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Thread: Scale Length - Fender Vs. Gibson:

  1. #1
    Robert Herndon is offline Junior Member
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    Scale Length - Fender Vs. Gibson:

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    I decided to post this thread just for fun and try to get some other viewpoints on the subject.

    I play with a number of bands and we do a lot of 'classic' cover tunes. When we do a cover, I like to watch a video of the artist/band and try to get an idea of their technique and equipment.

    As I was watching VH-1 Classic yesterday, I discovered that with little exception, the Gibson is the predominate guitar in this musical genre.

    It is also interesting that many nu-wave bands (like Fountains of Wayne) are using Gibson Firebirds.

    There were a bunch of Stratocasters and some Telecasters, including the Jacksons and some others, but there were far more Gibsons than anything else.

    I listed them in the order of popularity based on the videos I have been watching:

    #1: Gibson Les Paul

    #2: Gibson SG

    #3: Gibson Explorer

    #4: Gibson Firebird

    All of this made me start to wonder why I don't like the narrow Gibson string spacing and scale length. Obviously, a lot of famous guns have used the Gibson with great success, so I wanted to ask what other members thought about the differences in scale length between the two guitars.

    I use Ernie Ball Lime Slinky's (.010") on all my guitars. They feel great on my Stratocaster, but a bit heavy on my Hamer due to the shorter scale length.

    When I put .009"s on the Hamer, the sound changes to a brighter, thinner tone that I don't like.

    I also found that my 'harmonics' (quickly muted string that sings) are harder to obtain on the 'Gibson' scale length.

    I'm not referring to a single 'bell' tone at the 12th fret, but rather a 'whistle' that I obtain by quickly muting a plucked string. I can get this 'whistle' going on my Strat and maintain it for a long time with an aggressive finger vibrato, but it is harder to get on the Hamer and won't sustain nearly as long.

    I remember talking to Grover Jackson once about the guitars he made for Randy Rhoads, who preferred the short Gibson scale length.

    Grover said that Randy had a antique white, 1964 Les Paul that was bought as a gift for him and this was his mainstay guitar for many years.

    Randy immediately had the instrument refretted with the smallest fretwire made, so his fingers touched the fretboard when he played.

    Randy claimed this gave him more 'feel' for the instrument and enabled him to play very aggressively without pulling his notes sharp.

    When Grover built the first 'Rhoads Style V' guitars, Randy specified Fender string spacing and this was accomplished with a Fender style, non-locking tremolo.

    This got me to thinking about string spacing....

    Next time you get the opportunity to watch the SRV video for 'Crossfire' take a moment to watch how extreme his bends are. I have done cover versions of this song and it sounds like hell on my Hamer or Gibson, because I am banging into the other strings. You really notice it when you listen to the recording through headphones.

    However, when I play the same tune on my Stratocaster, the tone is cleaner and the notes are sharper.

    On the other hand, when I watch Angus Young or Gary Moore play, I notice they have no trouble with the Gibson scale length and spacing.

    As a matter of fact, Gary Moore has recently switched to Explorers saying he favors their 'darker' tone and attack, despite them being harder to play on the higher frets, beacuse of how the 'V' in the body squishes your hand as you move up the neck.

    I have taken into consideration the fact that I have huge hands. My palms measure 4-1/2" across and my middle finger is 4-1/2" from the knuckle to the tip. The tip of my fingers are also quite large and about dime-sized, so this is a lot of 'meat' to try and fit between the strings.

    Even with the factors taken into consideration, I would have to say some of this is due to my aggressive (sloppy) playing style and the Fender seems to be more 'forgiving' than the 'Gibson' style instruments with the wider string spacing.

    However, I really do notice a big difference in the two instruments. The Hamer is easier to play rythym with and the Fender is better for leads.

    I am hoping the addition of the humbucker in my Fender will allow me to capture a little bit of both guitars in one.

    The next thing I noticed, after watching a few hundred more classic videos, is how many Strats with Humbuckers were floating around in the 1980s.

    The two most notable users of this type of guitar were Mathias Jabs of Scorpions and Dave Murray of Iron Maiden. I'm not including 'Strat Clones' like Jackson and Kramer, but true 'Fender Stratocasters' with a humbucker in the bridge position.

    I watched the video for Judas Preist's 'You've Got Another Thing Comin' and was surprised to see Glen and K.K. playing Strats, although we have no way of knowing what the song was actually recorded with.

    How many of you notice a difference in the different scale lengths and string spacings and which do you personally prefer??? I am interested to see if I am crazy or not...:-)

    I hope this thread is enjoyable and infromative. Best of luck on your musical projects...Robert

  2. #2
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    Light is offline Born in the Light ofStars
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    First off, typical scale lengths:

    25.5 - Fender
    25.4 - Martin D
    25 - Paul Reed Smith
    24.9 - Martin OOO, OO, and O
    24.65 - Gibson

    Now, you are talking about electrics, so you are most concerned with 25.5, 24.65, and maybe 25. Then of course there are the Ralph Novax fanned fret fingerboards, which are kind of cool, but I don't like the idea of having to put Ralph's name on a guitar I built (he is a nice guy though).

    I find it a little strange that you find your short scale guitars harder to play, as the shorter scale gives them a lower tension (the string is shorter, so it reaches the same pitch at lower tension), so most people find short scale guitars much easier to play (I know I do).

    The sonic difference between them is a little hard to explain, but then sound is always hard to explain. It seems to me that a short scale guitar is a little more unified in its sound, and the longer scales tend to be more articulated. What my father says is that a short scale guitar is more like a choir singing, and a long scale guitar is more like a group of soloists singing together. Remember though that he is a fan of country gospel music, so his reference should be taken in that context. It does, however, seem accurate to me. Chords seem to blend together better on a short scale guitar. This is one of the reasons why so many old Gibson acoustics are used by the guys who play backup for old time fiddle players. It really suits their style of playing, which is strictly rhythm.

    As far as sting spacing, I like a 1 11/16" nut, with a fairly typical layout of the strings, though I much prefer a proportional layout to a symmetrical one. As for the bridge, I like the strings to be as far apart as they are on the guitars my father makes, hence my problem with getting bridges which will work for my guitars.


    "Cowards can never be moral."
    M.K. Gandhi

  3. #3
    Robert Herndon is offline Junior Member
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    Here is the Carvin sound spectrum chart on their pickups...Robert

    Check out the bottom-end on the M22SD.

    I can't explain this, but the .010"s on my Hamer feel much 'stiffer' than the same strings on my Stratocaster and both are tuned at A/437.

    Why is that???...Robert

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