It goes without saying that short scale guitars are perfect for the younger player, or the player with petite palms! These guitars can do wonders for a kid’s confidence, and transform a struggling player into a smooth, natural rock master! However, a short scale might be right for you, too!
At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 8 Best Short Scale Electric Guitars On The Market
Kona Guitars KE55N KE55 Series (Budget Choice)
Gibson SG Special (Editor's Choice)
If you get into jazz, classical or start doing arrangements of music not written originally for guitar, you’ll eventually find yourself trying to perform some very weird chord shapes. This goes double if you play fingerstyle.
Plenty of people will tell you that with practice, you’ll be able to develop your reach enough that it won’t be a problem.
But that’s not strictly true. Yes, you might be able to make the stretch, but quickly? No chance. If you’re playing at home you might be able to live with slow changes, but the audience at a gig won’t give you 5 seconds to stop playing and adjust your fingers for one chord.
There’s two real options:
OPTION 1: You rewrite the passage so it’s easier to play. But, if you don’t have a solid grasp of music theory, this won’t be possible. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find an easier way of playing it.
OPTION 2: The second option is to get a guitar that’s a better fit for you physically. If you can get yourself one of the best short scale electric guitars, you’ll find a lot of problems that arise because of the distances between frets melt away.
Were going to assume you're here for option 2! Here's a quick glance at our fave short scale guitars...
Buyer's Tips: What makes a good short scale guitar?
Although we’ll be looking just at electric guitars here, the principles are mostly the same for any kind of guitar.
The best short scale guitars rely on the same things that other guitars do in order to remain top quality.
- First off, a good choice of tone woods is essential. Without having a good tone, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot if you replace a well crafted guitar with a cheap model just for the shorter scale. Rosewood fingerboards, and mahogany or maple bodies are worth being fussy about.
- Second up, since reach is the issue you’re trying to fix, you’ll want to take a look at a couple of other things that go along with the problem of length. You’ll want a neck width that comfortably fits in your hand so that you don’t ruin your technique. You’ll also want to make sure that the guitar has the right height of action for your preferences. Generally speaking, the lower the action the easier the guitar is to play.
- You might also want to consider the size of the body. If the guitar you want has a smaller scale size, it generally tends to translate to having a smaller body too. This can really reduce the volume and sustain, which will mean you have to adjust to these new parameters before playing in front of a live audience again.
Essentially, the factors that make a good short scale electric guitar are the same as what makes any guitar good. If you look for guitars that are well made, have carefully selected electronics, the right combinations of tonewoods and a thorough inspection of the intonation etc, you’ll ensure that you always pick the best.
OK, let's look at each of our favourites in some detail. To make things easier for you, we've added pros and cons for each one, as well as a video demonstration so you can see them in action. So without further ado, let’s take a look...
Best Short Scale Electric Guitars
1. Fender Mustang 90
With a 24” scale, the Mustang is a big drop down from the standard scale sizes, especially if your current guitar has a 25.5 or even 24.75 scale, you’ll instantly notice a massive difference in playability.
As is true to all fender guitars, this model is exceptionally versatile, durable and well crafted.
It’s an instrument that you can use to play many styles, with style!
- The guitar is small and lightweight, so it’s a good option for travelling and also makes it a perfect option for younger players.
- The bridge is a through-body, which helps to increase the sustain a little more to help offset the small size.
- You might need a while to get used to the shorter scale, even if a standard scale feels too large. Thankfully, to help with this the fretboard radius is a fairly standard 9.5, so you won’t have to completely relearn how to use your fretting hand!
- The MP90 pickups are a letdown on this guitar, with only the mid position offering a high quality sound.
- Aesthetically, the Mustang isn’t a very pleasing design. It does the job of playing music just fine, but doesn’t look very nice.
- There’s no tremolo bar, but the shorter scale helps to offset this by making bends much easier to pull off.
Let's take a look at this product...
4. Laguna LE50
For the truly diminutive guitarist, the Laguna LE50 has a scale length of 22.75” making it one of the easiest to play. However, it has some rather glaring design flaws. On the plus side, it is dirt cheap and sounds far better than a typical entry level guitar would normally be expected to.
- Easily the smallest, with a very short scale and a slim tapered neck.
- Smooth neck that feels almost like you’re playing on a long stick of butter, which is helped even more by the jumbo frets
- Has a very nice fat crunchy tone thanks to its two humbucker pickups, which are surprisingly good for such a cheap instrument.
- For a ¾ size guitar, it can be impossible to use the full 24 frets, as the highest frets are spaced so closely together that you need to be very precise in order to play accurately beyond the 20th fret or so.
- A number of the pieces aren’t put together very well, key issues being the rear cover plate and the pickups, which are a little loose and the wiring on them is not perfect.
- Will definitely require attention by a technician before it can be played in earnest.
Let's take a look at this product...
8. Jackson JS 1X Dinky Minion
Sized at 22.5”, the charmingly named ‘Dinky Minion’ is perfect for small-handed shredders.
It has a Rosewood fretboard on a maple neck: an instant sign of quality, and is available at a nicely budget-friendly price!
The fretboard markings are sharkfin - which looks cool! - and the frets on this one are large! So large, they’re named ‘Jumbo Frets’.
This is a cool guitar, but if jumbo frets aren’t what you’re after, your choice might lie elsewhere...
- Perfect for speedy playing!
- Humbucker pickups for a heavy metal sound.
- Stylish black finish on quality woods.
- Not well suited to all styles of playing.
- Mass produced - so the quality of build and electronics is less than higher end guitars.
- You may want to get it set up before you start playing.
Let's take a look at this product...
Since most of these guitars featured different scale lengths, it’ll be hard to say which one is “best” as each will be a better fit for every individual. However, if this is ignored and everything else instead is taken into consideration there are two clear choices.
For a less budget conscious approach that needs a slightly smaller than standard scale size, the Gibson is an excellent choice due to its high quality craftsmanship. Gibson have earned their excellent reputation, and owning one - and being able to play it(!) - is invariably something to be proud of. It might be slightly on the large side for a child, but for a teenager it will be able to stay with them as they get older and they won’t feel that it’s suddenly too small.
For the budget conscious, the Kona is a more affordable option that still looks great and has decent electronics inside, and has a smaller scale size that is definitely noticeable compared to a full size.
If you’re into your classics, either the Fender Mustang or the Squier Mini Strat are great models to play in all styles on, and if you lean more towards metal and shredding, then the Ibanez, Peavey and Jackson models will have no doubt caught your eye!
Whichever guitar you decide is right for your - or your child’s - small hands, we hope it serves to entertain and to inspire.
Rock On! 🙂