Classical Guitar Sizes: A Buyer’s Guide


As anyone who wants to buy a classical guitar finds out quickly, the instrument comes in a variety of sizes. There is the regular size classical guitar also known variously as full size, 4/4 size and concert size. In addition, there are what are called fractional guitars.

  • 4/4 size
  • 7/8 size
  • 3/4 size
  • 1/2 size
  • 1/4 size

Of these, the 7/8 size is for all practical purposes an almost 4/4 full-size guitar in terms of usage, pricing, build quality and adult customers. The other fractional sizes – 3/4 size, 1/2 size and 1/4 size – are children’s guitars.

The general guide is as follows:

  • 1/4-Size – 4-6 years old
  • 1/2-Size – 6-8 years old
  • 3/4-Size – 8-11 years old
  • 7/8-Size or 4/4-Size – 11-Adult

Keep in mind, though, there are children of various heights and hand lengths within any age band. A teacher’s guidance will always help in deciding on fractional guitars.

Although an occasional adult hobbyist or learner may take to the 3/4 size guitar for its easy playability, these guitars are normally something a child sooner or later outgrows. They are cheaper and less sturdier, just about adequate for a child to get through the learning years.

So far so good: the full size and 7/8 size guitars are ‘serious’ guitars, the rest are children’s guitars. In practice, what spoils the neat and promising system of fractional sizes is that various manufacturers have their own opinions on the actual dimensions!

A 3/4 size guitar from Yamaha, for instance, is different in its dimensions from a 3/4 size guitar from Cordoba. There is no industry standard laying down the dimensions. To make an informed decision, you must go past the fractions and learn about the actual physical dimensions and, more importantly, which dimensions really matter.

That’s what this guide is all about.

Good news: The full-size guitar is fairly standardized

Among all the sizes, the 4/4 size guitar is fairly well standardized. Two key dimensions that matter in the full-size guitar – or for that matter in any size guitar – are scale length and nut width.

Scale length is the effective length of a guitar string, the distance between the saddle on the bridge and the vertical nut near the tuning end. Standard, full-size classical guitars used to have a scale length of 26” (660 mm)  but they have become less common. Today’s standard (unofficial but very common) is a scale length of 25.6” (650 mm).

Nut width is the vertical distance of the fingerboard measured at the nut. A nut width of around the 2” mark (52 mm) is fairly common among full-size guitars.

It’s easy to see why these two dimensions of all – scale length and nut width – matter. They have a direct bearing on playability, the ease with which your left hand can reach all the frets. A comfortable scale length makes for easy horizontal traversing of the left hand while the nut width determines the vertical traversing.

Take a look at the following table illustrating the key dimensions, along with other numbers like overall length and body depth, of some leading and popular brands of full size classical guitars.

Key dimensions of some popular full size classical guitars


Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
Cordoba C939”
990 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
25.6”
650 mm
2.04”
52 mm
3.7-3.9”
94-99 mm
Cordoba C539.5”
1003 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
25.6”
650 mm
2”
50 mm
3 3/4”
95-100 mm
Cordoba C139 1/4”
997 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
25.6”
650 mm
2.04”
52 mm
3.7-3.9”
94-99 mm
Yamaha C40II25.56”
650 mm
2”
51 mm
3.31”
84 mm
Yamaha CG142S25.6”
650 mm
2.05”
52 mm
3.7-3.94”
94-100 mm
Yamaha GC22S25.6”
650 mm
2.04”
52 mm
3.7-3.9”
94-100 mm
Alhambra 7P25.6″
650 mm
2.04”
52 mm
95-102 mm
La Patrie Presentation25.66”
650 mm
2.04”
52 mm

Notes: You will find the key dimensions especially are fairly close. So if you’re looking for full-size guitars you should generally be fine with regard to overall dimensions regardless of the price band you’re looking at. Secondly, the body depth often has a range of numbers rather than a single number because many guitar tops feature a slope from the lower bout to the upper bout causing variable depths along the way.

7/8 size guitars: You’re in luck again (mostly)

As mentioned, a 7/8 size classical guitar is considered a serious option by adults with small hands. Those with small hands find the 7/8 size easier to negotiate than a full-size guitar. Even luthiers make 7/8 size guitars – also known as the 630 mm scale guitars – without considering them as a compromise. A concert artiste (with small hands) will have no issues playing on a guitar of this size.

Its definition and dimensions according to most manufacturers are pretty much consistent. In fact, the scale length of these guitars is commonly pegged at 630 mm that they are even known as 630 mm guitars. I have a full article on 630 mm guitars that covers popular brands and reviews them for your benefit.

But then there is a notable exception in the Yamaha CS40, which the company terms a 7/8 guitar. Its scale length is 580 mm. 

Barring that, however, almost every maker appears to adhere to the unofficial standard of the 630 mm scale length for their 7/8 offerings. Let’s look at a comparison of some popular 7/8 brands of classical guitar.

Key dimensions of some popular 7/8 classical guitars


Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
Cordoba Dolce 7/8 Iberia Series38”
965 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
24.8”
630 mm
1.96″
50 mm
3.6”-3.7”
92mm-94mm
Yamaha CS4039.5”
1003 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
22 13/16”
580 mm
1 7/8”
48 mm
3 1/8-3 1/4”
80-84 mm
Cordoba C9 Parlor38”
965 mm
18 7/8”
479 mm
24.8”
630 mm
2”
50 mm
3 1/2-3 3/4”
90-95 mm
Cordoba C10 Parlor38”
965 mm
18 7/8”
479 mm
24.8”
630 mm
2”
50 mm
3 1/2-3 3/4”
90-95 mm
Cordoba Estudio39 1/4”
997 mm
19 1/4”
489 mm
24 3/4”
629 mm
2”
50 mm
3 3/4-4”
95-100 mm
Kremona S62C37.79”
960 mm
18.50”
470 mm
24.40”
620 mm
1.97”
50 mm
3.78-3.94”
96-100 mm

Notes: As already seen, Yamaha’s scale length and nut width are an exception. Kremona’s S62C also varies but is fairly close to the ‘standard’. Many other brands not shown here such as Ortega and Stagg use the 7/8 name to refer to their 630 mm scale length models. Thanks to Cordoba, the term Parlor is now becoming popular to signify the 7/8 size guitar with a scale length of 630 mm.

3/4 size, 1/2 size and 1/4 size classical guitars: It’s time to pull out your hair

Classical guitars for kids. The fun begins! There is no standard. Get used to it. It drives a potential buyer nuts when looking for a guitar either for themselves or for a child. These fractions are a general indication in terms of relative sizes, informing you that a 1/4 size guitar is smaller than a 1/2 size guitar, for example. By how much? Oh well, it depends. On what? On which brands we are talking about. Will you kindly stop pulling your hair?

OK, the only way to make an informed purchase is to look for and nail down the two dimensions that matter – scale length and nut width. As mentioned, they have a direct bearing on how easy a child will find negotiating their left hand on the fingerboard. So don’t go by the fractions. Ask what these fractions represent in terms of these two key dimensions. And you are well on your way to winning this battle.

You can start by scrutinising these tables.

Key dimensions of some popular 3/4 classical guitars


Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
Yamaha CGS103AII36 1/4”
920 mm
17 11/16”
450 mm
23.23”
590 mm
1 7/8”
48 mm
3 5/16-3 7/16”
84-88 mm
Ortega Guitars Family Series R121-3/422 13/16”
580 mm
1.77”
45 mm
3.54”
90 mm
Cordoba Cadete37.4”
950 mm
24.2”
615 mm
1.88”
48 mm
3.4”
84 mm
Cordoba Protege C1-3/437.5”
952 mm
18”
457 mm
24.2”
615 mm
1.875”
48 mm
3.35”
85 mm
Pyle 36” Classical Acoustic Guitar-3/4 Junior Size36”
914 mm
17.3”
440 mm
22.8”
579 mm

Notes: You will find some blanks in the information because not every maker at this level of guitars thinks it necessary to share all the dimensional data. Remember to write and ask about the missing data if you’re interested in the model.

Key dimensions of some popular 1/2 classical guitars


Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
ADM 1/2 size34”
864 mm
15.6”
396 mm
1.6”
41 mm
Yamaha CGS102A34”
864 mm
21 1/6”
535 mm
1.9”
48 mm
3.15-3.3”
80-84 mm
Cordoba C1M 1/2 size35.25”
895 mm
16.75”
425 mm
22.83”
579 mm
1.875”
48 mm
3.5”
89 mm
Cordoba Requinto 1/2 (Iberia Series)35.5”
895 mm
22.8”
579 mm
1.85”
47mm
3.4”
86 mm
Cordoba Mini II MH34 3/8”
873 mm
15.87”
403 mm
22.875”
580 mm
1.875”
48 mm

Notes: The ADM 1/2 Size guitar is an interesting option in that it has a combination of 3 nylon strings and 3 steel strings instead of all nylon. Cordoba Protege C1M is a variant of the Protege C1, which is a full gloss finish guitar. The M stands for Matte finish. Otherwise the guitar dimensions are the same. Yamaha believes its popular CGS102AII’s 21″ scale length provides a “comfortable platform and easy finger stretch for the entrant learner.”

Key dimensions of some popular 1/4 classical guitars


Total lengthBody lengthScale lengthNut widthBody depth
Pyle PGACLS30 1/430”
762 mm
14.4”
366 mm
19.7”
500 mm
Cordoba C1M 1/4 size31.75” 
806.45 mm
18.9”
480 mm
1.75”
45 mm
3.15”
80 mm
Cordoba Requinto 520 1/4 size20.47”
520 mm
3.30-3.38”
84-86 mm
Kremona S44C 1/4 Scale28.54”
725 mm
13.39”
340 mm
17.3”
440 mm
1.73”
44 mm
2.82-2.95”
72-75 mm
Yamaha Guitalele27 1/2”
698 mm
12 9/16”
319 mm
17”
433 mm
1 7/8”
48 mm
2 3/4”
70 mm

Notes: The Yamaha Guitalele is a 433mm scale ukulele-style nylon string guitar easy to carry along.

My recommendations for children’s fractional guitars:

3/4 size guitar: I’d go with the Ortega Guitars Family Series R121-3/4 (Amazon link). Or the Yamaha CGS103A (Sweetwater link).

1/2 size guitar: I recommend the popular Yamaha CGS102A (Amazon link). Or the Cordoba Mini II MH (Sweetwater link).

1/4 size guitar: The well made Kremona S44C 1/4 Scale is a great choice (Amazon link). Or the Cordoba C1M 1/4 Size (Sweetwater link).

___________________

Read my article here on Is the 630 mm Classical Guitar a Serious Option? for more details specifically about the 7/8 guitar with its leading models. And 6 Options of the 3/4 Size Classical Guitar for Your Child is a related article to get some practical options to consider if you’re looking for them.

Happy strumming!

Attribution of graphic used on page: Music vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com

Nylon Plucks

Narayan Kumar is a passionate classical guitarist and an online research buff. He is also one half of the online classical guitar duo DuJu who put out guitar duets regularly on their YouTube channel. Read more about Narayan.

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