecting whether to go with a semi-hollow or solid body G&L.

Finishes – Any semi-hollow model automatically includes the premium finish option on swamp ash, and this is built into the cost. You can get a solid finish too, but the wood choice will still be swamp ash. Of course the “Deluxe” models have flame maple tops so don’t ask for a solid finish on that!

Weight – Some guitar players are obsessed with the topic of weight. For many, the tone of the guitar is often ascribed to the weight of the body. While weight and tone is a subjective discussion, from a purely comfort standpoint, a semi-hollow is definitely easier on the back. Typically, a semi-hollow G&L will tip the scales at about a pound lighter, which you will definitely feel. An ASAT semi-hollow will generally weigh between 6.8 and 7.6 pounds, while its solid body brethren will weigh from 7.6 to 8.8. Why such a wide swing on the weight? Swamp ash has more inherent variability than alder, and sometimes can get pretty hefty. Really light swamp ash is out there but it’s getting rare.  An and ASAT, solid body alder is generally within a couple tenths of 8 pounds. Body contours and belly cuts can also take a little weight off a solid body ASAT, but are not available on the semi-hollow. Note that the ASAT Deluxe semi-hollow has a mahogany back, and theses are often the lightest of the ASAT family (and the most expensive). Any other semi-hollow is all swamp ash, and alder is not available.

Cosmetics – The entire semi-hollow line is available with or without the f-hole. So if you don’t like the look of the classic violin-type sound hole, no problem. My own ASAT is a semi-hollow with no f-hole, and while I have not played enough guitars side-by-side to determine if the hole makes a big difference, I imagine the effect is subtle. Generally, make your decision on whether or not you like the look. G&L does not finish the inside of the guitar, so if the guitar has a very dark finish, the white swamp ash wood inside the f-hole may be too much of a contrast for some tastes.

Sound – So the big question, how does it affect the sound of the guitar? To my ear, the semi-hollow configuration seems to even out the sound across the spectrum, making the response a little more even and less peaky in spots. Overall the attack is a little softer, and there is slight reduction in low end response. If maximum attack/punch or low end response is of great importance then a solid body G&L is generally a better choice (hard rock or snappy country picking come to mind). It’s not a true acoustic, so feedback is a non-issue, and overall the sound is a touch richer and more dimensional that a solid body. Because of the slightly reduced low end, I’m not sure I’d recommend a Legacy semi-hollow. The conventional Alnico pickups are a little bass-starved to begin with, and a solid alder body is the best choice, just as Leo intended. In contrast, the G&L MFD pickups have plenty of attack and response, and the semi-hollow treatment works very well with them. In particular the ASAT Classic makes a great semi-hollow, and so does the relatively rare Z-3. The Z-coils are powerful critters, and the combination of saddle lock bridge and chambered construction creates a simultaneously complex and powerful sound, with the only downside being that the bridge pickup lacks a little low end.

Cost – Because the semi-hollow construction includes both the added labor of a chambered body and the premium finish upgrade, it does command a price premium. For an ASAT-style guitar, the street price up-charge is about $225. For reasons that I can only imagine relate to build complexity, the semi-hollow Legacy, Comanche and S-500 guitars are a lot more expensive. The street price up charge is close to $700. For that reason alone I really have no experience with them, and customer inquiries about them are rare.

Wrap Up – While other guitar makers offer chambered guitars — Carvin, Gibson, Fender and Godin have them as standard offerings — G&L has really made them a staple of their line and not just catalog oddments. While the additional cost of going semi-hollow is not insignificant, they do offer both sonic and comfort benefits that may “tip the scales” for many players (sorry about the pun).

To check out body styles offered at Upfront Guitars:  www.upfrontguitars.com

American Made Electric Guitars for around $1000

Updated January, 2016

The solid body electric guitar is a uniquely American invention, but as most people know, very few of them are made in the USA anymore. As with many consumer products, the lure of low cost labor has drawn most manufacturing offshore. The first imports in the 60’s were from Japan, and then as costs rose there, manufacturing shifted to South Korea, then China, and now there is a growing industry in Indonesia. China is still the big dog in terms of guitar production, but as Chinese manufacturing costs continue to increase, more manufacturing will likely shift to Indonesia, and after that, who knows where?  Most players would be surprised to learn that South Korea accounts for only about 5% of electric guitar production, with the USA a couple points below that.

In practical terms, the average guitar player benefits from lower prices for musical instruments and gear. Given the combination of low labor costs and improved manufacturing technology, the bang-for-the-buck on guitars has never been better. About 44% of electric guitars purchased in 2011 cost less than $200. That’s just an astounding number, and even more astounding when you figure that these products are generally something you can actually play and that will stay in tune. Fully 80% of electric guitars purchased in 2011 cost less than $600. While I can’t be certain, I’ll wager that virtually none of these guitars were manufactured in the USA.

But what if you want to purchase something made in the USA, and you are on a budget? There are several options available, and if you are willing to head north of the border, the selection expands considerably. This is not meant to be a totally comprehensive list, but just some of the options out there for guitarists that want a good quality instrument and also support American manufacturing.

G&L – Barring a special release model, the days of a $1000 street price G&L are over. With new dealer and list pricing implemented in July 2015, your not going to see a 2015 G&L at this price; short of a desperate and/or math-challenged dealer blowing them out. There are still quite a few new 2014 models out there, and a base Legacy or SC-2 still might be had for around a grand. G&L continues to offer a unique value in terms of fit, finish, and the ability to special order. If you are willing to stretch your budget, you will be well rewarded.

Godin – Godin gets an honorable mention because while they don’t manufacture complete guitars in the USA, they assemble a variety of models in their New Hampshire facility from Canadian-made parts. Godin also uses a lot of locally sourced and sustainable woods like Maple, Basswood, and Cherry for their guitars. The Session and Progression and Core lines are examples of guitars assembled in the USA, and with a street price of around $500 the Session is a particularly good value. If you consider Canada as the 51st state, the all-Canadian Godin Core is our favorite both in P-90 and Humbucker trim. These street price for around $800, and there is just nothing not to like about them. They even use Seymour Duncan P-90 and bridge Humbucker pickups. Now for a $500 North American guitar don’t expect vintage Alnico pickups, and Godin does use PCB-mounted controls rather than hand-wired pots, but the setup and playability are first rate. All Godin guitars included a gig bag in the price.

Fender – One thing is for certain about Fender, and it’s that they offer a dizzying array of products that is both extensive, confusing, and often unnecessary.  But mixed in there is an assortment of Highway One and American Special guitars that offer good values and prices right at around $1000. Models seem to come and go in the Fender line with little or no warning, so what’s available at any given moment is hard to predict. The pickups in these guitars are decent if not awe inspiring, but overall these guitars are perfectly gig-worthy instruments and great platforms for hot-rodding. Keep in mind the price of these guitars either include no case, or a gig bag.

Gibson – Like Fender, Gibson suffers somewhat from product line schizophrenia. If you are browsing the major online retailers, models tend to come and go, at least from a standpoint of what’s being promoted at the moment. Gibson offers “faded” Les Paul and SG models with prices below $1000. There are also satin finish guitars both with flat and carved tops that come in under $1000. Gibson also offers Melody Maker and Les Paul Junior models, again with satin or aged finishes. We’ve tried the Les Paul Junior, and it’s pretty nifty with lots of bite out of the single dog-ear P-90, and good playing qualities. LP Juniors are fun guitars, and for a for pure elemental rock machine you can’t really go wrong. Gibson fit and finish can sometimes be a little variable, and if you want to mod the pickups or controls, you’ll likely be dealing with a printed circuit board (even if you spend thousands). As with Fender, gig bags may not be in the price, so consider that when you are shopping.

Carvin – By eliminating the retailer and going strictly direct, Carvin has been putting out a broad variety of attractively priced USA guitars for many years. Having never played their guitars I can’t say a wh0le lot, but my personal experience with their pro-audio and bass amplifiers tells me that they do deliver above average performance at a very competitive price. Provided you don’t option them up too much, their ST300, DC127, DC134/5, DC600 and Bolt-On  series guitars can all be had for under $1000. Carvin guitars can be custom built to order, and the array of options available from Carvin is pretty mind-boggling. For under $1000, your going to be looking at a fairly basic guitar — no quilt maple tops or Koa wood — but there is still a lot to choose from. Part of the option list is the case, and essentially you have to buy some sort of case, but the case pricing is very reasonable.

Summary – There is a good feeling about buying something made in the USA, and supporting American manufacturing. After all, the solid body electric guitar was born here, so why not buy one made in the USA? In this global world, made in USA is also subject to interpretation. For many product categories there are specific regulations that control whether a product can be labeled “made in USA” or “assembled in USA” etc. There is likely some amount of foreign content in any USA guitar, most notably electronic components, and of course certain woods like rosewood just don’t exist in the USA. Also, chances of finding a gig bag not made in China is pretty tough. So made in USA can sometimes be a fuzzy term, and certain components just cannot be sourced domestically. With that in mind, you can find a guitar in which the majority of the parts and labor come from domestic sources, and not break the bank doing so.

To see some of the American made guitars carried by UpFront Guitars for around $500 – $1200: www.upfrontguitars.com


G&L Guitar Sound Clips

We are just getting started with this blog page, but it will include sound clips of the some of the many guitars that we currently have in stock or have carried at UpFrontGuitars. We’re on a steep learning curve recording-wise, so probably the clips will get better as we go!

ASAT Classic Custom Semi Hollow, Maple Neck – Recorded through Dr Z Remedy Head into pine 1×12 cabinet with G12H30 speaker, Shure SM57 microphone. JHS Charlie Brown Pedal used for overdrive tones. Recorded February 14th, 2012

ASAT Clas Cust SH



G&L Neck Profiles – Suggestions – 2015 Updates

This is an update to an earlier blog post to cover the changes G&L made to their neck offerings during their 2015 mid-year model changes.

One thing that may not be clear to buyers is that neck profile and fretboard radius are independent. Meaning that while the Modern Classic neck that comes standard on most guitars has a 9.5″ radius, it’s available in 7.5″ or 12″ radius too. Any profile is available with any radius, with the exception that you can’t get the 7.5″ radius with a Bigsby. So by decoupling the profile and radius specification, G&L has actually expanded what’s available in terms of options.

As we cover the various neck profiles, we’ll discuss them as much as possible independent of fretboard radius, and we’ll also assume the neck has the standard Jescar 57110 fret. In parenthesis will be the old neck designation where applicable.

Lastly, all neck profile tolerances are +/- .015 (1/64th) relative to their stated dimension (it is wood after all not titanium). From the upper to lower end of the tolerance, this is a difference many people can feel. If you are on the fence about a certain profile but are super sensitive to thickness for example, opt for the thinner/narrower selection.

Modern Classic – The Modern Classic is now the standard neck on all popular Legacy, S-500, Comanche and ASAT models (.820″ at the first fret and .870″ at the 12th fret). On most guitars they use a 9.5″ radius, with the exception of the Invader Models which are 12″.  Think of the Modern Classic as a Slim C with a 1-11/16″ nut width, and the same string spacing. The “MCNK” addresses the two issues of: 1) Occasional string falloff with the 1-5/8 nut width, and 2) “What feels most like a Fender?” With the thinner profile and 9.5″ radius, the additional width is hardly noticeable, whereas on C Plus (Wide C) it can start to feel a little too manly. The MCNK is a good all-things-to-all-people neck, although I find it a little lacking in palm support in the upper frets (which my son really likes, and his hands are a little smaller).

Classic C (#1) – Up until July 2015, the G&L 12″ radius #1 neck was the standard. It is the only neck available on the F-100 and SC-2.  Measuring .830″ at the first fret and .960″ at the 12th fret, it’s mildly beefy and fits most people well. Versus the MCNK, I like the extra thickness in the higher frets to anchor my palm. Every once and a while some necks do exhibit some string falloff on the high E, but it’s rare. We’ve also tried this neck with the Dunlop 6230 vintage fret option, but the combination of flat neck with skinny fret makes the frets seem undersized, and they look a little lost on the wide flat fretboard. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Slim C (#1a) – This is your MCNK neck without the nut width. This is the only neck profile available on the Fallout (yes, really). The G&L #1a is about the same size as the #1 at the first fret, but only .870″ at the 12th. There is very little taper to the neck, so it feels quite slim as you move up the frets. Good for shredders and people who like to be able to reach around the neck and hammer the notes. (1-5/8th nut width)

Heritage ’86 (#1b) – Before the MCNK, when we intentionally wanted a slim neck, this is the one we’d order. The “Heritage C” profile is great for women, people with smaller hands, or folks who like a thinner profile. Feels instantly comfortable and tapers nicely up the frets to .910″. I’ve always liked the feel of this profile more than the #1a, and it’s still a nice option. (1-5/8th nut width)

Modern U (#1c) – This is G&L’s Modern “U” shape, which at .850″ is pretty beefy in the lower frets, but tapers less than most to .910″ at the 12th fret. We’ve only had one of these, and it feels very much like a “C” neck. If you like a more generous neck proportion down low — like a 50’s Gibson — this neck will do the trick. But if you have no strong opinions on neck shape, a Classic C is probably a safer choice. (1-5/8″ nut width)

 Deep V (#1d) – This is G&L’s Modern “V” neck, which is a shape that not a lot of players have experience with, but I’m a big fan. At .890″ at the first fret, it is G&L’s thickest neck, and it tapers to .930 at the 12 fret. The V shape provides a lot of “beef” but since it tapers more rapidly to the sides than a “C” profile, it does not wind up feeling bulky. So you get depth without the drawbacks of a large “C” profile. It’s a pretty neat feel, and personally I find it very comfortable and use it on my pine ASAT Classic. Players such as Eric Clapton have been proponents of this shape, and it’s featured on some of his signature guitars. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Classic C Plus (#3) – This is the Classic C neck with a 1-11/16″ nut width. A good neck for players with larger hands, as the combination of wider nut and classic profile is something you can really feel. Conventional wisdom is that “thinner is faster” but if you like a neck that provides generous palm support, the C Plus is the ticket.

Classic C Wide (#4) – The “Shrek Neck” which is 1-3/4″ wide with additional string spacing. We have not sampled this neck yet, but if you think you need it, you probably do.

Soft V (#2a) – Another neck that we have not tried, but it sounds intriguing given our infatuation with the Deep V profile. In theory it should be the solution for players who find the Classic C a little too chunky down low but want less of a taper than a Slim C. We might have to get one of these….. (1-5/8″ nut width)

Quartersawn versus Flatsawn Necks – All standard G&L necks are flatsawn. If you were to take off the neck and look at the end of the neck you would see that the grain of the wood is parallel to the fingerboard. This makes a stable neck, and also they also get more Flatsawn necks per piece of maple stock, which keeps the cost down. Quartersawn necks have the grain perpendicular to the fingerboard, so the wood is much stiffer in the direction that the neck typically bends. But cutting this way yields fewer necks per piece of maple stock, which increases cost.  Sonically, the stiffer quartersawn neck is felt to be more percussive, with a quicker attack and less note compression than a flatsawn neck (theoretically it makes sense). While it’s not practical to A-B two necks on the same guitar, personal opinion is that guitars I’ve played with a quartersawn necks have a little more attack, but maybe a touch less complexity. Some players swear by them, and if you live in an area that varies widely in temperature and humidity, a quartersawn neck may require less tweaking. Not a bad idea either on bass guitars with their longer necks and string tension. And if you are worried about “dead spots” on a bass, my recommendation would be to opt for quartersawn.

Which Wood to select for your G&L Guitar?

As one of the few mainstream manufacturers of electric guitars that works to a custom-order format, a G&L custom order customer has several decisions to make. One of these is which wood to use for the body.

The general rule for G&L guitars is that Alder is used for Standard Colors (solid colors, 2 and 3 color Sunburst, Tobacco and Cherry Burst) and Swamp Ash for Premium Finishes (translucent finishes and most bursts). But, Swamp Ash is also available as an option for the Standard Colors too. For a less dramatic effect, you can get Alder with a premium finish. How much does the wood matter, and is one wood better for certain types of guitars?

Alder – Alder is a traditional tone wood for solid body guitars, and has been used for decades by Fender and others. Alder is dense, has a nice grain, and is reasonably light. If you are concerned about weight, Alder is consistently lighter than Swamp Ash. Tone is often associated with weight with the generalization that lighter is better. There are many factors that affect guitar tone, and unless weight is the primary consideration, don’t obsess about it too much.

Tonally, Alder is punchy, tight, with a solid midrange and a bright high end. Alder works very well with Legacy guitars, and it’s characteristics gives the lower output Legacy pickups some good punch. It’s a great combination, and the best choice for those looking for the classic Fullerton sound. For pickups with a lot of output and midrange — such as the Z-Coils used on the Comanche and Z-3 — Alder can be a little too zippy, giving the Z-Coils a very fast attack and somewhat harder midrange.

Swamp Ash – Swamp Ash has a striking, deep grained appearance and looks great with translucent and clear finishes. A nice translucent finish on Swamp Ash can be just as interesting as flamed maple, and less expensive. Swamp Ash has some fine tonal properties too, with a lighter midrange and a sweeter top end than Alder. Consequently, Swamp Ash works well with pickups that have a lot of midrange and top end. It’s a great match for the large MFD’s used on the ASAT Special, Z-Coils, and S-500 pickups. Swamp Ash  is a more delicate sounding wood, and in my opinion works very well with the Z-Coils.

Legacy guitars can sound good with Swamp Ash — and look awesome —  although the sound is somewhat lighter in body than with Alder. The high end is rounder and smoother, but the reduced midrange can have a thinning effect on the bridge pickup. If you like to install hotter bridge pickups in your Legacy guitars, Swamp Ash works very well.

The ASAT Classic pickups seem to work well with either wood, which is a testament to the flexibility and musicality of these pickups. So if less weight is a consideration, go with Alder. Occasionally a Swamp Ash ASAT will hit 9 pounds, which can get fatiguing during a three hour gig. Another fix is to go Semi-Hollow, which takes a little low end out of the guitar, but makes them up to a pound lighter and is sonically very balanced.

Conclusions – This is obviously a very subjective topic, but after ordering and playing dozens of G&L’s certain patterns do emerge. So if forced to grossly generalize, my recommendations on the most common G&L models would be:

  • Legacy – Alder is first choice. Swamp Ash works with a hotter bridge pickup (Semi-Hollow really sucks the bottom out, not my pick)
  • Legacy HB – Alder or Swamp Ash. Alder for a dense tighter sound and Swamp Ash for a more open airy tone.
  • ASAT Classic – Alder, Swamp Ash or Semi Hollow. Alder for more punch, Swamp for sweeter top end, Semi-Hollow for overall balance.
  • ASAT Classic Alnico – Classic low output pickups work best with Alder which provided fuller midrange and snappy low end.
  • ASAT Special – Swamp Ash, Alder or Semi Hollow.
  • ASAT Bluesboy – Adler to maximize twang, Swamp Ash for a cleaner, leaner humbucker sound
  • ASAT Bluesboy 90 – The P-90 is very flexible and Alder works as well as Swamp Ash
  • Comanche or Z-3 – Swamp Ash on the Comanche is my pick if using the DF vibrato. With the Saddle Lock bridge, Alder or Swamp Ash both work.
  • S-500 – Swamp Ash is my favorite. Alder is a little harder and darker with the S-500
  • SC-2 – Alder is punchy, Swamp Ash is a bit more lush. Vibrato option really makes the guitar lively.
  • Legacy HB2 – OK, not a common guitar at all, but like the HB Alder gives it a tighter more dense tone, and the Swamp Ash will open up the humbuckers a little