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33 inch scale neck...advantages and disadvantages

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bassandgolf, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. Bassandgolf


    Jul 25, 2011
    Contemplating the purchase of one of these and wanted to hear the ups and downs of this scale length.

    I've had 35 inch and 34 inch. Being average height (5-10) but with shoulder and elbow issues I was told this may make it easier to get through a show.

    Thoughts on what the advantages and disadvantage of a 33 inch scale bass would be?
  2. Joe Murray

    Joe Murray Supporting Member

    May 14, 2008
    Fairfax, VA
    What brands are you looking at that offer a 33" scale bass? Usually it's 30, 32, 34, 35. Curious as I'm in the market for a good medium scale as I have the same shoulder, wrist issues.
  3. MarthaSamira

    MarthaSamira Banned

    Apr 29, 2012
    Advantage would be playability and comfort to some people.

    Disadvantage would be less tension on strings and minor alteration in tone (assuming you can actually hear it and dislike it).
  4. Bassandgolf


    Jul 25, 2011
    Could you compensate with a larger scale string?
  5. coreybox


    Jan 5, 2007
    Dallas, Texas
    ^^ less string tension could be considered a "pro" for playability and comfort.

    What differences do you feel between your 35 and 34? The differences between 34 and 33 will be similar....
    chisholmmusic likes this.
  6. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Rickenbacker is 33 1/4" I believe.
  7. eude


    Apr 13, 2006
    I moved to 33" scale exclusively a few years ago and I'll never go back to 34" or bigger.
    I now play 4, 5 and 6 string 33"ers, and although there is a very slight loss of tension, but as mentioned above, the softer tension might help with playing discomfort.
    As it happens, I ended up sticking with my usual gauge strings anyway, rather than adjusting, the difference wasn't really that noticeable.
    The low B on my 5 and 6 string basses is just fine, better than some 35" and 36" scale basses I've tried (I've got some recordings on this thread >> http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f8/ac...-build-thread-758097/index4.html#post13528652 if you're interested), possibly down to some luthier Voodo though (thanks ACG :)) and a nice extra is the fact that the upper register and higher strings sound fuller and sweeter.

    I moved to the slightly shorter scale because I'm a small guy, only 5 foot 6, I'd always found long gigs or sessions became a struggle, especially when I started playing 6 string basses.
    When I first tried 33" scale I was blown away on the comfort and playability, since the switch, I've never suffered and discomfort whatsoever!

    I would recommend 33" to anyone, a more compact, easier playing instrument would benefit anyone big or small, but I guess bar getting a Rickenbacker, you might have to pay custom bass money to try it.

    Hope that helps mate :)

    petetapner1 likes this.
  8. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    Scale length matters to some, not so much to others. It is just part of the equation that goes into playability and tone. Quite a few variables so you can't really say "it'll be like x" unless you know the other build factors and what you're comparing to. For me, I worry about:

    scale length
    string spacing
    nut width
    string gauge (tension)
    body proportions (balance)

    I recently got a 33" scale 5-string strung E-C, 17.5mm spacing. Love it, but prefer the tone of my 34" scale 4-string (same builder). I'm having a 34" scale 5-string strung E-C built, 17.5mm spacing, same woods. In general, all other factors being equal, longer scale will be more "piano-like" and articulate. Shorter will tend to sound bigger/warmer. It's always a compromise, and one reason that fanned fret instruments exist.

    I find 33" scale comfortable to play, but I have decided that I only want one scale length for all my basses, so I'm settling on 34". I could have settled on 33" scale but I have a pair of 4-strings that I love that are 34" scale and I don't want to try and replicate them.
  9. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Yes ... Ricks are 33 1/4"

    The shorter scale makes some things easier to play.
  10. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
  11. I really prefer the Rick's 33 1/4" scale but really have no problem adapting to 34 or 35". For me anyway the shorter scale fits me like a glove for some reason.
  12. Mitchthebassplayer

    Mitchthebassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2008
    Queens, NY
    Endorsing Artist: Olinto, La Bella, JuleAmps, Epifani
    IME, the 33" scale allowed me to cover pretty much the entire bass' range without having to shift my left arm from just staying against my body. With my 34" scale basses, I have to move my left arm off of my side to get down to the first position frets. I didn't play the bass long enough or on my amp so it was difficult to notice any immediate tone differences but the bass sounded just as thick and warm as I would hope and felt way more comfortable to play. Especially with the smaller string spacing, too!
  13. I have one 33" scale bass. I can't really feel the difference between 34" scale and 33" scale.
  14. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    los angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    I can, both in reach to the nut and spacing up high (24 and 26-fret necks). Just goes to show - different people are affected by different things.
  15. thiocyclist


    Sep 19, 2012
    I really like 33.25'' scale on my Rickenbacker. It plays fast, but I don't miss anything tonally about the 34'' or 35'' scale basses I've played. If anything it is a bit "fatter" sounding overall and I like that. No clarity lost if you use good strings.
  16. eude


    Apr 13, 2006
    I guess I don't really notice the difference most of the time, but occasionally you'll be going for something and find it comes that little bit easier plus if I play for extended periods now I have no discomfort.

  17. philtoler


    Dec 3, 2009
    totally agree - I have a 32" and I can barely feel any difference vs my 34". Comparing a 34" to a 33" the gap between frets 11 and 12 is only 0.76mm = 0.03 of an inch different!
  18. fatter tone, less tension.
  19. I was about to ask a very similar question whe I searched and found this thread, so I'm bumping it up for some additional opinions.

    I've always played 34" scale basses and they feel fine to me. However, I do have chronic left shoulder problems as well as back issues, and a touch of arthritis may be starting to creep in. I'm wondering if moving to a shorter scale would help with playability and even instrument weight. I've tried a Ric and it was tough to tell how the scale length was because I was too busy being annoyed by the nut width. I enjoy a fat, round tone, and in terms of tension I tend to dig in quite hard.

    Anyone out there with other current opinions about or experience with the pros and cons of 33" vs 34" scale?
    Last edited: May 31, 2014
    Immigrant likes this.
  20. Anyone? Maybe I should have started a new thread...