Noticeable tonal differences in 34" versus 32" scale?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Billyzoom, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. Billyzoom

    Billyzoom Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2011
    Bay Area
    Does a 32" scale bass tend to sound at all different from a 34" of the same type? I'm having some hand and arm trouble, so I'm thinking of building a 32" P bass. I already picked up a SX 32" scale J style, and the feel for me is great.

    I'm of course speaking in generalities as it's hard to get an apple to apple comparison, but with guitars it's common for folks to discuss a tonal difference between a 25.5" (Fender) scale and a 24.75" (Gibson) scale guitar.

    I put a 24.75" scale neck on my strat that I built and it sounds good, but I don't know how different it would sound (if at all) if I'd used a similar neck in the normal 25.5" scale. But the shorter scale is more my style.

    I want the bass to sound like a traditional, thumpy P bass. Going with alder body, maple and rosewood will have a vintage style pickup, will wear flats and have some foam under the bridge. I assume the 32" scale probably won't make a difference that I'd notice (especially with flats and foam mute), but I thought I'd throw it out before I pull the trigger.

    Thanks for any help.
  2. Saint


    Mar 2, 2000
    DC - USA
    I certainly notice a difference between my Alembic 32” bass and my 34” basses ---but it has nothing to do with the shorter scale.
    Bob_Ross likes this.
  3. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    My only experience was with a 70's Mustang and 70's P
    Huge difference; the P sounded so much better, I doubt that it was just pups
  4. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Captain Pedantic wants to point out that a 70's Mustang would have had a 30" scale length, not 32"
    But yeah, a P Bass would definitely sound much better than nearly any Mustang imho
    Jim C likes this.
  5. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I don't think I'd want to make any generalizations about how changing the scale length changes the sound, too many other variables. But I would offer this suggestion: If you want a 32" bass to sound as close to "a traditional, thumpy P bass" as possible, calculate exactly where on a normal 34" scale P Bass the pickup location is with regards to the strings' harmonic nodes/antinodes, and make sure you replicate that placement on the 32" bass.
    Bill Whitehurst likes this.
  6. GrapeBass


    Jun 10, 2004
    Graphic designer: Yorkville Sound
    In my observation...

    I find the 'fundamental' is a bit more prominent as the string length is longer. It's always seemed to me that the first harmonic (eg 81 Hz E note) is more prominent on bass guitars (E note fundamental is 41 Hz and D note fundamental is 37 Hz - quite low to reproduce especially in bass reflex cabs). I believe this is one reason a double bass seems to go deeper than a bass guitar.
  7. BassmanM


    Feb 17, 2011
    Hamburg, Germany
    The bass in my avatar is a Maruszczyk Mr Tee with 32" scale - the P pickup sounds just like what you would expect from a P bass. I also have a 5-string jazz bass type from the same manufacturer with 32" scale, it also sounds like a J should.

    I am sure someone will chime in and talk about lower string tension, but I personally hardly notice a difference if any. In fact, the Mr Tee, which is strung with LaBella flatwounds, has quite high string tension.
  8. Jim C

    Jim C I believe in the trilogy; Fender, Stingray, + G&L Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Ooops; thanks for that
    30"?, another reason why I have no regret about selling a blue with stripes Mustang
    Bob_Ross likes this.
  9. Larry Fuller

    Larry Fuller

    Jul 6, 2015
    I've been thru the whole thing on 32" basses.
    IMO the 32" fender MIJ p bass sounds very much like a 34" (that low e thump is very close) where the 30's just dont seem to have it.
    thats why the 32" MIJ p squier p basses are so cool.
    i cant speak for SX quality on this issue.
    i may have a 32" p bass for sale shortly if you might be interested.
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Guest

    Apr 2, 2007
    Here's an easy experiment you can try:

    Take a 34" bass, tune it down a half step to EbAbDbGb, and put a capo at the 1st fret. Taa daa! You're rockin' a 32" bass!

    Now drop the tuning an additional half step to DGCF and put the capo at the 2nd fret. Instant 30" bass! :)
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
    Mvilmany likes this.
  11. I don't think you will notice a lot of difference.
    If you have the pickup placement correct for the scale
    and string gauge/tension relatively the same,
    I doubt the scale length difference would be any
    greater than the random difference between any two
    otherwise identicale basses.
    dralionux likes this.
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