Considering changing from 35" to 34" for tone and playability.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BigJ, Jun 23, 2020.

  1. BigJ


    Jun 23, 2020
    Greetings everybody, Just swinging through for some advice.

    Im looking at maybe swapping my bass for a slightly smaller unit.

    Been making good progress with my tracks and recordings, and realizing more and more that the bass is the key to the sound I'm working towards. I've had this Ibanez BTB505 for a while now, It lives in Standard drop tuning (AEADG), regular slinkies with a .160 for low A (Also have a .145 and the .130)

    I got to briefly fondle with a 34" 5 stringer in standard tuning today, and noticed how much closer together the strings were and that the shorter scale was more manageable for my riffs.

    Pretty keen on the feel compared to mine, though I didn't get to play it through any of my mixes. I play allot of staccato which I find quite difficult to do tightly and pronounced with the 0.160. I aim for powerful, punchy and tight lows, and filthy, clanky highs.

    I find the BTB505 to be a solid and versatile bass, but difficult to play up to speed. I live rural and theres no real opportunity to 'try before buy'. Would I be shooting myself in the foot to make such a trade? like, would you recommend I get good with the 35". I guess tone is most important for me, but feel I might overcome some hurdles with a bass that's a tad easier to play. If a 34" can achieve a tight and punchy low A I'd probably make the move.

    Any advice or similar experiences would be much appreciated.
  2. garp


    Feb 7, 2009
    Connecticut USA
    Tough call. Making the trade without an ample opportunity to further test-drive the 34" could prove to be disappointing.

    In principle, with the right string(s) and set-up, there's no reason why a 34" shouldn't work well in Drop A from a playability standpoint. But because there are so many variables involved in tone, it will ultimately come down to the specific instrument.
    equill, Dabndug and inthevelvet like this.
  3. BigJ


    Jun 23, 2020
    Thanks for repl
    Thanks for the replying. It is a tough choice, was thinking just before that my best bet at this point is probably to put a bit of cash aside and buy an appropriate second hand 34" and compare the 2 over time.
    garp likes this.
  4. MMiller28

    MMiller28 Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2003
    I'm pretty sure scale length has nothing to do with string spacing but I'm no luthier. Ibanez is known for tighter spacing on a lot of basses.
    Bassdirty likes this.
  5. DCFanatic


    Feb 19, 2012
    Ontario, Canada
    I know when I transitioned to a 35" scale I had to work on my technique to get comfortable and regain the ability to play fast complicated licks. It is worth spending some time on some left-hand exercises! You'll be disappointed with your low A on a 34" scale... I wouldn't switch back.
    Hypocrite, smogg and Schizo Sapiens like this.
  6. BigJ


    Jun 23, 2020
    Yeah, string spacing certainly isn't related to scale length. The 34" I tried today was a Cort and the strings were significantly closer together than my Ibanez BTB505. Its left me a questioning whether I could be getting a tighter performance with a smaller bass, for faster fretting without the struggle of keeping the 0.160 tame in the riff.
  7. BigJ


    Jun 23, 2020
    I had a feeling... How's the experience with staccato and hammer ons etc for you?

    edit: Could this possibly just be a strength issue?
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
  8. Eli_Kyiv


    Apr 7, 2020
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Six months ago I did the reverse thing: sold my faithful 34" Cort Active PJ and bought 35" Ibanez BTB400QM (actually not in that order, I've bought Ibanez first). While I enjoy richer tone and greater overall versatility of Ibanez, I have to say that it's playability seems to me slighly worse than that of Cort. I blame bigger string spacing and more tense string (Rotosoung Swing Bass 66 Nickel Long vs some steel roundwounds I don't even remember the brand). Not a serious issue, nothing an usual practice couldn't overcome, but nevertheless. I think there's some learning curve anytime you try something new.
    Both basses I've mentioned are 4-string, so my story might not be relevant to your case. Still my 2¢.
  9. TrevorG

    TrevorG Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2012
    Been on a 35” five string Spector for twenty years but the beast was getting heavy for an injured shoulder and I did not want to drag it around the country with work anymore. Ended up getting a four string fender at 34”. The technique I built up on the Spector make playing the fender so easy it’s untrue. BUT I know a five string fender at 34” will never sound as good as the Spector when it comes to the lowest notes. That said it’s almost impossible to achieve some articulations on a Spector that flow out of the Fender. It’s just a more expressive way to play. You can have different guages in your life at the same time if you can afford it. You just have to remember to give them equal attention when you practice and enjoy the best of both worlds.
  10. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    I went from 34 to 33 inch scale last year for the same playability reasons. The left hand just doesn't want to make the stretch on the lower frets anymore. Now, instead of the fretting hand hurting at the end of a 3-set-3-hour gig, it only feels moderately fatigued. I like it so much I'm having a luthier make a replacement neck to change my backup bass (formerly the main 34 bass) to 33.
    Dabndug likes this.
  11. Eddie LeBlanc

    Eddie LeBlanc

    Oct 26, 2014
    Beaumont, Texas
    Don't create no problem, won't be no problem.
    USA Spector NS4-- plays like butter and has all the tone I need, and a great feel

    bassbooty likes this.
  12. I fully endorse changing from 35 to 34 for playability, and tone-wise I have never heard a great 35" tone that a great 34" bass couldn't do just as well.

    yes, if you play with a low B, it will be slightly softer... assuming you care more about the tone being even with the rest of the strings than you do about it being heavy and stiff. I care more about tone, so the big 130 B strings sound horrible to me since they don't blend at all and must be treated like a different device when playing.

    Tone wise I'm not sure 34" is better than 35".... it "ought" to be the other way around, however I also have heard some incredible sounding 32" (more or less) short scale basses.

    Keep in mind I used to be a VERY busy, showy player, and playing my 4 string fretted and fretless basses, 34", 32" and so forth way up at 24th fret (whether fretted or fretless), and tone was NEVER an issue. Always used light or extra light gauge strings.

    So yea, go for it man - 35" is, IMHO, needlessly extra work for your fretting hand in the lower positions.
    Seashore likes this.
  13. WHY do you "know" that? From my very very extensive experience, that just isn't true at all. Not in the slightest. Although Fender will sound VERY different from Spector.
    nnnnnn and TrevorG like this.
  14. I have a 34" scale BB and a 35" scale TRB... My fretless SR5 is 34" and my Laklands fretted and fretless are 35".
    The difference has WAY more to do with where the upper horn is relative to the 12th fret if you're talking playability. Sound-wise, for the low B, it's a tossup. A lot depends on the pickups and the string gauge you use. I always use very light strings. My low-Bs are all .120 and they blend perfectly with the rest of the set.
    Wasnex likes this.
  15. JW56789

    JW56789 Guest

    Feb 18, 2017
    I can only speak for myself, but here goes:

    BTB's are terrific instruments, but they are BIG axes, one of the few other axes I tried that were as big as a full-scale Alembic, and mine could be a reach down to playing around the nut. I'm 6'1" and wear a 44-Long suit, and it was quite the handful at the deep end. They also went in Yamaha's direction on fives and sixes with diving-board width fingerboards for guys who wanted string spacing (wider) like a Precision Bass. All this adds up to a great bass for larger guys, and even for them they can be a handful. They are completely inverse (which I'm sure is the idea) to their Soundgear basses which are slimmer, shorter, and more narrow fingerboard widths, just more compact overall.

    I've never heard a compelling enough difference (or felt one playing one) to switch from 34" to 35". The B isn't automatically a lot stiffer, and you lose some string choice whenever you get away from 34" scale. And for the life of me, the only thing I'd use a .160 for is a brake or clutch cable on a big motorcycle. A string set with that on the bottom would feel like four strings and a rope (unless your other 4 are also downsized for that A tuning).

    The quest for that NON-FLOPPY B-STRING continues 24/7, 365 days a year, and wait . . . . . wait . . . . This Just In: There AIN'T one. Getting any reasonable string to vibrate at that low fundamental for Low B or A is an achievement in itself, and while they've gotten better, it's quite an engineering compromise at a scale length anywhere in the neighborhood of most electric bass guitars.

    When I transitioned to five-strings exclusively in the late 80's, I could of course feel a difference between the B and the E. Then I simply got used to it, and never think about it any more. I've always joked that someone WILL figure out how to do it, but it will be a string I'd just hate. I find the human hand and mind are remarkably adaptable, and I had far more things to think about than to stay up nights on a Mystic Quest for The Perfect B-String. Life is too short.

    You had a taste, so IF you're so far out in the boonies that a 'trip to town' is an all day affair, you can do what many do, purchase from somewhere with a liberal return policy (you'd hardly be the first to test drive one that way), or even better do you homework: Quantify what you want, fingerboard width, string spacing, pickups, hardware, wood recipe, overall weight, etc. Then at least you'd know what ballpark you're playing in.

    But ultimately, who am I to question your vision, but insisting on that low string tuned to A (22.5hz fundamental if my math is correct) is always going to be a hill to climb, most likely for any bass you select in any scale, but you will be able to quickly separate amps/cabs than can handle it from the ones that can't.
    JoshS, nnnnnn and raal like this.
  16. TrevorG

    TrevorG Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2012
    I heard many luthiers say they make five strings in 35” gauge because it gives the B string a lot more tone. That’s why I bought one after trying so many. No one said the B string at 34” was bad but the extra inch make a huge difference. I’ve not heard or played anything that contradicts what they say. Not a case of experience but simple physics. I prefer the sound of my fender generally. But when it comes to the last few low notes it “sounds very different” to me too.
  17. 4Mal

    4Mal Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    I tend to favor 35" in 5 string. The low B and E seem to carry some sonic heft that the 34" 5's I have had didn't. My 5's are a pair of Lull's. I have also had a couple f 55-01's in the past and a host of 34" scale G&L, Fender and Yamaha 5's. My fave 34" 5 was a Fernandes active J from the 90's. Recently went to live in Wisconsin. Great bass. Just way too different from the lull's with their wide spacing and 35" scale... Playing wise I'm not into 'fast riffing' beyond an occasional fill. The music I'm drawn to simply doesn't require it.
  18. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    If you're gonna remain downtuned to low A, I'd stick with 35", but you can easily get narrower string spacing than the BTB (19mm I believe) at 35". You really should try and distinguish to what extent it's the spacing vs the scale length. If you're gonna go BEADG I don't think the 34 vs 35" difference is that big a deal unless you're playing a lot of double stops below the 7th fret of you want to use very light gauge strings.
  19. Koog

    Koog Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2010
    Central Iowa USA
    I think it's a personal preference and highly subjective. I think the biggest things to consider are your bank account and the health of your hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

    If you're OK with what I've listed above, and want to give a 35 a try, go for it. It's the only way you'll find out for sure.

    Hope this is helpful.

  20. mattj1stc

    mattj1stc Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2009
    Dallas, TX USA
    Changing scale length only really changes the overall vibrating length under tension by about 3%. If you're playing down near the nut, it's possible that you may notice a slight difference between the 35 inch and 34 inch scales, but mostly the difference should be hard to feel. I definitely do notice when I transition from my 35 inch scale to an upright (42 inch scale). I recently played a friend's short scale (30 inch) bass, and I noticed that too. To be honest, I do notice a slight difference between the 34 and 35 inch scale basses, but it's pretty minimal unless you're playing a fretless.
    frankie5string likes this.