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Long vs Short Scale

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

  1. All of my basses are either 34" or 33 1/4" scale. The Gibson Ripper is still in pieces, so I don't count that one. It's 34 1/2". I have Fender guitars with 25 1/2" scales, Gibsons with 24 3/4", and a '59 Musicmaster that's 22 1/2". They all have their place. I think short scale basses suffer from the illusion of inferiority due to some manufacturers deeming them unworthy of the quality components found in their long scale models. Dubbed as student models, they were considered almost as toys. Compare a 1971 Fender Bronco to a 1971 Fender Jazz Bass. That said, I'd love an original Guild Starfire II. As others have noted, with the same string gauges, shorties have a completely different sound compared to long scales. The availability of quality SS basses have made it an avenue I haven't travelled yet. I did try the new P/J Mustang at GC recently and wasn't impressed, but it could have been the amp, strings, what I had for breakfast... Many players have produced fantastic music on basses with scales a couple of inches shorter than standard. I wonder whether short scale strings suffered from the same perceived inferiority by manufacturers resulting in relatively poor quality products. Another possible reason to shun shorties. Manifest destiny?
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
    lowplaces and knumbskull like this.
  2. symbolic_acts


    May 24, 2004
    i can reach the second fret 6th fret false harmonics on a short scale. cant on a long scale
    i can play 9 chords with thirds along almost the entire neck on a short scale, way harder on a long scale
    lower tension + smaller frets = more bendy/better vibrato/easier to do fast runs = fits my style better
    lowplaces likes this.
  3. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    back in the old days, some companies (like some Gibsons) simply took existing guitar designs and made basses....It should also be said that many of these folks building them only had about a decade's worth of experience building and playing electric guitars and no experience interacting with wants/needs of electric bassists as the instrument/players were still in adolescence, so they simply applied guitar to bass......as i said above, weve had decades of research and development since then (including accessories like strings) and I have seen many shorty basses within recent years with lots of sustain and brightness usually associated with longer scales and I wouldnt be able to tell in a recording

    So, nowadays, its whatever works best for the player.......
  4. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Since I started bass back in the late '60s I've played a combination of long and short scale basses but I haven't gigged long scale basses much in the last 20-ish years and I've used short scales pretty much exclusively for the last several years. Short scales are simply much more comfortable for me to play. I don't see myself ever going back to long scales.

    I'm 6' tall, 175 lbs and I like pre-dawn walks on the beach.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
    Gaolee likes this.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Unfortunately, Gibson and many other companies are still doing that today.

    And that's one reason short scales have gotten a bad reputation over the years. Historically, many of them were designed to be as inexpensive as possible, rather than as good sounding as possible, and were marketed to either children or guitar players.

    The same could be said of Fender. Yet he avoided almost all the mistakes those companies made.
    SpazzTheBassist likes this.
  6. G19Tony


    Apr 27, 2018
    Las Vegas, NV
    I like and play both.
    fretlessguy likes this.
  7. J-Mags

    J-Mags Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2018
    Durham NC
    If you find the short scale you want, not a problem. Still, that's doubly true for strings. Many strings that don't come in short-scale sizes. Happily, I'm finding that I prefer regular old GHS Boomers and Flats, but there are plenty of other strings that I could try if I was playing a long-scale bass.

    Part of the weirdness about scale length may originate with the fact that, at the time of their invention, P-Basses were already short-scale compared to a double bass, where scale lengths of over 40" were common.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  8. Jeff Scott

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

    Apr 11, 2006
    What's the difference? :roflmao:
    Krizz, Ukko, design and 3 others like this.
  9. dragon2knight

    dragon2knight Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2016
    Bronx, NY
    I'm with a lot of folks on here, short scale due to injury. While a bit on the short side myself, I was playing long scale just fine till my wrist gave out. Now I'm just more comfy playing SS. Again, as most everyone said on here, it's a matter of preference, simple as that.
  10. No injuries. Don't have small hands. Not a beginner. None of the "reasons" I'm reading why some people think they need to excuse playing a short scale bass.

    I just like my EB-2, Kay and Mosrite basses. And they just happen to be shorties. So I play them.

    And I play long scale basses too. Because I like them too. Cheers! :D
    Gaolee, design, ajkula66 and 2 others like this.
  11. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    All I can say is I'm glad I don't have to buy a short-scale bass.
    Sure, it's not quite so bad as having to find a really good-looking left-handed bass, but...
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Quick and dirty answer: different feel, note response, and tone.

    In reality it’s a bit more nuanced than that. But suffice to say most short-scale basses have a different vibe than long-scale basses.

    But even that’s not completely true since the new short-scale basses have come a long way since the 60s. They can even work for slap if that’s your thing.

    A good example of that is Scott Whitley winding out on Mark King’s famous song Mr. Pink. He’s using two short-scale Chowny basses - one with normal and the other with piccolo guage strings. Tell me if you think the lower tuned one sounds any different than…say a Fender JB?

    Note: hand size has nothing to do with it. Many small handed players are perfectly comfortable playing 34” and 35” scale necks. And there’s also a good number of individuals with normal to large hands who play short-scale basses. Good bass technique is not dependent on the size or strength of your hands.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  13. My first bass was an epiphone flying V, which I didn't even realize was short scale (I didn't know they came in different sizes back then) I currently play an epiphone explorer, which is a 34 scale with a massive neck and giant body, a fender jazz which is more average, and a fender p/j mustang. The mustang is generally tuned a full step up, F#, B, E, A. But I use it tuned in E as well, very comfortable little bass. I think scale length is like the pick argument. No one is more correct than the other, just play how and what works best for you. Tonally short scales are warmer with less sustain I believe, so great for certain things not as much for others.
    Nebula24 likes this.
  14. jpmcbride


    Aug 31, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    My only issue with short scale basses is that I don't like the way the strings feel. I like high tension strings. I hesitate to use the word "floppy" that I so often see used to describe short scale strings. I've played lots of short scales with all kinds of strings and I wouldn't describe any of them as floppy. Just not as tight as I prefer.

    My #1 bass right now is a 32" (medium scale) Fender Precision from Japan. I put La Bella flats on it (high tension strings) and it feels very close in string tension to a long scale Precision. The tone is a little different than my long scale Precision, but that's not necessarily bad. Its surprising how the 2" shorter scale on this bass makes it so much easier to play.

    Play whatever feels and sounds good to you.
    grrg63, rllefebv and lowplaces like this.
  15. I'm (barely) 5'6" and never have had issues with my 34-inchers.
    Mili likes this.
  16. Mili


    Nov 14, 2015
    I love 34" and I'm thinking about 35" or 36"
  17. lowplaces

    lowplaces Got Punch ? Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2015
    Louisville Kentucky
    fwiw, @svtscruggs bought a Squier Vista Series Musicmaster from me last December, and told me short scales are popular in Nashville nowadays. He is an Ampeg artist based in Nashville so that wasn't just "hearsay". He would know.
  18. LoTone

    LoTone Clean as an Entwistle... Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    Quebec, Canada
    Some play short scales because of the ergonomics. Others, just like the tone better. The strings are usually a bit looser because of the shorter scale length and it translates into a warm tone with blooming attacks. Some like this others don't. You will have to try it for yourself.
    Mili and lowplaces like this.
  19. pingvuiini


    Feb 2, 2009
    Back when I had money I had some custom Ken Bebensee six stringers that were 35.25" scale. They were challenging at first, but sounded great:
    As I got older and crustier my fretting pinky was giving me problems. I had a Status Graphite S3 32" scale bass but even with that my pinky would start hurting after 30-45 minutes:
    Now that I am truly crusty, all those expensive basses are now gone. I currently have two fretless Gold Tone ME basses which are 23" scale. With the very short scale and low string tension of the rubber strings I can play for hours. They are super easy to carry around, very light so my shoulders don't ache, and the sound is surprisingly big, warm and tubey. Although the strings can be finicky to deal with, the fun factor is HUGE!!!
    I have just touched bass with Ken again after probably more than a decade and he seems interested in making a nice 5 string bass based off the Gold Tones.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  20. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002

    I played nothing but a SCSD for 5-6 years. At the time it felt great, but now that I've gone back to playing jazz basses I am having a really hard time with the short scale bass. It just feels to small whereas with the Jazz basses I just feel like I have more room...
    rllefebv likes this.

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