A Complete Guide to Guitar Sizes

In recent years manufacturers have started making a wider range of different guitar sizes. 

They want to ensure there’s a guitar for everyone – whether you have small hands or want one suitable for travel. 

But this can make things confusing. What size is best for children? What about small adults? What is a short-scale guitar?

This article tells you everything you need to know about different guitar sizes.

🎸About this article
This article mainly focuses on acoustic guitars, but the sizes can also apply to electric guitars.

It’s also worth pointing out that no two guitars are ever exactly the same in length, size or shape – there’s always a lot of variation. The guitar sizes described in this article aren’t precise.

Don’t forget to try out a guitar in-person, so you know how it feels to play.

Guitar length vs scale length

Before we begin, it’s important to understand the difference between guitar length and scale length.  

They are not the same thing; both measurements affect how a guitar plays differently.

A diagram showing the difference between the length and scale length of a guitar.
Scale length vs guitar length

Guitar length

This is pretty simple. It’s the length of the guitar measured from the very bottom to the very top. 

Guitars with shorter lengths usually have smaller bodies. And smaller acoustic guitars are usually quieter than larger ones. 

This is because the body of the guitar is what amplifies the sound. This doesn’t matter too much if you are buying an electric guitar. But it makes a big difference if you are buying an acoustic guitar. 

Some smaller acoustic guitars have large sound holes and specially-designed bracing (that’s the bits of wood that hold the guitar inside together; less wood inside means more room for the sound to travel). 

This is worth considering if you plan to buy a smaller guitar to perform with. You might want to find a model with a built-in pickup to amplify your sound. 

Smaller acoustic and electric guitars are usually easier to hold and carry. So this might be a good measurement to use when choosing a guitar for young children. 

Although it’s definitely not the only thing to consider. For example, the wood the guitar is made of will affect the weight. 

Scale length

This is a more complicated measurement. But it’s also very important to how the guitar feels.

Put simply, it’s the distance between the two points where the strings meet the guitar – the nut and the bridge. 

Having a shorter scale means:

  • Smaller frets
  • Higher action – this is the distance between the strings and fretboard
  • Lower string tension – this is how hard the strings are to bend or push down
  • You need to use higher gauge (thicker) guitar strings to make up for the lower tension

Guitar length and scale length are connected. You obviously can’t have a longer scale length than the guitar itself! 

So you’ll often find that small electric and acoustic guitars have small frets and low string tension, making them good for kids.

However, most kid-sized guitars are either poor quality which makes it harder for the child to learn. Or they cost more than parents are willing to pay – there’s no point in spending loads on a guitar if your child gives up after a year.

Guitar Sizes

Let’s take a look at the different guitar sizes available. It’s worth noting that there are no “standard” sizes of guitars. Most will vary within a range. 


Ok, so this isn’t really a guitar. But it’s very similar.

Ukuleles are very small stringed instruments that are great for small children to play.

They’re also incredibly light and portable, which makes them perfect travel instruments.

It’s worth noting that ukuleles are played differently from acoustic guitars. They only have four strings and they are laid out differently.

But the skills you learn from playing the ukulele are the same as you’ll need for playing the guitar.

Like all instruments, there is a wide range of ukulele sizes. They are usually between 23 inches (58 cm) and 26 inches (66 cm) long. The scale length is usually between 13 inches (35 cm) and 17 inches (43 cm). 

But you can get special ukuleles that are bigger or smaller. 

Some ukuleles are cheap and of poor quality. If you want a decent, reliable instrument, you need to pay around $100.

A good example of an affordable but good-quality Ukulele is a Kala KA-CG. It sounds nice, looks nice and is built to last. It also has a beautiful warm sound thanks to its mahogany body. 

Kala KA-CG mahogany ukulele
A Kala KA-CG mahogany ukulele

⅛ acoustic guitars

These are sometimes called travel guitars or even guitaraleles. That’s because they are the smallest true guitars you can buy.

These acoustic guitars are so small that they look like toys. Therefore many people think they are good for kids. 

But in my experience, they are hard to play and only suitable for experienced players. That’s because the short scale means the action (the distance between the guitar and the strings) is very high, making the strings difficult to push down.

Guitar length: 29–30 inches long (~73–77 cm) 
Scale length: 15.6–16.5 inches (38.7–41 cm)
✔️Suitable for experienced guitar players 
✔️Super light and portable guitar to travel with
❌Not suitable for young children or inexperienced guitar players
❌Many models are poor-quality models and sound dreadful. 

Here’s an example of an awful one. It’s my kids’ 1/8 electric guitar. It’s unplayable. 

A black 1/8 sized electric guitar
An example of a poor-quality 1/8-sized electric guitar

The best ⅛ guitars are usually Spanish style with nylon strings. 

Like this one: it’s a GL1 from Yamaha. At just under $100 it’s affordable but it’s also decent quality. 

A Yamaha GL1 1/8 sized Guitaralele
A Yamaha GL1 1/8 sized Guitaralele

¼ size acoustic guitars

This acoustic guitar size is designed for young children aged 4–7 to learn to play on. 

They are mini classical guitars with nylon strings.

A 1/4 sized classical guitar from a decent brand can sound great.

But most models are cheap and poor quality, simply because parents don’t want to invest much money in something their kids might not keep up. 

Classical guitar length: 29–30 inches long (73.6–77.5 cm) 
Scale length: 20.8–21.5 inches (53–54.7 cm)
✔️Suitable for children aged 4–7 to learn to play on
✔️Usually low cost
❌Usually poor-quality
❌Adults will probably prefer to find a bigger, higher-quality classical guitars

This Cordoba C1M is great quality but maybe a little too expensive for kids to learn on.  

A Cordoba C1M 1/4 sized classical guitar
A Cordoba C1M 1/4 sized classical guitar

½ size acoustic guitars

Half-sized acoustic guitars are similar to ¼ size but for slightly older children.

Guitar length: 33–34 inches long (83.8–86.4 cm) 
Scale length: 20.8–21.5 inches (53–54.7 cm)
✔️Suitable for children aged 6–9 to learn to play on
✔️Usually low cost
❌Usually poor-quality
❌Adults will probably prefer to find a bigger, higher-quality guitar

If you’re looking for something affordable for a child to learn on, then a ½ size classical guitar from Gear4music might be suitable.

Gear4Music Junior 1/2 sized classical guitar
Gear4Music Junior 1/2 sized classical guitar

Or, if you want something better quality, you might prefer the Ortega R121 classical acoustic guitar.

An Ortega R121 1/2 sized classical acoustic guitar
An Ortega R121 1/2 sized classical acoustic guitar

¾ acoustic size

This size of acoustic guitar is suitable for older children again. Adults who are less than 5ft (roughly 1.5 m) might also prefer a 3/4 sized guitar.

Because of this, there are better-quality models available.

Guitar length: 33–34 inches long (83.8–86.4 cm) 
Scale length: 20.8–21.5 inches (53–54.7 cm)

✔️Suitable for children aged 7–11 to learn to play on
✔️Suitable for adults less than 5ft (roughly 1.5 m) 
❌Adults over 5ft might prefer a bigger guitar

Here’s my kids’ hand-me-down 3/4 sized classical guitar. It doesn’t sound good but it’s ok to learn the basics on.

My daughter's cheap and old 3/4 sized classical guitar.
My daughter’s cheap and old 3/4 sized classical guitar.

Once again, Gear4music provides affordable ¾ sized classical acoustic guitars for kids to learn on. 

But adults can splash out on something that looks and sounds amazing like this Ortega R221BK classical acoustic guitar.

A Cordoba R221 3/4 sized classical guitar in black
A Cordoba R221 3/4 sized classical guitar in black

Alternatively, you might be looking for a guitar to travel with. In this case, we recommend the Cort Earth Mini. It’s small enough to put in the hold on flights, built well enough to take the rigors of travel and also sounds great.

Parlor acoustic guitar

Parlor guitar is a catch-all term for any acoustic guitar smaller than a full-sized guitar.

It’s more of a branding term. Some adults or experienced players may be put off ½ and ¾ sized acoustic guitars because of their association with novice players. 

The term ‘parlor guitar’ is likely to denote a higher-quality instrument. They also have steel strings which gives them a sound more suited to more modern styles.

But steel strings are more painful on the fingertips for beginners than the nylon strings on classical guitars.

Gretsch makes some really cool-looking parlor guitars. Like this G5021WPE.

A Gretsch G5021WPE parlor guitar in white
A Gretsch G5021WPE parlor guitar in white

✔️Good quality


❌Parlor guitars might be too expensive for children to learn on

Concert acoustic guitars

A concert guitar is the smallest full-sized guitar you can get. There are four sizes of concert guitars, each of which has a different name.  They are all steel-string guitars.

They are also labeled by a number of “Os”. The O stands for orchestra.

As the name suggests, this sized guitar was originally designed for orchestra players. The idea was that a slightly smaller guitar wouldn’t take up too much space on stage. 

The more Os a guitar has, the larger its body size is. 

  • O (sometimes called a concert)
  • OO (sometimes called a grand concert)
  • OOO (sometimes called a grand performance)
  • OOOO (sometimes called an OM or grand auditorium) 

Most O guitars have narrower bodies than dreadnoughts (the next size up). This makes them lighter and easier to hold.

But the sizes listed above vary between brands and there are no standard lengths to these guitars. Some models have more frets than others, making it hard to give standard guitar lengths. 

Concert sizings were first created by the Martin guitar company. So it’s a good idea to check out their range of guitars if you’re looking for a concert guitar. 

A typical example of one of Martin’s concert guitars is the 000-15M or the Jr10

Guitar body length (not including neck):
18.9–19.3 inches (48—49 cm)
Scale length: 24.9–25.4 inches

✔️Small size makes them great for smaller adults
✔️Good for playing on a crowded stage
❌Less volume than dreadnoughts
A Martin 000 Jr10 concert guitar
A Martin 000 Jr10 concert guitar

Dreadnought acoustic guitars

A dreadnought acoustic guitar is probably the most popular acoustic guitar size. They are full-sized guitars. Their large size gives them a lot of volume and a deep sound.

They sound great accompanying vocals and so are popular with singer-songwriters and solo performers. 

Unfortunately their large size means they might not be suitable for small or young players. 

The dreadnought was introduced in 1916 by the acoustic guitar brand Martin. It was named after the British warship HMS Dreadnought, due to its large size. 

Martin has produced some of the most iconic dreadnought acoustic guitar models, including the D-18 and the D-45.

A Martin D-45 dreadnought guitar
A Martin D-45 dreadnought guitar

You can also get slope-shouldered dreadnoughts. These guitars have a slightly different shape. 

The shoulders are the top of the body – the part where it meets the guitar’s neck. With a standard dreadnought, these are square (or at right angles).

They feel and sound slightly different – although I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. The biggest difference is that you can usually access fewer frets because the body joins the neck further up the fretboard.

A good example of a slope-shouldered dreadnought is this Guild DS-240. As you can see, you can play up to the 14th fret.  

A Guild DS 240 slope shouldered dreadnought guitar
A Guild DS 240 slope-shouldered dreadnought guitar
Guitar length: ~41″ inches (~104 cm) 
Scale length: ~25.3 inches (~64.2 cm)

✔️Big sound
✔️Lots of bass and low end 
✔️Sounds great with vocals
❌Might be too large for children and small adults

Jumbo acoustic guitars

These are mammoth guitars with a huge, warm sound. They tend to have a distinctive round shape.

The large size of jumbo guitars means they can be quite hard to hold and play, so if you are a beginner, you might prefer a smaller model. 

The first jumbo acoustic guitar was the SJ-200 which was made by Gibson in the 1930s.

A Gibson SJ200 jumbo acoustic guitar
A Gibson SJ200 jumbo acoustic guitar

The big size also means a big price – most jumbo guitars cost more than other sizes. A more affordable option than the SJ-200 might be the Sigma SGJA-SG200.

A Sigma SG Jumbo. This is an affordable imitation of the SJ200
Sigma SG Jumbo acoustic guitar
Guitar length: ~41.3 inches long (~104.9 cm) 
Scale length: ~25.5 inches (~64.7 cm)

✔️Suitable for children aged 7–11 to learn to play on
✔️Suitable for adults less than 5ft (roughly 1.5 m) 
❌Very large size might not be suitable for smaller people or kids

Short-scale electric guitars

Electric guitars tend to be slightly shorter in guitar length than acoustics. But the scale tends to be the same. 

But you can get shorter-scale electric guitars with smaller frets and shorter necks. 

They are easier to play for older kids, smaller adults, or people with short fingers. 

The most famous short-scale electric guitars are from Fender. The Mustang is probably the most well-known. 

Fender Mustang short scale electric guitar in blue
Fender Mustang short-scale electric guitar
Electric guitar length: ~39.5 inches (~100.3 cm)
Scale length: ~24 inches (~60.1 cm) 

✔️Suitable for smaller people and older kids
✔️Suitable for people with smaller fingers
❌Some short-scale electric guitars have fewer frets

Guitar Sizes: Find One That’s Right For You!

In this article, we’ve looked at most of the guitar sizes available. But there are plenty of others out there. 

To find one that is right for you, read our guide on choosing your first guitar. Or you can check out our list of best guitar brands or best acoustic guitar brands.

We also have round ups of the best acoustic guitars and best acoustic guitars under $500.

Remember, it’s important to try out a range of guitars in-person. You don’t know which guitar sizes will feel comfortable or sound you will like until you try them out. 

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