One question I get asked all the time at Deluxe Guitar concerns the different neck profiles found on the American Deluxe Stratocaster guitar. Fender is currently offering two production neck profiles. They are the “C” shaped neck profile and the “V” shaped neck profile. What’s the difference between the C-neck profile and the V-neck profile? Well it’s as simple as looking at the letters “C” and “V” because the back of the neck where your hand rests is shaped exactly like one of those two letters.
It’s important to note that the fretboard itself is the same compound radius on both the V-neck and the C-neck profiles. The picture to the right at the top of this post shows the two different neck profiles currently in use on the Fender Stratocaster. The picture below shows some of the commonly used neck profiles on modern electric guitars. Fender’s V-neck profile is a soft “V” neck profile:
As you can see, the difference is quite obvious when looking at the necks side-by-side. Why are there two different neck shapes being used on the Fender Stratocaster? It all comes down to personal player preference and a bit of Stratocaster history.
When the Strat was introduced the neck was a V-shape and was later changed to a C-shape because of player feedback to Fender asking for a more comfortable neck shape. That change alone created a lot of different opinions about neck shape for the Stratocaster. I’m sure you’ve heard people say “Nothing plays like those old 50’s Fender Stratocasters!” Part of the reason for the difference in playability is the fact that that 50’s Strats had a V-shape neck.
So which neck is better, the V-neck or the C-neck? Well that’s completely a matter of personal opinion and you’ll get different answers from different guitarists. Some find the C-shape much more comfortable than the V-shape and vice versa. I can tell you from personal experience the differences I’ve noticed in how the necks feel. I have both a V-Neck American Deluxe Stratocaster and a C-Neck American Deluxe Stratocaster.
The C-neck leaves a small pocket of space between the palm of my hand and the guitar neck when I’m playing. The neck seems to contact my hand more at the bottom joint of my thumb and the bottom joint of my first finger. I am able to flatten my hand against the back of the C-neck and get a little better reach while fretting. I feel like the neck is less present in my hand with the C-neck allowing my fingers to more freely dance around the fretboard.
In contrast, the V-neck makes more contact with the palm of my hand while I’m playing. It does shorten my reach just a bit on the fret side. The V-neck also gives me a bit more neck to brace my thumb against while I’m playing bar chords. I feel like the V-neck gives me a greater connection to the neck and the guitar. I like feeling a chunk of wood in my hand while I play. I do feel like the V-neck is more cumbersome while playing fast phrases.
I can honestly say that the difference in feel between the C-neck and the V-neck is very minor to me. I’m able to easily switch between the two guitars without taking hardly any notice at all of the neck shape. If I was looking to buy a new Stratocaster, the shape of the current V-neck and C-neck Strats is so subtly different that having one neck or the other on my Strat would not be a deal breaker when purchasing.
In my opinion the color of the guitar is more important to my purchasing decision than the shape of neck with how subtly different the two necks are. Which brings me to the fact that there are different color options available on the V-neck American Deluxe Stratocaster as opposed to the C-neck American Deluxe Stratocaster. The only neck option available on a Candy Apple Red or solid Black American Deluxe Stratocaster is the V-neck. So if your heart is set on either a red or black American Deluxe Stratocaster then you’re going to be playing on a V-neck. Still, that’s not a bad thing at all because both neck shapes are excellent!