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Playing a short-scale bass

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by vicenzajay, Jan 23, 2005.

  1. I have played a 34" scale bass for almost 20 years (as a way of introduction). The other day I spent some time playing a Hamer Slammer 30.5" short-scale bass - it was very comfortable, fast, etc.

    So my question is this - who hear plays a short-scale bass? Did you switch from a 34" scale? Does anyone trade on and off at times? I am currently having a bass made for me, and I'm on the verge of having it made as a 32" scale bass - any advice or warnings?

    Appreciate any feedback :)

  2. natebass


    Sep 6, 2001
    Bremerton, WA
    I've got a 32" scale fretted 4, a 34" scale fretless 4, and a 35" scale fretted 5 - what do you want to know?
  3. Do you find it difficult to switch between them....I thought that it might be, however, I found the shorter neck fairly easy to play. I just wanted to ask for advice prior to having the next bass made with a shorter scale neck.

    I should also mention that I have smaller hands, so the difference in scale seemed to help all the interval playing.

  4. natebass


    Sep 6, 2001
    Bremerton, WA
    not too much - I use the 32" fretted and the 5 the most; but I find it harder to play on the 5; mostly because of the stretch; but I can still get around ok on it.
  5. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    I currently own 28.5", 30", 32", 34", and 36" basses. Personally, I don't have any trouble switching between them. Well, actually, the 32" is maybe a little difficult, but that's got more to do with where the neck meets the body and how it hangs (it's an Alembic Exploiter) than scale length...

    I think you should go for the 32"! If you're fine on the 30" after playing 34", then I don't think it should be a problem. Just be aware that a strange body shape or something like that may be awkward at first.
  6. CJK84


    Jan 22, 2004
    Maria Stein, OH
    I play in a cover band that tunes down a 1/2 step.

    Supposedly, a short scale bass doesn't handle this as well as a longer bass - the tone can lose focus and the strings are said to lose some of the tight feeling (bassist might perceive that the strings don't feel as taut as usual under his fingers).

    Whether tuned to standard or not, the lowest pitches are generally thought to sound best on a long-scale instrument (that's part of the reason that a good grand piano sounds better than an upright).

    But these are minor things, especially if you keep the instrument at standard tuning. So go for the smaller bass if you feel more physical comfort with one.
  7. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    I switch between 34" and 30" regularly with no issues... Musicmasters are purported to be somewhat shy sounding in the lows, but mine gives nothing up in this area. I have used it in settings where I tune down a half step with no problems whatsoever... YMMV...

  8. Good point, CJK, on the tuning down a 1/2 step - I, too, play in such a band. I figure that I can tune my present bass down the half step, and leave this at standard tuning.

    All the advice so far has me leaning toward a shorter scale bass in a big way. Obviously, one sitting won't tell me if I'd be comfortable - however, that bass was 30.5" in scale and my fingers liked it. This past week I went right back to the 34" bass with no issues. Given my body size (5'8") and smaller hands, I think I could really get into a different scale. ;)

  9. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I recently built a 30" scale fretless just for kicks, and have been playing it live with no problems. I have been switching between that and a 34" five-string with few problems, although sometimes when I'm singing lead my fingers will "stretch out" to the 34" positions, which I'm more used to.

    The short scale sounds good, although the lows are not quite as authoritative. I've not had any complaints, even from other bass players, however. It feels like a toy compared to the other one!
  10. anyone find that harmonics don't ring out as clearly as on a 34in scale?

    this seemed to be the case on a Crafter 32in ABG I tried.
  11. Thanks for bringing this up as it was my next question. Physics would seem to indicate that harmonics get better (brighter and more present) with longer strings. Anyone have some examples or wisdom?

    For those of you with short-scale basses...how does your tone suffer (if at all) especially at the lower fundamentals?

  12. natebass


    Sep 6, 2001
    Bremerton, WA
    no prob with my 32" - I can hit harmonics below the 3rd fret - and they still ring out clear as a bell
  13. Ozzyman


    Jul 21, 2004
    I think harmonics only deaden with certain strings at shorter scale lengths. Good qualtiy strings will have nice loud harmonics. And also, if your getting a shorter scale bass, get a high-end one. Low-end basses tend to loose clarity as the scale length gets shorter.
  14. Thanks again guys,

    All this is helping much. Thoughts on short-scale fretless?
  15. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    I make a living playing short and long scale basses, in a Beatles trib band. The only problem I've encountered is when I break a string on the Hofner and the guitar tech hands me the Rickenbacker. Sometimes my fingering is off when I'm singing my fingers just have to do what they're trained to do as I'm concentrating on the lyrics.
  16. From what I'm hearing (or rather, reading), I should just go ahead and do the 32" scale on the built bass.

    I'm looking forward to it!