I find a 3/4 size guitar with a scale length of 21 inches is easier to play (at least when stretching on the low frets) than a bigger guitar.

I've read that 3/4 scale guitars go out of tune easily because their string tension is low, and this is a reason why longer scale lengths are conventional. However, this can be offset simply by using higher gauge strings. A side benefit of this is that the treble strings would be less prone to snapping because they're thicker.

What are the disadvantages then of shorter-scale guitars?


6 Answers 6


Two thing come to mind immediately:

  • Tone: Thicker strings cannot make up for the tonal differences of shorter scale lengths and especially smaller bodies on acoustic guitars.
  • The highest frets on full scale guitars can be hard to play because they can be too close together for comfort. This problem will come up at lower fret positions on short scale guitars.

Besides those large issues, some guesses on other reasons include smaller guitars not looking as cool, smaller guitars not being built to as high a standard and not marketed as well (lower profit margin), and finally many guitarists have no reason or few reasons to want a smaller guitar.

  • This seems to imply mandolins and such necessarily have “lesser” tone because of scale; or even that Strats have better tone than Les Pauls, or that basses always have better tone than guitars… etc.
    – Ashley
    Commented Jun 5 at 16:58
  • @Ashley Mandolins and basses play in different ranges from guitar, so those comparisons don’t really make sense. The scale length difference between Les Pauls and Strats is not so great that tonal differences would have as big an effect. Also the scale length difference itself is not as significant as the body size difference on acoustic guitars, so for electrics we notice even less of a tonal difference. That said, yes there is a very minor tonal difference between electric guitars that are identical other than scale length. Commented Jun 5 at 17:32
  • Don’t waffle. Either it matters objectively, AKA, all Strats have better tone than all LPs and Jaguars and Mustangs and… or it doesn’t; there are many other things that alter tone/timbre.
    – Ashley
    Commented Jun 19 at 15:31

I can answer for a similar instrument, the five-string banjo, but I think this will apply equally well to a non-amplified acoustic guitar.

I play short-scale banjos, because my hands are very small and full-scale instruments give me hand injuries. Short-scale instruments work for me, but I've noticed these disadvantages:

  • I could stretch my fingers to play a full sized banjo, but since I don't regularly, I can't. I'm too used to the short scale. This means I cannot enjoy trying out a friend's banjo at a jam, for example. It's my instrument or nothing.

  • Similarly, the choice of instruments available to me in the marketplace is far less. Almost no used instruments, and darned few new ones, unless custom (and then they are expensive).

  • For a non-amplified instrument, you get less volume. This matters at an acoustic jam, where my short-scale banjos are more likely to get buried by the dreadnought guitar in the circle.

  • String bends are harder. I could make them easier by using lighter strings, but I've already got problems with low volume compared to "normal" acoustic instruments.

I think these issues will apply to non-amplified acoustic guitar as well. For me, the ease of playing and the reduction in hand injuries makes the disadvantages worth it, but they are disadvantages.


Honestly I think that a big factor in that is a sense of shame about playing a "child's" instrument. I know a grown man who'd take a 3/4 guitar to all his hiking trips (hey, nothing beats singing around a fire), as it makes for a less unwieldy luggage than a full-size guitar to carry around, but it takes a kind of self-confidence to do that where people can see and mock you.

And then there's just a sort of... inertia. Full-size guitars are way more prevalent, which means you're much more likely to inherit one, come across them for sale second-hand, or see a selection of in a shop. So unless you go and buy your first guitar with a pronounced preference for 3/4, chances are you'll end up with full-size.

"Easier to play" is subjective, but the most part of what type of guitar is easier to play than another is what you're used to. Unfamiliar dimensions throw you off; once you play that guitar regularly, it becomes the easy one.


I won't say this is a reason people don't buy 3/4 guitars, but note that when you use thicker strings on a shorter guitar, the high frets won't be in tune with the low frets.

This is the reason why the bridge is adjustable or shaped, but the problem is more pronounced with shorter thicker strings, and is one of the reasons why concert grand pianos are bigger/longer than compact upright pianos.


I don't sense any disadvantage when moving between 3/4 and full scale guitars. As with any instrument it takes a little work to get the best sound through technique (style).

Martin and Taylor makes nice little guitars that are very common.


What mainly contributes to a guitar being a 3/4 size version is body size. Tone quality and volume are lessened as acoustic body sizes decrease. Travel and 3/4 size guitars tend to have very shallow small bodies that produce a thinner tone of less volume than regular guitar sizes. Their shorter scale length does not cause tuning issues. While the fretboard is usually shorter than many others, the nut width and tuning machines are similar to larger guitars.

  • End effects, the effect of the bend at the fixed end when the string vibrates, are an effect of the stiffness of the string, which is associated with the thickness. End effects are the reason why the bridge is not parallel to the frets. This is why short-neck instruments are normally tuned higher. "Setting up" a guitar includes adjusting the bridge so that the part of the fretboard with the best "intonation" is the part where you play most. The thinner the strings, the longer the neck, the less important end effects are, and the better the "in tone ation" is.
    – david
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 4:46

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