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Choosing Scale Length

Not all guitarists take note of a guitars scale length when making a new guitar purchase, however it does affect a couple of areas when it comes to playability and tone. Choosing scale length is more important than you think. Scale length is the length of the strings from the nut to the bridge of the guitar. This scale length affects the distance between each of the frets – the shorter the scale length, the closer the frets are to each other. The tension of the guitar strings is also affected, the shorter the scales, the less tension there is on the strings making bending them a little easier. The longer scaled guitars may however accept heavier gauge strings easier as due to them having more tension there is less risk of fret buzz.

Scale length on an electric guitar can vary by around 3 inches from shortest to longest. Although this doesn’t sound like much a guitarist will certainly feel this difference straight away and may actually not be as comfortable playing the guitar if they are not used to playing that scale length.

A shorter guitar scale length will suit those players more who have a shorter hand-span and shorter fingers. A scale that is longer will suit those players who have a wider hand-span and longer fingers. This of course is not to say that you won’t enjoy playing a longer scale guitar even if you have shorter fingers - a lot of guitarists are not aware of their scale length. If it feels comfortable, play it.

The guitars tone is also affected by scale length. If you have a shorter scale guitar this will have a warmer tone, whereas a longer scale on a guitar will generally add a brighter tone. The scale length effect on tone can arguably be demonstrated by the brighter tone of a Strat at 25.5 inch scale when compared with a warmer toned Les Paul at a shorter 24.75 inch scale.

If you want to know what scale a guitar is the method to measure this is to measure from the bottom of the fretboard side of the nut to the middle of the 12th fret and then times this distance by two.