FINGERBOARDS: QUESTIONS OF SCALE
By and large, guitar players (other than luthiers/players) have little notion of guitar scale lengths. This creates an opportunity for the custom builder by allowing him or her to offer several options to the client, to better service their needs. A tracing of the guitarist's fretting hand (big hand = long scale: small hand = short scale) falls far short of satisfying the requirements for choosing a scale length appropriate to the player.
First, consider the clients preferences, and abilities:
1. Do they have large or small
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A long scale provides more comfort for a strong player with large hands, and of course, it may also make it more difficult for players with a soft touch and smaller hands.
With all things being equal, a long scale instrument is louder and is more tone sustaining than a short scale instrument. And a long scale guitar can be more responsive to a light touch. But without compensating in other ways, the bass may overpower the treble. (Building includes many compromises: a stiffer, or thicker top can mitigate some of this overpowering bass.)
A longer scale means a longer string with greater string movement, which suggests higher action, and a wider fingerboard to keep the first and last strings from being pushed or pulled off the fingerboard. Again, wider stretches, and more difficult handling for some.
The sound of a long scale instrument might be described in terms like warmer, fuller, more fundamental, more resonant.
A short scale instrument is usually easier for many players to handle, since the strings can both be a little closer together, and the action can be lower. This, a consequence of less string movement, is probably the major advantage to a short scale guitar.
Because a short scale instrument requires more energy to get both the string and the top vibrating, the player must have a stronger attack. A short scale tends toward more pronounced treble (which can be evened out by selectively thinning of the top and/or bracing, or by using a less stiff top). Generally speaking, (again, all things being equal) a short scale is also short on sustain, has less resonance, less bass, and less warmth. On the other hand, the highs are often described as "singing," "mandolin-like," or "sweet."
Text From The Luthiers' Mercantile Catalog - 1993
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