Acoustic Guitar Nut Width Guide

Anyone who’s been shopping for an acoustic guitar has likely been presented with a range of specs, from body style to scale length and everything in between. One of those specs is likely to have been nut width.

Nut width is an often overlooked yet very important factor in the comfort and playability of an acoustic guitar, and yet it’s something newer players are rarely taught.

With that in mind, this KillerGuitarRigs Guide is all about acoustic guitar nut width. We’ll be covering this topic in-depth, learning about:

  • What is a Guitar Nut?
  • What Is Nut Width?
  • Are Neck Width and Nut Width the Same?
  • What’s the Difference Between Neck Width and String Spacing?
  • How is Nut Width Measured?
  • How Does Nut Width Affect Playability?
  • Common Nut Widths on Popular Models
  • Classical Guitar Nut Widths

And Much More!

What is a Guitar Nut?

Your guitar’s nut is a small but incredibly important component. It’s a major influencer in tone, tuning stability, string life, and many other things. Nuts were traditionally made from animal bone, and while bone nuts are still available and widely used, more sustainable graphite and synthetic bone nuts have become even more popular. Entry-level guitars are fitted with plastic nuts in the majority of cases.

The nut has grooves, or slots, cut into it that correspond with the string that’s designated to sit in them. Together with the saddles, these grooves hold your guitar’s strings in place.

Not all nuts are the same. There are different designs and shapes that can have a big impact on sound. The material also influences the tone of your guitar. Bone, graphite, and synthetic bone nuts are all prized for their resonance. Graphite nuts are a favorite for those seeking the best tuning stability, as many are impregnated with PTFE (Teflon), which means no lubrication is ever necessary.

Plastic nuts can cause strings to hang up after bends or tuning, which can result in unexpected slackening at any given moment. This contributor to poor tuning stability is one of the reasons many people change out plastic nuts as soon as they can.

What Is Nut Width?

Nut Width & Neck Profiles

As we pointed out in the intro, nut width is such an overlooked detail, especially for newer players. But getting the right nut width can mean the difference between fast progression on a comfortable guitar or struggling to reach for chords and having overall poor technique.

There are no tricks here, nut width is simply how wide your nut is from one side to the other. The average acoustic guitar has a nut width of 1 11/16”, or for those who prefer metric measurements, 43mm. Of course, smaller nuts are available and it’s not unheard of to find a nut as wide as 1 7/8”.

Are Neck Width and Nut Width the Same?

We understand that all these measurements can be confusing, with some terms seemingly merging into one another, but to set the record straight, nut width and neck width aren’t the same thing, despite the fact that some people use the terms interchangeably.

Nut width, as we mentioned earlier, is the width of the nut itself. You might find, however, that there’s a taper in the width of the neck just below the nut, making the neck width ever so slightly smaller than the nut width.

What’s the Difference Between Nut Width and String Spacing?

While the nut itself has an impact on string spacing, they aren’t interchangeable terms. Nut width is the overall girth of the nut and string spacing is a measurement of the distance between each string.

Wide nuts do generally mean wider string spacing, but there are specialty designs that see wide nuts with narrower string spacing to suit player preference.

It’s worth noting that string spacing isn’t measured at the nut, but at the saddles. String spacing tends to get progressively wider from the nut to the saddle, so the spacing between the nut slots and the saddles is unlikely to match. Regardless, measuring at the nut would be incorrect.

How Is Nut Width Measured?

Dream Guitars Tech Chat - Nut Width & String Spacing

The majority of manufacturers use imperial measurements (inches) to denote nut width. Sometimes you’ll see it as a decimalized figure, eg. 1.7”. Other times, you’ll see measurements in inches and eighths or sixteenths, e.g. 1 7/8”. More rarely, you might find a nut measured in the metric system using millimeters, e.g. 44mm.

The nut is measured from the bass side to the treble side. Now, some nuts also come in different heights, enabling you to change the height of action on your acoustic guitar if the truss rod adjustments aren’t working as planned, but this is a secondary measurement and doesn’t impact the nut’s width.

How Does Nut Width Affect Playability?

Most new players are looking primarily at brand, style, color, and tone woods when they shop for a guitar. While these are all important in their own way, none of these things are as impactful as nut width when it comes to playability, which is one of the biggest influencing factors in player progression.

Even though string spacing is measured at the saddle, the spacing of the slots in the nut impacts string separation low down on the fretboard, which is where the bulk of a beginner’s chords will be played.

Having the appropriate amount of string separation will allow you to finger chords without touching down on the strings where it isn’t required, which can help reduce buzz and dead notes. Alternatively, ensuring that the string spacing isn’t too wide will help you actually reach the necessary notes in the chords you’re trying to play.

Players with larger hands will generally fare better using a guitar with a wide nut. This will help enormously with clean playing and avoiding mis-fingered notes, as we highlighted above. Conversely, guitarists with smaller hands will find guitars with narrower nuts to be more comfortable, as they won’t have to stretch so far to reach the strings they’re trying to play.

Common Nut Widths on Popular Models

As you’ll see from the table below, there is no set nut width for acoustic guitars, even between models from the same manufacturer. We’ve included guitars at all levels of the price spectrum, including budget and high-end versions of the same guitar.

BrandModelNut Width
TaylorGS Mini1.6875″
MartinLX1 Little Martin1.6875″
PRSSE Parlor P201.6875”
YamahaSLG200S Silent Guitar43mm

From the table, you’ll see that it’s always a good idea to compare specs against other guitars. Take, for example, the Gibson J45 and the Epiphone J45. The Epiphone is a licensed replica of the Gibson, yet it features a significantly narrower nut at 1.693” vs. 1.75” on the Gibson. Even if you have the money for a Gibson, you might find that the larger nut width isn’t comfortable. In this case, the Epiphone could be a suitable alternative.

Classical Guitar Nut Width

Classical Guitar / Fret Dress / New Nut / Compensated Saddle @StringTech

Unlike steel-string acoustic guitars, which have variable nut width depending on make, model, style, etc., classical guitars are made to a standard. Nearly all classical guitars are made with a uniform 2” or 51mm nut. The reason we say nearly all classical guitars conform to standard nut width is some manufacturers are coming out with contemporary designs to make classical guitars more accessible to younger players. These contemporary versions are fitted with nuts as small as 1 7/8”.

Final Thoughts on Acoustic Guitar Nut Width

The overall aim of this guide has been to stress the importance of looking at the entire picture when it comes to guitar shopping. It doesn’t matter what tonewood it’s made from or whether it’s a dreadnought or 000 if it’s uncomfortable to play. Before jumping into a purchase, especially if you’re looking to spend at the top end of your budget, you should try out guitars with a range of nut widths to see what works best for you.

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.