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Scale length: practical differences they make in your chops!


Dr. Ellwood

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I was going over some Johnnie Winter things here just a little while ago.. specifically the opening lick in Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo.. the one with the pulled up d at the 10th. that one.. and went through all of the lick on a Strat... SO ok.. then I picked up a LesPaul and did the same lick a few times..I at first noticed a definite difference in finger proximity to the fret ( I play VERY close to the fret) how long when switching between scale lengths does it take you to feel totally comphy?
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I've never noticed any difference. I've got guitars of both the 24.75" and 25.5" scale lengths, and any difference in feel due to the scale length is so much less than the other differences between guitars that I'm just not aware of it. Maybe if I had two guitars that were otherwise nearly identical I'd say "Oh man, that's a big difference!"
"A cheerful heart is good medicine."
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I seem to be able to switch back and forth at will. I play nearer the middle of the note. 24 fret guitars can throw me off a bit, and I really miss the 22nd fret when playing my '71 Tele or Strat, as I hit a lot of upper register notes when soloing, especially when in B or D.
Never a DUH! moment! Well, almost never. OK, OK! Sometimes never!
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Funny you should bring that up, Ellwood. I noticed that last night while I was goofing around before going to bed. I was playing along with a song on my LP Custom. Then I switched to my Strat to play the same song. I miffed it a good bit with muted strings on the first couple of passes with the Strat when everything had been dead on with the Les Paul.

 

I've noticed that it takes me longer to get used to the longer 25.5" scale than it does to get used to the shorter 24.75" like scale. I think that's because I have small hands. For people with larger hands it may be just the opposite.

 

I've also noticed that it takes me longer to get used to one scale over the other than it used to. Used to be by the end of the first song on the different scale it was like I'd been playing on that all day. Now it might take me a couple of songs (8 or 9 minutes) before the new scale starts to feel "right".

 

I play pretty close to the frets, too, and I've noticed sometimes that when I change from my LP to a Strat that my fingers will sometimes be right on top of the fret instead of in the valley. Oddly enough I don't seem to have that problem when going in the other direction.

 

It's a little frustrating since I don't recall having that little problem in the past. I will say I play the 24.75" scale about two thirds of the time, now. So maybe that has something to do with it.

Born on the Bayou

 

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It doesn't take me too long at all to 'acclimatize' between scale-lengths, as long as I like the guitar and its set-up. But I do appreciate the shorter ones sometimes for stretchy fingerings, and the longer ones for a less crowded feel in the upper regions. Also the tonal differences.

 

Now, it's a lot harder for me to deal with lighter-gauge strings, especially "nines"! I overshoot bends, break strings, play out of tune, grit my teeth over fret-buzz... !! :eek::freak::rolleyes:

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Guys...it's only a 3/4" difference...spread out over that 2+ feet of string length!!!

 

If you take that 3/4" and spread it over 2 dozen frets proportionally (plus the end of the neck to the bridge)...we are talking about a !$%* hair of difference in the fret spacing/postion between a 24.75" and 25.5" scale.

 

I never much noticed it.

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Here is a "huh" uestion. This will reveal that I don't focus on technique enough.

 

Which is more proper, figering close to the fret or the mid point between frets?

 

I think that may be one of my short comings that I've never noticed.

 

I think I am over fretting by fingering in the midpoint.

 

I never notice until I switch from acoustic to electric, then it takes me a few minutes to relax.

 

But do you think it would be better to try fretting closer to the fret?

 

Good topic btw.

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I was taught that I must stay very close to the fret wire as possiable without being on top of it. I was shown that my vibrato is more effective closer to the fret and there is less chance of goin flat or sharp on any given note by being close or almost on top of the fret wire. I can usually feel the fretwire on the sides of my fingertips
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Pappy, oh crap, I agree with Elwood ;)

 

Fretting close to the fret improves intonation. You don't want to squeeze too hard, especially if you have high frets, or it will take you sharp; but a light touch, close to the fret is pretty much the best approach.

 

As far as scale length, I don't even notice a difference.

 

The width of the neck and the space between strings is more noticeable to me. The odd thing is that a Strat has a narrower fretboard, but the spaces between the strings are wider than a standard Gibson, so the first and sixth strings are closer to the edge of the board. The wider space between strings also is noticeable to my picking technique. Nothing I can't quickly get a feel for, but they are different.

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Where to finger between the frets depends partly on string-gauge and how light or hard you tend to press, as well as the range of reach that your fingers and hands span. I can see that a classically accepted specific makes basic sense, but like whether or not to ever use your thumb, what gauges of strings, where and how to pick, vibrato technique, etc. etc. etc., there's a lot of room for interpratation, or even a total lack thereof (that is, winging it, without much thought).

 

I tend to press fairly lightly (lighter than I used to, that's for sure, I used to get hate-mail from Kung Fu-Grip G.I.-Joe), and somewhere between the middle and the fret...

 

Ellwood, you aughtta try out one of those multi-scale Novac fanned-fretboards, it'd probably drive you completely nuts!

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by miroslav:

Guys...it's only a 3/4" difference...spread out over that 2+ feet of string length!!!

 

If you take that 3/4" and spread it over 2 dozen frets proportionally (plus the end of the neck to the bridge)...we are talking about a !$%* hair of difference in the fret spacing/postion between a 24.75" and 25.5" scale.

 

I never much noticed it.

It's not spread out evenly across the fretboard. The first few frets get more of the difference (it's not a linear scale). If you have smaller hands you DO notice a difference. I have small hands and definitely notice a difference.

 

I just measured the first three frets on a Les Paul and Strat. The first fret is about the same. The second fret is about 1/8 inch closer to the nut on a Les Paul. The third fret is about 3/16 inch closer to the nut on a Les Paul.

 

So there is a difference in the frets. But there is also a difference in the placement of your hand on the neck (relative shoulder/elbow position) to play a CMaj chord. With a Les Paul it's nearly 3/4 of an inch closer to your body than with a Strat. That might actually be making more of a difference than the fret spacing.

 

Some folks might not notice a difference. I play without looking at the fretboard most of the time. So knowing the position of my hand on the fretboard by awareness of the position of my shoulder and elbow and, by extension, my hand is extremely important to hit the right notes.

 

I have to adjust that when I switch between scales and that takes a little getting used to. If you look at the fretboard while you're playing you may not even notice it. I do.

Born on the Bayou

 

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Y'know what wigs me out... going between a Les Paul, a Tele or a Strat, and then an SG, a firebird, a classical or 12-fret steel-string... that 'neck/fretboard relative to the guitar's body and mine', along the lines of some of what you've brought up, Vince...

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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i was raised by strats and strat scale axes. i love my LG but i can play more comfortably on a strat. part neck shape and my fingers are accustomed to the longer scale. the tension and response are more in sync with my hands.

not to mention i have a heavy attack with the 3.0 mm big stubby picks.

and at my ammazing height of 5'7" i handle the "big" guitars better for some reason.

my sticks of meat feel cramped above the 12th fret on the LG.

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Originally posted by LPCustom:

It's not spread out evenly across the fretboard. The first few frets get more of the difference (it's not a linear scale).

I never said evenly...I said proportionally. :)

 

Originally posted by miroslav:

If you take that 3/4" and spread it over 2 dozen frets proportionally (plus the end of the neck to the bridge)...

It's still a VERY small difference...maybe a millimeter or two at the first few frets....but as the frets get smaller...so will that difference.

 

Like someone already mentioned...I think what most people are noticing is the differences in neck radius & width...and string spacing...

...and not that 3/4" difference that is spread out over 2 feet of scale length!!!

 

The only way to really tell is to have identical necks (radius & width)...but one with the frets set up for short scale and the other for long.

 

Then you can close your eyes and see if you can tell the difference...

...but, where to find a pair of necks like that...???

 

If you play only one guitar over and oversure, when you pick up any other guitar, it will feel a bit odd at first.

But if you switch between guitars on a regular basisit takes maybe a few passes up and down the neck for your fingering to adjustIMO.

 

The thing that really whacks my fingering outis when I pick up a long-scale bass guitar!!!

Now thereyou definitely feel a pretty noticeable jump in the fret spacing

and reaching for the first 3 frets

is like trying to pull something off the top shelf of you cupboard without a footstool!!! :D

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by KPB:

I've always been and always will be a short scale guy. The extra one or two frets mean nothing to me, I like the closeness of the strings, and also the extra play (since I like to use .010 or .011 gauge strings).

I too like a Gibson'y shorter scale-length with .011" through .050" strings; but the scale-length and the number of frets don't have anything to do with one another. You could have, say, 36-frets on a 23-&-1/2" scale-length guitar, and twelve (or two) on a 27-&-3/4" scaler...

 

Those "extra one or two frets" are just added on the high-end of the fretboard, following the location dictated by "the rule of 18" (each consecutive fret is spaced close to 1/18th less than its preceding fret). On a longer scale guitar, you can have the same number of frets as on a shorter scale guitar, it's the space between the frets that's different.

 

The longer or shorter overall length, and that of any given fretted notes, changes the way harmonic overtones are either emphasized or de-emphasized; the longer the scale, the more such harmonic overtones vibrating over the string's length are allowed to breath; shorter scale, less overtones, stronger emphasis of the basic fundamental note.

 

That's a large part- though not the only one- of how and why a Strat or Tele sounds more twangy, and a Les Paul or 335 will sound rounder...

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by Guitarzan:

twangy is good. i like twangy with humbuckers.

You should check out a Gretsch Elliot Easton sig-model guitar... kinda a twangier, woodier, looser take on a Les Paul, with a longer scale-length than most Gretsches, and those fabulous Filter'Tron pickups (the ones that look like little toasters). I lust for one in dark green with gold hardware and a brace of TV Jones pickups innitt... :cool::thu:

 

That's also a part of the EVH recipe, his striped-Strat-stylee (25-&-1/2" scale) with a humbucker...

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by miroslav:

Originally posted by LPCustom:

It's not spread out evenly across the fretboard. The first few frets get more of the difference (it's not a linear scale).

I never said evenly...I said proportionally. :)

 

Originally posted by miroslav:

If you take that 3/4" and spread it over 2 dozen frets proportionally (plus the end of the neck to the bridge)...

Yep, that's what you said. My mistake.

 

But if you switch between guitars on a regular basisit takes maybe a few passes up and down the neck for your fingering to adjustIMO.

That's basically what Ellwood said in his first post and I echoed that. And that's what you seemed to disagree with. But now you've gone back and stated the same thing.

 

I also said that I noticed that it takes me longer to get used to it as I've gotten older. I don't know why. I suspect the same may be happening with Ellwood although he didn't say that.

 

From my post that you responded to I also said that the position of my arm/hand is a bigger deal with the change in scale because I don't look at the fretboard when I'm playing most of the time. That 3/4 of an inch difference can make the difference between playing a note on the second fret near the fret or on the third fret in the valley. And that's because your hand isn't where you think it is. Get it?

 

If you play the low E on the third fret right up against the fret you're playing a G. But move that finger just 7/16 of an inch toward the bridge and what are you playing? It's not a G anymore, is it? Move it just 3/8 of an inch and you're not near the fret anymore. You're right on top of it. So even small increments matter.

Born on the Bayou

 

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Originally posted by ellwood:

Caevan are those the pickups I would have had on the Country Gentleman, the RocJet and the Tenneseean???

Maybe/probably; are they humbuckers, that look like little toasters (slotted-covers with the pole-pieces showing through)?

 

If so, then they're either Filter'Trons (sp?) or another variant from Gretsch.

 

I'm not too up on Gretsches, I just "know what I like", know what I mean?

 

Check out the TV Jones 'site for some reference points, as they make a variety of Gretsch-style pickups; I think that some are referenced to different Gretsch humbuckers from over the years...

 

Then I'm sure that there're some other Gretschihistory related 'pages and ;sites out there; probably a few links to such on the TV Jones 'site, on their links 'page.

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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Originally posted by LPCustom:

Originally posted by miroslav:

But if you switch between guitars on a regular basisit takes maybe a few passes up and down the neck for your fingering to adjustIMO.

That's basically what Ellwood said in his first post and I echoed that. And that's what you seemed to disagree with. But now you've gone back and stated the same thing.
Well I still don't really *notice* the change from one scale length to the other, as far as playability.

I mean...a few passes up/down the neck takes all of about 30 seconds...and it's not like a conscious thing, "Oh, oh...I just switched scale lengths, so I gotta' adjust." ;)

 

Maybe some of you folks are letting it get at you...because you are making yourself too conscious of little differences from one guitar to the next...?

 

I guess if I sat down...and really took note of all the minute physical differences from one guitar to the next...

...like measuring their neck radius and width...measuring the string spacing...the scale length...etc...

...and then correlated all that minutia to how much I prefer one guitar over another...

...well, at that point, I can see how it is possible to develop certain inhibitions about specific guitars.

 

But honestlywith a dozen or more guitars in my studio.whenever Im going to recordI only focus on the sound that I am after. And knowing what each guitar is capable of sounding likeI reach for that guitar.

I dont think I have ever compared their scale lengthsthe neck widthsetc

 

Its just not that much of and issueIMOunless you let it become one.

 

One thing though that I do notice...is when I switch from a solid body to a wide semi-hollow...or a big-box acoustic...

...that my *right* arm will get a bit more tired with the bigger body guitars, 'cuz I have to sling it out there a bit further to get around the body.

But...that's somewhat adjustable by letting the bigger body guitars sling down a bit lower. :thu:

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Funny you mention the switch between solid body and big semi-hollow or hollow body guitars. I don't have any problem at all switching there. Maybe that's because it's such a big change everything just kind of "resets". :)

 

Even the scale change thing isn't really that noticeable but it can be a little aggravating at times. Kind of like not having your fingers on the "home" keys when typing. Man all sorts of weird crap comes spewing out... :eek::D

Born on the Bayou

 

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Originally posted by LPCustom:

Kind of like not having your fingers on the "home" keys when typing. Man all sorts of weird crap comes spewing out... :eek::D

Now THERE is something that really bugs me out!!!

 

At work...I use a full-size keyboard...but when I'm home...I use a small laptop when I'm on the Internet. It has that "compressed" keyboard...

...talk about TYPOS!!! :eek:

miroslav - miroslavmusic.com

 

"Just because it happened to you, it doesn't mean it's important."

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Originally posted by Dr. Taz:

Originally posted by Dances With Werewolves:

Ellwood, you aughtta try out one of those multi-scale Novac fanned-fretboards, it'd probably drive you completely nuts!

Yep. Try this one:

 

http://www.netwiz.net/~tcar/music.html

 

8 strings, with a whammy! :D

WHOA!! What a cool badassed mad-scientist

axe!

 

Note that only the middle four strings are "whammied"...

 

I'd love to get my hands on it for a test-drive...

Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

 

~ Caevan James-Michael Miller-O'Shite ~

_ ___ _ Leprechaun, Esquire _ ___ _

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I would think if your techinique is really well-developed and advanced, even a minute scale difference would be very noticeable. However, for folks who, like me, have been hacking around on the guitar for decades with little notable improvement, it probably wouldn't matter all that much... :(

Always remember that you�re unique. Just like everyone else.

 

 

 

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