The neck of a guitar can come in several overall lengths. The part of the neck we are concerned with is the scale length. What is the point of discussing scale length? The laws of physics (which I know little) suggest that the longer the strings the deeper or lower the note, or fatter as lots of players call it. which is why mandolins and banjos have such a high pitch – with a neck very much shorter than that of guitars or guitar like instruments.

The two most popular brands of electric guitars are Fender and Gibson, both have necks of different lengths. The Gibson is a bit shorter, at 24.75 inches, with the Fender only a tad longer at 25.5 inches. No mysteries here, it is necessary for both guitars to be able to play the same notes, and be tuned to the same pitch, and of course be easy for guitarists to hold down the strings against the correct frets. For this reason, if the neck of a guitar is slightly shorter, the frets will be packed more tightly together. Conversely, the longer the neck, the more spaced out the frets. The most obvious guitar to demonstrate scale length is a bass guitar, see how long the neck is? Longer lengths produces lower ‘fatter’ notes.

Well worth considering is the overall difference in length of the necks of most guitars is only .75 of an inch. However, it is well worth keeping a couple of thoughts in mind when choosing a guitar. Realistically speaking, comfort and sound play the most important roles in your choice. Especially if you are small or a younger person, obviously a shorter scale is desirable if you have smaller hands. Meaning it is easier it make the stretches between frets easier when one plays a long reach chord. For many it is the sound and playability.

To put it simply, you can buy cheap and expensive guitars with both length necks, so playing a bunch of guitars first is a good idea to get a feel for what you like. To be honest, it is a bunch of fun to go to a big retail guitar store like Guitar Center and play the different models that you may have an interest in. I can spend hours hooking up to different amps and guitars just for fun.

As I mentioned, playing with a guitar and trying out a several interesting of brands that fit your budget is essential before you buy. The main reason to try a variety of neck lengths to see which suits you best. If you find your fingers bunching up too much, you may need a longer neck. If you’re finding you’re having trouble stretching your fingers across the frets, than a slightly shorter worth more closely packed frets may be a better choice.

One of my several Strats is an Eric Clapton Custom Shop, it has a long neck and giant frets which I personally choose for my physical capabilities and the fat sounds it produces. I love the sound and playability almost to a fault. I can’t discount what a beautiful instrument a Stratocaster is, at least to me. This is my personal choice. My jammimg/noodling around friend plays a Paul Reed Smith guitar and that has the short scale. Obviously a PRS has the quality built into it that most folks want but can’t afford. I think his sounds great and it plays fabulous, like the guitar it is supposed to be, magnificent. I should mention the affordable new releases from PRS guitar company, because they have the PRS legendary quality of their more expensive models. Carlos Santana is a PRS spokesman.

Most Gibson guitars have the short scale too, and there are a lot a of great players who use this length of neck. My guitar heroes mostly played Fender Stratocasters, which was an influence to my choice of guitars.

It would be wise to consider the other differences in styles, such as whether they are bolted on, set or the kind which are described as neck-through. The necks that are set are glued on to the body tend to have more sustain. Bolt on necks are easier to adjustment, which can help to make a guitar feel more comfortable and sound perfect.

We detail what seems to be a small issue into an important one for you at Guitar Players Center for good reason. What ever your choice, make sure you play it several times to make sure. Any comments on lengths of necks would be great, please join in. Enjoy

21 Responses to Choose the Guitar Neck Scale Length That Fits..

  1. neck size definitely makes a difference. thanks for making it all make sense.

  2. Interesting post. Also to consider the width of the neck in case of small hands. Or the radius. Have posts on this topics, I guess they should be interesting, I like this kind of posts 😉

  3. The neck is so important. My acoustic has a wide neck and better for finger picking. My electric, G&L, has a narrow neck like a fender and is great for solos.

  4. i have a question…
    i have a guitar that i pieced together, and its neck is the wrong scale…
    i never had the original neck, and i have no idea how to figure out what scale it needs.
    i cant set the intonation, and im positive its the neck.
    i cant seem to find any sort of formula to figure out what neck i need…
    can you help me? ha.

    thank you!

  5. Pingback: Bass Guitar Secrets. |

  6. PRS necks are 25″ scale…and you’re right it makes a very big difference on which neck you get…also if you replace a neck it makes all the difference in terms of intonation…..

  7. An interesting study by luthier and scientist R.M. Mottola (Mottola, R.M. “Sustain and Electric Guitar Neck Joint Type” American Lutherie #91, 2007, p. 52.) where he documents that there was very little difference in sustain between the 3 basic neck types and that they findings were completely the opposite to commonly held beliefs. Here are the rankings with BEST sustain listed first:

    1. Bolt-Ons (e.g. most Fender guitars) — BEST SUSTAIN
    2. Set Necks (neck is glued to the body with a tenon joint; e.g. most Gibson guitars)
    3. Through Neck (necks & body made from the same piece of wood) — WORST SUSTAIN

  8. Mitch I hope you got the answer by now, but since I’m here: if you cut the length of any string in half, the tone jumps 1 octave. This means the neck length & fret configuration on any guitar must be set so the 12th (octave) fret is exactly half the length from the 2 ends of the string (i.e. from the bridge to the nut). For a given body the neck size is not 100% predetermined, but a longer neck must have wider-spaced & fewer frets; and a shorter neck must have closer-together & more frets.

  9. Dean Adkins

    Nobody has been able to answer this. I have a Westone with a 25.5″ scale over 24 frets. I cannot change the trem system to a Floyd because that sets the intonation back too far (1/2″ too far leaves it 1/2 step flat on notes above the 12th fret).
    My question to you; can I change the neck to a 22 fret job and bring the 12th fret in to compensate for the 1/2″ I need to lose on the tremolo?

  10. Thank you for the information on the reasoning for the 2 scale lengths. Does the distance from the nut to the bridge make a difference in the pitch or tuning of the guitar?

  11. a great post. but i really wanna know bout a guitar’s neck width. my fingers are kind of short and i want to know if a regular les paul or prs would suit me. i’m really fascinated by prs tremonti se which has a wide neck. can i play it?

  12. Glad to follow this blog. I love these gtiraus too. I have had a few from the late 60s and the 1970s. My 1967 ES-335 is a pleasure to play. I have never played one from ’64 or earlier .they must be amazing. Love your ES-345 the split fretboard inlays are my favorite, and the Varitone makes for some cool vintage vibes.

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