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Scale Length - Why Does It Matter?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BulbousMoses, Mar 12, 2014.


  1. BulbousMoses

    BulbousMoses

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    It seems that amongst bass players, scale length is more of a big deal that it is with guitar players. Witness the fact that Gibson and Fender generally have different scale lengths in their electric guitars with Gibson being 24.75" and Fender 25.5" With bass players, I see a lot more derision for short and medium scale instruments than on guitar forums. What is the reason for this? If short and medium scale basses are so bad, why are they still being made and played?
     
  2. walldaja

    walldaja

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    The differences in bass scale can be as much as 6 inches and this has quite an affect on string tension and tone. This is especially true with the low B which requires length to enhance tension. Short answer the standard scale (34) produces a sonic pallet that a short scale (30 or less). I think the derision comes from some assuming the shorter scales are for kids, as some are marketed. Short scales can be used effectively, especially four strings. I play a standard scale and short scale Fender--depends on the sound I want and the notes I have to play (no lower than E).
     
  3. walldaja

    walldaja

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2011
    meant to say short scale can't in second sentence
     
  4. Dug2

    Dug2 Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2011
    Location:
    chicago
    some players have a hard time with 35, the size of your hands and finger reach
    come into play
     
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  6. StuartV

    StuartV Out of GAS!! Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Bristow, VA
    24.75 and 25.5 are pretty much like the debate here between 34 and 35.

    I suspect if you talked to guitar players about 22" scale guitars you'd find the same derision as you get here towards 30 and 32" basses.
     
  7. BulbousMoses

    BulbousMoses

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    Probably true. I know that I have heard many recordings done with medium or short scale basses and I don't have any problem with the tone. In fact, quite the opposite. I own a short scale bass myself and after if was properly set up, it plays and sounds great, to my ears and hands, anyway.
     
  8. MMMiguelito

    MMMiguelito

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2008
    Hi:

    I have a few 5 strings, most of which have a 34" (standard) scale length. My Peavey Millennium 5, however, has a 35" scale length. You would think that 1 extra inch would not make much of a difference, but it makes a huge diference - especially for the B string. Much "tighter" sound, more focused.
     
  9. bass4worship

    bass4worship Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2009
    Location:
    Sebring, Florida
    Played short scale basses for while then jump on a 35" scale with no problem. Took about a few minute to adjust to the length of the neck.
     
  10. BenWhoPlaysBass

    BenWhoPlaysBass

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2013
    Location:
    VA
    With guitars, many people agree that a guitar with a 24.75 scale guitar will be more difficult to solo on, especially if it's 24 frets, than a 25.5 scale guitar. The frets on the shorter scale would be spaced closer together and while that makes rhythm playing easier, soloing is harder because the frets are so close together (My guitarist friends agrees with this).

    On bass, I believe the scale length has a lot to do with tone and playability. The standard 34" has good tension and fret spacing, but those with smaller hands or those who simply prefer a short scale may find the 30" scale basses more comfortable.

    I've seen a few boutique 4-strings with a 35" scale, but never played one. I assume just wider fret spacing and higher tension is the draw to those (Drop tuning? I dunno). 35" seems to be standard for a 5 string, though it isn't necessary. Lots of people say the Music Man/Sterling/S.U.B.s have good B strings despite being a 34".
     
  11. BulbousMoses

    BulbousMoses

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    With my short scale, the E was pretty loose out of the box but after a set up and restring with Chromes, it was much better. My choice was more to do with comfort and ergonomics. Although, had the tone been crap, I wouldn't have kept the bass. Luckily for me, the tone is very good.
     
  12. bassteban

    bassteban

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2004
    Location:
    Northern California
    For me, the left hand stretch on a 34" bass is a bit tough(I am 6'2" but an injury slightly limits my left hand span); 35" is really uncomfortable. 30 or 32 inches might be nice but I've been doing 34" for 35 years and am pretty set in my ways.
    30, 32 and many other scales are still being built because they are perfectly fine. No one(whose opinion means anything)says there's anything inherently *wrong* with them.
     
  13. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2007
    Location:
    Studio City, SoCal, USA
    I believe that a big part of the the problem is that the string makers have not put enough research into how to make the short scale strings sound better. Perhaps there is not enough quantity to stimulate them.
     
  14. Donavan321

    Donavan321

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    Aug 31, 2013
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Personally, I think it's a preference thing. I have played both. Squier Bronco, Squier Jaguar Shortscale, some vintage short scale, the basses aren't bad at all. I definitely am supportive of short scale basses. The standard scale is 34" I've played basses that were 32" scale. It's really all about preference, much like....the whole fingers or pick debate..there IS no right or wrong way to play.
     
  15. BulbousMoses

    BulbousMoses

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2008
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    I'm in agreement on this. I'm well beyond the age where I care what people think of what bass or guitar I play. That said, my original post was more a question of why, from a technical perspective, short and medium scale basses might be less desirable.
     
  16. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

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    Jun 7, 2001
    Location:
    Upstate NY
  17. BulbousMoses

    BulbousMoses

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    Jun 26, 2008
    Location:
    Ottawa, Canada
    But I've heard and played short scales where the tone has been great. Iconic, even.
     
  18. lz4005

    lz4005

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2013
    Scale length matters more on bass than guitar because electric bass pushes the limits of string physics in ways that guitars don't.

    Acoustic and electric guitars are essentially the same scale. So are Strats and Les Pauls. The difference is only 3/4". Upright bass strings are 8" longer than normal electric bass strings. A foot longer than short scale basses. That's a huge difference.

    The lowest string on a Dingwall is 7" longer than the lowest string on a short scale bass. Also a huge difference.

    Longer strings make low notes better.
     
  19. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    :cool:

    For comfort it matters. I prefer 34" scale.
    But have a 32" scale bass that is wonderful.
    I don't like 30.5" short scale. to cluttered in the upper frets.
    If a Bass is well made, there should be great tone with any scale.
     
  20. mongo2

    mongo2

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2008
    Location:
    Downdashaw
    Define "better"
     
  21. Donavan321

    Donavan321

    Joined:
    Aug 31, 2013
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Maybe if the string is longer, it will ring more and have better sustain, where as a shorter string, is tighter, so it vibrates less
     

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