1, 3 or 5 piece necks refer to the number of wood pieces used to make the guitar neck.
A 1 piece neck provides the best sound but is weaker. Whereas a 5 or 3 piece neck is stronger but doesn’t sound as good.
Generally, multi piece necks can refer to two different definitions:
- Different wood pieces sandwiched together to form a single base for the guitar neck. This is known as laminated guitar necks.
- Different wood is used to form the head stock, neck and heel – which are then glued and joined together as one.
Both multi piece necks create a stronger neck and have similar pros & cons. Throughout this article, I will discuss both types of multi piece necks. (I will make sure to tell you which one I am referring to though).
I personally have a guitar with 1 piece neck and another with 3 piece neck. Which means, I can tell you my first hand experience. Instead of only telling what they are supposed to be.
1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
|1 Piece Neck||3 Piece Neck||5 Piece Neck|
|Stability||Less stable||More stable||More stable|
|Sound / Tone||Better||Slight worse||Slightly worse|
Strength: 1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
3 piece or 5 piece guitar necks should be stronger when compared to a 1 piece guitar neck.
This is because the multiple laminated wood supports each other and the glue used in the multi piece neck also gives extra strength.
A 1 piece guitar neck has to rely only on their natural wood resins for strength. Over time, as the wood gets exposed to sunlight and changing temperature – the wood becomes weaker and loses strength.
Whereas multi piece guitar necks like 3 or 5 use overlapping grains to support each other – this is stronger and is less prone to cracking. Some multi piece necks even use a stronger wood in the middle to further increase strength.
Now that’s the theory and what’s generally accepted in the guitar community. That said, I personally feel both my 1 piece and 3 piece guitar necks are equally strong.
I have had them for more than 5 years each and they are still strong and sturdy without any curve or bowing.
I strongly believe that the number of wood pieces doesn’t really matter.
Instead, what matters is the wood material. A 1 piece neck from strong woods like maple or walnut can be equally strong as a multi piece.
It also depends on how you treat the guitar. Leaning the guitar by its headstock or exposing it to direct sunlight and humidity changes can cause any neck to curve.
Stability: 1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
Multi piece necks like 3 or 5 should be more stable than a 1 piece neck. This is because the multiple wood layers in a laminated multi piece neck will support each other and prevent them from curving.
When I talk about stability here, I am talking about how the neck is susceptible to slight movement – causing tuning issues or long term curving.
In a laminated multi piece neck, different solid woods are sandwiched together with glue. Which means, the wood pieces are not the same and they could age differently.
The outer wood pieces may have issues with moisture or humidity changes. But the middle wood piece is still strong and sturdy – allowing the neck to be more stable.
A stable neck provides you with great tuning stability because the neck does not move around when playing – due to string tension.
Aesthetics: 1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
Laminated 3 or 5 piece guitar necks generally look better and distinguishable because they have different colored stripes on the back. Whereas 1 piece guitar neck is the usual single colored neck.
Which one you prefer is entirely up to you. However, I can tell you that 3 or 5 piece necks look more unique. You can instantly tell a neck is made of multi piece due to the stripes on the back.
Sound / Tone: 1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
A 1 piece neck should have a better sound and tone because there’s no interference on the sound vibrations like multi piece necks would – from glue in the joining points. (Glue always mutes vibrations).
Depending on the joining techniques, a lot of glue may be used to create the neck. This glue is not a great material to carry over sound vibrations.
Which means the more joining points and the more wood pieces you have, you will get worse tone and sustain from the guitar.
Though, the glue in multi piece neck impacts acoustic guitars more because they use sound holes and guitar body to resonate and produce sounds.
Electric guitars or basses that use magnetic pickups will have lesser impact on the multi piece wood because they don’t rely on the neck and body to resonate sound.
Unless, your electric guitar has a hollow body and uses sound holes to produce sound. Then a multi piece neck will reduce sustain and make a slightly worse tone.
Both of my multi piece necks are for electric guitars. I can tell you didn’t notice any sound difference. Both the guitars sound great. For electric guitar, amp matters much more to sound than the guitar itself.
As for acoustic, I don’t believe a multi piece neck will make the tone much worse. I think it depends much more on the wood material and how it’s constructed.
You can try to play an expensive multi piece neck acoustic guitar – they should still sound great.
Price: 1 vs 3 vs 5 Piece Guitar Neck
The piece between 1, 3 or 5 piece neck guitars should be the same. It depends more on the wood material and brand.
Some guitarists say that a 1 piece neck should be more expensive because a 1 piece requires a stronger and high quality wood. Thus, driving the price up.
This makes sense. And also the fact that with a 1 piece neck, you cannot reuse as much wood material. You need a single big block of wood to create the neck – what’s left from the wood is unusable. This should also drive the price up.
On the other hand, some guitarists say that a 3 or 5 piece neck should be more expensive because they are harder to build. You need to trim the woods and use complicated joining techniques to form the neck.
Both have their own valid reasons to be more expensive. But at the end of the day, there are 3 main factors that impact the price of a guitar:
- The brand
- The material
- The manufacturing
More info here: Why Is Squier Cheaper Vs Fender: Is It Good? (& Pro Usage)
Both a single piece and multi piece necks have their pros and cons. It’s all a matter of preference.
If you like the stripe look on your neck, then going for a multi piece neck is the way to go. You don’t have to worry too much about sound difference and sustain. As long as you get the guitar from a reputable brand, you should be good.
I personally recommend you try both. Get guitars with both necks and see for yourselves. If you keep playing guitar, at some point you are going to own more than 1 guitar anyway.