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  1. #1

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    Hi,

    I've recently bought a Gibson ES 175 that sounds great. Unfortunately I'm having problems adjusting my left hand to the the thin and wide neck of this guitar.

    I've been playing on and off for 30 years and never had any problems in my left hand. Now I'm experiencing pain at the outside base of my left thumb.

    I haven't been playing more than usual but it decidedly feels different to play this guitar because of its nick size compared to my other guitars. My hands are quite large so I initially thought a larger neck actually would suit my hans even better.

    I love the sound of this guitar and would have to stop playing it so I'm hoping its only a transitional problem!

    I'm wondering if anyone else has had this problem?

    UPDATE: All the pain has gone now, see my post further down this thread!
    Last edited by git175; 06-06-2018 at 09:22 AM.

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  3. #2

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    Hmm. Could be a number of things.

    With large hands and a wide, skinny neck your fingers are in closer proximity to your thumb while playing.

    Try this: Play air guitar with your left hand an imagine you have a 1956 Les Paul with one of those real fat necks, place your thumb away from your fingers about 1 1/2" and move your fingers around as if you were playing scales. Now replicate playing on your 175 and move your thumb closer to your fingers to about 3/4 of an inch from your fingers and make the same movements. Feel any difference? Is the discomfort replicated? If so you may have to consider parting with the guitar.

    No offense intended, but are you older? You could have the beginnings of arthritis. My wife was a dental hygienist until that very thing happened to her.

  4. #3
    Thanks for the tips, Vinnie! Luckily I cannot reproduce the discomfort using the air guitar method - so there's hope ;-) And yes, I cannot claim to be that young.

  5. #4

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    .... or, send it to Gibson or another competent luthier and have a fatter replacement neck installed.

  6. #5

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    You experience some cramping issue from adapting to a slimmer neck.
    Adjusting to a neck is unfortunately not always possible, I had to sell guitars because of that...
    In my case its the opposite, I prefer thinner profiled neck like those slim '60s over the fuller rounded '50s or worst the baseball bat.
    On my '59 125 the neck is just a bit fuller than a slim '60s and is perfect to me!
    Hopefully you can adapt your technique to the neck profile...
    ...every note has an origin and a destination...
    - Tal Farlow

  7. #6

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    Hi git175,

    Coincidentally, I recently purchased a 1957 Gibson ES 175 with a fuller, more rounded neck profile than on my other guitars. It is a beautiful guitar with low action. But I too am experiencing pain for the first time at the inside base of my left thumb.

    Yes, I am older and it could be something other than the guitar. I'm going to take a break from playing the 175 to see if my problem clears up.

    Good luck!
    "Your biggest discoveries come by playing" - Robert Conti

  8. #7

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    1961 Gibsons are known for their skinny necks. I had a '61 ES 355 that was a wonderful instrument, but ended up selling it because my hand would get cramps after intensive playing. I have noticed this with other thin-necked guitars. I am older and have been playing for a long time. So I think the thin neck is maybe worse for those of us with well-used hands.

  9. #8

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    I had exactly the same problem with Guild Starfire from the 90's. It was a beautiful American made guitar, super versatile, the tone to die for for my liking, light, fantastic look... Except the neck was slightly on a slim side in profile, wide 1 11/16 width, and flat 12 radius. The specs seemed standard, but somehow it just felt wrong. I develop pain just like yours very quick, I had to let it go! Unfortunately I don't think you can get use to it.

    It all pushed me toward playing a tele with vintage neck specs, narrow and fat neck, small radius... That's kind of neck that never gets me tired, but it excludes most of the archtops unfortunately.

  10. #9

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    You mention playing off and on; if you just started playing again and have some pain, you might be ok. If you have been playing regularly for at least a few months and now you are experiencing pain with just this guitar - you have the wrong guitar for you. I'd suggest hitting every guitar store you can and playing any style guitar you can get your hands on just to spend time with necks of different thickness. Grab a usa Gibson with a 50's neck, Alvarez acoustics, 1970's Guilds and Martins and everything in between and see how you hand reacts. If you have friends that play, ask to play their guitars, take one home and play it for an hour or more. I can tell you from my experience, though I have not gone through dozens of guitars, the ones I've had that caused cramping in my hand from being too thin, I never "adjusted" to, they always caused pain in less than 30 minutes and I got rid of them even though they sounded great. And I have not regretted selling them. I have regretted that they did not work for me but would not want one of them back. No matter how great a guitar sounds, you'll never play as well as you can if you're experiencing pain.
    Ignorance is agony.



  11. #10
    Thin necks are problematic for me too, literally the only thing i cannot get used to in a guitar. Got an shredder ibanez with a flat and thin neck, can hardly play it. My hands freak out within an hour. But i keep it for sentimental reasons

  12. #11

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    Yep. Same problem here. In my case it's because of tendonitis.

    I know for me, it's all centered on the base of my thumb and the angle of it. With thicker/fatter necks, my thumb stays rounded (looks like a 'C' looking from the palm side) when I'm doing chords. On thinner necks, that 'C' turns into a 'V'; in other words, the first joint of my thumb is now going concave. Play like that for an hour and I have real pain.

    I know I could probably re-learn a better, more formal hand position to keep my thumb from bending backwards like that, but now that I'm pushing 60, I have enough trouble just moving forward -let alone re-learning everything left hand-wise.

    Fat necks don't do this to me.

    I have a beautiful '74 Greco S-50 (ES-175) up for sale on the SF CL right now for just this reason. It has a thin '60's neck. Everything else about the guitar is killer, but the neck profile also kills my thumb, so it needs to go.

    Good luck!!
    Last edited by Rhythmisking; 05-22-2018 at 05:53 PM. Reason: typo

  13. #12
    Thanks for all the answers! Sadly it doesn't look too promising for me. I was hoping that someone had experienced this only as a transitional phenomen that would disappear after a period of getting used to the wider neck - but I guess there's not much hope!

  14. #13

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    You could try grip exercises for awhile. (forever, actually) Also try to relax when you play.

    But you can also just move the guitar out of your inventory, so to speak. I'll admit to having large hands and never liked necks like that. I'd rather play a fat necked classical. Even though they are a bit much I can still handle 'em. The so-called ES rounded neck profile always worked for me.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by git175 View Post
    ...

    I love the sound of this guitar and would have to stop playing it so I'm hoping its only a transitional problem!

    I'm wondering if anyone else has had this problem?
    I suggest making a nut with the string spacing that you prefer from a guitar that you like paying that doesn't cause you pain. You might find that to be more of a culprit than the width or thickness of the neck.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by lammie200 View Post
    I suggest making a nut with the string spacing that you prefer from a guitar that you like paying that doesn't cause you pain. You might find that to be more of a culprit than the width or thickness of the neck.
    I actually done that, it didn't help much. I wouldn't recommend that.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hep To The Jive View Post
    I actually done that, it didn't help much. I wouldn't recommend that.
    They don't have much to lose by trying it. Also, while it might not make the ES-175 that the OP has play as well as they like all the time, if they have another guitar that they play all the time without any pain with the same string spacing as the ES-175, it may still make playing the ES-175 tolerable for longer periods of time.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by lammie200 View Post
    They don't have much to lose by trying it.
    I guess... just some money and time. I thought I report my experience, which wasn't positive. But everyone's hands are different so why not.

  19. #18

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    Could you try holding the guitar in a completely different position? Maybe close to your face like John Stowell? Or further away?

  20. #19

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    I'm not a doctor and nobody should read any further.

    The joint at the base of the thumb (the one that moves when you touch your thumb to the base of your pinkie) is the most likely joint in the hand, or maybe the whole body, in which to get arthritis.

    The cartilage can erode unevenly. I don't know this for a fact, but my impression is that the uneven wear makes some motions more painful than others. So it would seem reasonable to assume that the guitar neck dimensions can make a difference.

    I have seen three hand surgeons for a similar problem. One of them had several recommendations for treatment, mostly, apparently, to slow the progression of the problem. He examined my thumb with a flouroscope. I don't know if his recommendations would apply to anybody else. He recommended never to type. He is a musician himself and uses Dragon Dictate for everything. He doesn't like the thumb motion for the space bar. He also recommended three changes in medication. Since there are risks associated, I think I'll omit them from this post. The other two hand surgeons did not make those recommendations. I don't know who was right.

    I got two of the hand surgeon recommendations from string players in the local Symphony Orchestra.

    The third one, btw, recommended hand therapy, even though he couldn't explain how it worked to make things better. I went anyway. The therapist made me some braces which do feel good to wear. They solve the typing problem by forcing me to use wrist rotation rather than thumb joint motion to hit the space bar.

    Eventually, it requires surgery. There is an effective procedure, but it's 3 months to recover and start playing again.

  21. #20

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    I can't do this. Probably the reason I can't do the thumb over.
    Attached Images Attached Images ES 175 wide thin neck pain-85672708-jpg 

  22. #21
    Again, thanks for all the qualified replies and suggestions! Luckily all the pain at the base of my thumb has now been gone for more than a week

    In my case it seems that the transition from the thicker to thinner neck was too abrupt. By changing to 0.11 strings, lowering them and focusing on relaxing at all times, my left hand has now fully adjusted to the different neck size of my new guitar.

    I'm back to playing 2-3 hours a day and loving my new guitar

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by git175 View Post
    Again, thanks for all the qualified replies and suggestions! Luckily all the pain at the base of my thumb has now been gone for more than a week

    In my case it seems that the transition from the thicker to thinner neck was too abrupt. By changing to 0.11 strings, lowering them and focusing on relaxing at all times, my left hand has now fully adjusted to the different neck size of my new guitar.

    I'm back to playing 2-3 hours a day and loving my new guitar
    Congrats git175! After researching my thumb pain, I too believe it is technique related rather than due to the thicker neck on my 175. Unfortunately, I'm not pain free yet, but I remain optimistic that this is a temporary situation. Cheers.
    "Your biggest discoveries come by playing" - Robert Conti

  24. #23

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    Glad to hear it worked out.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by git175 View Post
    Again, thanks for all the qualified replies and suggestions! Luckily all the pain at the base of my thumb has now been gone for more than a week

    In my case it seems that the transition from the thicker to thinner neck was too abrupt. By changing to 0.11 strings, lowering them and focusing on relaxing at all times, my left hand has now fully adjusted to the different neck size of my new guitar.

    I'm back to playing 2-3 hours a day and loving my new guitar
    This is terrible news for all the forum members that were ready to offer you $800 (minus shipping costs) for your 1961 es175!!!

    Glad it worked out for you.
    Ignorance is agony.