Posted November 20, 2013 by James in Blog

Guitar scale length explained


cale length is found by measuring the distance from the front of the nut to the to the centre of the 12th fret, then doubling that measurement.  The 12th fret marks 1 octave. The string length is not a good measure of scale length because the saddles are often staggered, so each string will be slightly different.

Scale LengthScale length has a lot to do with how a guitar “plays”.  This is because for a string to be in tune, it has to be pulled to a certain tension.  If the scale length is longer, then the string needs to be pulled tighter to be in tune.  The result of pulling the string tighter is that the string is more resistant to bending and will just feel “tighter”.  Of course, the other factor here is string gauge.  The lighter the string gauge, the easier it is to bend, so you can combine scale length and string gauge to find the right feel for you.

What is standard?

Lets compare the 3 main scale lengths that we most often find today:

Gibson : 24-3/4″ (629mm)

PRS: 25″ (635mm)

Fender: 25-1/2″ (648mm, also Ibanez and other super strat styles)

As you can see, Paul Reed Smith placed himself right in the middle, capturing the market of those who wanted to combine the “easy” playing of a Gibson and the dynamic tone of the Fender.

What does this mean for me?

Well, it’s good to be aware what impact the scale length of your has on its playability, especially when combined with string gauge. If you have a 25-1/2″ scale length and are using .11 gauge strings, you’ll probably find that it fights you when you try to bend strings.  So consider dropped back to .9’s or .10’s.  It’s very much a personal taste and also depends on finger strength and experience.  Similarly, if you use a shorter scale length, you can probably use a thicker gauge string without noticing too much difference in playability.  It’s a case of trial and error until you find the sweetspot for your ability and style of play.


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