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Dilemma: 5-String, Eb Tuning, 34'/35' Scale

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Munroe, Dec 9, 2017.

  1. 34'

    0 vote(s)
  2. 35'

    5 vote(s)
  1. Munroe


    Apr 25, 2012
    I'm planning to buy a new 5-string next year - a Sandberg California VM. I'm very excited about it, but I need some help deciding between 34' and 35' scale.

    A little background:

    I've been playing just 4-string for many years now (34' of course), and I often tune a half-step down in Eb tuning. I use this tuning not because I really need the low Eb, but because I like the tone of a slightly de-tuned bass. I feel like it gives me a really fat sound across the entire instrument, particularly when I do it on my Stingray.

    Here is my dilemma:

    If I get a 34' inch scale 5-string, I know that my EADG strings will still sound good in Eb tuning, but I'm worried that my low Bb string will sound too floppy. I don't have a 5-string, so haven't actually tested this yet; its just my speculation.

    On the other hand, if I get 35' scale and tune down, the low Bb note will probably sound a little better, but I'm worried I might lose some of the Eb fatness in the other strings. It might end up just sounding like a normal bass. Also, some people complain about not liking the increased tension on a 35' scale bass.

    I know that 35' scale is not a requirement to get a good B-string sound, as I've heard many good sounding 5-strings that weren't 35', but is it a requirement if you want to tune down to Bb?

    What do you think?
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  2. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    If you're worried about string tension I'd suggest getting custom string gauges to avoid it.

    I generally prefer longer scale basses so I'd go with the 35" scale no matter what.
    richntiff likes this.
  3. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    I've owned several 5 string basses, 34" (Wal/Sadowsky) and 35" (Lull/Lakland) and found no difference between them. Although I wouldn't expect to see any "issues" with those guys.

    So far I've had no playing or technique issues between 34" and 35" scale on any bass I've owned. Maybe I'm not sensitive enough to notice, and I get that this must exist because so many people post about it, but I've not noticed any string tension issues with any strings on any bass.

    Email Sandberg and ask them what they think.
  4. Abner


    Jan 2, 2011
    Get a 35" scale and tune it down a whole tone rather than a half tone. :)
  5. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016
    So you're only downtuning because you like the floppier string tension? You could just get lighter gauge strings and play in standard tuning if you want!
  6. Munroe


    Apr 25, 2012
    I could, but I feel like lighter gauge strings aren’t beefy enough on my money-making strings. I typically use mediums on the E and A strings, and lights on D and G.
  7. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    I tune all my fours and fives to Eb; for fivers, I have 34, 34.5, 35, and 37 scale. Great low B’s on all of them. Tension differences from the scale lengths aren’t as much as you’d think; I find string gage more critical, with a 135 B the minimum I want on a 34-35 scale.
  8. How would you play either of those? 34 feet is a ridiculous scale length

    c10 likes this.
  9. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    On one of my gigs I tune down a 1/2 step for the whole night.
    I play 34" scale basses and the B string sounds fine.

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