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Changing technique to play short scale bass?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by WhiteRyder, Sep 29, 2005.

  1. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    I'm a beginning bass player, and I started with a Crate Tour Pack about 3-4 months ago. I found the full-size bass rather unwieldy and hard for my smaller hands to play, so today I bought a short scale bass from a local store. (Guitar Works, Richmond VA)

    I didn't test it too much in the store because I figured I didn't have enough experience to know whether it would work for me, without taking it home and trying it in a more familiar setting.

    When I got home and plugged it in, I found it made all kinds of weird mechanical noises. The A string buzzed even when I played it open, the low G had a funny "pop", and it seemed like any time I changed from one string to another there would be a click or a clack. I mean, I'm not a great player yet but this was awful! None of the noises were coming out of the amp, but clearly something was very different from my full size bass.

    I took the bass back to the store hoping they could make some adjustments and fix the noises. To my surprise, they tweaked very little. The pop was from the G string actually touching the pickup - they pointed out that if I struck the string a glancing blow rather than "plucking" it, it wouldn't hit the pickup. (They also adjusted the pickup a little lower for me.)

    As for the A string buzz, when they played it in the store I didn't hear it. Then they laid the bass flat on its back and played the A, and it buzzed terribly. So it seems I was causing the buzz by tilting the bass while playing, which I do because I'm still looking at my fingers sometimes while I learn the notes.

    As for the other little noises, (a) I didn't hear them much when the guys at the store played the bass, and (b) they said not to worry about them as long as you couldn't hear anything coming out of the amp.

    So it seems I have to change my technique a bit to enjoy the new bass. I've practiced some more now, and I no longer get the pop from the G or the buzz from the A. But I really hate all the little mechanical noises I keep making, it feels like I'm worse than I was the first day I played my regular bass. I can't even figure out what makes the little clicks and clacks when I change strings, is it the string hitting the fret as I initially press down for the new note? And will the noises really get better as I practice more, or do I need to change something else in my technique in order to avoid them?

    I have to laugh, though - I've caught myself missing frets because my fingers are used to the larger frets of the full scale. So even though I thought I couldn't play very well, apparently my fingers learned something along the way. :) On the other hand, with the shorter bass I can finally play with all four fingers without having to move my hand! So I'm still happy I got the new bass, I just have to get used to it.

    Did I mention I'm playing in church on Sunday? No pressure here... :rolleyes:

  2. audiotom


    May 31, 2005
    new orleans

    you may still want to consider taking the short scale bass back if it's not fitting your needs

    do you have small or large hands?

    I have some carpal forearm issues and sometimes the stretch of full scale hurts on the lower positions. I found several very nice short scales

    1 expensive - Fender Mustang $400-$700 vintage

    2 cheap - SX guitar - short scale $120 + shipping + mods
    see the sx thread here

    these are great for the money
    you will want to replace strings and maybe pots & pickups

    the SX j bass (narrower neck short scale than the p bass)
    is great, I bought one six months ago

    as you stretch more, the full scale gets more comfortable
    now when I play guitar those stretches are not stretches anymore

    hope this helps

  3. Basically, It will take some getting use to. The shorter scale basses have less tension in the strings so you are probably hitting them too hard with your plucking hand.

    What kind of bass did you buy?

    May God be with you my son. ;)
  4. Funkengrooven

    Funkengrooven Turn it down? You gotta be nuts!!

    Yo, WhiteRyder,
    I play short scale basses exclusively, check my Sig.
    Those funny noises that you hear are definately your fingers learning where to go. They will go away as you become more used to the bass. The same applies to long scale.
    After a while you will be able to effortlessly dance across the fret board. How long this takes is determined by how much you practice and WHAT you practice.
    Learn scales and chords and chord inversions, don't be like me I did everything by ear and I have to relearn everything.

    Good Luck and keep at it.
  5. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    In answer to a previous question, I bought a GWP-080 3/4 bass from Guitar Works (Richmond VA). I assume the 'P' is because it's a P-bass. Also, I'm a medium-sized person (5'5") with moderately small hands so playing the full-scale really is a bit difficult. At first I just thought, gee I just have to practice harder - but then I decided if I could play better on a smaller bass then why not get one?

    I got the specs on the SX SPB-57 at rondomusic.net, which was the other short bass I was considering. It actually has a slightly wider neck than the GuitarWorks one I bought. And I like the fact that folks on this site really seem to recommend it (in the category of inexpensive but decent short basses).

    I'm tempted to order the SX and compare the two basses side by side. Would that be unethical? I'd have to eat the shipping if I returned the SX to Rondo, but that's only $15, well worth it to me. I'm hoping I can return the GW bass to the store if I decide I like the SX better (possibly paying a restocking fee or something), but I didn't ask about that specifically.

    I definitely prefer to buy locally, but I also want a bass that I feel good about. Most of all, I want to quit stressing about my equipment and get back to playing! :meh:

  6. audiotom


    May 31, 2005
    new orleans
    rider of white

    you'll need to at least do a string change and maybe a setup if you want a proper assessment of the SX bass. the strings they send are cheap and ringy, and some are setup with high action. Returning the other bass if it's in new working order and doesn't work out shouldn't be a problem

    I think you'll really enjoy the sx short scale, I sure did
    they sell out quickly every time they are available

  7. eots


    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    As with most 'starter packs' you get what you pay for and more often than not, it's cheap gear:spit:. It's quickly assembled and not set up properly. That would cost extra time and $$. Also, with your limited experience, your technique will pull all those instrument imperfections right to the top of the ugly noise list.
    My suggestion would be to stick with what feels comfortable to play, and play the heck out of it. You'll find tips on TB on how to set it up as far as intonation, tuning, fingering/pick techniques etc.etc. As you learn songs you'll be tuning your ears as well as to how bass fits in to a song and what the player is doing to get the sounds.
    I have a 66' Fender Mustang that is a joy to play. It makes everything easier on my fingers ,arms, hands, and back. It's got all the bottom end that it's longer neck brothers have and since I had it's pickup rewound by Lindy Fralin, it has killer tone as well. I'd recommend one if you have the money. Re-issues are about $400-500. Mine came in pieces and with what I needed to make it playable, came to about $300 :bassist:
  8. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    At the moment I don't feel all that good about anything I have. The full scale feels like a decent bass, but it's long and heavy. The new GW bass fits better but it's got all these weird things going on, and I don't know if I'm just too inexperienced or if it just isn't working for me.

    If I got the SX then either (a) it would be better than the GW and I'd keep the SX, or (b) I'd realize the GW was better than I thought and I'd keep the GW, or (c) I'd decide they both suck and go back to trying to play the full scale. ;)

    But at least I'd have something to compare the GW to.

    Anyway, that's what I'm thinking tonight.
  9. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    So... if the strings that come on the SX are "cheap and ringy", what should I look for in the way of new strings to replace them?

  10. As long as they do have a return policy, there is nothing unethical about it. If you think the bass you have is not the bass for you keep trying new ones until you find one that fits. You might want to check with Guitar Works though, If there is not a return policy he may only give you back the wholesale price and resell it as used.

    One thing you might want to consider, when trying basses in the "beginner" range you are only going to get so much as far as playability is concerned. This holds true for short and long scale basses. Short scale basses may be a bit more finicky though. The shorter the scale, the less tension in the strings, so you will have to play with a little more nuance to get the tone you might be looking for. A short scale bass of more quality will be a bit better with string tension and overall playability.

    I am the same height as you and have small hands as well, but feel right at home on my Lakland 5 string. I do not feel hampered at all. Someone even said to me " how do you get around on the bass so well with small hands like that". I didn't really have an answer, I just do. I have no idea what it would be like with large hands, so I do my best. I never thought about it much. So I guess what I am getting at is, try as many basses as it takes to find the one for you. Short scale might not be the answer, maybe something with a slimmer neck. I think if you go up in quality you will find a bass that plays a little easier, and it will feel more comfortable. Long or short scale. With small hands, we may have less options when it comes to getting the bass we like so the beginner bass may not be the answer. Go to your local music store and try different basses before you buy your next one.
  11. I wonder if maybe the new bass has more highs than the old one so you're noticing sounds that weren't making it through the amp before.
  12. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    That may be true (more highs than I'm used to), however I don't think the noises I'm referring to are coming through the amp. It's just on the neck itself - which is close to my ear of course. :meh:

  13. EPrendergast


    Sep 23, 2005
    Wales, UK
    I'm 5'5" (a bass playing trend?) with fairly small hands and I've found that through practice my reach has changed vastly. I started off playing a short scale but as time went on switched to the long scale. It did ache and prove tricky at first, but persistence and practice paid off in the end. That having being said, Funkengrooven uses all short scale. Maybe it would have been worth continuing down the short scale path but using quality short scales instead of budget ones as my needs increased. Got any clips we can have a listen to Funkengrooven, and other short scale bassists?
  14. WhiteRyder


    Jul 25, 2005
    Richmond VA
    Okay I now have THREE basses.... my original Crate full scale, the short scale from Guitar Works (local) and the SX short scale from Rondo (mail order). My spare bedroom is getting rather crowded, I finally had to get rid of the bed.

    I can definitely confirm that sufficient practice on the short scale basses (either) does reduce the mechanical noises I was complaining about, more so on the SX than the GW. But then again, I practiced a lot on the GW before the SX even showed up, so maybe that's why the SX was easier to play right away. Have to play them both some more and see.

    The strangest difference is that the GW bass seems to be a lot *louder* than the other two. That is, with the same amp settings I just get a lot more volume from the GW. (Vol on the bass is up full in either case.) I suppose this might be considered a good thing, but in the context of choosing between them I'm not sure I like it - I guess I prefer to think *I'm* the one who decides how loud I will be, not the bass. :meh:

    On the other hand the GW is definitely the prettiest, it's a dark teal kind of color. The SX and my full scale are both the usual yellow/brown sunburst pattern. And after all, aren't looks the most important thing...? ;)

    I'm sure you're all losing sleep from the suspense, wondering what I will do next! Don't worry, I'll be sure to keep you posted....