The length of a guitar is among the most important characteristics of the instrument. The overall length of a guitar determines how the instrument feels in the hands, how it plays, how it sounds, and how easy it is to handle. The scale length of a guitar is another important measurement to understand, as it defines how the guitar sounds, how well it stays in tune, and what the capabilities of the instrument are.
The typical electric guitar length is 38” – 40” (96.52cm – 101.6cm). The typical acoustic guitar length is 42” (106.68cm). and the typical classical guitar length is 40” (101.6cm) or 26” (660mm). The overall length of a guitar is determined by the type of guitar and the design of the instrument.
There are several reasons why understanding the overall length and scale length of a guitar is important, but how do you know these measurements for your guitar? Let’s explore guitar measurements to help you understand them, how to find them, and identify the length and scale length of the most popular guitar models.
Guitar Length vs. Scale Length
Before we dive into the specifics of guitar length and scale length, let’s take the time to understand these critical measurements and what they mean. Understanding the differences between these attributes of the guitar and the significance of each is the key to understanding what these measurements mean for you.
The difference between the overall guitar length and the guitar scale length is that the overall length of the instrument is the length from the top of the headstock to the bottom of the body, while the scale length is the length of the guitar strings that resonate when played.
The overall length of a guitar is the measurement of how big or how long the actual instrument is. The scale length of a guitar indicates the length of the strings between the nut and the saddle without considering any other guitar measurements at all.
The scale length of the instrument is important because it determines the type of strings that can be used on the instrument, how well the instrument will stay in tune, the overall tension of the strings, the intonation of the instrument, and how tight the strings feel to play.
Guitars with a short scale length feel tighter to play, but they usually require heavier gauge strings to be tuned well and often need to be tuned to lower tunings than E Standard to maintain tension and tuning stability.
Guitars with long scale lengths require thinner strings to play in E Standard comfortably, but the longer scale length means that these strings can be detuned and retain their tension, making them ideal for drop tunings, alternate tunings, and very heavy gauge strings.
Standard scale; length guitars are a comfortable mix of short and long-scale length guitars and usually are the “sweet spot” regarding tuning stability, versatility, and playability.
Guitars that have a large overall length typically have a longer scale length as well, as these instruments are typically larger than others. Guitars that have a small overall length, such as ¾-size guitars, typically have shorter scale lengths simply because they are smaller in size.
Larger guitars provide more physical space on the instrument for extra strings and complex playability, but shorter-length guitars are easier to play for smaller people and children, and they provide a wide range of guitar access and playability that is not possible on larger instruments.
Now that we understand the important difference between these two measurements and the significance of each, let’s explore the different overall lengths and scale lengths of the different guitar types.
Typical Guitar Lengths
Understanding the definition and importance of overall guitar length is crucial, but the unfortunate reality is that guitar lengths can still be a confusing topic, even if you do know what the measurements mean.
The reason why overall guitar length can be so confusing is that there are so many different guitars and so many different guitar types, and most guitars have different overall lengths.
The difference in overall length from one guitar to another may be minor, or it may be drastic, depending on the guitars in question. However, there are some general lengths that most commercial guitar manufacturers adhere to, with very little deviation.
With that in mind, let’s identify some of the typical overall lengths for electric, acoustic, and classical guitars.
Typical Electric Guitar Length
Electric guitars are the guitar type that has the largest variation in overall length. This is because the overall length of a guitar is measured from the top of the instrument to the bottom of the instrument, and there are so many different guitar body and headstock types.
The size and length of the guitar headstock and body contribute to the overall length of the instrument, which is why there is so much length variation in electric guitars.
Some electric guitars have very long, 6-a-side headstocks, while others have very small headstocks with tuners distributed across both sides of the headstock. Some guitars have very large or long bodies, while others may have very small or short bodies. These factors influence the overall length measurement of the instrument.
With that in mind, however, there is a typical length that most guitars are made to for the sake of comfort, playability, and keeping the overall size and weight of the instrument within reasonable tolerances.
The typical overall length of full-size electric guitars is 38” – 40” (96.52cm – 101.6cm) overall. The neck of electric guitars is typically made to very similar scale lengths depending on how many strings the guitar has, but the overall length varies widely.
Typical Acoustic Guitar Length
Acoustic guitars are among the largest of all guitars, and they are typically very similar regarding overall length. The body dimensions and shape of acoustic guitars vary significantly depending on the instrument, but the overall length remains largely the same across all acoustic guitars.
Steel-string acoustic guitars are large compared to other guitars simply because they need to have a longer scale length for string tensions and a larger body to acoustically amplify the sound that the strings produce.
The typically overall length of a full-size steel-string acoustic guitar is 42” (106.68cm). There are very few variations of overall length for acoustic guitars, even though the bodies of these instruments vary widely.
Typical Classical Guitar Length
Classical guitars are the smallest full-size guitar, and they are also the most standard of all guitars. These instruments almost never vary, except if they are specifically built to be a smaller overall size for smaller guitarists or for children.
The standard size of classical guitars makes them easy to play for all guitar players, and the smaller size of these guitars compared to others is ideal for the lower tension that these guitars operate at.
Typical classical acoustic guitars are 40” (101.6cm) in overall length. This size rarely varies, except if the instrument is made for smaller guitar players. There are very few classical guitars that are made with different body shapes and even fewer that are made with irregular dimensions.
Typical Guitar Scale Lengths
Now that we have learned the typical overall length of the three standard guitar types, it is now time to talk about the scale length of these instruments as well.
This is an important distinction to make, and many guitar players are confused regarding the scale length versus the overall length of their instrument.
Let’s identify the typical scale length of the three main types of guitars.
Typical Electric Guitar Scale Length
As is true regarding overall length, the electric guitar has the most varied scale length of all guitar types. Some electric guitars even have a multi-scale scale length which means that each string on the instrument has a different scale length.
The variations in scale length among electric guitars can be confusing to understand, but there are a few common threads for us to follow and identify the most typical scale length used for modern electric guitars.
The standard full-size modern electric guitar will typically have a scale length in the range of 24” – 26.5” (609.6mm – 673mm). Even custom multi-scale guitars will have a varied scale length within this range.
This is the ideal scale length range for electric guitars based on the optimal tensions that this instrument operates.
Specific major manufacturers have their own preferred scale lengths, such as the standard 25.5” inch scale length that Fender used for most of their guitars and the standard 24.75” scale length that Gibson uses for all of their production guitars.
Typical Acoustic Guitar Scale Length
The scale length for steel-string string acoustic guitars is somewhat interesting, as while these guitars are the largest of all regarding overall dimensions and length, they have the shortest standard scale length of all guitars.
Even full-size acoustic guitars shave a very short scale length in comparison to other guitars and have a standard scale length that is even shorter than that of classical acoustic guitars.
The standard scale length of full-size steel-string acoustic guitars typically is 24” – 25.5” (609.6mm – 6047.7mm).
This shorter scale length is typical because these instruments require a higher tension than other acoustic guitars to operate well, which requires the vibrating length of the strings to be shorter than that of other guitar types.
Typical Classical Guitar Scale Length
Classical guitars are among the smallest of all guitar types, but these instruments have some of the longest and most standard scale lengths of all guitars.
Most classical guitar builders use one of two standard scale length sizes. These two standard sizes are 25.6” (650mm) and 26” (660mm). There are some boutique classical guitar luthiers who use their own custom guitar lengths, but these tend to be the most standard lengths that classical guitar makers use.
The shorter of the two standard scale lengths for these guitars provides a more comfortable instrument to play, but the length of the two options makes the instrument louder overall, as it requires a larger body size and length dimensions, as well as producing higher string tension.
The overall longer scale length of this guitar versus the other guitar types is due to the need for higher string tension, as classical guitars use very low-tension strings in comparison to the steel strings used on other guitar types.
Examples of Typical Guitar Length
We have now covered the typical scale lengths and overall lengths of all standard guitar types, but we have learned along the way that there is a range that guitar manufacturers build their instruments to.
There is no one standard guitar length that is used across every guitar type; instead, there is a range of lengths that guitar can be built to.
With that in mind, let’s identify the overall lengths of the most common guitars made by the biggest names in guitar building, to help you get a better reference for the over sizes of the typical guitar from each type.
This table specifies the overall length of the most common guitar models for acoustic, electric, and classical guitars:
|Gibson Les Paul
|PRS SE Custom 24
|Taylor Academy 12-eN
|Kremona Solea Artist Series
Understanding guitar length is a challenge simply because there is no one standard length that any guitar type is made to. Every guitar model seems to be a different length, and all guitar types have their own optimal range of lengths.
All that really matters is the guitar lengths that you find comfortable. Take the time to experiment with different guitars of various lengths to find the instrument that is most comfortable for you. Finding the ideal guitar length for you can change the howl you play for the better and improve your overall abilities on the instrument.