You are currently viewing Guitar Scale Length Explained – Full Guide

Last Updated on January 10, 2024 by Justin Thomas

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).


Oh boy, the guitar terminology. I just tackled nut width in a recent article, one of my favorite subjects that impacts the playability of any guitar, a lot. But now it’s time for another hot topic in the whole guitar playability scene…

Scale-length.

You will discover what scale length means, how it affects your guitar’s sound and playability, what kind of different scale lengths are out there, and which scale length you should choose…

Let’s get the guitar scale length explained!

What Does Guitar Scale Length Mean?

The guitar’s scale length means the distance between the nut (the piece made of bone, plastic, etc. that guides the strings to the tuners) and the bridge of the guitar (the bridge anchors the strings to the guitar). So scale length reveals the length of a freely vibrating string in a guitar.

Reveals what Guitar Scale Length Means

Scale length determines the spacing of the frets and affects the feel and sound of the instrument.

How is Guitar Scale Length Measured?

Scale length is measured from the nut to the 12th fret of the guitar and then multiplied by 2. Some also measure scale length by measuring the distance between a nut and a bridge.

photo reveals what is guitars scale length
How scale length is measured.

But measuring scale length directly from the nut to the bridge is not the most accurate way, since different strings might have different intonation/saddle adjustments and lengths. This is why it’s recommended to measure scale length from between the nut and the 12th fret and then multiply it by 2. This is the most accurate method.


What is The Standard Guitar Scale Length?

The standard guitar scale length is 25.5″ (647.7mm)

Here are the most common scale lengths of the 3 main guitar types:

Acoustic Guitar Scale Length

displays Grand Concert acoustic guitar bodyshape
Standard scale length acoustic guitar.

The standard scale length for acoustic guitars is 25.5″. But different manufacturers use scale lengths from 24.75 to 25.6 in their normal 6-string acoustic guitars.

The standard for 12th-string acoustic guitars is also 25.5″, but the scale lengths can vary between 24.724″ and 25.6″ based on looking at the different models available.

Electric Guitar Scale Length

displays Stratocaster electric guitar bodyshape
Standard scale length electric guitar.

The standard scale length for Stratocaster and Telecaster-style guitars is 25.5″.

Gibson Les Paul, single-cuts in general, SGs, and other Gibson-inspired guitars usually have a scale length of 24.75″.

Extended Range Guitars:

7-string electric guitars usually have scale lengths of 25.5″ to 26.5″.

Scale lengths of 8-string electric guitars normally wary between 27″ and 29.4″. 8 string electric guitars frequently use multiscale to ensure proper string tension for all the strings(more about multiscale guitars later).

Classical Guitar Scale Length

displays Classical Guitar acoustic guitar bodyshape
Standard scale length classical guitar.

The standard scale length for classical guitars is 25.5″.

You don’t usually see normal-sized classical guitars offering scale lengths below that, since that would make the strings way too loose and sound fuzzy & muddy. It’s much more common to find regular-sized classical guitars with a longer scale length (a bit above 25.5), this ensures the correct string tension.


Does Guitar Scale Length Affect The Playability?

displays Semi-Flatwound (Halfwound) acoustic guitar string

Scale length does affect the playability of the guitar.

  • When the scale length increases, so does the string tension.
  • The shorter the scale length is, the less tension the strings will have.

If you like a slinky feel and like to strings to bend easily to your will when playing, a shorter scale could be a good option. It’s also easier to fret notes & press the strings with a shorter scale since the strings have less tension.

If you like a firm and snappy feel, the standard scale length is most likely a better option for you. Also, if you are used to playing 25.5″ scale guitars, shorter scale guitars might feel alien (this works both ways of course).

Personally I like the feel of both, standard and shorter-scale guitars. Both have their pros and cons. But I still prefer standard scale guitars, even though I have small and weak fingers (I broke the fingers of my fret hand when I was a kid and 2 of the fingers will never work properly). The reason for my scale length of choice is probably the fact that I started my guitar journey with a 25.5″ scale guitar and have gotten used to that.


Does Guitar Scale Length Affect The Sound of A Guitar?

So does scale length affect tone…? Yes, scale length affects the tone and sound of a guitar. But only a little bit.

With acoustic guitars, the scale length is not a huge factor when shooting for the right sound, so the scale length is almost solely a playability factor. Shorter scale length acoustic guitars tend to have a bit less snappy and bright sound. But I would focus more on tonewoods and pickups of the acoustic guitar (for plugged-in tone).

With electric guitars, the thing that affects the guitar’s sound a lot more than the scale length itself is the pickup type, model, and pickup position.

It’s awesome that nowadays people really test and publish the results regarding questions like, “do tonewoods matter”, and “does scale length affect the sound”.

Check this video comparing the sound of exactly the same guitar, with exactly the same pickup, but with different scale lengths:

In What Other Ways Does Guitar Scale Length Affect The Guitar?

Here is the full list of things that scale length affects

  • Length of the freely vibrating strings
  • Fret spacing (when scale length grows, so does the space between frets)
  • Tone (shorter scale length tends to sound less bright and less snappy)
  • Playability (shorter scale length guitars have less string tension and shorter fret spacing(this can work better for small hands)).
  • Use of different tunings (if you have a short scale length with already low string tension, changing in to drop D or C for example, can make strings buzz and sound muzzy and fuzzy. The reason? The strings are super loose).
  • Action (shorter scale and super low action can sometimes be a bad mix, since the low tension of the strings can make them more prone to fret buzz)

Find our picks for the best electric guitars for small hands here and for the best acoustic guitars for small hands here.


How to Choose The Right Guitar Scale Length?

First, I recommend testing guitars with different scale lengths. Get to know the feel of them.

Then, weigh the pros and cons. You probably can come up with some of them yourself, if you have played guitars with different scale lengths. I also listed the pros of cons of different scale lengths below:

Standard Scale Length

displays Telecaster Electric Guitar Bodyshape
Telecasters have a 25.5″ scale length.

Stratocasters, Telecasters, Modern Stratocasters, etc. have standard scale lengths. All these points apply to longer scale guitars too.

Pros

  • Snappy and firm feel
  • Works well with super low action
  • Works well with drop tunings
  • Bright, crisp, snappy tone
  • Frets have enough room for larger hands

Cons

  • Strings are harder the press down than with short scale guitar
  • Not the warmest tone
  • Frets are larger and farther from each other (not a problem for most players)

Short Scale Length

displays Les Paul electric guitar bodyshape
Gibson Les Pauls have a 24.75″ scale length.

Les Paul, SG, Mustang, Firebird, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, PRS guitars, etc. have shorter scale lengths.

Pros

  • Looser strings are easy to press down and bend
  • Frets are closer to each other (better for small hands)
  • Warm and mellow tone

Cons

  • Not the brightest or the most articulate sound
  • More prone to fret buzz with drop tunings (using strings made for drop tunings helps)
  • Super low action doesn’t always work because of the looser string tension
  • Smaller fret spacing might be harder to play for really large hands

Multiscale Guitars

displays a guitar with fanned frets
Strandberg Boden Standard NX 6 with fanned frets. Photo credit: Sweetwater

Multiscale guitars have fanned frets. This means that most frets are on an angle on purpose to give a different scale length to different strings.

Heavier strings have longer scale lengths. This enables the use of drop tuning without heavy strings becoming too loose and causing fret buzz. Lighter strings have a shorter scale, and this prevents them from sounding too tinny, being too dense, and feeling hard to bend.

Check our complete list of Multiscale guitars here.

Pros

  • Fanned/angled fret can offer better ergonomics and prevent wrist pain
  • Helps to get rid of too loose & buzzing strings when using drop tunings
  • Thicker strings feel firm to play & sound good and lighter(high pitch) strings feel smooth to bend and don’t sound tinny
  • Multiscale guitars in general look awesome

Cons

  • Multiscale guitars are usually more expensive
  • Angled frets might require some time to get used to
  • A multiscale guitar doesn’t necessarily fix all the string problems when using drop tuning. You might still need to get string sets made for drop tunings.
  • Since saddles are not even close to a straight line, you need to get used to changing the positioning of your picking hand when palm muting different strings (some multiscale guitars do have a more regular type of bridge tho)

What Gauge Strings Are Best For Different Scale Lengths?

displays guitar strings and part of a guitar tuning machine

There are no rules for choosing strings or string gauge for different scale lengths. Different scale lengths combined with different kinds of strings and string gauge have their pros and cons…

  • Lower string gauge (009-042) with shorter scale guitar makes strings feel really loose and make use of drop tunings without buzz tricky, but the same strings can make using lower action without fret buzz easier. Also, light strings are extremely easy to fret.
  • Lower string gauge (009-042) with standard scale guitar makes strings feel looser than with thick strings.
  • Higher string gauge (011-050) with shorter scales can make use of super low action harder, but give strings a firmer feel and enable smoother use of drop tunings.
  • Higher string gauge (011-050) with standard scale guitar can feel quite tense and hard to press down if you are used to playing short-scale guitars, but these same strings make use of drop tunings smooth

Also, if you are used to playing shorte scale guitars but want to give a shot for a longer scale guitar, choosing a lighter string gauge might be a really good option since this makes the standard scale guitar feel more like a shorter scale one. This also works both ways.


FAQ

What Is The Best Guitar Scale Length?

I personally like the standard scale length of 25.5″ the most. It feels firm and not too loose or tense.

But that’s just me. If you like a loose feel of the strings, then a shorter-scale guitar might be just the right option for you.

If you are really picky about the correct feel and the pitch of each string, I recommend at least trying multiscale guitars out.

Are Shorter Scale Length Guitars Easier to Play?

Shorter scale length guitars are considered to be easier to play since the lower string tension makes strings easier to press down.

So, is longer scale guitar harder to play?

Yes, long scale guitar is considered to be a bit harder to play because of the higher string tension that increases the effort needed to fret & press the strings.

What Guitar Scale Length is Best for Beginners?

Overall, the standard scale length works really well for most beginners. That’s how I and many other guitar players started.

If you have tried a normal scale length guitar with a good overall setup and the strings felt way too tense for you, then I would recommend a guitar with a shorter scale length.

As for any guitar player, for beginners too, it’s recommended to test different guitars out before buying so that you can get the best feeling and sounding instrument for you.

What is A Scale Length of A Baritone Guitar?

The scale length of baritone guitars wary between 26.75″ and 27.7″. So, the baritones guitars are considered to be long scale guitars.

What Scale Lengths Do Fender Guitars Have?

Fender manufactures guitars with many different scale lengths.

Fender Guitars Scale Lenght Chart:

GuitarScale Length
Fender Stratocaster25.5″
Mini Stratocaster22.75″
Fender Telecaster25.5″
Fender Jazzmaster25.5″
Fender Meteora25.5″
Fender Mustang24″
Fender Jaguar24″
Fender Jag-Stang24″
Fender Duo-Sonic24″
Fender Acoustic Guitars25.6″ (some models might have a different scale)
Fender Acoustasonic25.5″

What Scale Lengths Do Gibson Guitars Have?

The standard scale length of Gibson guitars (both acoustic & electric) is 24.75″.

There are some rare exceptions like Gibson Dave Mustaine Flying V EXP that have a 25.5″ scale.

Check our picks for the best Gibson acoustic guitars here and for the best Gibson electric guitars here.

What Scale Lengths Do PRS Guitars Have?

6-string PRS guitars use the 25″ scale length.

What Scale Lengths Do Taylor Guitars Have?

The standard scale length for Taylor guitars is 25.5″.

Taylor Mini-series guitars have a scale length of 23.5″.

What Scale Lengths Do Martin Guitars Have?

The standard scale length for Martin guitars is 25.4″.


Conclusion

The guitar’s scale length affects so many things on your guitar. Simply put, scale length matters. Playability, tone, fret spacing, string choices, etc. It’s definitely not the biggest factor for me, but I would absolutely pay some attention to it when choosing a guitar.

So the first step is to educate yourself. Read this article through. Then, go and test different guitars out. After that, just pull the trigger and get the guitar that feels and sounds the best to you. It’s really that simple.

If you have any questions, just leave a comment down below, we at Guitaristnextdoor.com are here for you.

Keep rocking!

You might also like:

Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments