A little science - Stratocaster vs Les Paul

Discussion in 'V.C.'s Parlor' started by Mrjlr, Oct 25, 2021.

  1. Mrjlr

    Mrjlr Squier Talker

    Mar 9, 2021
    Chino, California
    The most significant difference between the Stratocaster vs the Les Paul is the scale length - the distance between the nut and the bridge. The Stratocaster having longer strings (.75" longer).

    Bearing in mind that there are only 3 ways to raise or lower the frequency (pitch) of a note played on a string...
    1) Change the diameter of the string
    2) Change the length of the string
    3) Change the tension of the string

    I like to exaggerate to illustrate things....

    Imagine that your string was very short. ....VERY short. Like 1" long. That would be VERY difficult to bend. So, by that logic, the longer the string, the easier it would be to bend. The Stratocaster wins this, with it's longer scale length, it's easier to play and bend notes than the Les Paul.

    The Les Paul, with it's shorter scale length, has an advantage as well. Shorter strings don't require as much string tension to tune to pitch. Les Paul strings arent as tight - easier to play, right?!

    So.......which one is the winner? Not "opinions" like which one you like more, because I like Stratocasters more....
    But, scientifically, which one is easier to play?
    Hint: there probably is no correct answer!

    Thought this would make an interesting topic...

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  2. Eddd

    Eddd Squier-holic

    Nov 20, 2019
    I have always thought that the shorter string would have a higher tension thus being more difficult to bend. But what do I know?
  3. Mrjlr

    Mrjlr Squier Talker

    Mar 9, 2021
    Chino, California
    Two strings, the same diameter but one shorter, one longer, the shorter one is higher in pitch...so you don't have to tighten the shorter one as much to get it in tune because it's already a higher note.

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  4. Eddd

    Eddd Squier-holic

    Nov 20, 2019
    Hmmm,imagine that.
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  5. grizzlewulf

    grizzlewulf Squier-holic

    Dec 11, 2020
    Lucerne, California
    String tension matters more than string length, in terms if bendability. Your assumption that the longer Strat is easier to bend is based on how bendable they'd be at the exact same tension. But if they were at the same tension, the shorter LP would have to be tuned much higher. So, comparing a Strat and LP at the same tuning and string gauge, the LP should be easier to bend, all other things being equal, because it requires less tension to be strung at the same pitch.
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  6. DougMen

    DougMen Dr. Squier

    Jun 8, 2017
    Honolulu, HI
    With the same gauge string, the shorter the scale length, the lower the tension, so the easier it is to bend. I thought everyone knew that
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  7. Ahnlaashock

    Ahnlaashock Squier-holic

    Sep 21, 2014
    St. Louis Area
    The main differences are that one is anchored solid, and the other is anchored to spring tension, the neck/body profiles cause a significant difference in the effective isolation past the nut or bridge, and then the length comes third.
    The solid hard tail of the LP and the spring mounted strat bridge produce different sounds, even at the same length.
    The angle the headstock on a Les Paul leans back at, sets the effective angle of the strings across the nut and is much more effective at isolating string vibration at the nut. Same for the bridge, where the stop piece being lower than the bridge, creates the same effect. The Strat bridge doesn't isolate vibration to the string length very well at all.
    Then comes string length.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  8. dbrian66

    dbrian66 Dr. Squier

    Jul 14, 2017
    Maryland, USA
    If easier to play equals easier to bend strings, I’m sure there is a scientific winner. There has to be a calculation that will tell you how much tension needs to be added to a string of a certain scale length to raise that note by a determined amount. But that’s way beyond my mathematical abilities! Maybe our resident math teacher @Eddie can chime in. :)

    But more importantly, the two guitars do feel different because of all the reasons mentioned above. And what feels better is 100% opinion based. For me, nothing feels as good as a Les Paul. But that doesn’t make a Les Paul better, or easier to play. Just what feels right to my hands.
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  9. DrBeGood

    DrBeGood Dr. Squier

    Dec 9, 2014
    Sutton QC, CANADA
    Les Paul scale on a Strat size body = SG. Best of both worlds :)

    I dabbled in both scales and stayed with the shorter one because it feels easier to bend, thus to press down notes too. One more thing I feel makes a shorter scale guitars easier on bends is that their fretboard tend to be built flatter and wider.
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  10. beagle

    beagle Squier-holic

    Nov 19, 2017
    Pick a scale, any scale...

  11. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert

    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Lots of good thoughts here. Things we may know butt not think about, or, alternatively, may be new to us.

    I'm from early on a Gibson player, but one who later "discovered" (hee hee!) the wonder of Fender designs.

    Now I enjoy both, not just for the reasons mentioned here, but -- apart from the PUP created tonal differences -- for the tonal difference, especially when playing rhythm, that the scale (neck length) difference induces.

    Yes to the bending, and yes to the brighter top end of a string that is by necessity tauter at a given pitch with a specified string weight. But even more so the later on the bottom end.

    Fender's longer scale has taught me to play differently on those guitars. Now not even thought about, but automatically. Pick attack and placement. Even string hand placement as to distance from the fret. =Subtle differences, but real. All being the real determiners of my sound. -More than, say, depending largely on pedals.

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  12. FS SE

    FS SE Squier-Meister

    Mar 9, 2021
    Another main difference is the "og" strat has 3 single coil and the lp has 2 buckers -- that accounts for the main difference in sound ( but not playability)

    When you bend a string on the lp, you only change the tone of the string you are bending ( as its a hard tail)--- BUT because a strat has a floating trem/bridge when you bend 1 string up in tone you actually drop the tone on all the other strings because you are loosening the tension on them---- those main differences make bending notes sound quite a bit different between the 2 different platforms
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  13. Rgdavid

    Rgdavid Squier Talker

    Oct 13, 2021
    Would à "hipshot tremsetter" help to stop the all string bending problem with a tremelo? Or maybe it's just a gadget??. Look it up on YouTube. Sorry I can't do the link on my phone
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
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  14. Ahnlaashock

    Ahnlaashock Squier-holic

    Sep 21, 2014
    St. Louis Area
    What Don said is correct.
    I started strat, and tried to find a strat that was for me, for a long time. I still build another from time to time, trying to find one that makes me pick it up every day.
    Then I traded into an Epiphone that suits me.
    I much prefer short, and even prefer the "Fastback" style, to strat or telecaster. That is what suits me, which has little to do with what suits anyone else at all.
    It isn't all length of scale. The 14 radius of the fingerboard on the one I play, all the way to the progressive taper on my MK. A neck shape that fits my hand, emphasis on my. There is more to the equation than specifications and which pickups.

    I just looked, and the frets on the Traditional Pro are about half way gone, all the way to 15. Will I have the frets replaced, or will I go shopping for a Gibson? If they make you want to pick them up every day, yours will look that way in a few years. Today, they are almost a consumable.
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  15. -r3-

    -r3- Squier-holic

    Jan 28, 2016
    NC Piedmont
    Y'know. I have mostly played on 25.5" scale hardtail guitars w humbuckers with a strat-like body. So an actual strat feels mostly familiar. Only a few times have I ever played a LP type guitar, and those were not Gibson but about 3 Burny's and such. Those guitars seem to have such "dead" vibration at first, so unfamiliar, and then when a bit of confidence is gained, that first bend and WHOA! There is an almost infinite space of expressiveness left after you've gotten to where you wanted to be in your strat-type experience. In my limited experience I definitely wouldn't say it's better, but definitely cool & different.
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
  16. Robb

    Robb Squier-holic

    Jan 13, 2011
    Chertsey Canada.
    I love to play guitars !
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  17. Lanaka

    Lanaka Squier-holic

    Feb 11, 2020
    Honolulu, HI
    If ye want a string calculator I use this on a lot:


    Great for calculating alternative string setups. Especially ones for ofdball sizes like my minis and longer/shorter than normal vintage electrics.
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  18. Shaytan

    Shaytan Squier-holic

    Apr 10, 2018
    Lisbon, Portugal
    There's an early 90s run of Jackson models called Fusion which were Superstrat guitars with Gibson scale legth. I wish the one I've tried wasn't as overpriced, as it was otherwise such a dream to play, with a mahogany body and brand-new jumbo frets.

    My PRS is a good compromise between both worlds, with a Fender-style trem that mostly stays in tune and has an in-between scale legth of 25". I can say, as someone who really likes lower tension, easier to play/bend guitars, Gibson-style scale lengh is a whole lot easier to play because, as some have pointed, the reduced tension make the strings, tuned to the same pitch, overall easier to play (just think - bending is pretty much an overly exaggerated action of pressing the strings against the frets; if it's easier to stretch the strings to contact the frets, it's also easier to stretch them in order to change their pitch).

    You can, however, get away with the same result by using lower string gauge (the rule of thumb being that 9s on a Fender feel like 10s on a Gibson). Obviously, this means if you want the loosest-feeling strings on a Fender-style, you have to resort to 8s or even 7s and the lower the gauge, the more prone to snapping the strings are.

    However, the biggest difference is perhaps the trem, as it acts against you while bending. Don't believe it? Just grab your Strat and do the following experiment: play a note while you bend a different string (without strumming that one) - on a floating trem-equipped guitar, you should be able to notice the note you're playing lowering in pitch, as you're essentially increasing the load on the springs by means of stretching (bending) one of the strings. In practical terms, this also means you have to over-bend the strings in order to reach the proper pitch, given you're countering the springs.

    I've finally completed building my first-ever blocked trem Strat style guitar, last weekend. I've yet to share it around here, but it feels so much snappier than my floating ones, just by that. I haven't got to play it long enough to achieve proper, conclusive results, though.
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  19. radiotech

    radiotech Squier-Axpert

    Apr 23, 2014
    Physicality is my main issue between an LP and almost any other guitar.

    The small, heavy body makes it so uncomfortable for me to play sitting down (even with a strap), it is not by any measure easier to play than any other guitar regardless of scale. The only tolerable way for me to play an LP is in a classical position with a foot rest. I’ve tried again and again through the years, and the most confortable I found are the LTD EC models with lighter weight bodies, and a tummy cut.

    If I have something just a little bigger (ES-339, Ibby AS-73) or a lot bigger (Epi Dot and Grote 335), it solves everything that’s wrong with the LP and my body.

    That said, I still prefer the physicality of Fender-style guitars (as long as they have a tummy cut).
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  20. Lanaka

    Lanaka Squier-holic

    Feb 11, 2020
    Honolulu, HI
    On the point of whether the Strat 25.5" scale is better than the LP 24.75" scale, to me are moot points. The two types are both different and have different strengths/weaknesses that complement each other. I have both types and regularly uses both.

    MY #1 LP is a 2012 Agile AL-3010SE.
    After getting 5 other LPs, I still keep coming back to this one. Of the other LPs, the ones I use the most after the Agile is my 2005 Epiphone Les Paul Pee Wee, it's my travel/portable practice guitar.

    I was midway thru a string and pot change when I took this pic.

    In the Strat camp things get a bit complicated because ye can get SO many different configurations in the basic strat form.

    For traditional Strats my favorite is down to these four...

    Left to right:
    c.1995-2005 Austin AU-731
    c.1980s Stage CS-327
    1992 Fender Mexican Standard
    2007 Fender Japanese Standard

    I like the Austin because it has easily the brightest tone with a sharp pick attack, probably due to its Chinese elm body bolted to a rosewood/maple neck.

    The Stage is a great one to work with it's 2-point tremelo. And it's maple fretboard seems to being out the high overtones in an otherwise mellow guitar.

    The Mexican is the most balanced guitar tone wise. Alder bodied, rosewood/maple neck.

    The Japanese has the darkest tone with its humbucker and basswood body. The maple/maple neck saves the day by bringing out a bit more brights and pick attacks.

    Bending wise they're about even with the edge perhaps going to the Mex and Stage.

    Amongst my SuperStrats the top contenders are...

    Left to right:
    2012/13 Ibanez S420-BK
    1986 Charvel Model 4
    2003 Washburn Pro X12
    2000 Squier StageMaster HSH Deluxe

    I like the basswood/rosewood/maple S420 because its the most comfortable guitar to play with its knife-edged body and slim neck profile. I also love the frictionless Edge Zero trem, never had any problem with this reliable and accurate double locking floater!

    The Charvel is a favorite due to it's active electronics. Eventually it will get EMG or Blackouts and become fully active. This is another guitar that has a great trem, a Kahler. While it doesn't have the same wide range of action as a Edge Zero or even the Floyd, it's durable and reliable!

    The Washburn is a hardtailed heavy basswood/rosewood/maple guitar that has LP like tonal stability while bending but it's DEFINITELY harder to bend than a LP. I primarily use it for rhythm and arpeggios only.

    Finally the StageMaster is a versatile screamer with its hot hot pups and a licensed Floyd Rose that's proven to be reliable and has nearly the same range of double direction of travel as the Edge Zero.

    The floaters are easier to bend than the hardtail due to the trem pulling up during a bend. As you start adding each string to the bending each string progressively less strength required per new string. Of course the trick here is to mute the other strings during the bend cuz they WILL be going flat during the bend.

    The hardtail, I generally only bend one string at a time. Multi-string bends are HARD on the Washburn and the LPs. That's cuz each string adds to the strength required to bend. Here I can pick the other strings during a bend because those strings are still in tune.

    As ye can see string scale length, guitar construction and materials and bridge type all combine to create an unique set of pros n cons for each guitar and make them strong for some purposes and other purposes the other guitars do better. In a complex composition tis not unusual for me to use more than one guitars therein.
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