32" scale fretless

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by 59jazz, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    I'm building yet another bass, and suddenly I want to play fretless. I'm curious about 32" and 30" scale fretless basses. I understand that the shorter the scale, the less forgiving it becomes when playing in tune, but I have some minor left hand issues; for me, stretching my left hand is becoming difficult on a fretted 34" scale.
    So....what are the pros and cons of a shorter scale fretless?

    Thanks in advance, H2
  2. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Shorter scale basses are also lower tension (assuming you use the same guage string). So, they don't feel as "tight", which you might like or you might not like. Personally, I like medium scale basses.
  3. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Back in '81/'82 when I first discovered Jaco, I had my '78 Musicmaster converted to fretless by a professional luthier... was a great playing fretless until it got stolen... My current '78 Musicmaster will be keeping it's frets, but I've been toying with the idea of building a short scale fretless... I find that as I near 40, I'm constantly trying to recapture a bit of my youth!! :)

  4. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    Well, I guess I won't know what it's like until I build one! It just seems that my left hand would feel more natural on a shorter scale bass. And if it's true, that my strings would have less tension, that could be very beneficial to me. I love the feel and sound of black tape wounds, black tapes with a looser tension ( more spongy?) could be great! Now if I could just find a wood shop to work out of, to do the rough cutting of a neck, I'd be set! Hey FBB, I visited your web site, nice work!

  5. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    You could try this:

    Get a standard 34" scale bass. Put a capo at the first fret, and then tune the bass back down a half step to standard tuning. You now have a 32.09" scale bass. Now try it out!
  6. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    I have a 30.5" scale fretless which I think sounds pretty good with the Fender black tapewounds. 'Course I've never played a 34" fretless so I don't have anything to compare it to :)
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    As far as playing in tune, scale length is immaterial. Otherwise, noone would be able to play a violin :D
  8. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Ah, that's why the violins sound so terrible!:(

    ;) ;)

    Actually, I agree.:bassist:
  9. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    I respectfully disagree. It *is* harder to play in tune on a shorter scale fretless instrument IME and IMO. That great violinists do it so well doesn't mean it's not harder ... it just means that they're really technically excellent! But listen to a beginning violinist, or even somebody who's played for years but who never got solid technical training, and you'll hear how common out-of-tune violin playing is and how hard in-tune playing is.
  10. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    D'addario offers strings for 32" or even 30" scale basses. This will eliminate the loss of tension found when using "regular" long scale (34") strings on shorter scales.

    I've used a set for a 30" scale bas I built for my wife some years ago and the result was just nice.

    I have a 6 strings 30" fretless bass in mind...when i'll find some time to experiment!!

    Peace, JP
  11. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    Hey Robert, could you tell me more about your experiences with a short scale fretless? Was it harder to stay in pitch with a 30" than a 34"? What did it sound like?
    Thanks in advance, Steve
  12. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Since the frets had been removed and inlaid with maple, there were reference lines, which made it much easier for me as a neophyte! Also, at that time, the Musicmaster was my only bass, though I did use to borrow a friends very nice fretless P-Bass occasionally... I had to listen very carefully when playing either... The P-Bass definitley cut through more in a band situation which made pitch correctness easier... 20+ years ago, I didn't attribute much of anything to scale length... Unfortunately, that little bass was stolen in '83 :(

    My recent experiences using an Ashbory, (18" scale), definitely support Richard's statement about scale length making correct pitch more difficult!! Not at all unattainable though... a 30" fretless is again in my future, (I ran some fingerboard woods through the planer last night and held out a sweet piece of purpleheart!)...


  13. radapaw


    Mar 22, 2000
    Ottawa, Canada
    I've modded my squire musicmaster reissue into a fretless, here some picks here:


    I don't quite know how to describe the sound... It goes bwha instead of mwah. very round and bubbley with the flats.

    The added Musicman pickup is great for brite trebly stuff.

    I would have to agree that getting intonation right on a shortscale fretless is harder than when I tried learning it on long scale. I'm pretty much only playing short now, so I expect my musical memory muscles would get really pissed if I tried long scale fretless on the fly
  14. FunkySpoo

    FunkySpoo Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2002
    Rob Allen is making these
    Maybe you could pick his brain also. I hear he's a really nice guy
  15. I am the great thread resurector! mwahahahaha!

    im just wondering the outcome of this experiment? and does anyone else know anything about 30" 32" e.t.c fretless?
  16. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Yeah, JP, how did that 2-year experiment go... ;)
  17. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    I'm in the process of building a 32.5" scale at the moment, so I'm somewhat curious as well.
  18. im in the middle of building a 34" fretless but i went and cut my neck blank too short! doh! and im wondering if 32 might be a nice sound/feel/look whatever