Does guitar scale length matter? When it comes to electric guitars, it really does – especially if you want to tune down. In this guide, we’ll show you the scale length of all the most popular guitars on the market right now.
Electric Guitar Scale Length By Brand/Model
|Guitar Brand/Model||Scale Length (inches)||Scale Length (mm approx.)|
|Fender Jaguar / Mustang / Duo Sonic||24||610|
|PRS 245, Gretsch (various models)||24.5||622|
|PRS McCarty 594||24.594||624.7|
|Gretsch (various models)||24.6||625|
|Ibanez Artcore (various models)||24.7||627|
|Gibson Les Paul / SG / Designer / ES||24.75||629|
|PRS Custom 22 / 24, D’Angelico (various models)||25||635|
|Standard: Fender Stratocaster / Telecaster / Jazzmaster / Lead||25.5||648|
|BARITONE: Schecter, Ibanez, ESP & Chapman (various 7-string guitars)||26.5||673|
|Reverend (various baritone guitars)||26.75||679|
|Ibanez & ESP (various 8-string guitars)||27||686|
|Chapman (various baritone guitars) & Schecter (various 8-string guitars)||28||711|
|Gretsch (various baritone guitars)||29.75||756|
Electric Guitar Scale Length: What Does It Mean?
If you go to any website right now to buy a guitar, and you take a look at the specs, you’ll see “scale length”. A lot of people see this, and never give it a second thought. So what exactly is the electric guitar scale length, and what does it mean?
Guitar scale length actually confused me quite a bit as a teenager. I had no idea why some guitars were easier to play, while others were not. It wasn’t until years later that I actually started paying attention to scale length, and how important it is! Why was the Les Paul easier to play fast rhythms on? Why was the Fender easier to solo on?
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Guitar Scale length is determined by the distance between the bridge and the nut at the guitar. If you take a look at out post on guitar anatomy, you’ll see which parts of the guitar we are talking about. In the USA, we measure this by inches, while in most other countries this is measured by millimeters. Today, we will be looking at guitars measured in inches, for convenience, as most websites will list guitars this way.
If you look at the table above, you’ll notice that the fluctuations between the different models and brands doesn’t seem that vast. What’s a couple of inches really mean in the grand scheme of playing the guitar?
Your guitar scale length can actually mean a lot. If you like to tune down, for instance, a longer scale guitar is going to be needed. Scale length also affects string tension. If you like to play lighter strings yet also retain good string tension, then a longer scale length might be for you. The opposite can be said for having “slinkier” strings.
Its important to note, that the scale length is distributed down the whole neck. It makes the entire neck a little longer, and makes the frets either closer, or further away from each other evenly across the neck. So it has nothing to do with the bridge being further back, or extra length tacked on at the top of the neck.
It also affects how comfortable a guitar is in your hands. Different scale lengths have either longer, or shorter distances between the frets. This can mean a lot for people with smaller hands, or shorter fingers. I often hear “I cant play guitar, my hands are too small!”. This is a misnomer, as there are guitars out there that will fit just about any hand!
Scale length seems pretty important, huh?
It can actually mean a lot more than you think at the end of the day. Between being comfortable to play, and tuning down… electric guitar scale length can mean the difference between loving and hating a guitar. Let’s break it down to the easiest descriptions possible, and explore guitar scale lengths and what they affect when it comes to playing.
Guitar Scale Length: Short Scale 24-25 Inches
Gibson, PRS, Fender, and a few other brands all use what we think of these days as “short scale” guitars. These guitars have the shorter scale lengths, and that works for a lot of people. However, even these companies have exceptions. But we will look at the general idea behind each company/model.
At the top of the list we have Fender guitars. But, only a few Fender models are short scale. These models were all known a “student” guitars at the time they were originally produced. The 24 inch scale length made it easier for young people and new students to play the guitar. Over the years, people like Kurt Cobain made these guitars famous again, for professional use. Kurt said in many interviews that these student guitars were more comfortable for him to use on stage.
Originally, this smaller electric guitar scale length spawned from acoustic guitar, and jazz guitar scale lengths. Gibson got the scale length for the Les Paul directly from jazz guitars that Gibson made in the 1940’s and 50’s. Gibson is a “historic” company, and like to keep things the same as they were when the classic models were made. This is where Gibson gets 24.75” scale. I like the Gibson scale for playing rhythm guitar, as the frets are closer together. Past the 12th fret, however… it can get a little cramped.
But not if you have small hands! Gibson is perfect for people learning guitar, and have a hard to stretching to reach the upper frets! Gibson and Fender also make short scale bass guitars for the same reason, but that’s a different topic.
If you go up a quarter of an inch, you get PRS. Paul Reed Smith guitars are one of the only brands that work almost exclusively with a 25” scale length. This scale length is a trademark of PRS innovation, and Paul has a very good reason behind it. When Paul started designing guitars in the 1980’s, he wanted a scale length that was in between Fender and Gibson.
The 25 inch scale length is now a staple of PRS guitars, and they play differently than any other guitar for this reason. This “in between scale” is one of the many things that sets PRS Guitars aside from the competition. PRS definitely marches to their own beat when it comes to design.
With these shorter scaled guitars, you can use heavier strings to achieve standard tuning. If you are tuning down, I usually suggest a different guitar than any of the ones listed above. I personally wouldn’t tune down past Drop C with such a short scale. As every time you tune down further, you need to up the string gauge.
Guitar Scale Length: Standard Scale/Fender Scale 25.5”
When the electric guitar was fist coming into it’s own, there were tons of different innovations. Leo Fender in particular, was not a guitar player at all. He repaired electronics like radios and transistor appliances. So when he delved in to guitar making, he made the scale length of the instrument a little longer than the other companies like Gibson.
Leo Fender noticed that guitarists were playing solos a little further up the neck. So he extended the guitar scale length, to make those frets higher up the neck easier to access! This has now become a common guitar scale length, and you will see it on tons of different brands and models.
The “Fender Scale” as we know it is 25.5 inches. Fender may have started this trend, but almost every company uses this scale length these days on at least a few models. Ibanez designed the “super shredder” guitars after Fender models in the 80’s and so far, this scale length has stuck for the vast majority of guitars on the market. The Super Shredder guitars were meant for fast lead playing, which was exactly what Leo Fender had in mind!
Standard Tuning works great on these 25.5 scale guitars, and allows you to use light strings while still keeping tension. This guitar scale length is also a great jumping off point for down-tuning. The 25.5 scale guitars are also great for doing D standard tuning, Drop C, and Drop B tunings. However, once you get to drop B, you’ll need pretty thick strings.
Most Metal guitarists prefer the Fender scale length, especially on 24 fret guitars. Reaching those high notes with accuracy and speed is essential to several different styles of Metal and Hard Rock. This also gives you more room to fret a not and bend it easily on the higher frets.
If you have average size hands, this guitar scale length will do just fine for most players. There’s a reason that it is pretty much the standard these days. Personally, I prefer 25.5 over the “Gibson scale” listed above for playing solos. The frets have a little more room between them, and that makes it easier to play higher up the neck.
But what if you want to tune really low?
Guitar Scale Length: Baritone 26.5-28
Danelectro Guitars introduced the idea of a baritone guitar back in the 1950’s. Shortly thereafter, Fender jumped on the baritone bandwagon also. Since the 1950’s almost every guitar company makes a few baritone models, usually in small batches since the demand is not as high. Ibanez and Schecter are the two companies that consistently make large batches of baritone guitars.
Baritone guitars have seen a bit of a revival in the past few years, due to extreme down-tuning. This means right now, there are more baritone models on the market than ever before. Gone are the small batch runs. Most “Metal Oriented” brands offer tons of baritone options these days, built for super low tunings.
A six string baritone is often tuned B to B, if the scale length is 26.5-27 inches. However, some of the early adopters of baritone guitar used an even longer scale length to use the baritone guitar like a “six string bass” essentially. This means the tuning was standard E tuning, but just a whole octave lower! In the 1960’s, you can hear these low tuned guitars on tons of Country Western albums.
But later down the road, heavy metal guitarists got ahold of baritones. This changed things a little! Since the advent of “Djent” Metal, and progressive Metal styles, you see more professional guitarists using baritone focused instruments. The lower you tune, the more real estate you need on the neck!
But it’s not just six stringed guitars that get the baritone treatment these days. When Ibanez made the first production 7 string, the designers made it to Steve Vai’s specs, so these 7 strings were the standard guitar scale length: 25.5. Now this works fine if you keep the 7 string in standard tuning. But lately, when it comes to Metal, guitarists are tuning down much lower than that. It’s popular nowadays to tune all the way down to F# on a 7 string guitar!
Companies like Schecter only make 7 string guitars with a 26.5 scale these days. Ibanez also followed suit, and now produce tons of models with a baritone length with the RGD Series. This allows the 7 string guitars to be tuned standard, or lower much more easily. Baritone length really shines with 7 string guitars, and I am happy to see so many companies adopt it.
When 8 string guitars came around, guitarists noticed that they needed even more scale length. These 8 string guitars are tuned standard from E to F#, high to low. This is getting close to being a whole octave down from standard tuning on a 6 string guitar. You’re going to need some room for those lower tunings!
Most 8 string guitars start at the 27 inch scale, to accommodate the lowest string. This is getting awfully close to bass guitar territory! This is fine for playing rhythm guitar, but it makes it playing solos much harder since the frets are so far apart. Luckily, we have “multi-scale” instruments now, that make these behemoths easier to play!
Multi Scale? What in the world is that? When it comes to guitar scale length, it’s the best of both worlds.
Guitar Scale Length: Multi-Scale Guitars
This is the black sheep of guitar scale length, at least it is for now. Multi Scale, or “Fan Fret” guitars have really gained popularity in the past 5 years or so. Upon first look, these seem really confusing. Maybe you’re thinking “That looks hard to play!”. But the design is deceptively easier to acclimate to than at first glance.
Multi Scale guitars actually make a lot of sense, and address the issues with having such a long scale with baritone guitars. With a standard baritone, all of the strings are the same type of tension. This can make the treble strings a lot harder to play, especially when performing a solo. Multi Scale fixes this guitar scale length issue!
With a Multi Scale guitar, you get the best of both worlds. The bass side strings are usually a baritone scale length, while the treble strings are standard scale: 25.5. This not only solves the natural string tension problems you have with a baritone, it also allows you to use customized string sets. These custom string sets let you use lighter gauges for the treble side and heavier strings for the bass side.
So… is it two guitars in one, essentially?
Its easy to look at Multi Scale as two different guitars, separated in the middle of the guitar. One side is baritone, and the other is standard. This makes 8 string guitars and 7 string guitars alike, easier to maneuver. It DOES take a little getting used to. Different brands use different designs to achieve the “fan fret”.
Some brands have a “slight fan” to the fret positioning. While others have a more extreme “fan” to the fretboard. The best way to see if it’s right for you, is to try the different brands out.
Guitar Scale Length: Wrapping Up
Different people need different things. This not only applies to guitars, it applies to literally everything. For some people, scale length is a “make it or break it” feature on a guitar. Everyone has different reasons for this as well.
I have at least one guitar from all of the categories we have talked about today. For me, the scale length is more about function. I like shorter scale instruments when playing/recording rhythm guitar. For solos? I prefer the “Fender Scale” as the 25.5 inch scale makes it easier for me to solo. For my 7 strings and 8 string guitars, I prefer baritone guitars.
But other guitarists prefer a specific scale, and that’s the scale they stick with. It’s all up to personal preference! I have a friend that only likes the “Gibson Scale” as h has smaller hands, and finds the shorter scale to be easy to play. At the end of the day, you should try them all out and see which one is for you!
What is guitar scale length, or scale length in general?
Scale length is the measurement from the bridge of a guitar, to the nut of the guitar. The scale lengths vary wildly, between 24” all the way to 29” on guitars.
What scale length do I need for standard tuning?
Standard E tuning works great with 24.75” all the way to 25.5” when it comes to guitar scale. Keep in mind, you can use lighter gauge strings with the 25.5 inch scale.
How long is baritone scale on a guitar?
Baritone scale starts at 26.5 inches for guitar, with the standard being about 27 inches these days. It can go to almost 30 inches on some models!
What guitar scale length is best for down tuning?
You can down tune any guitar, but 25.5 is the best place to start if you want to tune lower than drop D tuning. The longer the scale, the further down you can go!
Which companies make baritone guitars?
Almost every company makes baritone models these days. If you want a more traditional guitar, Fender and Danelectro make excellent baritones. Schecter and Ibanez make tons of models for Rock/Metal players.
What is the best guitar for small hands?
For people with small hands, the best scale length is 24.75”. The most popular companies that make this guitar scale length are Gibson and Epiphone.
Does Scale Length affect guitar tone?
It definitely does, especially when it comes to extended range instruments. Longer scale lengths allow you to use lighter strings if you want your sound to be brighter, and heavier strings if you want to have warmth and stability.
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