Famous Double Necks and the Guitarists that Made Them

A few years back at NAMM, the Fender booth featured a nine-neck Custom Shop guitar that included a body and neck from their most historic designs. While this could double as a prop on Spinal Tap, it got me thinking of the untold story of multiple neck guitars. Sure, we all visualize Jimmy Page playing a red Gibson SG twofer, but what about the lesser-known double necks down through the decades?

If you’re looking to make a real statement at your next gig, hunt one of these down and your set won’t soon be forgotten.

Steve Vai’s Jem Tripleneck

Why not break the mold right out of the gates? And who better to do that than Steve Vai. Chances are you’ve seen Vai’s Jem designs that continue to define the core of the Ibanez line. To expand this instrument and Vai’s playing potential, it wasn’t as simple as slapping three of these together. Rather, the three necks are nearly entirely different instruments: up top is a twelve-string, next a six-string, and down below a fretless neck. To make the sound of that third option even more versatile, the pickups on the fretless are sustainers to allow for a true, classic-sounding string instrument vibe.

Eddie Van Halen’s Kramer Duo

Vai isn’t the only shredder who realized he could do more with multiple necks. As Van Halen’s Wolfgang designs evolved with multiple companies over the years, it was Kramer who rose to the challenge of delivering a double-neck for one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Though only two of the instruments were made—one yellow and the other red, but both in his signature stripe designs—their hardware, components, and configuration are unforgettable. Perhaps the most arresting feature is the neck material choice. While the lower six-string was a standard maple neck, the top six-string was built out of aluminum for an entirely different tone, feel, and potential for speed.

Geddy Lee’s Rickenbacker 4080

While the bass guitar plus six or twelve-string neck configuration is not uncommon to double necks, few can pull this design off with as many compelling sounds and classy designs as Rickenbacker. Since the brand is largely built on the back of their iconic basses and semi-hollow twelve strings, naturally a double-neck of this combo would hit the mark. Perhaps the most famous example of this style of Rickenbacker duo is the 4080 model originally designed for Geddy Lee of Rush.

Clearly all three of these multiple neck players didn’t deploy their instruments as a gimmick, to simply turn some heads at a gig. Rather, they spoke into the design of these custom guitars so that the doubling up on the instrument somehow changed it altogether. Suddenly, the sonic and creative potential of the guitar was compounded. They could play more, play differently, and ultimately, play better.

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One thought on “Famous Double Necks and the Guitarists that Made Them

  • September 15, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Spinal Tap? Seriously? A five neck should always make you think of Rick Nielsen and his checkerboard Hamer.


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