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Long vs Short Scale

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


  1. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy Supporting Member

    I play long or short depending on the bass and the sound I want. A Thunderbird sounds completely different from an EB-2. Scale length isn't important.
     
  2. Mustang Surly

    Mustang Surly

    Jul 10, 2013
    I'm of average stature and have fairly large hands but prefer short scale with narrow string spacing.
     
    rllefebv, J-Mags and jamro217 like this.
  3. blue4

    blue4

    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    I like short scales myself. Aside from the Ibanez SR series, I think they're more comfortable to play for long periods of time. I think they sound better than a long scale when playing with people using banjos, mandolin, etc. I like them better for classic rock, country, basically anything non-metal. So for what I do they're better all around. But I doubt someone in a Slayer tribute band would come to the same conclusion. The lesser tension, which gives me the warmth and tone I like in my setting, probably won't give that guy the snarl and bite to cut through his mix. I think my SS jazz might work in that setting, but unless you're getting a special build or you don't mind modding a SX, SS jazzes are somewhat rare IME.
     
    el jeffe bass and jamro217 like this.
  4. 6-1, biggish hands. Exclusively long scale until a few years ago when sittin' on that low F playing Green Onions was killing my wrist. Now my 2 main players are Epiphone Allen Woody (w/flats b/c I like the thud) and Kala UBass.

    Still, I ain't never giving up my 77/78 Fender P. That sound is like coming home, every time.
     
    rllefebv and jamro217 like this.
  5. Solude

    Solude

    Sep 16, 2017
    This comes up often but tension is a function of note, string gauge and scale. If you play the same gauge, then yes the tension is reduced. But if you go up a size then they are the same tension.
     
    jamro217, lz4005 and dxb like this.
  6. dxb

    dxb

    Dec 25, 2016
    The benefits of short scale are pretty obvious. It takes less effort to move around the fretboard and you don't have to stretch your fingers as much. Obviously that's good for people with small hands or short arms but it can be a plus for tall people too. I actually prefer playing long scale but I have a hard time thinking of any specific advantages it has.
     
    jamro217 likes this.
  7. dxb

    dxb

    Dec 25, 2016
    Yep, it would be like saying all Gibson scale guitars are less articulate than Fender scale guitars, which isn't true. It is true that if you use the same strings you'll get less tension on the Gibson than the Fender since the scale is shorter, but if you want them to be similar just go to the next higher gauge.
     
    Doctor Intrepid and jamro217 like this.
  8. As @ThinCrappyTone pointed out, if you look at a frequency response from a short scale to a long scale, the longer the scale, the more harmonic content in the note. Which is why short scales sound "boomier" or "thuddier" than longer scale instruments. You can get pretty close to an upright sound with a short scale bass (30") with larger value capacitor (rolls off the higher frequencies) and flatwound strings.
     
    lowplaces and jamro217 like this.
  9. SpazzTheBassist

    SpazzTheBassist

    Jun 20, 2006
    it USED to be for better sustain quality as well as tone (back then, it was common knowledge that short scales were generally a lot woodier and darker in an era where bassists were trying to go brighter)...however, science, research, and development into bass guitar building has come to a point where those attributes have been minimized....30 years ago i wouldve never considered a shorty...nowadays, i feel different
     
    blue4, jamro217 and dxb like this.
  10. NOVAX

    NOVAX

    Feb 7, 2009
    Kalifornia
    Yes. Both. Either.
     
    Nebula24 and jamro217 like this.
  11. dxb

    dxb

    Dec 25, 2016
    That's a good point. It also occurs to me that short scales are a lot less common so I guess long scales still have an advantage in that there are more models to choose from.
     
    jamro217 likes this.
  12. lexefx

    lexefx picky?? Supporting Member

    Jan 1, 2009
    Grayslake IL
    I have a 32" and a 35" and smallish hands. I like the feel of the 35" 19MM spacing - so I mainly play that. The 32 is so darn fast and easy to play. With a Bart active setup on this bass - it lacks nothing. It also sounds decent passive.
     
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  13. MoeTown1986

    MoeTown1986 Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2010
    SoMD (Mechanicsville)
    I've owned 32", 34" and 35". To me, 34" feels like home. They're all good. It just depends what YOU want.
     
    jamro217 likes this.
  14. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    The scale of 34 inches was chosen to be more comfortable to guitarists to play electric bass when compared to upright bass.

    The pitch of a string is based on several factors: string length, string diameter, string material, and string tension are the major ones.

    In general, we want string tension to be about the same across instruments to allow pressing the strings and plucking them. On an electric instrument with magnetic pickups, you need ferromagnetic metal. If the scale length stays the same, the strings have to get thicker. On most instruments, the E string is thicker than the G string as a result because the scale length is the same.

    Across types of instruments, the scale length gets shorter for higher pitched instruments. For example: violin, viola, cello, double bass. A violin would never be able to play the E1 note of a double bass without using substantially larger strings or strings made of a different material because the scale length is too short. That is why a u-bass uses rubber strings instead of metal strings.

    As to short scale bass guitar, eventually it could get to a point where it is impossible to play the notes on the instrument. Short scale now has there own strings and improves playability for some. In theory, it could make clarity of the notes more difficult. In practice, it is your choice.

    You could also just play a guitar and use effects to simulate playing a bass. See The White Stripes. That is the most famous bass line I know played on an acoustic guitar.
     
  15. I play mostly 34" scale Jazz and Precision and I'm reasonably comfortable on those but that is because I put the time in on those fretboards. However, I'm most comfortable playing my 32" Kubicki Ex-Factor. I only play the Kubicki occasionally because it's excellent condition and I want to keep it that way. I'd like to see Fender make a 32" scale bass with a Jazz or Precision body.
     
    jamro217 likes this.
  16. Johnny Crab

    Johnny Crab ACME,QSC,Fame/Hondo/Greco/HELIX user & BOSE Abuser Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2004
    South Texas
    Short scales here serve a few purposes and come off the bench and into the game:
    1) If we get double-booked and have 2 gigs in 1 day(i.e. afternoon gig, night gig)
    2) If my shoulder or back have decided to let me know I'm actually 62-1/2
    3) If we get put in a venue with a micro stage

    One lives in my cubicle at work in case I need to practice at lunch.

    They all(5?) sound good to me or they'd have been sold already.
     
    jamro217 likes this.
  17. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    I played regular 34" scale from 1989 to 2013. Learned about short scales (never new they existed) after joining TB. Played shorties from then to now. I'm average height (5'10") with average hands, but the short scales were much more comfortable for me. I've recently started playing regular scale again because I'm a sucker for Epiphone guitars and they don't make short scale Thunderbirds. Now I alternate between 30", 32", and 34" basses depending on the gig and what bass I'm in the mood for, but short scale is still the most comfortable for me.
     
    Nebula24 likes this.
  18. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    Reduced tension is not inherent in shorter scale. That would only be true if there was only one one gauge of bass strings made.

    You do, however, have to choose between thicker strings with more tension but less flexibility, or thinner strings with less tension and more flexibility. Both sound and feel different. Getting around that issue is why there are fanned fret instruments with 37" B strings. The longer scale allows the use of a thinner, more flexible string that still has good tension.

    More thought went into it than that. It was the scale length Fender thought was the best compromise between playability and tone, in the context of the string and amplification technology available at the time. And the sounds of the popular music of the late 40's/early 50's. He made different scale prototypes and that was the one he thought worked best.

    Then again, he also thought people would want to attach their strap to the headstock and use the tugbar, so he didn't know everything.
     
    rllefebv, design and blue4 like this.
  19. funkinbottom

    funkinbottom Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Northern CA.
    I use both regularly. My left shoulder has issues, and the shorty is a more comfortable reach for playing in the lower register. So, on a bad shoulder days I play 30" scale basses, and on good shoulder days, I play the 34" scale.
     
    pcake likes this.
  20. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    This. OP, you need to go out and try some for yourself to find YOUR OWN WAY.
     

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