A double neck guitar looks like a set of Siamese twins. With two separate and distinct necks and a single, wider-than-average body, the instrument really does appear to be two independent entities joined by a common body. This description is, in fact, not too far from the truth. The benefit of the double neck guitar is that it essentially allows the musician access to more than one instrument at a time. To take the most common example, consider the typical double neck guitar. This instrument has one neck with twelve strings and one with six. The musician can, at any point during his or her performance, choose to switch between the two necks. This freedom of choice allows him or her to double the kind of music he or she can produce. Hence, to play the double neck guitar is to essentially play two instruments not simultaneously, but at least back-to-back.
The concept of the double neck guitar is not a new one. Instruments similar to this have been around for at least a few hundred years. A double neck version of the Russian guitar, for example, was popular in the beginning of the 19th century. Today, however, double neck guitars are generally Western-style electric instruments. As mentioned, the most common models have twelve strings on the top neck and six strings on the bottom. However, some versions have six strings on one neck and only four on the other. Fretted instruments are most common, but sometimes only one neck will be fretted and the other fretless. In fact, almost any combination of guitar characteristics is possible with these instruments. Some models eve have three, four or five necks. Such guitars only increase the variety of music that can be played on a “single” instrument.
Although double neck guitars have traditionally been simply standard electric guitars, bass instruments have gained popularity in recent years. Double neck bass guitars are often tuned differently, an approach that significantly widens the player’s range. Other models vary the use of frets or the number of strings. A more unusual approach is to have a double neck instrument with one neck set up as a standard electric guitar and the other set up as a bass guitar.
The double neck guitar is, needless to say, rather startling in appearance. This no doubt contributes to its popularity with a number of musicians in famous bands. After all, not only does the double neck guitar allow the artist to increase his musical variety, it also ensures that a great number of people will be staring at his instrument. These musicians are usually bassists, and they include Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Slash of Guns N’ Roses, Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi and Eddie Van Halen of Van Halen.
It should be mentioned that while the harp guitar is a relative of the double neck guitar, the two instruments are not the same. The harp guitar features unstopped strings that are designed to be plucked like those of a harp. The double neck guitar’s strings, on the other hand, are invariably meant to be played like those of a guitar.