Comparing Scale Lengths

KirkRedman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:14 pm
Location: Athens, GA

Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by KirkRedman » Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:29 pm

I'm hoping to upgrade guitars in the next year or so and currently play on a 640mm scale, but I would like to switch to something around 630mm. I have played one maker's guitars multiple times and have been completely blown away. I also know that he makes a 630 scale, but I have not yet had the chance to try one of them.

Have you gotten the chance to compare, side by side, two different scales that are otherwise identical (maker, model, woods)? Preferably something significantly different (ie 660 and 640). The 640mm guitar that I currently own is the same model as my previous 650mm guitar, but has different woods. I don't think that I can tell a difference in sound because of the scale, but it's hard to tell when there are other variables at play.

I've heard that sometimes when builders get below a 640mm scale things start to go downhill. Can anyone vouch for this or the opposite experience?

User avatar
souldier
Posts: 825
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:45 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by souldier » Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:16 pm

Changing scale will always have an impact on the sound, even if it is minor. Going as far as 630 will have a more significant impact on sound since most makers will not only shorten the scale, but they will make the body size smaller as well.

At the end of the day it really just depends on the individual maker. If a maker is comfortable building at 630 and does so quite regularly, I'd imagine it is because they've been able to do so with positive results. Your best bet is to talk to the maker directly and ask them what differences in tone/sustain/volume they notice on their instruments at different scale lengths.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

oc chuck
Posts: 360
Joined: Sat Oct 03, 2009 5:43 pm
Location: orange county, ca.

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by oc chuck » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:19 am

I believe Kenny Hill and company have a lot of experience making
short scale guitars. I have called them a couple times about
other issues and they are very good to talk with.

ben etow
Posts: 778
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 4:23 pm
Location: Brussels

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by ben etow » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:18 pm

KirkRedman wrote:
Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:29 pm

Have you gotten the chance to compare, side by side, two different scales that are otherwise identical (maker, model, woods)? Preferably something significantly different (ie 660 and 640).
Yes, several 650 and 630 plus one 640 made by Jean-Luc Joie, mostly cedar-topped and of the same model and fabrication period - including one spruce 650 and one spruce 630 but those ones not side by side.

The only significant difference as to sound is due to the slightly lowest tension with the very same action... But a shorter scale enables you to play with a much higher action and you can choose for higher tension strings too.

The other (little) différences were due to normal inconsistency (Jean-Luc has a very high sound consistency within the same model/period - he is also experimenting and changing some features with time).

ben etow
Posts: 778
Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 4:23 pm
Location: Brussels

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by ben etow » Mon Jul 03, 2017 12:22 pm

souldier wrote:
Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:16 pm
Changing scale will always have an impact on the sound, even if it is minor. Going as far as 630 will have a more significant impact on sound since most makers will not only shorten the scale, but they will make the body size smaller as well.
You're right but Jean-Luc Joie, for instance, uses the same body sizes on his 630 and 640 as on his 650.

I was tempted by a 630 John Price and I think he told me he would also maintain the same body size. I may be mistaken though.
Last edited by ben etow on Tue Jul 04, 2017 4:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

tree-hugger
Posts: 159
Joined: Wed Jan 23, 2008 1:10 am
Location: Wollongong, Australia

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by tree-hugger » Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:10 pm

I have a 640 and a 620 from the same maker. Different body sizes, 485 vs 475 mm, but pretty much the same sound.

George.

KirkRedman
Posts: 5
Joined: Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:14 pm
Location: Athens, GA

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by KirkRedman » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:35 pm

Thanks for the input. I am currently fairly happy with my current scale (640), but a little extra room to breathe so to speak would be welcome. It sounds like the minor difference in sound (probably slightly darker if my thought process is correct) is a small price to pay for some additional ease in playing.

Setareh Pishdad
Student of the online lessons
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by Setareh Pishdad » Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:01 pm

I am considering switching to a short scale (630mm), I've noticed many people refer to the thumb to pinky stretch span, however I think you can still benefit from having a short scale if your span is 8" because that measurement does not take into account your individual reach between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. Does anyone know if that has been taken into consideration when transitioning to a short scale?

User avatar
souldier
Posts: 825
Joined: Tue Dec 08, 2015 4:45 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by souldier » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:33 pm

Setareh Pishdad wrote:
Thu Sep 14, 2017 8:01 pm
I am considering switching to a short scale (630mm), I've noticed many people refer to the thumb to pinky stretch span, however I think you can still benefit from having a short scale if your span is 8" because that measurement does not take into account your individual reach between 2 and 3 and 3 and 4. Does anyone know if that has been taken into consideration when transitioning to a short scale?
Yes the thumb to pink span has some merit, but definitely is not the definitive test. There are multiple factors to consider such as the length of ones fingers, overall size of their hand, flexibility, etc. Since every player is so unique, the only way to really know is if one actually tries different guitars of different scale lengths.

It is really important to note that scale length is only one piece to the puzzle. Nut width, String spacing, neck shape, neck thickness, action, string tension, etc. all contribute greatly to overall feel and playability. To be honest I feel we place way too much emphasis on scale length. Currently I play on a 660 Scale guitar even though I am only 5'5" and have small hands, yet I have found my 660 scale guitar to be more comfortable than many other 630/640/650 scale guitars that I have played. I once went to a dealer expressing that I wanted a short scale guitar. He gave me two guitars to play - one short scale and one standard 650 but he didn't tell me which one was which. Lo and behold, I found the 650 more comfortable! So if ever you go to test out guitars, I would play a variety of guitars of different scale lengths, then just choose the one you like best, whatever it happens to be.

Another key thing to note is a 630 scale could indeed be more comfortable for some songs, but when you start playing songs higher up the neck, you'll soon discover that a 650 scale would actually be more comfortable.
Last edited by souldier on Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Success grants its rewards to a few, but is the dream of the multitudes.
Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few." - Christopher Parkening

Setareh Pishdad
Student of the online lessons
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by Setareh Pishdad » Thu Sep 14, 2017 11:48 pm

Thanks for the in-depth response. I will certainly try out different scale lengths but th bigger challenge at this point may be finding a 630mm scale.

Mr.Rain
Posts: 75
Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2016 4:43 pm
Location: Dublin

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by Mr.Rain » Fri Sep 15, 2017 1:33 pm

Having RSI(too many years of IT :mrgreen: ), I tried using a 630mm/49.5mm nut/slim neck/low tension romantic guitar copy (a copy of a panormo).
As a that time I had a flamenca (as a loan) from the same builder,I compared the thinner neck profile to my main guitar (made it really easy to play,but the Panormo was the king due to the scale and the low tension)

Of the 3 the panormo had the thinnest neck (21mm thickness on the 1st fret, like a "señorita" model), the neck/shorterscale made many pieces easier to play but the narrower fretboard made some positions feel "cramped" ( :chaud: I initially struggle with some low positions chords,as the space was not wide enough).

Little by little I got used to it, sold my normal 650mm and ordered a concierto in 630mm, 51mm(a bit bigger!) nut and 21 mm at the 1st fret.

I never looked back to 650mm,as my RSI seems to be under control using 630mm and the sonic result was very pleasant (still the builder advised me not to go for a huge Madrid Style body but a 485mm x 100mm "normal body" as he believed the bass/trebles would be more balanced) :bye:

Setareh Pishdad
Student of the online lessons
Posts: 26
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2017 1:24 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by Setareh Pishdad » Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:58 am

Thanks for sharing your experience, I'm very eager to try a 630mm. It seems I have decent thumb to pinky reach but many times I have trouble with ring finger to pinky reaches. I'm hopeful that this can improve with a shorter scale.

celestemcc
Posts: 720
Joined: Thu May 22, 2014 5:43 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by celestemcc » Sat Sep 16, 2017 9:11 pm

Huge difference going (as I did) from 664 to 640. In terms of sound: up to the luthier. My 664 is a very nice '78 Ramirez 1a, and the 640 Connor sounds just as big and full as the Ramirez but of course, different. The former is cedar/BRW, the latter spruce/IRW. And differently braced. Size doesn't always matter, lol.
2015 Connor spruce/Indian rosewood
1978 Ramirez 1a cedar

User avatar
zavaletas
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 19, 2007 9:51 pm
Location: Tucson

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by zavaletas » Sun Oct 15, 2017 10:48 pm

My experience suggests that there are two major areas of difference sound-wise, longer scale equals more power (just from the physics of string tension, longer strings require high tension to reach pitch, and so they are proportionately louder). As others have pointed out, scale length and body size are correlated, and so impacts the body's resonance frequencies. Smaller bodied guitars often have better trebles and fuller mid-ranges, but their basses lack the profound depths of bigger bodied guitars. Also as has been observed, playability may improve in some respects, long stretches perhaps being easier to make, but as one goes up the neck, the shorter distances between frets makes for crowded fingerings.
James, Zavaleta's La Casa de Guitarras

hesson11
Posts: 527
Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 10:48 pm

Re: Comparing Scale Lengths

Post by hesson11 » Mon Oct 16, 2017 2:57 am

I've had 650 and 640 versions of Kenny Hill's Master Series Rodriguez guitars at the same time. I could not detect any difference in tonal qualities whatsoever. Because of hand/arm injuries, I kept the 640 and sold the 650 with absolutely no regrets.

Later, I got a Hill Performance 630 "Torres style," and it is much easier to play than the 640, although body size and other differences mean that this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. I can't comment about the differences for those without any impairments, but for me, the difference between 640 and 630 is significant. From MY experience alone, scale length is not a consideration in terms of differences in sound/tonal quality.
-Bob

Return to “Advice on buying, selling or valuing a guitar”