What is Scale Length on a Guitar?

Published Categorized as Buying Guides, Guitar selection

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You might have seen the term scale length when looking at guitar specs and wondered what is scale length on a guitar?

It’s easy to understand once you know but it’s also a bit of a confusing way to do it so if you don’t know it would be hard to figure it out for yourself.

How to Measure the Scale Length

If you’ve seen scale length in any guitar specs you’ve probably seen something like 25.5″ or similar or 23″ for small body guitars. Scale length is usually measured in inches.

And then maybe you’ve tried to measure the body of a guitar, from the bottom of the lower bout to the top of the headstock, only to find that it’s more like 41″ – or maybe 36″ for a smaller bodied acoustic.

This doesn’t make any sense then of course.

To measure the scale length of your guitar you’ll need to measure from the nut (the font edge, the fretboard side) to the middle of the 12th fret – and then double that measuremnt.

So if you measure 12 inches from the nut to the 12th fret then the scale length will be 25 inches.

what is scale length on guitar

Why Would Anyone Want to Know this Measurement?

that’s a good question.

Different scale lengths make for quite a different guitar in terms of playability and tone.

Playability

Firstly, a guitar with a shorter scale length will have less space between the frets – because they still have to fit 12 frets but they have to fit those frets in within a shorter amount of space.

A shorter scale length is great for guitarists with smaller hands as it means there’s less of a gap to stretch between frets.

But it also tends to make it more difficult to fit your fingers into the higher frets – particularly if you have bigger fingers.

A shorter scale length will also produce less tension and so will be easier to play and easier on the fingers.

Tone

A longer scale length will produce a brighter, stronger, more resonant, more defined tone.

A shorter scale length, on the other hand, will produce a warmer more mellow tone.

Neither is better than the other, it just comes down to personal preference and the style or music/tone you are trying to achieve.

Of course scale length is only one factor that affects the tone and playability of a guitar.

brown acoustic guitar on brown wooden floor
Photo by De an Sun on Unsplash

What are the Most Common Scale Lengths on Acoustic Guitars?

The most common scale lengths on acoustic guitar are as follows:

23″ (580mm) Scale Lengths

This scale length is common on guitars specifically designed for children and for travel guitars.

23″ is also a common scale length for these types of guitar.

24″ (610mm) to 25.5″ (648mm) Scale Lengths

Grand Concert/0/00 shaped guitar, Grand Auditorium/Grand Performance/000/0000 shaped, Dreadnought shaped, Jumbo shaped guitars (and any other guitars that with medium to large sized bodies) will have a scale length anywhere from 24″ to 25.5″.

The most common for larger bodies like Dreadnoughts and Jumbos is 25.5″ but you can get these sizes with shorter scale lengths.

Typically smaller shaped guitars like Grand Concerts, 0s, 00s etc will have a shorter scale length.

Over 25.5″ scale lengths

Classical guitars usually have scale lengths of between 25.5″ and 26″.

Thanks for Reading

I hope this post has answered your question.

Any questions or comments very welcome in the comments section below.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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