Differences in sound because of scale?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wyman, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. Wyman


    Sep 5, 2004
    Nashua, NH
    I read an interview with Carl Thompson, and he mentioned that the basses size plays a large role in how it sounds. I was wondering if anyone could kindly educate me on what the differences are among different neck scales?

    Also, just as a side question: to have larger fret spacings, do you have to have a longer neck?
  2. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Yes, you do.
  3. Whoa, you'll get a huge amount of opinions on this one.

    What differences are you looking for?
  4. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    I was just talking with Mark Eshenbaugh about this very subject this afternoon. Some builders will just extend the neck past the nut, adding the extra scale lenght at the end of the neck. Those who have studied under Carl Thompson (since you mentioned him in your thread) tend to extend a little bit past the nut and a little bit at the bridge. By extending the scale at both ends, many feel that the feel and playability of a 35"+ scale bass isn't nearly as noticable. CT fans are aware that it is not unusual for Carl to make 36" and 38" scale instruments. While I've never played a 36" scale 6-string (yet!), I've been told by a good number of players and builders that the increase in scale length is hardly noticable due to the way that the bass, neck, and scale length are designed. Hope that helps. ;)
  5. yes...you need a longer neck, but as an alternative to a longer neck you can have a multiscaled fretboard. Such as that proposed by Novax and implimented by Dingwall Basses. You have a 37" B string to a 34" G string. While the neck is "longer" on one side, you feel little difference in playability and the length you gain by the multiscale fretboard confers excellent string-to-string tone and excellent playability w/o too much compromise
  6. Wyman


    Sep 5, 2004
    Nashua, NH
    Yeah, I've looked into Novax's ideas...they're brilliant.

    Well, I was just curious about different scales, because I want a 5er with jumbo frets, and I also don't like floppy B strings...so I figured a bigger scale neck is right for me. Is this true in assuming?

    EDIT:: sorry, I just read my post, and realized I mentioned Novax and than dropped them lol. The only reason I'm not very interested in them is because no one around here carries any :crying:
  7. Yes, longer scales tend to bring more tension. Of course, some longer scale B's could be floppy and Sadowsky makes 34" B's that don't usually flop. It has to do with a lot of variables, but yeah, generally, longer scales make strings more tense.
  8. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Longer scale lengths make a tremendous difference - most notably in clearer, tighter lows but also in more robust highs.

    Overtones are more present with tighter tension and greater length - assuming that you have rigid enough structure. It makes for a much "bigger" sound.
  9. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    In my experience, generally speaking, a shorter scale bass will sound tubbier, and even muddier, depending on the scale and the pickups.

    A longer scale bass will sound more even, and smoother, and the B and E strings will be more defined. However, I don't like the way that 35" and 36" G and C strings sound. IME, they lose their definition and fullness. This is where the Novax concept makes the most sense to me. I can have the clarity and definition of my Cirrus' B and E strings, and the fullness and warmth of my Nordstrand or Zon's G and C(if they had one) strings.

    Of course, there are many exceptions to this, especially at the high end and low end of the price scale.

    You will be hard pressed to find a 35" or 36" B string better than a Sadowsky or Pedulla. And I have heard some budget 35" B strings that were tubbier and muddier than a short scale E.

    And I once played an Alembic Series I six string that had a 30 1/2" scale, and a B that was on par with most 35" boutique B's. I am sure that the fact that the bass weighed 15 lbs and had tons of front and back headstock laminates contributed to this.
  10. luknfur


    Jan 14, 2004

    Been a long time since I've read about it but there should be plenty of info by doing a general online search. There was mention of it in one of the articles in the Bass Player Magazine online site. From what I remember the general jist was the longer scale made for more optimal tone but the added scale length made for more awkward playability that wasn't worth the trade off - so most players prefer and most basses are constructed in the shorter scale lengths.
  11. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.

    And thats why Novax came up with the fanned fret concept in the first place, best of both worlds. And you wont find it implemented better than on a Dingwall IMO. There's deffinantly more to the sound and playability than scale though as many top end bass builders have proven. I know of a few that make shorter than 34" scale that still sound great and feel even across the strings, but it takes a lot of quality in craftsmanship and engineering to compensate for the shorter scale while keeping the instrument clear and playable.
  12. MyDogBo


    Aug 25, 2002
    i believe the experience with shorter scales will vary considerably depending on the instrument, its overall quality of design, build, setup, electronics etc .... i own a very high end custom short scale bass that is just kicka$$ and i find myself doing things on my short scale that otherwise wouldnt be possible with my other basses.
  13. jacochops


    Jul 2, 2000
    Suzhou, China
    R Basses have done several 33" scale 4s and 5s. I just picked one up from Brian Barrett from the Low End. I've always been a die-hard 34" guy, but Ray has sworn by the 33" scale for the past couple of years, saying that the 33" scale makes it a bit growlier....has anyone here played one of his 33" scale basses? Interested in some o' yo' opin-yuns!
    Ray, if you're lurking around here....what are your thoughts? I think Carey Nordstrand has built a 33" scale 5 string....if I'm wrong Carey, please correct me!
  14. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Yep, I generally don't like B strings, but had the opportunity to play Hippiesandwich's 34" scale Fodera and I must say that has one of the clearest sounding B's that I have ever played. Scale length is one of many factors that go into a sound, but it seems to me that you can have a good B without a long neck. Did I mention that I am totally in love with that 34" scale Fodera?
  15. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    Funny thing about scale...

    I always thought going between 34 & 35 scale was no-brainer easy. Well, once I finished my jazz, & started playing around with it, I found I was over shooting frets continuously. So, I've been playing w/ it compulsively & the 55-01 has been sitting. Well, last night I got out the 5-string, & man, it felt HUGE!!! Now, I'm falling short of frets, because I'd become used to the 34" scale.

    Isn't that vierd!?!?!
  16. I have a 33" scale bass from FBB Custom Bass/Matt Schmill and it is by far my favorite most playable comfortable bass. It has Bart Soapbars and 2-Band EQ. When I acquired this one, I had a MTD 435 with Barts and a 3-Band EQ and the basses sound very similar. The FBB Custom was more comfortable, so I sold the MTD. Other basses have come and gone but I always hold on to the FBB. If I was to have another custom made bass, it would be 33" scale. I wholeheartedly agree that build quality and electronics play a large part.

    FBB Custom
  17. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    I've played a 37" (not multiscale) and it was the bassyist bass i have played.. I didn't like it as i couldn't play very fast, but all the strings were so full. I loved the sound. If i was to get a Jazz bass.. It would probably be multiscaled Dingwall.
  18. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    I'm sure Ralph Novack has many brilliant ideas and has refined the concept... but he didn't "come up with" fanned frets.
    Rickenbacker did.
    And I know he was an early Rickenbacker fan because he and I exchanged our Rickenbackers (my 365-6 for his 330-12) for a few weeks back in 1970!
  19. adje


    Feb 3, 2004
    I only knew about the slanted frets Rickenbacker pioneered on guitars, not of any fanned frets. But then I'm no expert :rolleyes:.
  20. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    True. They were in use hundreds of years ago.
    Like adje said, I was only aware of Rics with slanted frets. Do you have any info on fanned Rics?