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Long vs Short Scale

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by cman227, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    I always thought short scale was for beginners or people with small fingers, but now I find out that Stanley Clark's Alembic was a short scale and there are a number of high end short scale basses out there that sound very good. So what is the advantages of each and why choose a short scale over a long scale?
    GreyEagle and jamro217 like this.
  2. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    whatever works for you
    Ken J, BDrums, marcwhy and 12 others like this.
  3. Hey cman

    Basses are just like shirts, they come in S-M-L- and even XL. I say do your research and find the bass that fits you perfectly. It's out there.

    As you point out - there are now numerous high end choices in all scale lengths that sound great - so it's really a matter of finding the scale length that makes you comfortable and emphasizes your playing strengths. When you find it you will know it.

    Don't be afraid to experiment and stray from the crowd. Whether you consider yourself to be a leader or a follower - it's a noble thing to carve your own path.

    Yes, it's pretty much that simple.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
    roogbass, wesonbass, dmt and 10 others like this.
  4. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011
    Personally I much prefer short scale. I do have some old injuries that the short scale helps with, but it is also that I just find a 30" scale more comfortable.

    As posted above... whatever you find works for you.
    BDrums, AngelDeVille and jamro217 like this.
  5. WI Short Scaler

    WI Short Scaler Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2018
    Central WI
    I'm only 5'6" so having a bass that's huge is just uncomfortable for me.

    My shorts are all comfortable for my vertically challenged stature.
    jamro217 likes this.
  6. DMalinowski


    Apr 9, 2018
    6' 0", average hands and short scale (30") all the way. 34" scale basses always felt odd to me. Currently play Fender Mustang PJ, Squier Jaguar SS & SX P fretless.
    BEvans383 and jamro217 like this.
  7. Solude


    Sep 16, 2017
    I eventually landed on a Mustang PJ because I could do the whole one finger per fret thing even at the lowest notes on the neck. Over time though it's beginning to feel small and upper fret access is poor. But if I did go back to long scale I would likely circle back to short scale so... meh.
    Speedhitter and jamro217 like this.
  8. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i'm 5' 3" with little girly hands, and i like both long AND short scale basses. my husband is 6' 7" and he likes long and short scale, although he does find the ibanez mikro basses a bit cramped, but they have extra short scales.
  9. jazzyvee


    Aug 11, 2012
    United Kingdom
    Having owned both long and short scale 4 string basses I have to say I prefer the short scale.
    I find the bottom end is more warm and bassy and the top end cleaner than a regular 34 scale.
    Though your ears may tell you differently.
  10. I have a 33, a 34 and a 35...the 33 is great for chording and hammer ons, the 34 is great for slap and the 35 is great for super fast fingerstyle.
    That’s where I find they outshine one another. I enjoy playing them all though.
    jamro217 likes this.
  11. St_G


    Jan 22, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Wasn't Clarke's Alembic a 32"? That's medium scale, not short.

    In any case, use whatever. I've owned most. Played all. Encountered greats and stinkers at every length. Never had big problems moving between them.
    jamro217 likes this.
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    His signature model is 30.75", but he's owned and used longer scale Alembics over the years.
    jamro217 and St_G like this.
  13. St_G


    Jan 22, 2013
    Memphis, TN
    Huh. For some reason, I always thought he played a 32". Oh well. My bad.

    jamro217 likes this.
  14. dan1952

    dan1952 Commercial User

    Jun 27, 2012
    Anderson IN
    Artist Endorsement with Supro Huntington Basses / Owner, Dan's Music, Inc..
    Following a severe injury, a short scale Supro Huntington I is my main bass. Sounds great, plays easy. I wear size 17EEEE shoes and I'm secure in my masculinity...;-)
  15. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Mostly harmless Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2011
    Massachusetts, USA
    I own a bunch of short and long scale basses and guitars.

    As for reasons/advantages, I use short scales to reduce shoulder pain caused by long stretches. One added benefit is they’re smaller and easier to transport. And they sound different—warmer—which is desirable in some cases.

    Here are the main, most obvious differences I notice between short and long scales:

    -The big one is that short scales are in general, less articulate than their longer scale brethren and sistren, due to the reduced tension. All things being equal, the longer the scale, the tighter the response, and vice versa.
    - Also, due to the reduced tension, shorties tend toward a deep/boomy/more scooped tone. Bassy, fat, harmonically rich and pleasant in general, but also less crisp/bell-like/clear.

    This can be good or bad. For example, the long scale (27”) guitar i have is great for super articulate chugging on low notes. Super crisp. But when soloing, that super crispness is not so good. High notes are harder to bend and have a harsher, ice-picky sound. Whereas the 22” scale guitar is juicy, warm-toned, easy to bend for soloing, but is an inarticulate mess when detuned for rhythms.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  16. Bunk McNulty

    Bunk McNulty It is not easy to do simple things correctly. Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2012
    Northampton, MA
    I played 34" scale basses for most of my life, including a '51 Precision slab, possibly the least ergonomically comfortable instrument I've ever played. In my geezerdom, I have come to appreciate light weight. My 31" scale Birdsong weighs 6.8 lbs. and gives me all the Precision tone I could ever want. And a neck that's fast as hell, that's an attraction, too. Plus I don't have to worry about hitting my BL in the chops when we're in tight quarters. :D
    Speedhitter, jamro217 and J-Mags like this.
  17. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Only a 1.25" difference. NBD.
    jamro217 likes this.
  18. J-Mags

    J-Mags Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    I play a 30" scale bass and I'm 6'2". It's easier, because I'm coming to bass from guitar, but I can play a long-scale bass. I find that I tend to go all Sid Vicious if I play a P-Bass. I mainly listen to the power. On a short-scale, I have to get it right for it to sound good. I also know many petite women who play 34" and 35" basses, and it's no big deal for them, or they're actively annoyed by short-scale basses. I have no trouble approximating most P-Bass tones on a Mustang (probably wouldn't work for slapping, though).

    Of all the live bass performances I've seen, the one that made the biggest impression on me was Robbie Shakespeare, playing behind Peter Tosh with a short-scale Beatle Bass and two SVTs.

    My main guitar is 26.5" scale, BTW. It's all about what you're trying to do, and how you're trying to do it.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  19. ghostinthemach

    ghostinthemach Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    Brea CA
    Scale-wise, I play a CIJ Mustang, EB-3, various Fenders and a 35” fretless by Brice and more. Guess they range from 30-35”?

    I just pick up a bass and play it ‘till I find the one that fits what I’m doing today.

    Sometimes one will fit the current situation better than the others. The music determines the bass. Scale length becomes another way to vary my offering. Nothing more.

    I’m 5’10” but I do have long limbs and hands/fingers for my height.
    funkinbottom and jamro217 like this.
  20. Nebula24


    Nov 23, 2017
    Norman, OK
    Ive bonded with my shorty like no other bass. So comfy. Resparked my desire to learn bass. Play almost daily when all previous bass attempts evetually led to mostly closet storage (few attempts to play but never sticking across 3 long scales). Not sure if it just wasnt my time or not but feel the bonding to the bass a big part. I also had no clue there were short med long scales back then (just got the internet dial up woo) lol.

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