"Tony Done" <email@example.com> wrote in message news:firstname.lastname@example.org...
I'm having a discussion in rmmgj aboout the effect of scale length on tone. Someone is suggesting that 24.75 gives a dark sound compared with a light sound from 25.5 - his words. What say?
My old friend the late Bill Lewis used to say that scale length is the first consideration when designing a new instrument for a specific client, but it's only one of many variables which will affect the overall performance.
Given otherwise identical instruments a longer scale will generally give greater projection and volume since it puts greater tension on the top.
The trouble with such sweeping statements however is that instruments with longer scales often have slightly heavier bracing and/or top specs in order to better cope with the increased tension. Instruments built that little bit more heavily can tend to have a slower, less subtle response than more lightly built ones. Add the variable of string guage and you open another whole can of worms. Long scale instruments are often strung with light guage wires in order to make them more playable, so a shorter scale instrument strung with mediums may actually provide more bite with a more subtle response.
In the 70s and '80s when Jean Larrivee and his various accolytes were building virtually all their steel strings with 650 mm scale lengths and bracing them fairly heavily many players bought them, liking the volume as they came from the shops with medium strings. Within a couple of months many of those players, tired of the hard tension and stiff response, switched to lights then found they didn't care for the drop in volume which accompanied that switch. For a while there were lots of bargains around Toronto on 6-month to a year old Larrivees et al.
Like virtually everything else about guitars there is a delicate balance between scale length, top thickness, brace weight and stiffness, string guage and players' style. This makes it very difficult to come up with a definitive answer to which one of any of the above variables may be the best for a particular player.
One of the main objections many players had to the old Mossman flat-tops was that they felt 'stiff' and they had to beat the liver and lights out of them to get the best tone. Mossman used long scale lengths on his stuff, and while that made them powerful and very attractive to heavy-handed bluegrassers etc. it made them unpleasant for a lot of others, especially when strung with the medium strings for which they'd been designed.
Your average player doesn't want to worry his or her pretty little head about such niceties, and just wants a short, straight answer to questions like 'which is better, short or long scales?' or my all time favourite: " What's better, steel strings or them rubber ones?" ;-)
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