Multi-neck guitar

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Vienna - Double guitar Paris 1690 - 9606.jpg
A 17th-century multi-neck guitar by Alexandre Voboam.
Gibson EDS1275.jpg
A Gibson EDS-1275 double neck guitar, with 12 and 6-string neck.

A multi-neck guitar is a guitar that has multiple fingerboard necks. They exist in both electric and acoustic versions. Although multi-neck guitars are quite common today, they are not a modern invention. Examples of multi-neck guitars and lutes go back at least to the Renaissance.


Today, the most common type of multi-neck guitar is the double neck guitar, of which the most common version is an electric guitar with twelve strings on the upper neck, while the lower neck has the normal six. Combination six-string and bass guitar are also used, as well as a fretless guitar with a regular fretted guitar, or any other combination of guitar neck and pickup styles. There are also acoustic versions. Two necks allows the guitarist to switch quickly and easily between guitar sounds without taking the time to change guitars.


Rickenbacker 4080 Double Neck - played by Pete Trewavas (Marillion).jpg
left: A 15-string acoustic contraguitar with fretted and fretless necks.
right: Rickenbacker 4080 Double Neck with bass and guitar.

There are many ways to customize a multiple-necked guitar, such as the number of strings on a neck, frets or no frets, the tuning used on each neck, etc. One of the earliest designs still in regular use is the acoustic contraguitar, invented around 1850 in Vienna. This guitar, also known as the Schrammel guitar, has a fretted six-string neck and a second, fretless neck with up to nine bass strings.

One of the more common combinations is where one neck of a double-necked guitar is set up as for a 6 string guitar and the other neck is configured as a 4 string bass guitar. Guitarist Pat Smear of the Foo Fighters utilizes a double-necked guitar during live performances (bass guitar top neck, six-string electric guitar bottom neck) in order to perform Krist Novoselic's bass part in the song "I Should Have Known," from the album Wasting Light , in addition to his own duties. Rickenbacker International Corporation and Gibson Guitar Corporation in the US have both manufactured production models of these configurations in the past.

A less common configuration has a 12 string guitar neck combined with a 4 string bass guitar neck: Geddy Lee of Rush is well known for using the 4/12-string Rickenbacker 4080/12 production model live in the 1970s.

Mike Rutherford of Genesis, circa 1980, playing his custom Shergold guitar in its twelve-string/bass double-necked configuration MikeRutherfordGenesis.jpg
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, circa 1980, playing his custom Shergold guitar in its twelve-string/bass double-necked configuration

In the 1970s and 1980s Mike Rutherford of Genesis was known for playing a custom-made Shergold Modulator twin-neck guitar-bass unit in live shows, as he frequently changed between lead guitar, 12-string guitar and bass guitar, depending on the arrangement of the song. The unique design of this guitar set is that it consists of several modular elements, that could be separated and combined by a system of dowels and thumbscrews, including an electrical connection. The complete set originally consisted of a 6-string guitar "top-section", two 12-string guitar "top-sections" to have different tunings readily available, and a 4-string bass "bottom-section". The bass section could be attached to any of the top-sections to create a variety of twin-neck combinations. (Additionally there was a smaller lower-body-section which could be attached to any of the top-sections when they were not in use as part of a double-neck configuration, to complete the shape of a single guitar.) [1] As a tongue-in-cheek reference to Rutherford's frequent use of this double-neck guitar, the puppet version of Rutherford in the video for Land of Confusion plays a four-necked guitar.

Multiple-necked bass guitars

Chris Squire of Yes (2003) playing Wal triple-neck bass consists of 3 double-course guitar, fretted and fretless 4-string basses. Chris Squire, 2003 (1).jpg
Chris Squire of Yes (2003) playing Wal triple-neck bass consists of 3 double-course guitar, fretted and fretless 4-string basses.

Electric bass guitars with two or more necks have existed at least since the 1970s. Some basses have three or more necks, but usually upon custom order only. A double-necked bass guitar can be used for multiple tuning (e.g., B-E-A-D on one neck and E-A-D-G on the other, etc.); combining fretted and fretless necks; combining necks with different numbers of strings, etc.

Carvin Guitars made double-necked guitars and basses from 1959 to 1993; their business model relies greatly on custom-made instruments, and it has produced a number of double-neck bass guitars, including one with a fretted and a fretless neck, the DN440T, made for Steve McDonald. [2]

Chris Squire of Yes played a custom triple neck bass on "Awaken" on Going for the One (1977). This is a replica of a model built by Wal for Roger Newell of Rick Wakeman's band, the English Rock Ensemble. Squire's original had a four-string fretted neck, a four-string fretless neck, and a six-string tuned in octaves (tuned to aA-dD-gG). This bass is currently on display at the Hard Rock Cafe. [3] [4] Steve Digiorgio used a multiple-necked bass guitar with a fretless neck and another fretted neck. A number of makers have also produced double neck basses with an 8-string bass neck (double courses, tuned in octaves like a 12-string guitar) on top and a 4-string bass neck on the bottom. Double neck basses with various other combinations exist, such as 4-string/6-string and 4-string/5-string.


Joe Maphis double-neck guitar by Semie Moseley - Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.jpg
Bigsby double-neck guitar (1956), Mosrite, Harvey double-neck guitar (1957), Museum of Making Music (edit1).jpg
left: Custom-built Mosrite double-neck guitar for Joe Maphis with "octave guitar"
right: Bigsby double-neck guitar with mandolin

Multiple neck "guitars" have also been made which include other stringed instruments among the alternate necks. Country guitarist Joe Maphis played a double-neck Mosrite instrument that had a regular 6-string neck on the bottom and an "octave guitar" for the top neck. This was a 6-string neck tuned an octave higher than the standard guitar, that both extended the range of the instrument, and allowed Maphis to play mandolin-like sounds. Between 1958-1968, Gibson made an instrument of this type which it called the "Double Mandolin" (Gibson EMS 1235). [5] Hybrids with a 6-string guitar neck and a true 8-string mandolin neck were also made (e.g., the 1971 Dawson Electric guitar/mandolin). And Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones has a triple-neck electroacoustic instrument, custom made for him by luthier Andy Manson, which features (from top to bottom) 8-string mandolin, 12-string guitar, and 6-string guitar necks. [6]

In 2011, the National Guitar Museum unveiled the "Rock Ock", which it calls the world’s largest fully playable multi-necked stringed instrument. The 8-necked guitar weighs 40 pounds, has 154 frets, 51 strings, and 8 necks. The eight instruments are a mandolin, ukulele, 6-string, fretless bass, standard bass, 12-string, baritone guitar, and a 7-string. The guitar was designed by noted artist Gerard Huerta (responsible for the iconic AC/DC logo, among others) and built by Dan Neafsey of DGN Custom Guitars. The guitar hardware was supplied by Mojo Musical Supply while the instrument itself was commissioned by the National Guitar Museum. The instrument has been used in live performance and can be seen on YouTube. [7]

Experimental alternate versions

Pikasso Guitar (lowres).jpg
Dyer Harp Guitar.jpg
left: Pikasso guitar by Linda Manzer
right: Dyer Symphony Harp Guitar Style 8

Some luthiers not only built guitars with two necks in common configurations, but worked to expand the possibilities with multiple necks, extra bridges, odd configurations, and the like. Hans Reichel crafted a series of third bridge guitars with two necks on both sides of the body. Linda Manzer crafted the Pikasso guitar (a three neck guitar with 42 strings) for Pat Metheny. Solmania is an Osaka-based noise music band known for making their own experimental electric guitars out of spare parts. The guitars usually take an extremely bizarre form, utilizing unconventional body shapes, extra necks, strings and pickups in unusual places, and various extraneous gadgets such as microphones. Most of their instruments are double neck guitars or harp guitars.

Logistics and design

Hamer Five-Neck electric guitar on Macari's show window.jpg
Hamer Five-Neck electric guitar

Many of those who have played double neck guitars report that the instruments are heavy and awkward, [8] [9] [10] but this can be managed with practice. Triple neck instruments are even weightier and more unwieldy. This raises the question as to whether some of the larger varieties of multi-neck guitar are even playable as guitars, much less practical in performance situations. The bottom neck of Rick Nielsen's famous five-neck Hamer guitar is barely reachable by a person of average stature holding the instrument in a normal standing playing position, and it's hard to see how that neck could be played with any facility with both arms extended to their limit just to reach it. Although playable hybrids with up to eight necks have been produced (see the "Rock Ock", above), five necks would seem to be the practical limit for multi-neck guitars.

Luthiers seem, however, to be undeterred by either practicality, or by the limits of human anatomy, and have produced instruments with even more necks. In 2008 Macari's Music of London commissioned a six neck guitar ("the beast"), [11] similar in design to Nielsen's five neck. Yamantaka Eye, of the Japanese noise/rock band Boredoms has toured with a seven neck guitar (the "Sevena"). This instrument has four necks on one side and three on the other, and is mounted on a stand and played with drumsticks as a percussion instrument.

As of 2012, the most necks placed on a single guitar is 12, apparently first achieved in 2002 by Japanese artist Yoshihiko Satoh. [12]

Multi-neck guitar users

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth playing a Dean twin neck. Note the machine heads for the 12 string secondary strings on the edge of the body. 100 5623.JPG
Dave Mustaine of Megadeth playing a Dean twin neck. Note the machine heads for the 12 string secondary strings on the edge of the body.
Joe Perry of Aerosmith playing a double neck Gretsch guitar on stage in Chile Jperryaerosmith.jpg
Joe Perry of Aerosmith playing a double neck Gretsch guitar on stage in Chile

In alphabetical order (of family name):

Related Research Articles

The bass guitar, electric bass or simply bass, is the lowest-pitched member of the guitar family. It is a plucked string instrument similar in appearance and construction to an electric or an acoustic guitar, but with a longer neck and scale length, and typically four to six strings or courses. Since the mid-1950s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music.

Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that typically has six strings. It is held flat against the player's body and played by strumming or plucking the strings with the dominant hand, while simultaneously pressing the strings against frets with the fingers of the opposite hand. A plectrum or individual finger picks may be used to strike the strings. The sound of the guitar is projected either acoustically, by means of a resonant chamber on the instrument, or amplified by an electronic pickup and an amplifier.

Mandolin Musical instrument in the lute family

A mandolin is a stringed musical instrument in the lute family and is generally plucked with a plectrum. It most commonly has four courses of doubled metal strings tuned in unison, thus giving a total of 8 strings, although five and six course versions also exist. The courses are typically tuned in an interval of perfect fifths, with the same tuning as a violin. Also like the violin, it is the soprano member of a family that includes the mandola, octave mandolin, mandocello and mandobass.


A fret is a space between two fretbars on the neck of a stringed instrument. Frets usually extend across the full width of the neck. On most modern western fretted instruments, frets are the spaces between the metal strips (fretbars) that are inserted into the fingerboard. On some historical instruments and non-European instruments, frets are made of pieces of string tied around the neck.

Bouzouki Greek plucked stringed instrument

The bouzouki, also spelled buzuki or buzuci, is a musical instrument popular in Greece. It is a member of the long-necked lute family, with a round body with a flat top and a long neck with a fretted fingerboard. It has steel strings and is played with a plectrum producing a sharp metallic sound, reminiscent of a mandolin but pitched lower. There are two main types of bouzouki: the trichordo (three-course) has three pairs of strings and the tetrachordo (four-course) has four pairs of strings. The instrument was brought to Greece in the early 1900s by Greek immigrants from Anatolia, and quickly became the central instrument to the rebetiko genre and its music branches. It is now an important element of modern Laïko pop Greek music.

Twelve-string guitar

A twelve-string guitar is a steel-string guitar with 12 strings in six courses, which produces a thicker, more ringing tone than a standard six-string guitar. Typically, the strings of the lower four courses are tuned in octaves, with those of the upper two courses tuned in unison. The gap between the strings within each dual-string course is narrow, and the strings of each course are fretted and plucked as a single unit. The neck is wider, to accommodate the extra strings, and is similar to the width of a classical guitar neck. The sound, particularly on acoustic instruments, is fuller and more harmonically resonant than six-string instruments.

The fingerboard is an important component of most stringed instruments. It is a thin, long strip of material, usually wood, that is laminated to the front of the neck of an instrument. The strings run over the fingerboard, between the nut and bridge. To play the instrument, a musician presses strings down to the fingerboard to change the vibrating length, changing the pitch. This is called stopping the strings. Depending on the instrument and the style of music, the musician may pluck, strum or bow one or more strings with the hand that is not fretting the notes. On some instruments, notes can be sounded by the fretting hand alone, such as with hammer ons, an electric guitar technique.

Appalachian dulcimer fretted string instrument

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings, originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

Mike Rutherford English guitarist, bassist, songwriter, and singer

Michael John Cloete Crawford Rutherford is an English guitarist, bassist, songwriter, and singer who co-founded the rock band Genesis in 1967. Rutherford and keyboardist Tony Banks are the group's two continuous members.


The cümbüş is a Turkish stringed instrument of relatively modern origin. It was developed in 1930 by Zeynel Abidin Cümbüş (1881–1947) as an oud-like instrument that could be heard as part of a larger ensemble.

Gibson EDS-1275 Model of guitar

The Gibson EDS-1275 is a doubleneck Gibson electric guitar, weighing about 13 pounds (5.9 kg) and introduced in 1963. Popularized by both rock and jazz musicians such as Don Felder, Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson, Steve Miller, Steve Clark, and John McLaughlin, it was named "the coolest guitar in rock" by the website Gigwise.

Jazz bass

Jazz bass is the use of the double bass or bass guitar to improvise accompaniment ("comping") basslines and solos in a jazz or jazz fusion style. Players began using the double bass in jazz in the 1890s to supply the low-pitched walking basslines that outlined the chord progressions of the songs. From the 1920s and 1930s Swing and big band era, through 1940s Bebop and 1950s Hard Bop, to the 1960s-era "free jazz" movement, the resonant, woody sound of the double bass anchored everything from small jazz combos to large jazz big bands.

Mosrite American guitar manufacturing company

Mosrite is an American guitar manufacturing company, based in Bakersfield, California, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Founded by Semie Moseley, Mosrite guitars were played by many rock and roll and country artists.

Multi-scale fingerboard

A multi-scale fingerboard is an instrument fretboard which incorporates multiple scale lengths. The scale length is the vibrating length of the strings.


Shergold Guitars, or Shergold Woodcrafts Limited, is an English guitar manufacturing company established in October 1967 by former Burns London employees Jack Golder and Norman Houlder. Based in East London, the company moved from Forest Gate to Harold Wood in 1973.

Course (music)

A course, on a stringed musical instrument, is either one string or two or more adjacent strings that are closely spaced relative to the other strings, and typically played as a single string. The strings in each multiple-string course are typically tuned in unison or an octave.

An extended-range bass is an electric bass guitar with a wider frequency range than a standard-tuned four-string bass guitar.

Outline of guitars Overview of and topical guide to guitars

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to guitars:


Mandobass is the largest member of the mandolin family, sometimes used as the bass instrument in mandolin orchestras. It is so large that it usually isn't held in the lap, but supported on a spike that rests on the floor. The neck-scale length on a full-size mando-bass is similar to that of a standard orchestral double bass viol: about 43 inches (110 cm). The instrument is otherwise similar to the smaller, higher-pitched members of the mandolin family, having a fretted neck, a headstock with geared tuning machines, and a large resonating body often—but not always—shaped like that of other mandolins.

Nine-string guitar

A nine-string guitar is a guitar with nine strings instead of the commonly used six strings. Such guitars are not as common as the six-string variety, but are used by guitarists to modify the sound or expand the range of their instrument.


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