Okay folks, to be more precise I am going to talk guitar necks and their tenon construction let’s stick to long neck tenon vs. short neck. Guitars with long neck tenons originally were constructed in the Kalamazoo Michigan facility. Instruments made during the 1950’s to 1960 have had long neck tenons as part of the original design. However, if you are familiar with Gibson guitars, they decided to move the facility to Nashville Tennessee as the company was sold to Norlin who in my opinion proceeded to screw up the company. Like many companies in the United States, profit is paramount while quality is job # 100000000. Take my word, I ran a quality assurance program for a large semiconductor company and when they needed to save a penny, it was the quality department that was terminated to free up cash reserves. Forgive the rant. So Gibson in their infinite wisdom decided to shorten the neck tenon and some players started noticing lack of sustain, less brilliance in tone, muddy sounding, and a less resonant instrument. Most of these issues would never be noticed by the audience or listeners but the player would notice this phenomenon.
At some point someone got smart and wanted to know why the old Gold Tops, 1958 and 1959 Les Paul’s had such clarity and sustain. Basic autopsies revealed the neck tenon to be the greatest dissimilarity between the old guitars and new guitars. Anyone with a basic understanding of construction should be able to visualize and conceptualize the difference between the long neck and short neck tenon. The basic disparity is that amount of mass between the old and new with the old having greater mass in the joint area of the guitar while the new had less mass. I could at this point compare apples to oranges and bring up the Fender Stratocaster but lets save that for another time and place. Back on topic; the idea that the deeper neck joint and increased mass gives improved sustain to me has proven to be true, yielding superior sustain and bright sounding individual notes.
I conducted most of my testing in a small sound proof room approximately 12x12 feet sq. I tested without any amplification and with amplification. The non amplified testing seemed to produce the best results in terms of definition and comparison. Still, variables are numerous so my conclusions are not wholly scientific as god only knows where and which tree, which glues, what day, blood alcohol content of the builder, truly affected the build of a given instrument. I tried my best to do a blind fold test and actually feel the resonance. Give me a break; I didn’t get naked with the guitar! Simply stated; the guitar with the long neck tenon felt more resonate than that without the long tenon. Utilizing a guitar amp seemed to be a bit inconclusive test because the amount of contribution from a guitar tone is negligible compared to the tone shaping uniqueness of a given guitar amplifier.
Okay man, should you go out and buy a long neck tenon guitar? Hell ya if you got the cash! If you are in a band and ya’ll are on a budget then I speculate that any Les Paul will suit you fine. I don’t think the median player will see a substantial gain in their tone based on the neck they choose. I do think the long tenon is exclusive but not enough to warrant paying an extra 1500.00 for a VOS guitar. However, effective 2008, Gibson really increased the engineering and quality of their neck selection and fretting quality by adding the keyed neck joint and employing PLEK tool fret leveling machining as standard neck production process. The new keyed tenon which is something I am surprised they hadn’t done sooner but I am sure it was a matter of money and retooling. Plus, unfortunately, larger companies are not known for technical innovation and in fact they fight against it (another subject).