When you’re looking to replace your Stratocaster’s neck, either because you want to upgrade or because of an unfortunate mishap, you probably noticed that you’re a bit spoiled for choice.
The immense popularity of the Strat means that there are countless options out there for replacement parts, and replacement necks are no different.
To help you make the right choice, here are my picks for some of the best Stratocaster replacement necks.
5 Best Stratocater Replacement Necks
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Stratocater Replacement Necks
- Let’s Talk Wood Alternatives and Tone
- Remember the Extras
- Closing Thoughts
1. Fender Roasted Maple Flat Oval Neck
This neck is a great option if you’re looking to upgrade a Squier or beginner-level Fender Stratocaster (such as a Player Series model), or if you just want to change up your guitar’s sound or appearance a bit.
It's made up of solid maple that has that classic Fender twang and brightness. The 22 jumbo frets on a long scale neck is very comfortable to play, especially if you have larger hands.
This is a Mexican made neck and I wouldn’t recommend putting it on an American body. It’s not going to be a disaster as Mexican necks fit American bodies just fine, but I find that you do compromise a bit on the overall quality.
I wasn't too familiar with roasted maple, but I didn’t notice it making any difference in the overall tone or feel of the neck. The maple is only roasted to help protect it more against temperature and humidity changes.
The roasted maple is quite a bit darker than the non-roasted variant and you might find it too dark if your guitar has a light colored body. So, just be aware that the neck and body could look mismatched, which might be an issue if you have a little OCD.
The neck is flat oval-shaped, it sits somewhere between a C and U shape, and might take some getting used to at first if you’ve only played either C or U-shaped necks.
I was a little annoyed that the nut wasn’t pre-filed for strings, which meant I had to spend about 30 minutes measuring and filing the nut. This means you’ll have to be ready with some filing tools or even a replacement nut with this neck.
Apart from the issue with the nut, I had no difficulty installing the neck and it fit quite nicely. Afterward, I just had to adjust the pickups and saddle slightly to be more in line with the neck’s 12-inch radius.
2. Fender Player Series Neck
The Fender Player Series guitars have become increasingly famous in the past few years for offering a great balance of price and quality. Let me tell you that the fine folks down at the Ensenada factory are making better guitars and parts by the day.
I tried this neck with a swamp ash body loaded with Fender Custom Shop Fat ‘50s pickups. The swamp ash element is not to be overlooked since it is a highly resonant, very light, and percussive wood type. Matching it with the maple neck gave the guitar a razor-like midrange that could be heard from miles away.
Yes, the midrange and treble-oriented audio that maple is so famous for is definitely present in this neck. For Clapton lovers, those after the Chic-approved ultra-clean, glass-like highly-compressed clean tones, and Keith Richards enthusiasts, this is the place to look for that sound.
Yes, I know, don’t get anxious. Let’s talk about how this neck feels to the player’s hand, which is half the equation, to say the least.
To begin with, I’m in love with Fender’s urethane satin finish because it makes playing each neck with that finish a delight. Plus, if you live in a humid area, as I do, you’ll never have those days in which the neck of your guitar becomes sticky and unplayable. On the contrary, it will remain smooth regardless of the weather conditions.
Another great asset about this neck is that it features a modern 9.5” radius, which makes it a very friendly neck to bend, play leads, and practice those scales infinitely. Also since it is not a flatter radius like 12” or 16” as an Ibanez Wizard neck, you can play riffs, chords, and arpeggios effortlessly too.
Speaking of effortless playing, the 22 medium-jumbo frets are a breeze to play, and, let me tell you that playing a neck with brand-new frets is a treat.
Perhaps, the only thing I can say about this neck as not-so-good is that it comes with no hole for a string tree. I love a string tree on my guitar to help with tension and stability. Oh, and one more thing, the nut’s synthetic bone needed some extra filing before it could be usable.
Other than those two minor details, this is a great example of what an all-maple Fender neck should sound and feel.
3. Fender American ‘60s Original Neck
If you’re looking to replace the neck on a vintage Strat, then this American ‘60s is certainly one of the best replacement necks for Stratocasters out there.
It’s American made, so you know you’re getting the highest possible quality. Because American and Mexican Strats are made to the same specifications, you can also rest assured that the neck will fit a Mexican Strat if you’re planning on doing an upgrade on one.
I’m a big fan of the rosewood fretboard on the neck as it adds some extra warmth to the tone, while the maple neck preserves that classic feel of Strat necks.
The rosewood fingerboard is a bit too dark colored for my taste, but certainly not a deal breaker.
The neck is basically a replica of original ‘60s Strat necks to ensure that you’re getting a true vintage tone. At least as close to vintage short of using the neck from a ‘60s Strat as a replacement.
It has a thick C shape profile, but I couldn’t feel any difference between it and a standard C shape. That’s good because it means that the neck is really comfortable and well-suited for faster playing.
The neck also comes with a genuine bone nut instead of the more modern synthetic bone. Some people prefer real bone over synthetic bone, but I personally don’t notice much of a difference.
If you’re against the use of real bone, keep in mind that you will probably want to replace it with a synthetic one.
Also, it is a 4-bolt neck, so, if you’re planning on putting it on a vintage Strat body, make sure it has four holes as many of those vintage Strats had 3-bolt necks.
The only real issue I have with this neck is the lack of a 22nd fret, but other than that, a solid recommend.
4. Fender American Professional Neck
Last but certainly not least is another American-made neck, the American Professional.
A maple neck with rosewood fretboard means it has a very nicely rounded tone with the brightness of the maple, and the warmth of the rosewood to mellow out the tone a bit.
I really like the way the C profile neck is shaped. As you move up to the headstock, the neck becomes thicker.
The neck gradually fills more of your hand as you move toward the headstock, allowing you to keep a consistent grip on the neck without it becoming uncomfortable when you move back toward the body.
It’s similar to the flat oval shape, but unlike the flat oval it feels more natural and I didn’t have to get used to it before I could comfortably start playing.
The other benefit of having more wood near the headstock is that it makes chords and riffs in the lower register meatier, making them sound nice and thick.
You’re also getting a bi-flex truss rod system with this neck. Unlike single-action truss rods that only work one way, a bi-flex truss rod can be adjusted to correct both concave and convex neck bending.
It means that if the neck is bent backwards, away from the body, the bi-flex truss rod can straighten it back towards the body.
Thankfully, it also has that 22nd fret if you need to go a bit further in your solos.
This neck will fit basically anything except a Bullet Strat, making it the perfect replacement or upgrade.
Due to all these good points, the American Professional is an easy recommendation.
The only really negative I could possibly see is the fact that it has a bone nut, which could be a turn off for some people. In that case, if you’re willing to spend a little extra time and money to replace the nut, then you should definitely consider this neck as a replacement.
5. Fender Modern C Maple Neck
Another all maple neck and an excellent upgrade for your Fender or Squier. The light maple with a subtle grain makes for a very beautiful neck.
It is a Mexican made neck as well, so, the Mexican neck on an American body rule applies here again. It will fit an American body, but you’ll be getting more out of it on a Mexican one.
Don’t let the fact that it’s made in Mexico put you off though, as I was for quite some time. Mexican Fenders, and by extension Mexican made parts, are made to the same standards as American Fenders. The only real difference is in the quality of wood used, resulting in slight tonal differences.
This is still a very good neck that has that Fender twang. The frets are also very smooth and the neck is C-shaped.
All this makes for a neck that is great for fast playing while being very comfortable. They’re also medium jumbo, which puts them in a sweet spot of being big enough if you have larger hands, but not so big that they’re uncomfortable for smaller hands or beginners.
The only downside, in my opinion at least, is that the neck only has 21 frets. This might not be a big deal for most people, but I often find myself wanting an extra fret on 21 fret necks. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s certainly one of those ‘nice to haves’.
Other than that, the neck is basically plug and play right out of the box. The neck is super easy to install and fits most Stratocasters quite nicely, with no extra tweaking required.
If you want a quick and easy upgrade to a cheaper Strat, or you’re building a custom guitar, I would say that you won’t go wrong with this neck.
Let’s Talk Wood Alternatives and Tone
Whenever you buy an aftermarket or replacement neck, you’re making a bold move. How so? Well, because with a different neck, your guitar will sound drastically different. What we’re about to address are the “who’s who” and “what does what” of tone woods and neck swaps.
Most Stratocaster and Telecaster necks are made of maple. Maple is not only a very abundant type of tone wood but also a very solid and hard wood that works great with the truss rod keeping your neck straight and playable at all times.
Therefore, we’ll consider all necks to be maple and address the different fretboard types. If you’re not sure about the material you need for the tone in your head, read carefully before making a decision.
Maple is the first type of tone wood Fender used to create necks back at the beginning of the ‘50s. What Leo found out was that it was not only reliable and steady, but that it also produced a sound centered in the midrange with lots of high-end.
This is the kind of sound that can cut through a dense mix and be heard even when the horn section is blowing. So, if you want to add some high-end to your guitar, love the Keith Richards and Eric Clapton glass-like cleans, and want distortion to sound mean, maple is a great choice. Believe me, it can cut any mix.
From ‘59 on, Fender offered two options for the fretboards of their guitars. The first guitar to have a rosewood fretboard (sensitively more expensive and luxurious tone wood than maple) was the Jazzmaster. It was Fender’s attempt to captivate the Gibson players of the time.
The effect a rosewood fretboard has on a maple neck is adding a little sweetness to the equation and taming the high end. Yes, you lose some of the spank and rhythmic character of an all-maple neck, but melodic lines, arpeggios, and chords sound rounder and warmer.
If you love John Frusciante’s melodic side, love playing with overdrive, and want to take some of the high-end of your guitar away, then rosewood is a great choice.
Contrary to what most people believe, ebony is closer to maple than to rosewood in terms of tone. For example, if we were to compare a Les Paul Standard (rosewood) and a Les Paul Custom (ebony), we would have more spank, percussiveness, and midrange with the ebony fretboard.
Yet, in a Les Paul, ebony is coupled with mahogany, a wood type that’s rich in the low end. What happens when you pair it with maple? Well, the result is an uncanny sound that has a tight midrange, it’s very percussive but it works more on the rocking side than the glass-like tones maple on maple offers.
I remember very clearly picking up a Custom Shop Telecaster with ebony fretboard, a maple neck, and dual TV Jones pickups. It was a rocking beast ready to tear the fabric of reality in two. So, if you can afford it and want a guitar that can cut the mix, do the rocking thing, and look amazing, ebony is a great choice.
Fender isn’t the only company that makes replacement necks for their guitars. There are a number of companies that provide aftermarket solutions licensed and approved by Fender.
Warmoth offers very high-quality replacement necks for Strats as well as other Fender guitars and basses.
They are mostly only made from single tonewoods, so you’ll have to choose between either solid maple or rosewood necks.
Warmoth does offer some customizability for the frets and tuners if you want something a little more unique.
You can also get a neck with a turtle inlay instead of the standard black dots which I think is pretty cool.
A fairly popular brand of replacement necks, Mighty Mite offers affordable necks that are still Fender quality.
You won’t be getting any customization options, but their selection is pretty varied, with different fret and tonewood configurations.
There are also different headstock shapes and you can even get necks with reverse headstocks to make your guitar stand out a bit more.
Similar to Mighty Mite, Allparts offers a variety of configurations for replacement necks instead of customization options.
They are a bit more expensive than Mighty Mite, but they have a wider selection of neck configurations available.
Allparts’ selection of available finishes is also better, along with offering unfinished necks, if that’s something you’re looking for.
MusiKraft might be the standout among aftermarket brands as they offer completely custom replacement parts instead of premade parts.
Their customization options are extremely extensive, allowing you to choose everything from the scale length to the type and grade of wood, down to the type of truss rod and frets you want.
The freedom MusiKraft gives you to create the perfect neck puts them as my favorite aftermarket brand.
Of course, all this freedom does mean that the cost for a replacement neck can quickly increase, but if a truly unique and premium neck is what you’re after then you should definitely check them out.
Remember the Extras
Regardless of which neck you pick in the end, always make sure whether or not it comes with tuners, a backplate and bolts, etc.
Some replacement necks do come with tuners pre-installed, or you’ll have the option to have tuners pre-installed.
But if the neck doesn’t come with tuners, or you don’t want the tuners it comes with, make sure that you get tuners that will fit the neck.
With all the options out there, from Fender to the number of Fender approved aftermarket brands, I hope that this guide has helped you find the right replacement neck for your Strat.
Regardless of the reason for replacing a neck, when it comes to your instrument, try to never compromise on the essentials and settle for anything less than the best.