Help me understand (multiscale content)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by NicJimBass, Oct 12, 2021.

  1. NicJimBass

    NicJimBass Flossin'? I thought your name was Munson!

    Nov 22, 2004
    Lancaster, OH
    Multiscale instruments are becoming increasingly popular, with several brands coming out with their own variation. Dingwall lead the charge, for the most part, and set the standard, in my eyes, with a 37"-34" scale length. I see companies like Ibanez going with a 35"-33" scale on most, or all of their stuff. Same with other companies, as well.

    My understanding is that the concept of a multiscale was to increase the length of the B string, a la a grand piano. In my view, Ibanez isn't so much lengthening the B as they are shortening the G string, which seems counterintuitive and against the entire concept. I understand that several Ibby's have a 34" scale length, but there are models with 35" scale already, so having the B string on a multiscale 5'r at 35" doesn't really make sense to me. Is it just a comfort thing? What am I missing?
  2. GlassToMouth

    GlassToMouth Supporting Member

    Jul 1, 2014
    Rhode Island
    I own two multiscale basses. Both are 4 string Kiesels. A Vanquish which is 35.5"-34", and a Zeus (headless) 34.5"-33.5". I notice more even string-to-string tension on both compares to my other basses of standard 34" scale. The low E on my Vanquish feels particularly tight and thunderous. Multiscale also just feels "right" to me. The natural pendulum effect of moving my fretting hand up and down the neck is quite ergonomic. These basses also set up very well with excellent action and intonation.

    Some say the advantage also is huge for those that down tune. But I play mostly funk, soul, dance, pop stuff in standard tuning. On a less functional note, I really enjoy the look of multiscale as well.

    After occasionally picking up my standard scale basses, the lower strings feel a bit loose and the higher strings feel a bit tight.

    Element Zero likes this.
  3. dabbler


    Aug 17, 2007
    Bowie, MD
    I have 2 multiscale basses, 34-37 and 32-35 and I have the same question as the OP. Make no mistake about it, a 37 inch B is a wonderful thing, but I see no benefit to going below 34 inches on ANY string.

    So why did I buy the shorter one? It was a chance to try a headless. I already had the 34-37 and was loving it (still am) and the headless 32-35 was at a good price to try it out. I'll probably get rid of it one day, but my 34-37 will be with me a long time!
  4. J Posega

    J Posega Cat Dad and Dingwall Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Jul 16, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    If you extend the scale length for the whole neck, the high strings tend to get sort of shrill sounding. This can be mitigated with using a balanced or progressive tension string set, but ergonomically most 35" basses are trash. Companies assume they can tack an extra inch onto the end of the neck and just reconfigure the fret locations, and end up with instruments that balance terribly and feel like the nut is way farther out from your left shoulder.

    There are potential ergonomic benefits that some of us multiscale players notice, like the way the fret fan basically matches the way your fingers splay out IME. A 35" B is still better than 34" or less IMO. The lower tension high strings are really nice, they sound a little fatter/warmer IMO. Personally, I think the Ibanez SRFF is a terrible design. I've tried a couple in shops and the scales they chose just feel weird and you don't get enough of the benefit of fanned frets to warrant the cost IMO. I haven't tried the (ugly IMO) new Ibanez headless multiscale.

    EDIT: Hit publish before I was done.

    I've owned several Dingwall basses, and currently have a 6 string AB1 (37" B) and 5 string Super P (35" B). They both sound and play amazing with radically different timbral centers IME. Even if they had the exact same construction, pickups, and strings, you'd be able to hear the difference IMO. I love both.

    I said IMO/IME a lot because some people get all butthurt when you come in and talk nice about designs that go beyond Leo Fender's originals.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2021
  5. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    You’re reaping the clarity benefits of a higher tension 35” scale string along with the sweeter sound of the short scale 32”. Do a little reading on short scale instruments and see what players are saying about they differ from a standard 34” scale.

    Also, the evenness in tone across all of the notes on the fretboard is huge. On my Dingwall Super J, all of the notes across all strings on every fret leap off the fretboard at the same volume. Add in a nice preamp and some light compression and you’ve got yourself a studio quality tone without much work. It’s pretty awesome!
    GlassToMouth likes this.
  6. spatters


    Mar 25, 2002
    Multiscales exist primarily because "standard" string gauges are literally just round numbers that had no thought put into them, and they always result in a floppy E string and an even floppier low B. The longer scale on the lower strings compensates somewhat for this.

    Equal tension string sets solve the problem without having to buy a new bass. But most string companies either don't know how to make equal tension string sets, or don't care enough to, and most musicians don't understand that equal tension string sets will solve their problems.

    I've been making my own equal tension sets out of singles, for both guitar and bass, for over twenty years. The difference is remarkable.
    nanbanpapa and Dave W like this.