Scale Length

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Laudiesdad69
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Scale Length

Postby Laudiesdad69 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:33 am

I have been playing a Ramirez 1A at my friend's guitar shop. It's an extended scale, like 663 or 664 or something. Anyway, there are certain things that I can't do on it as the scale is just too long. This really only affects the first few positions, but it is still somewhat difficult to play. There is a jig that I wrote and I can't do it at all on this thing as I do pull offs from the second fret and fifth fret and I sometimes come down on top of the fret. I'm 6' 2" and have somewhat large hands, but I just can't get used to it. Anybody else have that same problem when playin a scale longer than 650mm? I'd be really interested to hear from any of you 6 footers out there.
Scott

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Michael.N.
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Michael.N. » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:17 am

Not everyone at 6' 2" has very long fingers. Measure them and report back. You just need the measurement of pinky and index, from the first crease where they join the palm to the very outer tip of the finger.
The other factor is the ability or amount of stretch that you can do. Perhaps it's just a matter of spending more time and becoming accustomed to the longer scale length. There's one thing that I do know, I wouldn't have a hope. I have to drop down to 630 mm with a narrow neck. I'm nowhere near 6' 2" though.
Historicalguitars.

Joe de V
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Joe de V » Tue Jan 03, 2017 4:18 pm

Remember the often mentioned phrase by guitar teachers "Not One Size Fits All". The market place idea that you should select your guitar based on age and or height is a mistake that have created a lot of discouragement to new guitar students everywhere.
You play the guitar using your hands/fingers and these are the key factors in determining what scale length is best suitable for a player.
Finger dexterity is compromise when you have to "strain" in reaching multiple frets particularly when playing chords.
Remember that the distance of the fingers between the pinky and the index and or thumb is a bit shorter when you are playing. The often used measure of the spread hand should be modified to allow for this one factor - My spread hand measure is a slightly wider than when I actually need to play the fret-board.
In my own personal experience I can play a longer period of time in comfort / less finger fatigue /when using a shorter-length scale than when using a 650mm scale.

2handband
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Re: Scale Length

Postby 2handband » Tue Jan 03, 2017 4:49 pm

Look at it this way... I'm 6'2 and have large hands even for my height. I'm STILL getting a 630mm instrument (probably a Stauffer replica) early next year. I've been delving into Aguado in a big way and holy hell even my massive claws have a hard time negotiating some of that stuff.

Pat Dodson
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Pat Dodson » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:01 pm

Joe de V wrote:Remember the often mentioned phrase by guitar teachers "Not One Size Fits All". The market place idea that you should select your guitar based on age and or height is a mistake that have created a lot of discouragement to new guitar students everywhere.
You play the guitar using your hands/fingers and these are the key factors in determining what scale length is best suitable for a player.
Finger dexterity is compromise when you have to "strain" in reaching multiple frets particularly when playing chords.
Remember that the distance of the fingers between the pinky and the index and or thumb is a bit shorter when you are playing. The often used measure of the spread hand should be modified to allow for this one factor - My spread hand measure is a slightly wider than when I actually need to play the fret-board.
In my own personal experience I can play a longer period of time in comfort / less finger fatigue /when using a shorter-length scale than when using a 650mm scale.


+1

I find that there are those (rather like those who enjoy cross country running) who insist that playing 650 scale (or longer) is "good for you", that you should persevere and that you should "man up" and stretch more if you find it difficult. "They don't make pianos at 95% width. Stop whining!" Well that last is true but you can get guitars with scale lengths less than 650 and if, having tried both 65O/664 and 640 or less properly, you find a shorter scale length suits you then why on earth should you work with something less comfortable? (I know many other factors affect playability but let's not confuse things here.)

I have 6 650 guitars, some that I've happily played for 40+ years. Recently I got a 640 because at age 63 I can sense arthritis and old age creeping on. Still play the 650s but the 640's easier. Possibly shorter scale guitars are more difficult to sell on and you might find a friend's 650 a bit of a stretch but if you accept those things then go where your heart, fingers and wrist tell you. You have nothing to lose but your tendonitis.

Free the short scalers!
Last edited by Pat Dodson on Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

JohnB
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Re: Scale Length

Postby JohnB » Tue Jan 03, 2017 5:08 pm

I'm 6'1" and have 650mm and 664mm guitars and switch between them without really noticing the difference. If anything the 664mm seems slightly more comfortable to play (there is more to playability than scale length). Mind you, I've been playing the 664mm guitar for decades so my hands are used to it. (And I believe that one's hands do adapt to an instrument.)

I guess a lot depends on how flexible one's hands are, on the stretch between first finger and pinky when splayed out, and on the amount of webbing at the base of the fingers as that can limit the amount one can spread one's fingers.
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso"

celestemcc
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Re: Scale Length

Postby celestemcc » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:09 pm

I'm 5'2" and a woman, and played a Ramirez 1a for years; it's more than just the scale. It's a combo of the very wide, dead-flat fingerboard, and thick neck. My university guitar teacher said it was like "playing a two by four"! And yet I played it... until I realized years later that it was just getting in my way. I decided to get a 640 scale guitar with an elevated and radiused fingerboard, with a much more comfortable neck profile. I've got a pretty good stretch but I can now play things I couldn't imagine on the Ramirez. I know a lot of men much taller than me who are getting 640s and even smaller: if you find the 1a too big, then it is. Lovely as they sound, do you really want the hassle? BTW, the new ones come in 650...!
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

JohnB
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Re: Scale Length

Postby JohnB » Tue Jan 03, 2017 6:42 pm

celestemcc wrote:I'm 5'2" and a woman, and played a Ramirez 1a for years; it's more than just the scale. It's a combo of the very wide, dead-flat fingerboard, and thick neck. My university guitar teacher said it was like "playing a two by four"! And yet I played it... until I realized years later that it was just getting in my way. I decided to get a 640 scale guitar with an elevated and radiused fingerboard, with a much more comfortable neck profile....


Interesting what you write. My 664mm guitar (Hermanos Conde 1968) also has a wider than average nut width but the neck is very comfortable indeed and the fretboard has a very slight radius (it's only noticeable when you put a straight edge across the fingerboard). It's those small things that can make such a difference to playability.
Hermanos Conde 1968, Stephen Frith 2007 "Guijoso"

Laudiesdad69
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Laudiesdad69 » Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:11 pm

Yeah I just find 664 to be too big for certain things. 650 seems to fit me just about right. I've not had anything that I couldn't play on a 650. I'm not going to buy the 1a at 664. I just wonder how people with smaller hands are able to fly on a 664. For me it's too much of a stretch. My electric guitars are all short scale ( 2 Brian May replicas and a Les Paul 24 and 24 3/4 scale and one of the Brian's has a neck that is an inch and a quarter thick at the zero fret). Anyway, thanks for the replies.

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Jim Davidson
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Jim Davidson » Tue Jan 03, 2017 11:08 pm

I think it has as much to do with nut width and neck profile as it does scale length. My Cervantes is a 660 scale with a 53.5mm nut and a pretty thick profile. To my feel, the main difficulty from the scale length is controlling my vibrato. Conversely, the wide nut and profile complicate things greatly when it comes to counterpoint and barre chords. Many of those Ramirez 1As have 54mm nuts.

There isn't necessarily a strict correlation between height and hand size. I'm 5'11" with a 9.2" reach, but look at someone like Eliot Fisk: He's not that tall, but his hands are huge. Measure your reach from the tip of your thumb to the tip of your pinky. From what I've heard, 9" is just about where a 650 scale should be.

I deal with the bigger neck for the bigger sound (as I suspect many Ramirez owners do), but I really want to try a 660 scale with a narrower nut for my next instrument to see if that makes the difference.
2015 Alan Chapman Test Friederich CD/CO
2009 Cervantes Concert Milenia SP/PE

celestemcc
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Re: Scale Length

Postby celestemcc » Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:22 am

It's those small things that can make such a difference to playability.


Absolutely right, JohnB. In fact over the years I had the back of the Ramirez' neck planed slightly to thin it, and had a new nut made which set the strings more closely together near the 1st-string side of the fingerboard, and had the saddle slightly lowered. Later, when the guitar needed new frets, I had a luthier make a new radiused fingerboard before installing frets. That alone made a considerable difference -- but in the long run, the scale was just too much. Ironically when I got the 640 guitar, I actually overshot frets a wee bit for a while; I had to learn I could use far less strength and a much lighter touch! I guess there's only so much one can adapt. The change to shorter-scale was well worth it.

I just wonder how people with smaller hands are able to fly on a 664.


Sheer cussed determination and the bravado of youth, lol. I loved that guitar (I still own it). My teacher wanted me to get a smaller-scale Kohno -- this is back in 1978 -- but I was just smitten with the sound of the 1a. Happily my new guitar sounds different, but just as wonderful.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

WilliamSchart
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Re: Scale Length

Postby WilliamSchart » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:46 pm

One thing I find can create a problem with stretches is the fact that for some, while I might well do the stretch from first finger to pinkie, sometimes the middle fingers can't get in the position they need to. Sometimes an alternate fingering can solve the problem and sometimes not.

The piano thing is a false analogy: the keys on a piano are a certain size in part, IMO, because we need a minimum key width for our fingers to fit. Imagine a keyboard with the keys only 1/4 wide. Yeah, you could stretch a ridiculous distance. But you'd be hitting two or three keys with each finger. I have an electric keyboard with a narrow keyboard I use sometimes for quiet playing and the smaller keys can be an issue.

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Michael.N.
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Michael.N. » Wed Jan 04, 2017 3:56 pm

Early pianos had narrower keys. I think even Chopin played on such a piano, perhaps what they term a 7/8th's keyboard.
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Pat Dodson
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Pat Dodson » Wed Jan 04, 2017 4:11 pm

Michael.N. wrote:Early pianos had narrower keys. I think even Chopin played on such a piano, perhaps what they term a 7/8th's keyboard.


I guess Chopin's snail mail social media lacked the clout to put him right. :wink:

Incidentally The Piano Society lists more than 50 different pianos (23 of them grands) from various top makers between around 1780 and the end of the C19th. The octave span of these -which isn't well correlated with age- ranges from 160 to 166 mm. This roughly 4% range is very similar in percentage terms to that between 655 and 630 mm in guitar scale lengths. Today you can buy 15/16th and 7/8th keyboards. Proves nothing; just sayin'. :wink:

Joe de V
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Re: Scale Length

Postby Joe de V » Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:49 pm

Another problem for new students and new CG buyers is that the CG manufacturers do not have a standard to identify the scale length of their instruments as a guide for those buyers wanting a shorter length scale.
A good example is those makers that designate their CG as a 7/8 or 3/4 size,etc.CG's. Those figures represents in most cases the total length of the actual instrument, Not the scale length of the guitar.
Here are 3 good examples of market advertised CG as a 7/8 size
1 Yamaha CS 40 7/8 CG with a scale length of 580 mm..
2 Strunal 7/8 size CG with a 620 mm scale length
3 Cordoba Dolce a 7/8 CG with a 630 mm scale length
The same discrepancy applies to the smaller sizes CG's
It's clear that there is no agreement within the manufacturers of CG as to what should be the standard for the smaller size CG's.


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