The two most common size guitars that players use are the normal “Full Size” and the smaller “3/4 Size” guitars.
What do these size differences mean and how do they effect how the guitar plays?
That’s what we’re going to look at in this article so that you can pick out the right instrument.
What’s the Difference Between a Full Size & 3/4 Size Guitar
As a general rule, full size guitars have an average dimension of 39 x 15 inches and 3/4 size guitars are on average 36 x 13 inches. Scale length on a full size guitar is approximately 25 inches whereas a 3/4 size guitar has a scale length of 24 inches or less.
Anyone who understands fractions will get that a ¾ Size guitar is smaller than a Full Size guitar, but is that where the differences end?
Does the size of the instrument impact the way it sounds or plays?
It turns out, yes!
Differences in Sound of 3/4 vs Full Size Guitars
The first thing you may want to consider when shopping for different sized acoustic guitars is how they sound. Size has a massive impact on the way guitars sound, especially with acoustic guitars.
In the case of ¾ size acoustic guitars, these instruments have a less pronounced low end, punch midrange, and brilliant high-end sparkle. They are also slightly quieter than their full size counterparts (though I doubt your roommates will notice much difference).
This makes them great for use in the studio or in a live band where you want to cut through a mix.
Full Size acoustic guitars have more low end, a larger dynamic range and more volume. If you’re playing solo as a singer/songwriter, you’ll want to fill up more of the frequency spectrum with a larger instrument.
When it comes to solid body electric guitars, the size of the instrument has less impact on the sound. There may be some loss in low end resonance, but comparing same shape (but different sized) electric guitars is far less drastic in terms of tonality than acoustic guitars.
Differences in Feel of 3/4 vs Full Size Guitars
Where ¾ and Full size electric, as well as acoustic, guitars both differ greatly is in terms of feel.
¾ Size guitars have a shorter scale length, which is the distance between the nut and bridge of the guitar. You can basically think of scale length as the playable length of the strings and it is the basis upon which guitar size is actually measured, as opposed to the length of the body itself.
Is It Easier to Play ¾ Guitars?
Shorter scale lengths create lower string tension, which means that pressing down the strings on smaller guitars is easier than on full size guitars. This also makes bending strings easier, especially on smaller electric guitars.
In addition to a shorter scale length, ¾ Size instruments also have narrower nut width and smaller frets, meaning that the strings are closer together. This can make grabbing chords a little easier for those with smaller hands.
It is for these reasons that ¾ Guitars are easier to play, at least for those who have smaller hands or who are trying to learn how to play.
Is a ¾ Guitar Good for Beginners?
I highly recommend that beginners learn how to play on ¾ Guitars, especially ¾ Acoustics.
As I just explained, their size and string tension make them great for kids starting out, but they are also great for adults looking to get into playing guitar.
¾ guitars are often less expensive than full size guitars, making them a safer investment when starting out.
They are also lightweight and easy to pack up, meaning that you can take the guitar with you anywhere to practice or to perform whether you’re playing on the couch or going on vacation. I still take my ¾ acoustic with me on every vacation so I can play in my down time.
Playing, and having fun while doing so, are super important for beginners and ¾ guitars are great for both!
Should I Get a Full Size or 3/4 Guitar?
There are pro’s and con’s to each, but thankfully both will let you do what you love… play the guitar! It really comes down to your budget, your experience level, and what kind of playing experience you want.
If you are a beginner (especially if the guitar is meant for a child under 12) looking for a cost-effective, comfortable, and fun instrument to learn on, then a ¾ guitar is my recommendation.
However, if you are a professional guitarist that only owns full size acoustics, I think you can benefit from the sounds that a smaller bodied acoustic will have to offer.
On the other hand, if you are a singer-songwriter or a performer that plans to play solo, you will definitely be happier with the fuller, resonant sound that a full sized guitar has to offer, especially when it comes to acoustic guitars.
I personally don’t think that ¾ size electrics have many benefits to offer other than if you are looking to buy for a child.
In the world of electric guitars, especially solid bodied instruments, full-size is the way to go. Hollow-bodied instruments vary in size, but these guitars are like cousins to acoustic guitars, as the hollowed body shape size greatly impacts the sound.
Recommended ¾ Size Guitars
- Baby Taylor – Best Acoustic-Electric
- Martin LX1 – Best ¾ Acoustic
- Vangoa 3/4 – Best ¾ Nylon for Beginners
The Full Story on Guitar Sizes
It turns out, in American guitar history, that acoustic guitars were primarily small-bodied guitars. Whether it be the Martin 0, 00 and Parlor, the Taylor Baby, or the Gibson J-165, small bodied instruments were a major part of the Blues and Ragtime music.
Since then the guitar has evolved into a wide range of sizes, including ¼, ½, ¾, Full Size and more.
Take a look at my full article including a size chart if you want to learn more about the different sizes of guitars, it helps recommend the right guitar for you.
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Davis Wilton Bader is a professional guitarist/writer based out of St. Louis, MO. He plays in the bands Lumet and The Outskirts.