Many people are confused about the difference between long-scale and short-scale guitars.
It’s understandable, considering they look so similar!
So what’s the deal?
What is the difference between them? The main difference between long-scale and short-scale guitars is that one of these guitar types has a longer neck than the other. The length of this neck determines how high you can reach on each string with your fingers, which in turn affects how high or low you can play notes on your guitar.
In this article, I’ll explain how it affects their playability, which type is better for certain types of music, and why some manufacturers offer both.
What’s the Difference Between Long-Scale and Short-Scale Guitars?
As the title suggests, there is a difference between long-scale and short-scale guitars.
To begin with, let’s define what makes up these two types of guitar scales.
Short-scale guitars tend to be a bit smaller in size and have a shorter, tighter scale length.
A short-scale guitar’s fretboard is typically much wider as well.
Long-scale guitars are on the other end of the spectrum with a longer, wider scale length.
The long-scale fretboard is also smaller in size and width which makes it easier to reach notes across these frets.
The difference between the two can help you decide which one will work best for your build or musical style preference, but there are still other factors that come into play.
For example, the string tension (how tight or loose they are) can also make a difference depending on your preferred playstyle and sound preference.
The bottom line is to try out these different types of guitars before you commit to buying one so that you know exactly what it will be like once it’s in your hands!
Short-Scale Guitars vs. Long Scale Guitars: How to Choose Which One Is Right for You!
Long-Scale Guitars: When you first look at a long-scale guitar, it may appear as though the strings are way too far from the fretboard.
That is because of their extended scale length which gives your fingers more space between each guitar string and adds to its tonal quality!
The extra distance also allows for easy transitions when playing chords and the high-pitched tones will sound crisper.
Short-Scale Guitars: On a short-scale guitar, you’ll notice that the strings are closer to the fretboard which makes them easier to play for those with smaller hands or who want extra control over their instrument!
This type of guitar is great for beginners because they are easier to master and control.
Choosing between short or long-scale guitars is mostly a matter of preference, but if you’re unsure which one would be best for you – it might help to consider your hand size!
Do short-scale guitars sound different?
As briefly mentioned above, short-scale guitars are built using thinner strings, but this isn’t the only reason they sound “faster.”
Guitars with short scale lengths sound warmer and fuller than guitars with long scales since the lesser amount of tension allows their strings to vibrate more freely.
In general, all other things being equal (such as guitar size and construction), a shorter scale length will have less tension than a longer one, so it can vibrate more easily at higher frequencies.
In addition, shorter strings are less powerful than longer ones.
So if you cut the length of your guitar’s scale in half (for example), it will be easier to play and make higher-pitched sounds.
However, it won’t sound as loud or full since there isn’t enough tension on the string for that.
Therefore, short-scale guitars are often used for fast soloing and rhythm work where the sound needs to cut through.
Why use a short-scale guitar?
A smaller-scale guitar has less string tension, making it more comfortable to play.
This makes playing chords or bending the strings simpler.
If you have tiny hands, the closer fret spacing is an advantage, but if you have big hands, the fretboard may seem cramped.
Some guitarists prefer short scales because of their sound and feel. Some like them for visual reasons or simply to stand out from the crowd!
Short-scale guitars have a different tone (less boom) but still, pack an impressive punch in your amplifier.
Why use a long-scale guitar?
The longer neck scales allow for more string tension, making it easier to play the higher frets.
This makes playing solos or bending strings simpler. If you have big hands, the further fret spacing can be an advantage but if your digits are tiny, you might find them fiddly.
Some people also find a longer scale neck gives them more of a ‘bite’ on the strings.
The 24-fret guitars were traditionally favored by jazz guitarists for this reason, but they have become popular with rock and metal players too as it makes playing fast legato runs easier.
The six-string bass is another instrument that benefits from long-scale necks because it allows for the lowest notes to be played with ease.
When choosing a guitar, you should always try out different models and keep in mind that your tastes will change over time too, so don’t feel obliged to stick with one scale length forever.
If you are used to playing short-scales, try a long-scale and vice versa to see what you prefer.
You can always change the scale length of your favorite guitar with a simple neck replacement too. This makes choosing one more flexible in case you choose to make changes down the line.
Are short-scale guitars good?
The strings on a short-scale guitar are typically more elastic than those on a long-scale one. Because of their low tension and relatively little neck, it is simpler to play chords and notes. They produce a brighter, punchier tone that’s warmer tonally.
If you’re a beginner, this might be the best choice. However, if you’ve been playing for a while or want to play more complex stuff like solos and lead guitar lines, it will probably not suit your needs.
If you’re an advanced player or want a versatile guitar that can handle many different genres, long-scale might be your best choice!
How much does scale length affect tone?
The scale length determines the location of all of the overtones and harmonics on a string.
A longer scale produces a clearer, ringing sound because it allows more room for the harmonic to breathe.
Consider how a Strat’s shimmer sounds. Tension is also increased as a result of this increase in tension, which lends clarity and focuses to your playing.
The sound of the long-scale is clear, bright, and powerful; ideally suited for studio recording.
However, on stage, it can be difficult to get your tone heard.
The shorter scale lends warmth to a guitar’s voice while still providing clarity in both rhythm and lead parts.
If you’re playing with distortion or overdrive, a shorter scale allows the tone to be heard clearly without getting lost in feedback.
The short-scale is ideal for live playing because it doesn’t get drowned out by overdrive or other effects but still provides clarity and warmth.
In both cases, however, you will need pickups with low output resistance to avoid losing your high frequencies when you lower the volume.