Long and Short Scale Length Guitars

Typically, what is the effect on tone with a shorter or longer scale length...all other things being equal? i.e. say between a Martin 000-28 and a om-28?

Generally (all other things being equal which they never are) the longer scale length is usually a little harder to play because the strings have to be tightened more to reach the same pitch and the frets are a little further apart. Because of this increased tension though, the guitar may be louder. Sometimes a guitar with a short scale length may be made with a longer body, thus making the tone different.

Bob, Gman ( o )==#

This is a most difficult question to answer. After speaking with some close friends and some personnel at the Martin guitar company, all were hard pressed to give any personal opinions! You will just have to play them!-was the standard answer. As you know a 25.4 (D-28) scale will feel more stiff and the frets will be further apart than shorter scales. However, the instrument can sound absolutely great. Some of the best sounding 00/000 size guitars were the Santa Cruz guitars. They would blow out most dreadnought sizes when A-B tests were done. I was honored to meet Ren Fergerson (custom shop expert with Gibson/Bozeman, MT), and he was explaining the problems of building a custom instrument. The things that the luthier needs to know is:

a. Do you play standing with a pick and strap?
b. Do you sit on a stool with the guitar touching your leg and stomach?
c. Do play very dynamically in a recording situation or do you beat the crap out of the guitar for maximum volume?

The best makers of guitars can build most any scale and make the guitar suit your tastes. I also am sure if you compare guitars in the $1500 & up range your choices will be clear. If you test guitars under $1000, the best dollar per sound ratio will probably be the full scale dreadnought since all of the factories mass produce this style.

Donated by: Tim Lawson

One thing that was not mentioned and may be a key consideration is the string tension based on scale length; at least indirectly. The longer the scale, the greater the string tension. The greater the string tension required, the more the top has to be reinforced to support that tension. The more reinforcement, the less sound from the top. But the more tension in the strings, the more energy is imparted to the top when they vibrate. If you find a guitar that can reduce the required bracing at higher string tensions (i.e. Breedloves), it should result in a better sounding guitar. The extra string tension at longer scale length also buys you something when going to alternate tunings like Open D or Open G where your reduce the overall tension. The longer scale length allows you have extra tension at these lower tunings. In fact Bob Brozman has a guitar named after him (I think Santa Cruz makes it) with a 27.x scale length that is specifically designed for playing in lower tunings to provide additional string tension. Longer scale length guitars should sound better in open tunings. So the sound benefit of scale length is an indirect one. The shorter scale guitars should free the top to vibrate more; and the tops on these guitars should be braced lighter. But the strings probably impart less energy to the top because of the reduced tension....which is why getting a clearcut answer is so difficult to come by...it probably depends more on the overall guitar design.

Donated by: Paul Kucharsky

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