Short scale guitars offer a unique playing experience tailored for musicians who have smaller hands or prefer a more compact instrument. These guitars have a scale length typically ranging from around 22 to 24.75 inches, which is shorter than the standard scale length of 25.5 inches found on many full-sized guitars. This shorter scale length makes fretting notes easier as less tension is required on the strings. This improves playability and potentially reduces hand fatigue during extended playing sessions.
Especially appealing to beginners and younger players, shorter scale guitars provide a comfortable learning platform without compromising on sound quality. Seasoned players also turn to short scale models for their distinct tonal character and enhanced playability (which, as we’ll see, have been used to great success in the indie rock genre). With a slightly warmer and mellower sound, these instruments can be a perfect fit for studio work or performance where nuance and precision are paramount.
To save you from shopping around, here’s our pick of the best short scale guitars available.
- Best Short Scale Electric Guitars: Product Guide
- What are Short Scale Guitars?
- Buyers Guide – Key Considerations
Best Short Scale Electric Guitars: Product Guide
Fender Player Mustang 90
The Fender Mustang is much more than simply a Fender short scale guitar. It’s an underground indie rock classic used by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine, to name a few (Indie rockers Sonic Youth even have a whole section of their website dedicated to it.)
In terms of spec, this Fender Player Mustang 90 has a 24” scale length, small fingerboard radius (9.5 inches) with P90 single-coil pickups that will give you the signature snarly mid-range and punchy low end – the shoegazer’s dream come true. The Mustang’s P90 pickups can easily transition from a growling low end to clear, bell-like highs, giving you a sonic palette that’s surprisingly versatile.
With a six-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat bridge with bent steel adjustable saddles, it feels like an easy-to-play Strat.
It’s a dream for players looking for an easy-to-handle guitar, or for those looking to transition from larger instruments, and oozes non-conformity with its unique aesthetics, fat Fender tone, and tiny size.
Scale length: 24”
22 medium jumbo frets
‘C’-shaped maple neck
2 x Mustang single-coil pickups
Six-saddle string-through-body hardtail Strat bridge
Woods: Alder (body) / Maple (neck)
- Unique MP-90 pickups provide a rich, throaty tone with just the right bite.
- Comfortable size and weight, ideal for players of all statures seeking a more manageable instrument.
- The maple neck and fingerboard add to smooth playability and crisp articulation.
- No tremolo bar.
Taking inspiration from the original debut model from 1956, the Duo-Sonic is part of Fender’s offset series that oozes playability with its short scale and impressive sound (Jimi Hendrix even played one).
A C-shaped neck nestles comfortably in the hand, making extended sessions fatigue-free. Its maple fingerboard feels sleek, fostering quick transitions and fluid motion up and down the neck.
The Duo-Sonic doesn’t only sound great but stands out with its vintage aesthetic. The duo of single-coil pickups packs a punch, delivering that bright Fender sound that’s been a staple among legendary musicians.
Overall, the Duo-Sonic shines in delivering classic tones paired with modern enhancements, all tucked into a delightfully playable package. Whether you’re noodling at home, recording in the studio, or performing live, it’s a short-scale contender that’s tough to overlook.
For those seeking the quintessential short-scale experience with a side of vintage flair, the Fender Player Duo-Sonic is a great choice.
- Ideal size for players with smaller hands or a preference for compact guitars
- Bright, clear single-coil tones perfect for a wide array of musical styles
- Smooth and comfortable neck profile aids playability
- Some players may prefer the tonal variety of humbuckers over single-coils
- Might require initial setup for optimal playability
- Limited color options might not suit all personal preferences
Squier Classic Vibe 70’s Jaguar
The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar is an excellent choice that brings that vintage feel to your fingertips without cleaning out your wallet.
The sense of nostalgia is palpable when we strum the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar. Its surf green finish and laurel fingerboard immediately teleport us to a bygone era, evoking images of classic rock and roll. Picking it up, the slim “C”-shaped neck profile feels like it was tailor-made for our hands – ideal for those intricate chords and swift lead lines.
The dual Fender-Designed alnico single coil pickups deliver a characteristically bright, clear tone that’s surprisingly versatile. Whether we’re dialing in for that warm, rhythmic jazz or cranking up the amp for some edgy leads, the Jaguar switches roles effortlessly. It’s that dual-channel switching system and the responsiveness of this guitar that impresses us the most.
Even with its vintage character, the vintage-style tremolo system adds a modern touch, giving us the creative freedom for expressive string bends. In practice, its floating bridge and tremolo bar offer a wide vibrato range that, while it contributes to the Jaguar’s unique voice, does require careful handling to maintain tuning stability.
In sum, if it’s that classic Fender vibe you’re after with a few modern appointments, and if the short scale is up your alley, the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Jaguar might just be the guitar to get your creative gears shifting into overdrive.
- Vintage-inspired aesthetics and tones
- User-friendly with its short scale and slim neck
- Versatile sound from the Fender-Designed alnico pickups
- Setup might require some adjustments out of the box
- Floating bridge may need a bit of getting used to
- Might not suit those who prefer a heavier, modern sound
Squier Mini Strat
Shopping on a budget? Well, here we have a mini Strat. Cute, isn’t it.
It has the attributes you’d expect to find on a Strat, just scaled down a touch. The scale length is a teeny 22.75″, making it one of the smallest Strats available and great for young kids. You also get the standard ‘C’-shaped neck, a 20-fret fingerboard, three single-coil Stratocaster pickups, and a five-way pickup selector.
It doesn’t have a vibrato tailpiece and opts for a hardtail bridge instead. This basically means no whammy bar, and while it might be fun to play divebombs with a whammy bar, hardtail bridges are much easier to keep in tune which is important for a beginner.
Scale length: 22.75″
22 medium jumbo frets
‘C’-shaped maple neck
Standard single-coil pickups
Bridge: 6-Saddle Hardtail
Woods: Poplar (body) / Laurel (neck)
- Hardtail bridge for solid tuning stability – makes maintenance (from restringing to tweaking intonation) much easier.
- The low weight, comfortable neck, and close frets make this ideal for the younger players.
- Great for younger players.
- The body is made from basswood, meaning this may not be as long-lasting as others on the list.
Calling all your metalheads. The Mikro is set up like the full-size Ibanez GRG models, only shrunk down to size. Despite its small size, it still produces the tone you would expect from its larger siblings.
The scale length is particularly small at only 22.2 inches. The maple fingerboard and 24 medium frets make it perfect for shredding, so if you’re into metal, you’ll love it (though its dual pickups make it versatile enough to suit multiple playing styles).
The radius of the neck is quite large, measuring 12 inches. The lightness should offset this: weighing only 9 pounds, it’s pretty light.
- Set up like full-size Ibanez GRG models.
- Minature metalhead guitar.
- Large radius neck (12 inches)
Oscar Schmidt Double Cutaway 3/4 Size
Modeled on the Stratocaster, this mini guitar from Oscar Schmidt is worth a look at. It’s a ¾ sized double-cutaway model with a five-way pickup selector and a standard fulcrum tremolo bridge – giving this small six-string a few added extras.
Its tiny size and weight (only 5lb) makes it handy for traveling and busking or as a child’s first electric.
- Easily the smallest on the list, but still packs a punch.
- Extraordinarily lightweight and great for traveling musicians where portability is an issue
- Built to last. The company are reputable and have created a quality short scale.
- Too lightweight? May feel a bit toy-like for experienced players.
- For a ¾ size, it may be difficult to utilize the 24 frets. They are placed together closely which may be great for kids, but not so great for anyone with bigger fingers.
Peavey Captain America 3/4 Rockmaster
The Peavey Captain America is perfect for any comic book fan, child or adult alike. They’ve built the Captain America for the younger players – it’s light, comfortable to hold and easy to grip.
The controls are reasonably intuitive, perfect for beginners. You control the volume by a master switch and a three-way toggle switch. There is a coil-split activation which gives you a few more tonal options.
- Scale length is 22.5”, making it for kids.
- The rosewood fretboard makes for smooth playability and rich sounds.
- The decorative design is fantastic for children and adults with nostalgia for comic books.
- Basswood is one of the cheaper wood options. It sounds decent enough but isn’t as long-lasting as maple or mahogany.
- The sound quality may not be as crisp as some of the more expensive products on the list.
- This is designed for kids. Experienced players may find the instrument lacking in power.
Jackson JS Dinky Minion
In an eye-catching neon green finish, the Dinky Minion (nothing to do with the Minion franchise) is ideal for the younger metalhead. The 22.5” scale maple neck is small and comfortable enough for most kids to play sitting or standing.
It has two humbucker pickups, a single master control switch, and a master tone control. This allows children to mess around while keeping the actual process simple to master.
- Bolt on maple neck can withstand the vibrations produced by heavy usage, especially if used by heavy metal rocking.
- The heavier weight makes the Dinky feel more like the real deal than a toy.
- SA rosewood fingerboard creates a polished look and feel, giving the Dinky its rich, warm tone.
- The fingerboard radius is 12”, which can be tricky to hold for much younger players. However, older children and adults will have no issue getting used to the size.
What are Short Scale Guitars?
For example, Stratocaster and Telecaster scale length is the standard 25.5-inch length as you can see in the picture below. Fender does have short-scale models – namely the Jaguar, Mustang, and Duo-Sonic (which we review below) – which are all 24″.
The interesting thing is the Gibson full-length guitars are shorter by default. Les Paul’s scale length is usually smaller (around 24 ¾”), and their SG and Melody Maker models are also 24 ¾”. The Byrdland model goes as low as 23.5″, making it one of the smallest guitars in Gibson’s range.
Does short-scale mean there are fewer frets? Not at all, this is a common misconception. There is, however, less distance between the frets, i.e., the fret spacing is less. Some people call them ‘small fret guitars.’ For small-handed players, this is what makes one a lot easier to play.
How to Measure Guitar Scale Length?
Guitar scale length (often known as ‘guitar neck length’) is the distance between the nut and bridge. You work it out by measuring from the nut to the twelfth fret, then doubling it. For example, here’s a Telecaster we measured at 25.5″.
Along with body size and choice of wood, string tension is an essential factor for creating good sound. The shorter length between the nut and the bridge requires less pressure to keep in tune. This lower string tension also means less force is required to fret and pick the strings than on a full scale guitar, so they’re easier to play.
Surprisingly, this also affects sound – the lesser string tension required actually gives you a warmer tone. Low-tension strings better emphasize the lower, middle frequencies, which is especially useful for beginners who will make thousands of mistakes while learning. You may find that the diminished string tension contributes to a slight buzzing sound if your action is set too low. This is fixable by adjusting the action.
For the traveling musician, weight is a big consideration. Being smaller and lighter than a standard guitar, transportation is more straightforward. The smaller size also allows for easier storage, which is excellent for homes without much space. Thanks to their size, they also work really well as a student guitar too.
Buyers Guide – Key Considerations
Consider the wood type of the neck as different types are heavier or lighter. Maple can often be neck heavy, therefore not the best for children. Rosewood is also heavy and expensive but a great hard-wearing wood. Basswood is exceptionally light and can also be the cheaper option. As for the fingerboard, rosewood is good too for its warm, rich tones – the one downside is it often comes from Brazilian rainforests. Consider pau ferro, a sustainably sourced wood that captures the warmth of rosewood without destroying the planet.
You should also focus on the neck profile – it doesn’t affect the sound but can change the guitar’s playability.
The C shaped neck is the most common profile. Its comfortable oval shape is suited to most styles of playing. For beginners buying a short scale, go for a C-shaped neck.
Neck width is also important – ensure you have a diameter that fits comfortably in your hand. The standard neck width (of a Strat, for example) is around 43mm (or 1 11/16″) whereas your typical short-scale guitar should be slightly less.