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Thread: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

  1. #1
    Forum Member OldStrummer's Avatar
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    Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    This coronavirus lockdown makes me do all kinds of weird stuff. For example, today I watched the Tribute to Ginger Baker concert and saw Will Johns playing a nifty guitar, so I started looking for it. I think it's an Ernie Ball Music Man. But what struck me was that it seemed shorter in neck length than all the Strats that were on stage, so I started checking out short scale guitars.

    My KLŌS travel guitar is a 3/4 size. I really like playing it, and I like the sound. Why? Maybe it's because I have very small hands, and the size just "fits?"

    (Side note: Thank you Kenny, for increasing the character count!).

    I wondered what other guitars might have a shorter scale. So began my research.

    The first thing I learned was that Gibson and Fender guitars typically have different scale lengths. Fender guitars are longer; Gibson guitars are shorter, although they've gotten longer over the years. And, apparently, PRS guitars have shorter scale lengths by design. So, what does this all mean?

    My research brought me to the site of Stringjoy, a maker of custom instrument strings, where I learned a lot about the science of strings, sound, and scale. Quite interesting, to me at least!

    So now I'm going to pull out one of my solidbody Gibsons and see how the scale compares to one of my Fenders. I might also look into buying a set of "custom" strings from Stringjoy.

    Does anyone else find the different scale lengths of their guitars making a noticeable difference in their playing? And would you consider buying a 3/4 scale guitar for regular playing/performing? If so, which one? Or which brand?

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    Forum Member ch willie's Avatar
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    Re: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    It's definitely easier for me to reach on a Les Paul because of the shorter scale even more comfortable for me to play, and yet, I grab for a Fender more often.
    Guitar freaks of the world unite!

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    Forum Member DanTheBluesMan's Avatar
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    Re: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    Quote Originally Posted by ch willie View Post
    It's definitely easier for me to reach on a Les Paul because of the shorter scale even more comfortable for me to play, and yet, I grab for a Fender more often.
    that's funny because I'm almost the same way. I like Gibson and their scale length but I seem to grab a Fender more often. I don't know why.
    "Live and learn and flip the burns"

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    Forum Member OldStrummer's Avatar
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    Re: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    Add me to the list of "grab a Fender first" crowd! Yet, here I am, playing my ES-225 a lot these days!

    Speaking of which, according to this scale, published on the Stringjoy site, my ES-225 is actually a "true" 24 3/4" scale, as opposed to the newer Gibbies.



    Now, I'm tempted (there's that coronavirus affect, again!) to add a short scale solid body with more frets (the ES-225 has only 20). It's tough finding a short scale guitar that isn't being marketed as a "beginner guitar for girls!" I have found two: A Fender Duosonic and a PRS SE 245 (the 245 seems to refer to its 24.5" scale). I like the look of the PRS. The Fender is 24" with a maple neck. Both can be had for less than the price of a Fender Player Tele or Strat.



    Honestly, I really like the looks of the PRS!

  5. #5
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    Quote Originally Posted by OldStrummer View Post
    Speaking of which, according to this scale, published on the Stringjoy site, my ES-225 is actually a "true" 24 3/4" scale, as opposed to the newer Gibbies.
    The scale length on an ES-225 is 24-9/16". They were built between 1955 and 1959. I've measured my '59 and this is correct (for my '59, at least).

    The biggest difference that I notice between Fender and Gibson scale length is that the low strings on a Gibson don't have the "snap" or "pop" that they do on a Fender. They sound and feel slower to recover from plucking and be ready for the next note to me.

    Also, a drummer friend told me that chords on a Fender sound like individual notes where on a Gibson they sound more blended. I feel the same way and have associated that with the combination of the Fender's longer scale length and single coil pickups rather than humbuckers. I could be proven wrong on that one.
    Last edited by Don; 05-17-2020 at 01:25 PM.

  6. #6
    Forum Member jrgtr42's Avatar
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    Re: Scale Length. The Science and the Reality

    The funny thing is, Ernie Ball guitars do have a 25-1/2" scale length.
    But I know what you mean, they LOOK shorter - I used to sell them, and while they're very well built instruments, and they play great, I always feel cramped when I'm playing them.
    I think that the scale is moved further down towards the butt of the guitar than others, resulting in what appears to be a smaller guitar.
    And this is all the ones I played - Axis / EVH, Silhouette, Luke, and so on.
    I'm a relatively lanky guy with long arms for my height, so it was never comfortable, but I know a lot of people find them extremely comfortable to play.

    Personally, I stick with the standards, 24.75, 25 and 25.5 for guitar, 34 for bass. (750 for classical guitar, though I don't have one of those at the moment.)
    I've played the mustang and other shorter scale, and although they have a sound of their own, it's an adjustment to make.
    Oddly, I can go from Fender at 25.5 to Gibson at 24.75 with no issues. (and I was just questioning myself with Don's and OldStrummer's posts, and my Gibsons are all at 24.75" (plus or minus a millimeter or 2 for intonation,) Fenders at 25.5 (ditto) and PRS SE Soapbar 2 at 25 even.
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