Standard-sized guitars can be difficult to navigate for small-handed players. Thankfully, the best short-scale electric guitars reduce the distance between frets, while preserving tone and playability.
The majority of short-scale electric guitars are around ¾ the size of a standard model. This makes it easier to stretch your fingers to make chords shapes or to transition up and down the fretboard.
In this guide, you’ll find the very best short-scale axes.
The Best Short Scale Electric Guitars
With its unrivaled mixture of tonality, character, and playability, the Stratocaster has cemented its legacy as one of the most iconic electric guitars in music history. Squier’s Mini Strat condenses the best qualities of the full-size Fender model into a short-scale guitar.
Ideally suited to beginners, younger players, and those who have smaller hands, the Mini Strat is highly comfortable to play. Despite its reduced neck and fretboard size, this guitar is still capable of producing powerful tones.
To capture the classic Stratocaster sound, Squier has opted for a trio of single-coil, high-output pickups in the neck, middle, and bridge positions. These pickups can be toggled using the 5-way switch selector.
The advantage of having a 5-way pickup switch is that it provides you with an array of tones without needing to tweak the settings on your amplifier or rely solely on effects pedals.
When constructing the Mini Strat, Squier aimed to use the highest quality materials whilst keeping the instrument affordable. For the neck, they used smooth maple, for the fingerboard Indian Laurel, and the hardtail bridge is chrome-plated for added stability.
The scale length of the Mini Strat spans 22.75 inches. Compared to a normal-sized Stratocaster, this is around ¾ of the size. This reduction makes it much easier to apply pressure to the frets and reduces the strain on your hands while playing.
To stay true to the classic Stratocaster design, Squier has made sure to include most of its renowned features. The forearm and body contours are stereotypically Strat-like, and the headstock is styled like those found on 1960s models.
Over the years since its first inception, the Fender Mustang has experienced several resurgences. Just when it seems that the popularity of this guitar has peaked, a new generation of guitarists seems to revive it from the brink.
Perhaps the Mustang has suffered due to the unbounded popularity of other Fender electric guitars, such as the Telecaster and Stratocaster. However, this has helped it to build a cult following, and it is extremely popular amongst alternative guitarists.
The Player Mustang 90 is a modern take on the classic design. It retains the iconic offset construction of the original models, making it a highly mobile, and energetic guitar to play.
However, this version of the Mustang is unique. It has a 24-inch scale length, which is perfectly suited to small-handed guitarists or those who play fast styles and need to be accurate and fluid with their transitions.
The reduced scale size doesn’t just improve the playability of the guitar, though. It also helps to keep the string tension low, which ensures that the classic, grungey tone that is associated with the Mustang 90 is still present in abundance.
For the onboard electronics, Fender has chosen to use a pair of their very own MP-90 single-coil pickups. These pickups are famous for their clear, bell-like treble tones, with plenty of midrange power.
There’s also a dual-knob tone control setup, in addition to the 3-way pickup selector. The Pau Ferro fingerboard is smooth, responsive, and contains 22 medium-jumbo frets. The hardtail bridge then ensures that tuning stability is not a problem.
With the Squier Mini model, you can enjoy all of the legendary aspects of the Fender Jazzmaster in a compact, affordable format. Styled with the class Olympic White design, this ¾ size guitar looks the part and sounds great too.
Compared to a full-sized Jazzmaster, the Squier Mini version is more lightweight and accessible. It has a 22.75-inch scale, which makes those long and arduous stretches across the frets a distant memory.
The Jazzmaster is favored by guitarists who enjoy thick, full-bodied tones. To recreate this, Squier has installed two standard humbucking pickups. These combine to produce huge rock n’ roll tones with plenty of substance and attitude.
For instantly changing the sound of the Mini Jazzmaster, you can use the convenient 3-way pickups toggle switch. There’s also a single volume knob and a tone knob for making further adjustments.
Squier has also installed some classy features on the Mini Jazzmaster. Firstly, there’s the addition of a synthetic bone nut, die-cast sealed machine heads and a hardtail bridge for maximum tuning stability.
The Mini Jazzmaster is a perfect introductory guitar for youngsters or beginners who want to learn the instrument. It combines playability with power, and a stylish, indie-rock-inspired aesthetical design.
The GRGM21 is a fabulous entry-level guitar for those who want to produce straight-up, unapologetic rock tones. Ibanez has used all of its guitar-manufacturing knowledge to create this comfortable short-scale axe.
Designed specifically for guitarists who have smaller-than-average fingers or short arms, the miKro GRGM21 sounds as good as it looks. With a pair of standard Ibanez humbuckers installed, it produces plenty of snarl.
In the low-mid tones, this guitar sounds gritty and powerful. It is ideal for younger or beginner guitarists who want to combine lead and rhythm playing, without needing to overly extend their fingers to reach certain frets.
Not only is the neck shorter in length than your average guitar, but it is also significantly thinner. This doesn't affect its stability though, thanks to the solid rosewood fingerboard and medium-sized frets.
The fretboard also features interesting Sharktooth inlays, to add some character to the overall appearance. The convenient size of this Ibanez guitar, coupled with the reliable, powerful tone it produces, makes it a great choice for buskers or traveling musicians.
5. Jackson JS1X
Jackson’s JS1X is a unique, eye-catching electric guitar with a reduced scale size. If you’re looking for an instrument that is going to attract attention, and struggle to play full-sized guitars, this might be the ideal choice for you.
Although Jackson has compromised on size when designing the JS1X, they certainly haven’t sacrificed character. Loaded with a pair of high-output humbuckers, the guitar produces an array of energetic tones, ideal for heavy rock and metal.
There are 24 frets on this short-scale electric guitar. It’s slightly larger than a ¾ sized instrument, and this extra room is valuable for playing chord inversions, or fast runs up and down the fingerboard.
The maple neck is reinforced by graphite rods, making it solid and stable. Compared to other neck types, this method of reinforcement promotes longevity and prevents movement.
Poplar is the tonewood that Jackson chose to use for the body of the JS1X. This material is known for its increased resonance. Also, the inclusion of Jackson sealed tuners ensures tuning stability.
The Player Duo-Sonic HS is a fabulous offering from legendary American guitar manufacturers, Fender. Featuring a unique formation of pickups and a short-scale design, it’s a great choice for guitarists of all abilities.
Onboard the Sonic HS is a Fender-designed single-coil, and a humbucker in the bridge position. This blend provides you with the best of both worlds, producing the classic Fender twang and smooth, thick mid-tones.
The scale of the Player Duo-Sonic HS is 24 inches in length. This makes chording easier and evokes a slinky feel from the guitar’s fretboard. It’s equally adept at playing melodies, solos, riffs, and chords.
Shorter scale instruments certainly offer comfort and playability benefits, but the Fender Sonic HS also makes bending notes much easier. This is a great ability if you like to play melodic styles, such as blues, soul, or R n’ B.
The C profile neck provides a classic Fender feel, while the 9.5-inch fretboard radius makes playing the guitar effortless. The neck is finished in satin polyurethane, and the body is coated in glossy polyurethane.
Due to the combination of single-coil and humbucker pickups, the Sonic HS produces a versatile range of tones. Using the pickup selector, you can toggle between the classic, chime-rich tone of 50s Fender guitars, or opt for a more modern, humbucker growl.
The Gibson Les Paul has been used to conjure some of the most iconic rock tones of the past century. Now, thanks to this innovative design by sister-company, Epiphone, guitarists can enjoy the classic Les Paul tone and feel in a short-scale format.
Epiphone’s Les Paul Express encapsulates the standout features and designs that the original model is famous for. It has a 22-inch scale length which is perfect for youngsters or beginners.
The combination of woods used to construct the Les Paul Express has been carefully chosen to recreate the classic feel of the Gibson original. A mahogany body is joined by the Okoume neck, boosting playability and mobility.
To compensate for the slight reduction in string tension caused by having a shorter scale, Epiphone has boosted the high-end bite of the guitar. This is down to the pair of crunch-producing humbuckers.
A fixed bridge has also been installed on the Les Paul Express to improve tuning stability and ensure that the guitar stays in pristine condition for longer. The sustain is also significantly enhanced by this design.
Choosing Your Short Scale Electric Guitar
Short-scale electric guitars offer musicians with smaller hands a perfect alternative to having to stretch uncomfortable distances on the fingerboard of a standard-sized instrument.
Most guitars that are classed as “short-scale” have a reduced scale length that spans anywhere between 21 inches to 24 inches. Therefore, you must choose one with the right dimensions for your hand size.
Indeed, the easiest and most effective way to identify which scale size best suits your hands and fingers is to physically try out different short-scale guitars. However, this may not be possible, so you may need to use an alternative method.
One easy way to determine the best-suited scale size for your hands is by using a tape measure or ruler and measuring the distance between your forefinger and your pinky. You should measure the distance when the fingers are stretched out, but not straining.
Then, compare this distance to the number of frets and the size of the short-scale guitar you’re interested in. If you can divide the scale length of the guitar by the distance between your forefinger and pinky at least four times, you should have no problems playing that guitar.
Choosing the best short-scale electric guitar to suit your hand dimensions will make it much easier to practice for longer periods. This will ultimately result in your ability to improve more rapidly. Enjoy your newfound playing comfort!