A short-scale guitar is easier to play because the string tension is lower and the fretting hand can stretch easily. Whether this guitar type is better to play than others is a matter of preference.
Scale length is the nut-saddle distance, roughly speaking. When it comes to short-scale guitars, the length is below 25.4 inches, approximately. Everything above that value is considered long.
It has significant effects on playability, and many beginners choose it due to easier playing and reaching chords.
You can’t say the short-scale guitar is better than the long-scale one because it’s a subjective thing – guitarists should only listen to how they feel. For example, my cousin said his fingers are too long, and he always fails while playing on the short-scale guitar type.
I will talk about both positive and negative things when it comes to short-scale guitar and its effects on playability and tone. You will find out something new that will help you to enrich the knowledge needed for this beautiful guitar world and to choose the best guitar for you. This article includes:
- Pros And Cons Of Short-Scale Guitars
- Is A Shorter-Scale Guitar Easier To Play?
- Is Short-Scale Guitar Better For Small Hands?
- Does Scale Length Affect Sound?
- Do Short-Scale Guitars Have Less Tension?
- Why Use A Short-Scale Guitar?
Pros And Cons Of Short-Scale Guitars
Short-scale guitars are great for playability improvement, getting a warmer tone, and they also help guitarists with small hands.
On the other hand, this scale length can be uncomfortable to play on for some people – it can feel floppy and cause less volume on an acoustic and less sustain on an electric guitar.
There is no rule where preference needs to be in focus because every guitarist has his/her taste and feel for a particular instrument.
You can’t say a short-scale guitar is the best for everyone if it suits you. You may like its sound and playability, but some people might not.
Here are some pros and cons explained in detail.
The Pros Of Short Scale Guitar
- Short-scale guitars have improved playability. They are easier to fret notes, bend, and reach chords, especially barre or odd chords. It’s all because of the less string tension, so even weak beginners’ or kids’ hands can play it easily. Guitar strings are easier to press down, and there are minimal chances for you to get a shoulder, neck, or arm sprain.
- Short-scale guitars provide warm tone and fuller tone because the lower tension allows guitar strings to vibrate more freely.
- Short-scale guitars are more reachable. This is great for people with small hands – as the short scale guitars allow them to form chords easily. Length of scale is one of the most important factors that small-handed or short-fingered guitarists need to consider when buying a new instrument.
The Cons Of Short Scale Guitar
- Short-scale guitars are harder to play for people with long fingers. Frets are slightly closer together, so they feel they need more space for reaching chords or bending. Therefore, playability is not improved for them, and they feel very uncomfortable on the short-scale length guitar fret.
- Short-scale guitars have less string tension. This is a bad thing for heavy-handed people because the short scale guitars will give a floppy feel, and it feels looser when strumming.
- Short-scale guitars can’t give you a strong and focused sound with great low-end clarity. That can be a negative side if you prefer this sound type more. That tone produced thanks to a shorter scale length causes less volume on an acoustic and less sustain on an electric guitar if the same pickups are in play, of course. You can avoid this by choosing heavier string gauge size, the right pickups, and using signal boosters.
- Challenging to use capo passed the 3rd fret with short-scale guitars because there isn’t much space left.
Is A Shorter-Scale Guitar Easier To Play?
A shorter-scale guitar is easier to play due to less string tension and frets being slightly close together, but everything still depends on a guitarist, his hand’s anatomy, and his/her subjective feel.
As I said, less string tension helps guitarists with weak muscles strength to still play with no struggles. It’s easier to fret chords, notes, and to bend.
Short-scale guitars mean the frets are slightly close together, so the player can easily reach odd or barre chords. It’s something like having a capo to ease your playing because frets are less wide when you go from the nut to the saddle.
I recommend buying short scale guitar for beginners and kids – because they still have no strength in their muscles to press the strings down and not cause a fret buzz.
Of course, consider neck properties and a body size. Scale length can ease the job, but you also need to think about other factors.
To help you to understand this better, here is the article about these factors compared on Strat and Les Paul, two giants in the guitar world – Thickness Of Guitar Necks Compared: (Strats Vs Les Pauls)
Is Short-Scale Guitar Better For Small Hands?
A short-scale guitar is better for small hands because of the easier reach between frets.
This guitar means less string tension, softer action, and frets being slightly close together.
Guitarists with small hands and short fingers can hardly reach chords or bend properly. Therefore, shorter-scale guitars are an excellent choice for them because they are going to improve their playing, and everything will be much more comfortable and easier.
If your instrument has improved playability, you will have no shoulder, neck, or wrist pain, and you will reach chords easily, even the odd-shaped ones.
There is no such thing as having too small hands or too short fingers for playing guitar – it’s all up to the instrument choice.
Many small-handed people only consider scale length when buying a guitar, and they struggle again while playing.
The rule is to consider body size and neck properties besides scale length. One factor without the other two won’t be as effective as expected.
If you want to know more about neck properties and to find out which one is the best for you, check this amazing article – Thin VS Thick Neck Guitar: Playability & Tone Difference
Does Scale Length Affect Sound?
A scale length does affect the sound produced by an instrument – it determines where all of the harmonics and overtones sit on a guitar string.
Besides the fact that wood and pickups have an impact on the instrument’s sound, it’s important to mention that scale length also plays a huge role in it.
If you take an acoustic guitar as an example of how the sound is created, you’ll see that strings’ energy, top surface area, and enclosed air volume actually determine the sound characteristics.
If you change any of the links of this chain, the sound will be affected. In this case, scale length has an impact on the strings, so the enigma has just been solved.
Do Short-Scale Guitars Sound Different?
Guitars with short scale lengths sound more fuller and warmer than long-scale guitars.
A more clear, ringing, strong, and focused tone is created by a long-scale guitar because there is more room for the harmonics to breathe.
As you shorten the scale, everything becomes more thickened up and warm. The string tension is less, so this effect was pretty expected – you ordinarily loosen strings to gain the warmth, right?
The best comparison is when you have the same wood and pickups included – that’s how you know they don’t affect the sound, too, and you’ll get relevant results.
Do Short-Scale Guitars Have Less Tension?
Short-scale guitar strings do have less tension due to shortened distance between the nut and the saddle.
This is pure physics – the tension on each guitar string is proportional to the vibrating string length squared. You can better understand this if you read more about Mersenne’s laws.
And because of this fact, short-scale guitars are excellent if you can hardly press the strings down due to weak hands muscles or any other reason. It helps you to bend and play easier in general.
Why Use A Short-Scale Guitar?
Short-scale guitars have lower string tension, are more elastic, and are easier to play.
There are a lot of pros to having a short-scale guitar, such as good playability and a nice, warm, fuller sound.
It eases reaching chords, especially odd and barre ones, and also bending. For warm-sound lovers, one piece of information – you don’t have to loosen strings every time on your regular guitar because short-scale guitar gives you that all the time, and I bet it’s going to be an important part of your arsenal.
Also, if you have small hands or short fingers, that’s a great reason for you to buy this guitar type.
A short-scale guitar is easier to play due to many reasons, such as lower string tension and easier fret-hand stretches. It helps you to reach chords and to bend easier.
On the other hand, many people are not satisfied with playing on short-scale guitars because it’s just not what they are searching for. And that’s absolutely normal and expected – a different guitarist means different preferences and feelings.
I recommend you consider scale length when buying a new instrument. Of course, consider it, along with other factors, such as body size or neck properties.