The proper scale length of the Strat neck is a crucial piece of info that enthusiast guitar builders need to be aware of when building, repairing, and modifying Fender Stratocaster electric guitars in their homes.
A guitar’s scale length refers to its neck length. The importance of this is rarely considered unless one is attempting to build or repair an instrument, although guitar players do instinctively respond to scale length.
Essentially, a longer scale length means there are bigger spaces between the frets. These distances are carefully figured out by the use of mathematical logarithms when engineers are designing musical instruments. The longer the string length, the “fatter” the notes that the instrument will produce, according to the laws of physics (you might not have realized how much importance math and physics have in the creation of a musical instrument). So, this is why a bass, which has a very long neck scale length, has a different tone altogether than a mandolin.
Choosing the Right Strat Neck Can Affect Playability
A guitar’s neck scale length affects a couple of very important aspects about its playing. Those guitars with shorter scale lengths are generally easier to play for musicians who have smaller hands or shorter fingers, due to the frets being closer together. They also enable easier string bending and vibrato. The Fender Strat neck has a relatively long scale length. It is 0.75 inches longer than its closest electric guitar rival in terms of popularity, which needless to say is the Gibson Les Paul. The latter’s scale length is 24.75 inches, while the Fender’s is 25.5 inches.
So, why would anyone choose to play the Fender Strat or guitars with similar necks? For one thing, shorter guitar necks have more trouble handling heavier strings; these strings can more easily warp the neck or be put out of tune.
There are guitar players who prefer heavier strings, as they stay in tune more readily and have a fatter tone, while also not being as prone to breaking. But another thing is that longer guitar necks allow for a crisper, cleaner guitar tone. This is why anyone with even just the most basic musical knowledge can readily distinguish the sound of a Les Paul from that of a Stratocaster just by listening. There are other things that affect a guitar’s tone as well, of course, but since tone is all-important to the electric guitar player, every factor that might affect it needs to be considered if you are repairing or building a guitar yourself.
Proper scale length is also important because the differences between different guitar necks cannot be too great, or else a guitar player using one particular guitar will not be able to tune his guitar to the same pitches as another guitar player. The mathematics involved in guitar scaling take this into consideration to make sure that different guitar scale lengths will all enable their players to be able to accurately tune their instruments to standard concert pitch.
So, if you are repairing or trying to build a Fender Strat yourself, make sure you get or build a 25.5″ Strat neck and not just “any ol’ neck” for your instrument.