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Guitar Sizes Explained – My Best Advice for Finding the Right Size

Deciding to learn the guitar is a super exciting moment. Whether you’re an adult looking to find a new hobby or a parent looking to inspire your child into pursuing music, you’ve got a brilliant journey ahead of you! 

As everybody knows, practice makes perfect, and a lot of hard work and dedication will be required if you are going to master the instrument. However, before this is even possible, you will face a separate obstacle – choosing guitar sizes. 

If you’re overwhelmed by the range of available guitar sizes, don’t worry – I was in the same position about fifteen years ago, but now guitar performance is my job! In this guide, I’ll have guitar sizes explained and break everything about guitar sizing down for you so that you can be sure that the guitar you purchase is a perfect fit. Let’s take a look! 

Full-Sized Guitars

Buying any musical instrument can be confusing, especially when it comes to size. Many different sizes are available for both adults and children, and it can be difficult to know which to purchase. However, a general rule is that adults should use full-sized instruments, often express as 4/4 (for example a 4/4 Cello). 

If you were to purchase two 4/4 cellos from different brands, it’s very unlikely that they will vary significantly in terms of size, but this is not the case for guitar sizing. Guitar purchasers face some of the biggest challenges, and this all comes down to the variety of build types. 

Unlike most instruments, guitars vary in dimensions and weight depending on the type and brand. Even if you chose two full-sized guitars, one is likely to be heavier and larger than the other. Some may be light and large, whilst others could be small and heavy. This is mostly due to the variety of ways that guitar producers design their guitars to make them stand out. 

However, the length of a full-sized guitar will be relatively uniform. You can generally expect a full-sized guitar to be 40 inches in length, a size that is best fitted to people over the height of five feet and three inches. For adults smaller than this height, the slightly smaller ⅞ size might be more appropriate.

Before we take a look at the range of guitar sizes available for you to consider, let’s first take a look at the parts that build up a guitar. This might not be normal practice with other musical instruments, but trust me – it will make this whole process a lot easier.  

Understanding the Sizing of a Guitar

Most instruments come in uniform sizes, and the proportions of each part of the instrument will reflect each other. However, guitars aren’t really like this – there are several different parts and dimensions to a guitar that you will need to consider. 

A perfect analogy of this is when I first tried a jumbo acoustic guitar. It was described as a full-sized guitar and I was eleven years old, and I didn’t want to buy a smaller guitar as I knew that I would eventually grow into it. However, when I finally tested it in a music store, I couldn’t believe how thick the body was in comparison to other acoustics that I had held. 

This is why it is important to investigate the measurements of parts of any guitar you consider purchasing. A specific size profile does not necessarily mean that it will be a good fit. 

There are three key parts to a guitar – the machine head (otherwise known as the headstock), the neck, and the body. You won’t need to worry much about the machine head, this is simply the tip of the neck, and you will only need to use it when you are tuning your guitar. However, it is worth measuring the neck and the body. 

The neck will generally be reflected in terms of the guitar’s size. Smaller sizes will provide shorter necks, and full-sized guitars will have a pretty uniform size. Necks are usually measured from the bridge (next to where you strum the strings) to the top of the neck, and this is called the scale. The most standard scale for full-sized guitars is 25.5 inches (with an overall length of 40 inches) and can be found on most of the major guitar types such as Stratocasters and Telecasters. 

Bodies on the other hand are a lot more complicated. There are three dimensions to consider here – the length from the bottom of the body to the bridge, the width, and the depth. From my perspective, depth is the most important thing to measure. You could purchase a guitar that has a suitable neck length and body size, but if the depth is too deep, it could be uncomfortable to reach the bridge area with your right hand. 

The best thing you can do is head to a music store such as Guitar Center and try some guitars out. Try some chunky jumbo acoustics such as the Takamine GJ72CE-NAT or the Epiphone J-200, and compare them against some thinner electric guitars such as the Gibson Les Paul or a Fender Stratocaster. This will give you a good idea of what will be comfortable for you. Consider bringing a tape measure along with you, because that way you can note the exact dimensions if you take your shopping online. 

guitar-variations

Full-sized Guitar Recommendations

It’s all very well knowing that 4/4 means full-sized, but what are some of the most popular examples of such guitars? It’s a great idea to look out for a range of different 4/4 guitars due to their varying dimensions. Take a look at some of my favorites, and make sure you take note of their dimensions for when you test them out in stores!

Fender Squier Bullet Strat HT IL

Fender Squier Bullet Strat HT IL Arctic White

 

The Fender Squier Bullet Strat HT IL is a fantastic full-sized guitar that I would particularly recommend for beginners. It looks and sounds pretty similar to the widely popular Fender Stratocasters, but at a fraction of the price, making it a classic choice for a first guitar.

Whilst it’s obviously not going to sound quite as great as a mid-range Stratocaster, the tone of this guitar packs a decent punch for the price, and the appearance is decent too (particularly for indie-rock guitarists). My favorite part about this guitar is the scratchplate, I think it complements the finish beautifully!

Pros

  • A very affordable full-sized guitar, costing around $200
  • Fender is a highly reputable guitar manufacture, making it a solid upgrade option for an intermediate guitarist
  • Includes a stylish and practical scratchplate that will protect the body from your guitar pick

Cons

  • Whilst I love the indie aesthetic of the Squier, some people don’t think it looks very Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • The guitar is great value for money, but it’s undeniable that it won’t sound as good as Fender options of a higher price

PRS SE Custom 22

PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 22 Electric Guitar with Gig Bag

The PRS SE Custom 22 is a great full-sized guitar option if you’re looking to upgrade from your first guitar. It’s pretty pricey at around $1,000 hence why I think it’s appropriate for a second guitar, but the features are totally worth it.

The curved build is very elegant and the selection of available finishes is vast, but the key feature would have to be the dual-coil humbuckers and the PRS tremolo bridge.

Together, these two components make the tone and dynamics of this guitar seriously solid, and you’ll never have to worry about destabilizing your tuning from using that tremolo bar again!

Pros

  • A smooth and curved body that is favored by many guitarists for comfort
  • Available in many different plain and gradient finished (Vintage Sunburst is my favorite!)
  • A tremolo bar and bridge combination that facilitates stable an unintrusive vibrato

Cons

  • Whilst many people love the curved body of this PRS, the complex dimensions make it difficult to test for comfort unless you know what you are looking for.

Gibson Les Paul

Gibson Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar

If you’ve never heard about the Gibson Les Paul, have you been living under a rock!? It’s quite possibly the most famous guitar in the world, being favored by tons of rockstars from Jimmy Page to Slash.

The stunning attention to detail, dual-coil humbucker pickups, and variety of tone dials make this guitar the most expensive option on my list at an average of $1,500, but it’s totally worth it.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend this as a beginner guitar though – it would be better to master the instrument and save every cent from performances, and eventually aim to purchase this stunning dream of a guitar!

Pros

  • A gorgeous and finely crafted full-sized guitar highly sought after by even the most seasoned guitarists
  • Five dials for the customization of tone and pick-up style
  • Excellent quality engineering of the truss rod and nut to ensure for consistently stable tuning

Cons

  • Very expensive – these guitar models can cost thousands of dollars!

Epiphone Les Paul

Epiphone Les Paul Studio LT Electric Guitar

The last guitar on this list might sound similar to the last, but the Epiphone Les Paul is actually quite different from the Gibson version. The aesthetic and build are very similar, but the features are not quite as impressive.

Instead of the dual-coil humbuckers of the Gibson, the Epiphone includes standard single-coil pickups and a less impressive build quality overall.

However, don’t let this put you off – it’s a solid guitar that I love to play, and it can be purchased for around a third of the price of the Gibson, making it a great option for guitarists on a budget who simply can’t wait to play a Les Paul.

Pros

  • A significantly cheaper alternative to the classic Gibson Les Paul, generally costing between $500 and $750
  • An ideal upgrade option for guitarists who currently use beginner of child-sized guitars
  • Significantly better engineering than similarly priced full-sized guitars

Cons

  • Despite the similar aesthetic and engineering, the Epiphone Les Paul simply does not look or sound quite as good as its Gibson alternative.

Children Guitar Sizes

Whilst guitar sizes can be confusing particularly when it comes to full-sized options, there is still a standardized sizing system for children’s guitars. The comments that I made regarding unique models of guitars and their dimensions still apply, but the sizes generally follow standardized ratios. As a general rule, you can use the following table to assess the dimensions of each guitar size. 

Size Overall Length Child’s Height
1/4  31 Inches ~3 Feet and 9 Inches
1/2 34 Inches ~4 Feet and 3 Inches
3/4  36 Inches ~4 Feet and 8 Inches
7/8 39 Inches ~5 Feet and 1 Inch

If you are purchasing a guitar for a young child, it can certainly be a good idea to investigate some of these sizes. However, remember that children grow rapidly, and they could easily grow out of a specific guitar size in just a year.
I would personally recommend purchasing a guitar that your child can grow into as opposed to out of.

For example, if the child is coming up to five feet in height with no signs of slowing down, it could be worth purchasing a full-sized guitar for them to grow into such as a 4/4 PRS SE. This may not be comfortable for them initially, but they will get used to it and will thank you later.

Believe it or not, I learned to play the guitar on the very Takamine jumbo acoustic guitar that I mentioned earlier, a size that is even larger than a standard 4/4 guitar. I was only around nine years old and I could barely fit my arms around the depth of the body, but it was just about manageable. 

I’m grateful for this experience – it was incredibly hard to reach the right places and both my arms and fingers ached, but it was doable. Not only was it doable, but it also meant that when I eventually bought myself a slim electric guitar, it felt very easy. 

I’m not necessarily recommending that you purchase a jumbo acoustic guitar for a child, but more so expressing that an oversized guitar is likely still usable.

I should probably have been using a ½ or ¾ guitar at that time, but I’m grateful that I persevered through the pain of using a jumbo acoustic. 

My Top Children-Sized Guitar Recommendations

With so many different choices of guitars being available in just about every size I have listed so far, it can be really difficult to decide which one is most appropriate. I totally understand that, so I’ve pulled together a few examples for each major guitar size, and each example comes highly recommended from my own experiences! Let’s take a look.

Best Children-Sized Guitar Models

TIGER CLG5-PK 1/4 Size Classical Guitar

TIGER CLG5-BL

Whilst 1/4 classical guitars are generally great options for young aspiring guitarists between the ages of three to five years old, I would particularly recommend this TIGER CLG5-PK for the girls. It has a pretty pink finish which I think is wonderfully stylish, but best of all it is pre-strung with nylon strings.

Nylon strings are significantly easier to apply pressure to and thus hurt those delicate fingers a lot less than standard strings. The pink style might not be for everyone, but TIGER produces various other child-sized acoustics with other finishes and colors, so there’s something for everyone really.

Pros

  • Ideal 1/4 size for children between the age of three to five years old
  • The cute pink style makes it a popular choice for young rockstar girls
  • Comes pre-strung with nylon strings, making it softer on childrens’ fingers

Cons

  • The pink color isn’t exactly popular among young boys!
  • It’s an acoustic guitar, and many kids want an electric guitar

1/2 LA Electric Guitar (Sunburst)

LA Electric Guitar

Whilst age ranges are often used to determine guitar sizes, I’d simply recommend this 1/2 LA Electric Guitar for children between the heights of 4″ 3′ and 4″ 8′. I’ve always been a fan of the vintage sunburst finish on electric guitars, so it’s great to see a budget option for young guitarists.

Something that really caught my eye about this guitar is that the company often sells it bundled with a small guitar amp, guitar strap, spare strings, and a case! It’s a great option for anyone who wants to get all of those pesky purchases out of the way before they start to learn to shred!

Pros

  • Perfect size for children between 4″ 3′ and 4″ 8′
  • Cool sunburst finish makes the guitar authentic and professional looking
  • Comes bundled with a portable 10W guitar amp, strap, and other essential accessories

Cons

  • A relatively expensive option for a beginners guitar at just under $200

Gear4Music 3/4 Electroacoustic Dreadnought Acoustic

Dreadnought Electro Acoustic Travel Guitar by Gear4music

Last but not least, I wanted to give a shout-out to the Gear4Music 3/4 Electroacoustic Dreadnought Acoustic. As you will learn in the next section, Dreadnought acoustics are generally considered to be the equivalent to a 4/4 electric, so I was impressed to see this manufacturer producing a scaled-down alternative, it’s a classic build style!

This guitar has tons of features going for it; it’s electroacoustic meaning that it can be played both acoustically or through an amplifier, and it also doubles up as an excellent travel guitar for adult musicians.

It’s a little more expensive than other child-sized guitars on this list, but the versatility of the instrument makes the price tag totally worth it.

Pros

  • Electroacoustic capabilities, meaning players can choose between electric or acoustic amplification
  • A 3/4 proportioned dreadnought, providing comfortable use for children at a height of around 4″ 8′ and 5″ 1′
  • A great option for traveling adult musicians, not just children
  • A natural and organic finish of Makore wood

Cons

  • The battery pack can run out of power quickly and be damaged if not covered correctly.

Acoustic Guitar Size Variations

Whilst we’re on the topic of jumbo acoustics, let’s take a look at the different sizes of acoustic guitars. If you’re looking for an electric guitar then you can skip this section as they follow the standard size ratios that I just explained. However, acoustic guitars are often described in different ways. Take a look at this table, you’ll see what I mean. 

Size Overall Length Additional Information
Jumbo 43 Inches An exceptionally rich-sounding acoustic guitar that will sound fuller and deeper than Dreadnoughts. An example would be the Epiphone AJ-220S. 
Dreadnought  41 Inches The Standard acoustic guitar size, providing rich tones across the whole frequency spectrum. An example would be the Fender FA-125. 
OM (Orchestral Model) 40 Inches A full-sized acoustic guitar that has a slimmer ‘hourglass’ body for increased comfort. An example would be the Freshman FALTDKOAO. 
Parlor 38 Inches An acoustic guitar that is 20% shorter than a standard acoustic with a neck shorted by 2 inches, designed for smaller adults. An example would be the Ibanez PN19-ONB.
Travel 36 Inches An acoustic guitar that is 5% smaller than a Parlor, with a compact body and neck design targeted towards children and traveling musicians. An example would be the Fender Sonoran Mini Natural. 

It must be said that all of this can get pretty confusing, but don’t panic. I would recommend that you simply print both the standard guitar size table and the acoustic guitar-sized table, and use it to communicate with salespeople at a music store. Remember that an OM acoustic is approximately the same sized as a 4/4 electric and that a travel acoustic roughly equates to a ¾ guitar. 

How to Know if a Guitar Fits

So, you’ve read through the information I provided regarding the variety of guitar sizes and you’ve chosen a guitar that tickles your fancy. How do you know if it’s the appropriate size for you? It’s a great question!

Firstly, you should always test out a guitar in a music store before you even think about purchasing it. Guitar stores such as Guitar Center have trained guitar experts as staff, and their job is to help you find the perfect guitar. Ask a member of staff nicely, and they will run you through all the necessary steps to find a guitar that fits. 

The staff member will likely sit you down at a guitar stool and run you through a few tests. Firstly, you will need to ensure that you can reach the first fret with your left hand. If you are a beginner, this is inevitably going to be uncomfortable, and it will get easier over time. However, if you physically cannot reach or wrap your fingers around the neck, this could be a sign that a scaled-down size will be more appropriate. 

Another thing to consider is reaching the higher frets. The neck gets deeper as it reaches the point where it joins the body, and as a result, your hands must wrap around a larger surface area to reach the higher frets. I wouldn’t worry too much if you struggle to hit that final 20th fret, because the chances of you using that regularly is pretty slim.  

Next, make sure that you can comfortably navigate the bridge area of the guitar with your right hand. Whether you have chosen a chunky jumbo acoustic or a slim Gibson Les Paul, you will need to be able to move your wrist and fingers comfortably to hit even the most basic strumming patterns. 

Last but certainly not least, the guitar should feel comfortable overall. Try standing up with the guitar held up by a guitar strap and ensure that it doesn’t feel too heavy or large. Apply the same tests when sitting at a guitar stool, and consider scaling down if the guitar feels clumsy to use. 

At the end of the day, beginners will always find holding a guitar uncomfortable, regardless of the size. It’s certainly better to go for something smaller that you can guarantee that you will be comfortable using, but consider going for a larger size if you or your child is going through relentless growth spurts.

boys playing guitar

FAQs

The world of guitar sizes can feel like an absolute minefield at times, but I hope that I have helped clear the confusion out of the air. If you have any remaining questions, please consider checking out the answers to the following frequently asked questions. I hope they are as helpful to you as they were to my guitar students!

Question: What are the Main Sizes of Electric Guitar?

Answer: The main sizes of electric guitar that you will encounter are 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, and the full-sized 4/4, but remember that every type and brand of guitar has different dimensions regardless of its size profile!

Question: What are the Main Sizes of Acoustic Guitar?

Answer: Acoustic guitars come with different size profiles to electric guitars, the most common being Dreadnought, OM, Parlour, Travel, and Jumbo. 

Question: How do I Know if a Guitar Size is Right for Me?

Answer: Whilst guitars will always feel uncomfortable to beginners, a correctly chosen guitar size should facilitate the comfortable navigation of the full fretboard with the left hand and the bridge area with the right hand. 

Question: What is the Largest Guitar Size?

Answer: 4/4 is often considered to be the largest guitar size, but Jumbo acoustics are significantly larger at a massive 43 inches in length. 

Final Thoughts

Regardless of whether you are a seasoned guitarist or a beginner, I truly hope that this guide has been beneficial to you. I can relate to the frustrations of understanding guitar sizes, but keep a positive mindset, because before you know it you will have forgotten all about this and be learning your first chords and scales. 

I’ve personally always been a fan of jumbo acoustics such as my beloved Takamine GJ72CE-NAT. However, it’s important to remember that every person is different just as is every guitar, so it’s certainly not a “one-size-fits-all” situation. 

I’ve provided a lot of tips and information regarding choosing the right guitar size, but I cannot stress the importance of testing out guitars enough. Do some research online, head to your local Guitar Center, and test out a guitar that catches your eye. 

Take note of how each size profile feels, and don’t be afraid to ask the staff to bring out yet another guitar – it’s their job after all! Good luck, and don’t forget about this article when you are shredding the fretboard in the future!