Dear Delcamp Classical Guitar Forum-
Thanks to all for their thoughtful and thorough posts on the subject of scale length vs. hand size.
I have two nylon-string guitars, one in the $1,200 range, one in the $500 range.
The first is an Alvarez-Yairi CY116 with 66 cm scale length and D'Addario Pro Arte normal tension nylon strings. In all other respects save for a lower action and longer scale, it is standard.
The Cordoba C7 has a 65 cm scale length. It is in all other respects standard (standard action, standard nut width). It is strung with Savarez Cristal Corum High Tension 500CJ nylon strings.
As you might expect, the CY116 has a lower action and is a bit louder, and so it is easier to play in that regard. The additional scale length does make a slight difference in stretching, but it is not a huge difference, especially over the first 5 frets where I should imagine stretching is the biggest problem. The 5th fret on the 66 cm guitar is about 2mm further down the neck from the nut compared to the position of the 5th fret on the 65 cm guitar, and the first fret on the 66 cm guitar is about 1 mm further from the nut than the position of the 1st fret on the 65 cm guitar.
These are not huge differences, but they are measurable nonetheless, and you do feel them. Perhaps the most fun thing of all is playing the longer scale instrument for a while which stretches out your left hand a bit and strengthens certain muscles in a certain way, then picking up the smaller instrument. For a while, except for a harder action, the shorter scale instrument seems a breeze to play. For a while. All differences are relative. The grass is always greener &c...
The action is higher on the Cordoba C7, (no higher than standard, i.e., 3 mm between the top E string and 12th fret and 4 mm between the low E string and 12th fret) but the stretches are a tiny bit easier. It all seems like a trade off to me. If your technique is polished (a la Scott Tennant's "Pumping Nylon"), and your hands are not too tiny, you can switch back and forth without too much trouble.
My hands are a tad bigger than the average male hand, but not by a huge margin. Of course, I do wish they were bigger, but what can you do?
Thumb to pinky length (stretched but not painfully): 9.75 inches or 248 mm (247.65 rounded to three significant figures). It is just a couple of mm shy of the "Holy Grail" hand size of 250 mm which according to some supposedly allows one to play a 66.4 cm scale length guitar without difficulty.
I bought the Cordoba C7 to see what a 65 cm scale length would play like after 17 years of playing a 66 cm scale length guitar. I have found differences, but nothing that shows one scale length to be a clear advantage over the other, all things considered. I do think the shorter scale Cordoba C7 is perhaps more enjoyable to play as it feels less like a struggle, so it might lead to increased practice times, I do not know.
If I had much smaller hands I would probably opt for a 64 cm or 63 cm scale length guitar, but I imagine they are hard to find as standard models. It seems to me if one is having real problems with a 66 cm scale length guitar because of tiny hands, then one would likely have problems with a 65 cm scale length guitar as well as the difference is not enormous. The only thing to do is to try them and see.
"The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from." - Pioneering Computer Scientist and US Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper.
Last edited by acbulgin1 on Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:26 am, edited 2 times in total.