Shorter scale guitars with the most bang for the buck

Fender Player Mustang Firemist Gold

You can go short without spending too much nor getting something too cheap.

The standard scale lengths for electric guitars are established by Fender and Gibson. The Fender length is 25.5 inches and Gibson is 24.75.

I'm going to talk about guitars which are shorter than a 24.75" scale length while still being adult-sized. Anything shorter than 24.0" is literally kid-sized stuff, such as any Ibanez miKro (22.2" scale) or Squier Mini (22.75" model), both of which are cheap in price.

You can go expensive with short scale, such as the Fender American Performer Mustang. While that is a fine guitar, there are other options lower in price that are still great.

These are three guitars which I feel you get the most for the money when you want something shorter than 24.75" without it being a kid-sized guitar, without it being a cheap build, and getting the most for the money.

PRS SE 245 (get one)

PRS SE 245

This is technically not a short scale but a shorter scale at 24.50" (hence 245 in the model name), which is still shorter than the Gibson 24.75".

I have openly admitted before that this is not my favorite PRS model (I think the Mira is much better but that's a 25" scale).


I recognize that this very specific model is exactly what some players are looking for. It's got the twin humbuckers, it's shorter than a Gibson while still having a familiar Les Paul layout and certainly looks nice enough.

Also, there is a "belly cut" carve in the back, making it a very comfortable playing it seated or standing.

You do have to like the humbucker sound to like this guitar. If you like the Les Paul or SG, then you will like the PRS SE 245.

Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT (get one)

Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT

This is also technically not short scale but shorter at 24.60", which is the realm of Gretsch guitars. Typical to Gretsch goodness, the G5220 Electromatic Jet BT looks gorgeous. But it's more than just a pretty face. The mahogany body is chambered for lighter weight, and the pickups are Gretsch's "Black Top Broad'Tron".

The Gretsch to your ear should sound brighter compared to the PRS. If you're the type of player that leans more towards the clean side instead of overdriven and distorted tones, or you just appreciate a brighter sounding humbucker, you want the Gretsch.

Fender Player Mustang (get one)

Fender Player Mustang

This guitar is a legitimate short scale at 24.0".

You may be thinking, "Why not just get a Squier Classic Vibe Mustang instead and spend less?" You could do that, and would get a fine guitar, but then you have to deal with a traditional build Mustang.

I'll explain.

Both the Fender Player (Mexico) and Fender American Performer (USA) Mustang are hardtails with no tremolo system present, no phase slider switches and ridiculously easy operation. You get two bright-and-spanky single-coil pickups, a 3-way selector, alder body and a maple neck. Plug in and go. Nice and easy.

The Squier Classic Vibe on the other hand has all the old-school Mustang stuff on it. Namely, the Mustang vibrato system and the phase slider switches.

A very quick rundown of the phase slider switches: Above each pickup is a switch with 3 positions, which is ON OFF ON. There's a reason ON is there twice. If you put both switches to the rear ON position or both to front ON position, you get a two-pickup in-phase sound. If you put one switch to ON rear facing and the other to ON front facing, you get a two-pickup out-of-phase sound, which is best described as a "choked" tone. This means with traditional Mustang wiring, you get a total of 4 possible sounds. Rear pickup alone, front pickup alone, both pickups in-phase, both pickups out-of-phase.

You might be thinking, "That sounds great, so what's the problem?" The problem is that it's basically impossible to quick-switch pickup positions while playing the instrument. With the Fender Player or American Performer Mustang, quick-switching pickup position is easy, just flick the pickup selector toggle. With traditional phase sliders, you can't do that and must deal with those tiny switches.

The Squier CV Mustang isn't bad by any means, but the Player and American Performer are far easier to get along with.

Which is best for you?

Rock sounds that work best with overdrive: PRS SE 245.

Best looking of the bunch with brighter sounding humbuckers: Gretsch G5220 Electromatic Jet BT.

Brightest sounding with the shortest scale and easiest to get along with: Fender Player Mustang.

With any one of these, you're getting something good that's shorter than 24.75" while still being adult-sized and sounds great.

Published 2022 May 8