guitar neck shrinkage

Do Guitar Necks Shrink Or Expand?

Does it feel like your guitar neck may have gotten smaller?  Maybe you are feeling the ends of your frets as you play the guitar?

Do guitar necks shrink or expand?

Yes, a guitar neck can shrink or expand.  This is especially true with guitars that are not well cared for.  The main cause for a guitar neck shrinking is  the wooden structure of the guitar neck being exposed to moisture or changes in humidity. When this happens, the wood fibers shrink or swell up. This process is called wood expansion or wood contraction.

While it doesn’t happen often, this shrinking does happen over time. A properly cared for guitar will not experience this shrinking, but careless owners could find themselves in trouble.

This shrinking can cause problems with playing your guitar if it happens too rapidly.  The same happens for both acoustic guitars and electric guitar.

Problems That Neck Shrinkage Or Expansion Can Cause

Fret Sprout

Fret sprout is when the metal frets begin to poke out at the edges of the fretboard.  When you are playing a guitar with a fret sprout problem, you will feel the fret edges on your hand as you move up and down the neck.

Fret sprout happens when you exposure your guitar to moisture or fluctuating level of humidity – usually low humidity.  The wood on the neck and fretboard shrinks with the low humidity causing the fretboard width to be less than the fret width.  a sharp fret doesn’t feel very good while playing.

Neck Warping

Guitar necks can warp as a result of low humidity or low temperature.  The wood will shrink and bend or buckle up as a result of this temperature drop. If the temperature drops, the wood will shrink and bend under the strings, pulling tighter on them as it contracts.

This results in warped necks that can throw off your intonation and action as you play your guitar.

Fretboard Cracking

If your neck shrinks enough, it can cause the fretboard to start cracking.  This problem is usually caused by temperature changes that cause the wood to shrink and crack the finish on the fretboard.

Preventing Guitar Neck Shrinkage

It is important to prevent your guitar from shrinking or expanding as much as possible, especially if you want to protect the health of your guitar.

There are a few ways that you can help avoid neck shrinkage and expansion:

  • Get a humidifier – some experts recommend placing a small humidifier near your guitar as it sits. The small, constant drips of water will keep the wood from changing temperatures too drastically, preventing the neck from shrinking too drastically.
  • Keep your guitar in a room that does not fluctuate in humidity level – This can be difficult to accomplish, but try to keep your guitar away from any rooms that are too cold or too warm.
  • Properly store your guitar – If you plan on storing your guitar for a while, follow the proper storing procedures to avoid neck and fretboard problems. Sometimes it’s best to store your guitar under a blanket or case.
  • Keep your guitar in tune – The tension of the strings on the neck is an important factor in determining whether or not your neck will shrink or expand too much. Keeping your guitar in tune can help keep this tension balanced and prevent shrinking.


Whether your guitar neck is shrinking or expanding, it’s important to take care of your instrument. Try to minimize any changes in temperature and humidity to prolong the life of your guitar!