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.
7 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.
Table of Contents
- 7 Best Short Scale Electric Guitars - Compact Yet Capable
- Things that Affect a Guitar’s Playability
- Guitar Scale Basics
- Benefits of a Short Scale Guitar
- Consider the Wood and Neck Shape
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.
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.
With the Les Paul Express, you get the classic aesthetics and sound of an iconic guitar in a short scale model. Perfect for younger players just starting out and ideally sized for the travelling musician, this electric guitar is surprisingly comfortable to play despite its reduced size.
With a hard maple neck and mahogany body, you get the classic warmth of a Les Paul which is particularly clear in the high-end. The full-bodied tone is largely down to the installation of two humbuckers which produce a crunchy, biting sound.
In order to fit the classic Les Paul tone into a compact model, Epiphone has installed some interestingly unique features into the design of this short scale electric guitar.
The use of maple for the neck works to offset the looser tension of the strings which are inevitable with smaller designs. A fixed bridge has been installed in order to boost the guitar’s overall sustain, making it great for chords and solos.
The Mini Jazzmaster HH by Squier is an affordable short scale electric guitar which has a rich tone and sleek build. This ¾ size guitar is extremely lightweight, making it perfect for smaller guitarists.
The Mini Jazzzmaster utilizes dual humbucker pickups and therefore produces thick, classic rock n’ roll tones. It also has a three-way toggle switch to introduce younger guitarists to pickup selections, a volume knob and a tone control for tweaking the overall sound by while playing.
With a short 22.75 inch scale length, musicians with smaller hands will have no issues stretching across frets and playing complex chord positions. It’s easy to transport too.
The overall sound of the Mini Jazzmaster is balanced across all of the frequencies, and sounds great when used in conjunction with a touch of distortion. The Slim C neck profile makes quickly transitioning up and down the fingerboard a breeze.
The appearance of this Squier guitar is uncannily like a genuine Fender Jazzmaster. Its all-white color scheme has an indie-rock feel, and the guitar comes with a hardware packing which includes a stylish synthetic bone nut, die-cast machine heads and a solid hard tail bridge to improve tuning stability.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Guitar Scale Basics
To put it simply, the scale of a guitar is the distance from the bridge on the body, to the nut on the neck where it meets the headstock.
This is the length that is measured to determine a guitar’s scale. Another way to measure it is to take the distance from the nut to the 12th fret of the fretboard. The scale will then be twice the length of the nut to the 12th fret.
A guitar with a length of 25.5 inches is considered full scale, while a length of 22 to 24 3/4 inches is short scale. There 7-, 8-string, and baritone guitars tend to have longer scales, and can go up to 29 3/4 inches.
Benefits of a Short Scale Guitar
Short scale guitars have a few advantages over long scale guitars, especially for beginners.
The shorter distance between the nut and the bridge means that there is less tension in the strings.
With lower string tension, less pressure is needed to keep the strings in tune, helping them stay in tune for longer.
Less tension also makes it easier to fret and bend the strings, making it easier to play and softer on fingers. This is perfect for beginner guitarists.
Lower string tension can also produce a warmer tone. The low tension emphasizes the low-end and mids produced by the strings, so a lower string tension can be great if you want your strings to have less attack or be less bright.
Short scale guitars are often much cheaper to produce due to the fact that they require less materials than long scale guitars.
Beginner guitars are also usually made with short scales to make them more comfortable for beginners, who are normally children and young teens.
Short scale guitars are more compact than their long scale relatives. They are also lighter, making them easier to transport and store.
Travel guitars are also short scale to make them easier to carry around.
Consider the Wood and Neck Shape
Different woods can be heavier or lighter than others. This is important to consider if you’re a beginner or buying a short scale for a beginner.
Heavier woods will of course add weight to the guitar, and can make it uncomfortable to play.
Neck shape should also be kept in mind. The standard neck shape is ‘C’. This should be comfortable for most beginners on a short scale.
If you want to go with a thinner neck, you can go down to a D shape neck.
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.