What is scale length on a guitar?

This article will guide those who need to learn more about the scale length of the guitar. We will explain the scale length in an in-depth manner and its importance, and how it can be measured. 

What is the Scale Length?

This is the distance between the bridge and the nut. There are different guitar types, and they each have a different scale length.

It is evident that for electric or bass guitars, there is no ‘standard’ scale length. So, you may ask yourself, how is the scale length of a guitar measured.

You can try to measure the distance between the bridge and the nut. In such an instance, the results will not be accurate. 

The guitars usually have different lengths since the intonation should be compensated for. If you measure the scale length in this manner, you will get inaccurate results. So, you should not measure the scale length from the nut to the bridge.

How is Playability Affected by Scale Length?

 The scale length affects the playability significantly. We’ll look into some of the ways the scale length usually changes the feel of the guitar.

String Tension

The scale length has a direct impact on the tension of the strings. If the scale length is longer, the tension will be higher. If the scale length is short, there will be little tension.

 The scale length of the guitar is just one of the factors relating to the string tension. In the remaining section, we’ll focus on the string gauge and how you will achieve the right tension depending on your needs. 

String Action

 The guitar’s action is the gap present between the frets and the strings. If the guitar has ‘high action’ and the gap is wider, there will be ’low action.’

 The string action is because of the tension present in the strings. Low tension strings usually require more room for them to vibrate, and you’ll manage to hear the fret buzz. When you tune the strings to a low tuning, you will notice the fret buzz is high, and the strings will become slack. 

 If the guitar’s scale length is longer, the tension will increase if the string gauge remains constant. You will then have lower action considering there is no string buzz. The short-scale guitar requires higher effort if the strings are light. With a short-scale guitar, you can get lower action only if you are using strings of a heavier gauge. 

Fret Spacing

 If you play two different guitars, you will notice that they feel different. As you increase the scale length, the fret distance will also increase. 

 For many guitarists, the fret spacing will not have a huge impact on the playability factor. If your hands are large or small, you will need a scale length that suits you better.

 If you want to decide the scale length that suits you, there is the need to consider your playing style. As you play the guitar, do you want to feel the strings as loose, or do you want to play with the strings tightened? 

 The preferred scale length will depend on the music style you want to play and the feel you prefer.

String Gauge and Scale Length

 The scale length usually affects the string tension. If the guitar’s scale length is longer, you need a higher tension to ensure that strings are well-tuned.

 You may wonder whether you will be stuck with strings that have a high tension when using a guitar with an extended scale. Fortunately, you will not be stuck with such strings. 

 The scale length is only one part of the picture. The other part is the string gauge, and it affects the tension, and you can change the string gauge such that the tension will be decreased or increased as per your needs.

 There are important things that you are supposed to remember if you want to tune down the guitar. If the guitar is tuned in the standard model and you then tune it down, you’ll notice that the strings will become slack. To improve the tension, you can purchase a guitar with a long-scale length or purchase one with strings of a heavier gauge.

 We have noted that the string gauge and the scale length align. Ensure you have matched the perfect gauge with the guitar’s scale length, and you will notice that the playability will be impacted significantly. 

Multiscale Guitars

 There is a high chance that you have come across the multiscale guitar. You may have asked yourself what it is all about. The multiscale guitars are quite rare for the six-string guitars; however, they are common for the extended range of the guitars.

Final Thoughts

 While looking at the scale length, we have learned more about how it can be measured accurately. Also, the scale length and string gauge are coupled together.

Leave a Comment