5 Best Short Scale Electric Guitars that Pack a Strong Punch

There are plenty of reasons to buy a short scale electric guitar. They are easier to carry around, they’re perfect for players with smaller hands, and they make it much easier to grip those strange, finger-twisting jazz chords that require a lot of stretching.

Although they do come in a small package, short scale electric guitars don’t sacrifice performance. Just like regular guitars, they too come in all kinds of shapes and pickup variations, so you can go for different types of sounds that suit your playing style.

To help you make your choice, I’ve selected some of the best models on the market right now, all of which can provide you with their own specific tone.

5 Best Short Scale Electric Guitars - Compact Yet Capable

They may look petite and weak, but some of these guitars can go toe-to-toe with some of the famous regular-sized guitars. Check out my selection of the best short scale electric guitars below.

Though its name might be long and complicated, the Ibanez GRGM21BKN is only 22 inches long, which makes it the shortest guitar on this list. 

But don’t be fooled by its size – this little axe sports two powerful humbuckers which produce beefy, loud sound. Paired with a good amp, this guitar can give you the bite and roar of a full-sized Ibanez.

It’s perfect for metal lovers, as the combination of extended 24 frets and a great humbucker duo allows you to shred those melodic solos with ease. It delivers punchy mids and bright and clear highs, providing you with a sharp sound that will cut through any mix.

Its design doesn’t lack elegance, as you can tell by just one look that it’s a classic Ibanez – the pointy head and signature body construction are dead giveaways.

It is, however, an entry-level guitar, so don’t expect a performance that will blow your mind.

  • Very small and light, easy to transport and play
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    Perfect for metal lovers, thanks to its 24 frets and pair of humbuckers
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    Low tension makes it great for beginners
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    Very affordable, great choice for a first guitar
  • The neck is pretty wide, which may be challenging for players with smaller hands
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    Some users have reported fret buzz
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    At this price you can’t expect great pickups

If you’re looking for an entry-level product, you can always count on Squier to provide you with an affordable product that still delivers decent performance.

Known for producing some solid budget-friendly versions of Fender products, Squier products range from beginner to professional, while some of their high-end instruments can give some Fenders a run for their money.

The Mini Strat falls into the beginner category, with a light ¾ body that is perfect for all players with smaller hands and easy to carry around. If you’re shopping for a young one just starting to practice electric guitar, the size and weight alone should make this one a no-brainer.

When it comes to the sound, it’s nothing to get super excited about, although it does come close to the Fender Stratocaster with its three single coils, maple neck, and 6-saddle hardtail bridge that gives you solid intonation. It may not be as colorful and sharp as an original Fender, but it still packs a similar attack.

  • Extremely light and small, perfect for kids and players with smaller hands
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    Solid intonation up and down the fretboard
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    Traditional Stratocaster design and setup
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    Surprisingly low hum from the single coil pickups
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    The most affordable entry on the list
  • High action could make it a bit hard to play, especially for beginners
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    Frets are too high, so you might want to make some adjustments at your local guitar shop
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    Can sound a bit cheap and underwhelming at times

A whole three inches shorter than most electric guitars, the Fender Mustang 90 allows for extra playability and makes it very easy to grip difficult chords, bend strings, and run up and down scales.

It features the original Mustang MP-90 pickups that give it the signature punchy lows and snarly midrange we’ve come to expect from a Mustang.

The maple neck and fingerboard add to its overall playability, making it very comfortable and easy to move up and down the neck. The great thing about this guitar is that, even though it’s shorter than a regular-sized guitar, its fretboard radius is still a standard 9.5, so you won’t have any trouble with your fretting hand.

If you’re a fan of the fuzzy grunge sound or the funky, crunchy tone of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante, this guitar could be a great choice for you.

  • A similar fretboard to that of a regular-sized guitar makes it very playable
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    Vintage Mustang MP-90 sound
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    Fender build quality
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    The through-body bridge helps increase sustain, which makes up for its smaller size
  • The mid position offers a far better sound than all other positions
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    Not many people are in love with the Mustang body shape

So, now that we have seen what Fender has to offer, it’s only right to include its Gibson counterpart. Though an inch longer than the Jaguar, the Gibson SG Special T still falls under the category of shorter guitars but packs a whole lot of power for its size.

It sports two passive chrome-plated 490 humbuckers that look as awesome as they sound. Just like you would expect from a pair of Gibson humbuckers, they give you the punch, warmth and midrange complexity while producing a fair amount of power, especially on overdrive

When it comes to its playability, the SlimTaper neck with perfect width-to-thickness ratio provides you with a comfortable feel. This neck has a strong reputation among professional guitar players, as many consider it one of the best necks Gibson makes right now.

A great guitar with an important history, the Gibson SG is a great choice for all fans of the classic rock sound. However, with a price tag this high, it can hardly be called a beginner guitar.

  • The famous SG sound – full and warm, but sharp and powerful on overdrive
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    Signature shape and design, especially if you go for the satin cherry finish
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    Solid mahogany body allows for maximum sustain
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    Extremely precise tuning
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    The nickel-plated tune-o-matic bridge provides stability and great intonation
  • Not as short and compact as other entries on the list
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    If you’re looking for a beginner guitar, its price tag could be a deal-breaker 

If all of the previous guitars are still too big for you, the last entry on my list is a tiny guitar with a bright sonic attack that will surely fit your hand perfectly. The Kona Guitars KE55N sports a maple body combined with rosewood neck and fretboard to make the most out of its small size.

What we get is a surprisingly fine sounding guitar with a pair of humbuckers and a tune-o-matic style bridge fitted in a 39-inch frame. The humbuckers give you bright highs and very warm midrange while the lows aren’t as muddy as a typical humbucker we’re all used to.

That being said, the low end is also a bit underwhelming, as regular humbuckers are known for their fatty low end that can push an amp to its very edge. Still, if you’re looking for an extremely small guitar with an impressive sound for its size, this would be it.

  • The smallest entry on the list
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    Dual humbuckers provide bright high and warm mid
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    Solid wood contributes to the sound quality and makes the guitar sound bigger than it is
  • Could be too small for some players
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    Due to its small size, the lows are understated

Things that Affect a Guitar’s Playability

Short scale guitars are easier to carry around and require much less effort to play, especially for players with limited range.

But, apart from scale length, there are some other factors you should pay attention to when choosing a guitar for its playability.

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    Action – the distance between the fingerboard and strings. Lower action means the strings are closer to the fretboard, which makes a guitar more playable. You can always adjust your action to get the best playing experience.
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    Neck Width – narrow and slim necks are easier to grip, which is perfect for players with smaller hands. Slim necks are also great for shredding, as they allow you to move up and down with ease.
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    String Gauge – lighter strings require much less pressure to produce a sound. Try to go for thinner strings but don’t overdo it – strings that are too light can produce an underwhelming sound, especially on a smaller guitar.

Final Word

Choosing a short scale guitar is really no different than choosing a regular guitar. Look for quality tone wood, reliable pickups, and a shape and size that fit your playing style.

Have in mind however, that very small guitars have their shortcomings when it comes to sound quality.

So if you’re looking at a short scale guitar as a permanent solution, either go for a quality kit or complement your sound with some good pedals.

Gavin Whitner
    Gavin Whitner

    A guitar player, songwriter, composer, and also the lead editor of MusicOomph, Gavin is one of the four musician friends behind this site. Outside of music, he's an avid sports fan and hardly misses anything from football (soccer) to F1.

    Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 7 comments
    Tommy Voodoo - January 10, 2019

    After 40 years of playing strats and teles, I bought an Ibanez Mikro, because arthritis seriously sucks.. the reduced scale length and string tension have me playing a lot more, and eating a lot less ibuprofen.

    I did change the strings to my normal 10~46 fender super 250’s (the factory strings are way too slinky), and swapped the pickups for a pair of humbucker sized p90’s, effectively doubling the investment, but what I ended up with is a great sounding guitar that I can play all day without pain.

      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - January 10, 2019

      Super happy to hear that, Tommy. 🙂

    Dynaglideclyde - February 9, 2019

    I purchased a “blemished” Durango Guitar Works “iron Horse” model several years ago. This is a Tele clone hardtail guitar sporting a pair of Wilkinson humbuckers, reportedly designed by the owner with a 20 inch scale because of medical issues which limited his range of motion. I sustained a left wrist injury catching a 535 pound sport bike by basically using a one hand 535 pound curl. The result was an adhesion fracture and torn cartilage of the left wrist which required pin fixation and casting for six weeks. I was left with significant impairments of supination and pronation of the left wrist. These ranges of motion movements are important for a guitarist since one is not able to fully twist the .joint both up and down, making it difficult to fret chords. Accordingly, over the past 15 years I have searched for shorter scale guitars, since the “reach” for bar chords and lead lines is less. I have found only a few recent vintage guitars that are not “beginners” guitars. The Durango guitars are worthy of gigging and are inexpensive, since the parts are apparently sourced in China, with some of the final finishing work done in Durango.

    The other 24 inch scale guitar is the Brian May series based on Brian’s homemade “red” guitar. The only sources I have located suggests that the current manufacturer is the Korean company, World Musical Instruments Company., which is the company that makes the PRS SE series of 24.5 inch scale guitars. I own 2 of these guitars and can say with no qualms whatsoever that my Zach Myers model is as good or better than any Gibson I have played, including the ‘59 Les Paul owned by a friend..

    Accordingly I believe that the Durango models and the Brian May models are gig worthy “short scale guitars. I would also include in any listing of “short scale” guitars any of the PRS 245 series guitars. I believe these guitars to likely surpass the ones you have listed in the areas of tone and playability, even though they may cost more.



      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - February 10, 2019

      Glad to know about your story. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Greg - March 12, 2019

    Rogue Rocketeer RR50 costs 59 to 79 dollars. I gig with mine and it plays and sounds great. 23.25″ scale so it is short. Unless you have huge hands, you can use this guitar, it’s not just for kids.

    Chris - October 5, 2019

    I bought an Epiphone Les Paul Express and couldnt be happier with the way it plays and sounds. Cost wise you cannot beat it. The sound for being a short scale guitar is magnificent! If you were blindfolded and just listened to the guitar in a comparison test you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Sure a seasoned ear could probably tell but for the average Joe, not so easy. Anyone on the fence with this one should go for it. You won’t be sorry. Interestingly the headstock on mine did not say “Special” as what is shown on all the websites I have looked for it at. The one I got has the Les Paul Model signature on the headstock just as the full size Les Paul’s have. I think it gives the guitar character and with that signature on it you can be sure you are getting a quality instrument. The folks at sweetwater did a great setup on it to ensure the action was low and the intonation was good. I love this guitar it goes well with my full size one.

      Gavin Whitner
      Gavin Whitner - October 6, 2019

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with the Les Paul Express, Chris!


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