TAC Family Forums

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  • Looking to do it right from the very start

    Posted by ironpat on November 6, 2021 at 10:02 am

    Hi Everyone,

    I am new to TAC (and couldn’t be more excited!). I am beginning my guitar journey with a guitar that I received as a Christmas gift approximately 10 years ago, which I didn’t select and for which I was never fitted. It is an ESP Ltd. XD5 (dreadnaught style), 1 11/16″ nut, 25.5″ scale… a decent, little, inexpensive guitar that I have picked up from time to time over the years, but never felt fully “meshed” with. I am 5’5″ and feel more comfortable with a 000/00/OM body size. Having said this, I would like to invest in a nicer guitar that I can appreciate and grow into. I have no aspirations of playing for an audience; just for my family and friends at home, and while camping. Based on the type of playing and sound that I prefer, I have my eyes on the Martin 000-15m (or 00-15m) and the Guild M-20. After researching guitar specs and watching [many, many, many] hours of acoustic guitar reviews (Thanks so much, Tony), I have a few questions, as I look to begin my guitar journey with as many of my ducks in a row as possible.

    Broadly, I am curious to know if there is a recommended “best combination” of nut width and scale length for a guy of my stature who has medium (small-medium) sized hands. In other words, if I am to purchase a new guitar, is the learning curve going to be smoother (and with less discomfort/injury risk) using one particular nut width & scale length?

    I have seen on the many guitar forums on the web that “it boils down to preference”, but I have to believe that there are important considerations for being fitted to an acoustic guitar, and that there must be distinct, generally agreed-upon pros and cons to going with one nut width & scale length versus the other.

    Any constructive thoughts?

    Thanks, Everyone. Best of luck with your own TAC journeys!

    Cadgirl replied 2 years, 2 months ago 8 Members · 22 Replies
  • 22 Replies
  • Akabbbb

    November 6, 2021 at 10:23 am

    Welcome ironpat!

    The best advice would be to go play as many guitars as possible at local stores. I like a 1-3/4” nut as I find it a little bit easier while I try to learn finger picking techniques. Scale length is really a personal preference. I have a Taylor AD-27 with a 25.4” and a Martin DJR with a 24” scale length which makes for a perfect couch guitar. I now find myself in love with a Martin 000-17 after playing at a local store, I found the 24.9” scale length to feel extremely comfortable and I think I am a sucker for the whiskey sunset finish.

    • ironpat

      November 6, 2021 at 11:19 am

      Thanks, Akabbbb!

      That 000-17 is most definitely a beautiful instrument!!! So, your fingers fit well on chord shapes on the slightly shorter scale? And you have no issues with your fingers covering all of the strings in barre chords (given the 1 3/4″ nut width)?

      Thanks for the personal testimonial and advice👍

      I may have to schedule a road trip to a reputable dealer who has the handful of guitars that I am curious about 🙂

      • Akabbbb

        November 6, 2021 at 11:52 am

        The 24” scale length is really tight on the A chord, but it just forces me to be very accurate when transitioning to this chord. Never noticed much of a difference with barre chords between a 1-3/4 and 1-11/16 nut width. However, I find a shorter scale length makes barre chords much easier due to the reduced string tension. I briefly owned a Taylor Big Baby and the narrower spacing and I never really got along in flat picking or finger picking. This is probably due to me learning on a wider nut and never really taking the time to get used to the new spacing. I ended up selling that guitar after 2 months for the DJr.

      • ironpat

        November 6, 2021 at 12:12 pm

        Ahhh, gotcha. That is very helpful and good to know. I am still learning my basic chords, so those are the kinds of questions floating around in my head. Which is why I’ve been trying to figure out what might be an ideal nut width/scale length combo, so that I wouldn’t get too far along with my practice and then realize that a different guitar with different sizing/spacing would be better for me.

        I’ll definitely take this info with me to the guitar store!

        Thanks, Akabbbb – I really appreciate it!

  • Marty73

    November 6, 2021 at 11:46 am

    First off, Welcome to TAC. Like Akabbbb said, ya got to go and try some. It’s like buying a pair of shoes… It’s got to fit right. Good guitar hunting and post photos when you do get one. 😊🧙‍♂️😎

    • ironpat

      November 6, 2021 at 11:49 am

      Hey, Marty69!

      Thanks so much!

      You’re absolutely right. I appreciate your thoughts!

  • N-lightMike

    November 6, 2021 at 2:12 pm

    Hello @ironpat , and welcome to TAC, the best learning site on the web (in my not so humble opinion 😁).

    So, I totally respect where you are coming from. In spite of the fact that much of the fairly minor differences between guitars is “personal preference” and that for the most part we don’t get guitars “fitted to us” but we adjust to the guitar, I completely understand and agree with your basic premise here.

    “There must be distinct, generally agreed-upon pros and cons to going with one nut width & scale length versus the other… Any constructive thoughts?”

    Absolutely, I have some “constructive thoughts”. First, I would like to say you got some very good input from @Akabbbb . He started with the standard “go play a bunch” but then shared some of his personal experience, which is what you are actually asking for. And he brought up a very good point. He likes the 1 3/4″ nut width because that’s what he started with. I like the standard 1 11/16″ because that’s what I have always played… until recently. So here is my experience which I’m sure will help you in your decision making process.

    One of our TAC members who comes to the VOMs frequently and really is at the “pro” level, @RealKurt , has owned and played a number of guitars with different nut widths, and I asked him about that. After playing the different guitars he finds himself leaning toward one size (that’s the important part, I’m not for sure I remember which size he said, but I think it was the 1 3/4″).

    I bought a nylon string guitar with a 1 13/16″ nut which is wider than the 1 3/4 but narrower than the typical 2″ classical guitar or the 1 7/8″ classical, which has become fairly common. It is my opinion, and dare I say experience?, that the 1 3/4 or the 1 13/16 gives enough extra width that picking, as opposed to strumming, becomes easier, and yet you can still play your chord shapes just about as easily. And by picking, I mean either finger picking or flat picking. So it does depend on the type of music you wish to play and where you are leaning as to the style you would like to develop. True rhythm playing, yes, it can include some specific string picking, chords are all important and the standard 1 11/16″ gives you the best “fit” for making chords.

    That having been said, there is a whole other factor about the neck: the shape and thickness. I have little to no experience with the different neck shapes. I have played the “normal” neck, which I’m not even sure what it is. I think it is the C style neck. That’s another topic that @RealKurt could address if he comes by and shares his experience.

    <font face=”inherit”>Now, moving on to the scale length. Be careful here. It’s not simply the length of the scale, but also the length and shape of the body that determines how a guitar fits into your lap. If you stand up with a strap, this makes almost no difference. The parlor guitar has the most comfortable feel for me. The scale length isn’t that much different. What is really different is that the neck meets the body at the 12th fret instead of the 14th fret. This makes the neck seem closer to you when you play open chords (well, actually, it is). Now, one parlor has a 24″ scale length and a 1 3/4″ nut and a “standard” parlor body shape, and it is the most comfortable guitar for me. The other parlor that I own has a 24 3/4″ scale length and the standard 1 11/16″ nut and a classic “concert” shaped body though it is a little smaller. I love this guitar but it’s </font>noticeably<font face=”inherit”> less comfortable and more challenging for finger picking. Now both of these “parlor” </font>guitars<font face=”inherit”> have a 12 fret neck.</font>

    <font face=”inherit”>I recently got my nylon string with the 1 13/16″ nut. I love this guitar. Though the body is a little bigger, it is a thin line body and actually fits differently but just as comfortably as the little Alvarez parlor. The nut width and the nylon strings makes this ideal for finger picking, which is my primary choice and stylistic direction. However, just to show you how difficult this can be, the scale length is the full 25 1/2″ which gives you the maximum fret width and ease of making barre chords. So in spite of the scale length and nut width, the narrow body (I’m taking under 3″, it’s 2 7/8″ at the widest) makes up for these factors and it fits wonderfully and is perfect for finger picking (in my opinion). However, I can finger pick just fine on some of my other steel string guitars. </font>

    <font face=”inherit”>The one guitar I would never own is a dreadnaught. I owned one once and sold it not long after. The body is just too big and the sound is just too loud for me. I don’t want to bring the house down every time I pick up my guitar to noodle around. </font>

    <font face=”inherit”>Those are my thoughts. I hope they help you Pat. I hope that Kurt comes by and shares some of his experience. The more insights you get the better prepared you will be to make a decision that works for you. Good luck and let us know when you do make a decision. But the way, a Martin with a small-ish body would be a pretty safe bet. </font>

    <font face=”inherit”>MG 😀</font>

    • ironpat

      November 6, 2021 at 3:12 pm

      Hey, MikeGuarnier,

      Thanks SO very much for all of this. What a thoughtful response!

      You have given me even more details to think about now, LOL. I think that I will have a deeper appreciation for what you are suggesting once I finally have a couple of different guitars in my lap (wider nut + standard scale, wider nut + shorter scale, narrower nut + shorter scale, etc.).

      And, that’s an excellent point about the neck shape (C vs. modified low oval, etc.). I am looking forward to seeing if my fretting hand feels more relaxed/tense from one neck shape to the next.

      Not being very advanced yet, I wonder if I will notice much of a difference, or have a preference 🤷‍♂️. I am curious to see!

      I will absolutely report back with my impressions once I make a decision and have a chance to get a feel for whichever guitar I end up with.

      Thanks so much again!

      • N-lightMike

        November 6, 2021 at 6:26 pm

        You said: “Not being very advanced yet, I wonder if I will notice much of a difference, or have a preference”.

        I agree @ironpat . I have bought and sold a number of guitars since joining TAC 2 1/2 years ago. And I don’t have much money. The Alvarez parlor (AP66) I was talking about lists for $399 and I bought an open box for $300 from zzounds. I currently have 10 guitars, a ukulele and a guitarlele (tenor ukulele body with shortened guitar neck). I have sold 6 guitars, 5 of them on Reverb. When I joined TAC I had one guitar. So I bought 15 guitars and sold 6 of them. That’s why I have some insight into your question and some resonance with your desire to get it right from the beginning.

        The more experience you have playing guitar, the more you will notice the differences in guitars and the more you will know what direction you want to go in. However, I believe that there is a certain amount of trial and error you’re going to have to go through. Sitting in a guitar shop playing a guitar isn’t going to tell you much until you already know what kind of guitar you want. It took me playing a guitar for weeks or even months before I had a definite opinion about it’s strengths and weaknesses and how much I did or didn’t like the guitar.

        Because you own one guitar and it’s a dreadnaught, my suggestion is to buy at least one lesser expensive guitar to take you farther down your guitar path. Ibanez makes very good guitars at an unbelievable price and they copy a lot of more expensive, popular guitars. Ditto for Alvarez and some others.

        I hope this is helpful.

        MG 😀

      • ironpat

        November 6, 2021 at 8:59 pm

        Yes, that is sage advice, indeed! Thank you, Mike 🤜🤛

        I am absolutely looking forward to the journey – all of it!

        Thanks very much for your sincere thoughts and for sharing your personal experiences. This has been very helpful.

    • RealKurt

      November 28, 2021 at 12:13 am

      Hey @MikeGaurnier and @ironpat,

      Hope you both are doing well! I’m not even close to the definitive expert on scale length an nut width, and let not forget about string spacing at the saddle and neck profile, and 12, 13, or 14 fret. So many choices!!!

      In January 2022, I’ll be about 4 years into this little guitar journey – and I’ve bought a bunch of guitars. In fact, I’ve been accused of maybe having too many as recently as 3 days ago, hahaha.

      The truth is, scale length, nut width, string spacing, etc, are indeed all personal preferences. There are no “right” answers. And honestly, a guitar that feels and sounds right to you is probably the best one for you, regardless of anything else. I know we’re all enamored with the style and looks of a guitar, tone woods, etc., but it’s the least important part to me. Does if feel right? Does it sound right? Those are the right questions to ask in my opinion.

      I know what I like the best, but find I’ll make (and have made) exceptions for the guitars that I love. So what do I like?

      Mahogany and Adirondack

      Torrifaction or a great tap-toned top

      Hide glue

      Modified V necks

      Great tuners

      Short Scale

      1 3/4″ nut

      2 5/16″ string spacing

      I have a bunch of guitars that don’t meet those specs that I love, but in the end, it all that matters is what YOU like. I can talk about why I like all of those things, but I really think the most important thing is what you think. I like Mike’s recommendation of waiting a little while to decide on the guitar you want to invest in before making the big plunge!

      Good luck, and keep us posted!!!!

      All the best,


      • N-lightMike

        November 29, 2021 at 2:35 pm


        Thanks for sharing your experience, thoughts and preferences @RealKurt

        MG 😀

      • ironpat

        November 29, 2021 at 7:44 pm

        Thanks a million, RealKurt! I’m with you – feel/comfort is really the most important consideration for me. If it feels like an extension of my body, I’ll know that it’s the right guitar.

        Thanks very much for your thoughts and advice! I appreciate it!

  • punder

    November 29, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    I am 6-1 with medium sized hands. Just started playing again (and watching the forums) after months off with a rotor cuff injury. I have a fat Tele, a cheap LP knock-off, and a cheap Taylor Mini knock-off (among others that are gathering dust on the String Swings). I’ve really gravitated to the shorter scale lengths, and in fact the little travel acoustic is the most comfortable guitar I own. But I can’t imagine there is any way to predict this—everyone is built differently and you’ll just have to try them out. So my advice is… a wash. NEVERMIND. 🙂 Short answer: buy many guitars! 🙂 You’re going to anyway, you know. It’s impossible not to.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by  punder.
    • ironpat

      November 29, 2021 at 7:40 pm

      😆 yes, you’re right! I’m going to go anyway – why fight it?! I’m going to try as many as possible between now and early February, and then get myself a birthday present.

      I hope that your rotator cuff has been healing-up successfully!

      • punder

        November 30, 2021 at 10:56 am

        Thanks. I finally hooked up with a doctor who found the problem—in about three minutes. He’s on the US Olympic med team! Lucky, lucky me.

  • jumpinjeff

    November 29, 2021 at 6:25 pm

    Many have said it and I wholeheartedly agree: gotta get down and try many, many out. Hang out in some guitar stores and play everything. And when you find the right one, don’t let anyone take it out of your hands even the insistent sales person. Always be on the hunt for the surprise…makes the hunt more fun.

    • ironpat

      November 29, 2021 at 7:35 pm

      Thanks, jumpinjeff!

      That really just makes the most sense.

  • Cadgirl

    November 30, 2021 at 4:54 am

    I have a Martin d-28. I thought the same thing, with plenty of practice reaching the strings will be second nature to me. Ha! My fingers never grew longer to adjust to the guitar and it’s still a pain to use. Just keep in mind It’s a combination of things. The width of the neck is one and the shape of the neck is another (I’m sure there are more). I tried out a Resonator guitar, the nut width was a good size but the shape of the neck made it impossible for me to fret! I go to a guitar store that has a return policy of 45 days. In 45 days I should know if it’s a comfortable guitar to use. I have 5 guitars. My Taylor GS mini (3/4 size) and Cordoba 1/2 size are my absolute favorites and a fraction of the cost of my Martin.

    • N-lightMike

      November 30, 2021 at 11:11 am


    • ironpat

      January 31, 2022 at 7:15 pm

      Thank you, Cadgirl! Sorry that I am only seeing this now. I appreciate those insights!

      • Cadgirl

        February 1, 2022 at 3:21 am

        Just to let you know @ironpat. The Martin-D28 I purchased just last year went to the guitar store and was traded in for something smaller and easier for me to handle. I still lost money on the trade but I love the guitar I ended up with, fits me perfect (this is just over a year on my guitar journey). My advice is to use your current guitar for the meantime and take the time to do a lot of shopping around at the guitar stores. My most used guitar I own is a Cordoba 1/2 size guitar. Cost me all of $65. Nylon strings, doesn’t kill my fingers, great for practice. Great for taking with you when you travel. Take the advice of what the community sent to you and try them out, all of them if you can. Good Luck.

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