It is traditional when building a short scale classical guitar to make the body smaller, so that the proportions stay the same. The result is that musicians with smaller hands are relegated to playing on guitars that many deride as children’s instruments or having to play on frets that are too far apart for their hands. Either way it is an impediment to many men and women who are not blessed with huge hands.
This year I decided that I should look into this issue. I do not have very large hands and playing on a 650mm scale guitar can be an issue for me. I often play arrangements by musicians who play on arch top guitars, which tend to have a scale length closer to 630mm (24.9″). Some of the stretches are very difficult for me on a 650mm scale classical guitar, so I decided to build a short scale, but full size body classical guitar for my own use.
In addition to the short scale, I wanted to get back into using solid wood for soundboards, and see if I could get performance similar to the double top soundboards I’d been building for the past several years. I had built a Bolivian rosewood/spruce guitar earlier in the year and been impressed with it’s volume, so I decided to try Patagonian rosewood with Englemann spruce. Both of these guitars have 7 fan braces and my pin supported soundboard design. I knew that I would have to use high tension strings for the short scale to get a tension I was used to on the soundboard.
I finished the guitar and have been playing it for a couple months now. I had some issues initially getting a set of strings I liked on it. I went through several sets while playing the guitar in the first few weeks. In order I tried;
D’Addario J-46 high tension nylon
RC white high tension composite
D’addario high tension Titanium
Knobloch Actives high tension carbon
I normally use Savarez Cantiga/Alliance (carbon) strings, but did not have a high tension set. I expect to try those when I’ve exhausted the Knobloch Actives. So far the Knobloch strings are doing very well and provide the strong treble presence that I prefer. I like the steel core of the bass strings as well. I don’t like paying the extra cost for the Knobloch strings, but on this guitar they have excelled. I have a rather low action on this guitar and I might prefer a little more tension on the bass strings, but the sound is excellent and well balanced with these strings as is.
The overall result was a guitar that stands out very well given it’s short scale length. While it is not quite as loud as my double top instruments, it is very close and has qualities that I really like. I feel confident that I can recommend this to those who, like me, have smaller hands but don’t want a reduced size instrument.