Gary Brawer on Maintenance: Get Some Balance in Your Life

You don’t have to live with an unbalanced or neck-heavy instrument if you are willing to try a few experiments.
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It can be challenging enough to find the notes you want to play without your neck being a moving target. Most players at one time or another have had the experience of a neck-heavy guitar. As you are playing, you find you have to hold the neck up with your fretting hand while simultaneously trying to squeeze the guitar up with your picking arm. That is not always possible— and no fun—so here are some tricks you can try to elevate your guitar neck.

I remember in the early days putting fishing weights, chunks of brass, or anything heavy in the control cavity—if the guitar had one—to offset the weight of the neck. I’ve also drilled large holes along the lower rear side of the instrument and filled them with brass or steel rods—definitely not for everyone. Once I drilled a hole under the rear strap button and glued in a large dowel of brass, then tapped the strap button into that. The same idea on the neck-side strap button can be done but I leave the brass (or whatever material I use) sticking out a little bit to help with the balance.

Another thing you can try is moving the strap buttons around. The results are hard to predict without actually doing it, but here are a couple of ideas. If you’re willing to drill a hole, look for the spot on the back or side of the instrument that is the farthest out towards the neck. I have had some luck carefully taping the strap where I think may work before permanently drilling. If there are any existing screws like neck bolts or larger screws that happen to be where you want to try out a strap button, use those first. Drill out the hole in the strap button to fit the larger screw and give it a shot. You may ultimately need a longer screw for the permanent installation to keep the strength.

You can also manage a neckheavy instrument with different straps. If you are willing to use a wider strap, say over 3" with a little grip to it, you will be surprised how much more stable the guitar will feel. Instead of taping weights to a strap for balance, check out the Heads Up Strap. It comes with a pocket to put weights in to adjust the balance and wears like a normal strap. I have seen some double straps—like the Dare strap, Gruv Gear, and Slider Strap—that use two straps in the front or back to provide a more balanced feel on your body and help balance the guitar. Another innovation is the Slinger Strap, which transfers some of the weight to your hip like a backpack.

Last but not least you can look into changing out some of the hardware on your guitar. The obvious place to start is by swapping out your tuning machines for lighter ones. There are many brands that offer lightweight, high-quality replacements, so you may not even have to drill a hole.

Get some balance in your life! You don’t have to live with an unbalanced or neck-heavy instrument if you are willing to try a few experiments.

Gary Brawer is bald, he’s bad, and he gives a sh*t about your guitar. His many clients include Joe Satriani, Metallica, and Neal Schon.