Do you know your guitar scale length?

Do you know your guitar scale length?

When you’re choosing a new (or a first) guitar, scale is something to take into consideration. Guitars come in different scale lengths depending on the manufacturer or style, and the length of a guitar scale can impact its playability and tone. 

“Scale length” is the measure of distance between a guitar’s nut and its bridge. The “nut” is at the top of the neck, near the headstock, and the bridge is the device that supports the string below the neck. 

How do you measure the scale length of a guitar?

A good rule of thumb is to measure the distance between a guitar’s nut and its 12th fret, and then double it. Guitar scale lengths are generally measured in inches, since most of the world’s largest guitar manufacturers are American. 

What are the scale lengths?

Full-size guitar lengths have scales that are longer than 24 inches, whereas a ¾ scale guitar will have scale lengths of 20 to 24 inches. Baritone guitars and guitars with extra strings – (7 string/8 string/9 string) guitars typically have longer scales to make sure the notes on the lower strings can sound clear.

What’s the difference between scale lengths?

Fret spacing is the biggest difference between shorter- and longer-scale guitars. Shorter scale guitars will have frets that are slightly closer together than their longer-scale counterparts. As scale length increases, so does the distance between frets. It’s not a huge difference, but something to consider, especially if you have large or small hands. Closer-together frets also may be easier to get used to for beginners. 

The longer the scale of a guitar is, the stronger the tension needs to be to hold the strings in tune. Shorter scale guitar strings require less tension, and might be easier to play. 

String gauge also is a factor when it comes to string tension, so if you find longer-scale guitars harder to play, you can compensate by fitting it with a smaller gauge of string. 

How does scale length impact tone?

This gives shorter-scale guitars a warmer sound, since their strings have more “wiggle room” to vibrate. Because they require less tension, it’s easier to bend the strings on a shorter-scale guitar. 

Since longer-scale guitars have more string tension, they tend to produce a stronger sound with clear low ends. 

What about ¾ scale guitars? 

A ¾ scale guitar can be purchased for considerably cheaper than a full-size guitar, but often don’t have the capacity to produce the sound a full-size guitar can make. However, the small size makes finger exercises easier, making it a good choice for a first guitar or a practice guitar. 

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