Pros and Cons of 36" scale

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Jim T., Nov 22, 2001.

  1. I tried a search and remember Angus commenting in some detail but can't find it anywhere...
    What issues come with a 36" scale? Are strings still hard to locate? Are they totally out of the realm of reality for small handed/fingered players if the neck is thin from front to back? Please elaborate.... Thanks
  2. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Lack of strings. Lack of suitable cases and gigbags. Increased tension and possible choked tone on G and D string. Increased discomfort for small-handed players. No more two-octave scales in a single position without extensions or shifts.
  3. Pro's :
    <li>Better low B's</li>
    <li>looks cool</li>

    Con's :

    <li>Not perfect for beginners</li>
    <li>Harder to get strings, bags, etc.</li>

    It's ideal if u are intermediate and play low B a lot.
  4. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I'm with Christopher. I have small hands, and I'm very glad the luthier talked me out of a 35" scale on my bass. 34" is enough for me. The thing is, the difference for the string is small (2" is only a 6% increase in scale length from 34), but the difference for your hand/arm is large.

    Differences in sound will vary across the strings (no doubt the B and E will sound clearer, the D and G will get pretty twangy though), and that's subjective so it's up to you.

    Except, Christopher, I don't understand your last comment (no more two-octave scales)?
  5. bdengler


    Jan 23, 2000
    New Albany, Ohio
    It would seem if you're going to go to a 36-inch string length that you would have to use more of an upright finger style, using the first, second and fourth finger in the lower registers and using all four fingers, probably, beginning on the fifth fret. You'd probably get a deeper tone from a longer string length, but the compromise in comfort and speed is significant if you want to use the 4-finger style. I fail to see any advantage in such a string length.
  6. i own a 36" and do agree that you have to adopt a different approach to playing, but if you think your capable , then do it,, follow the overwater link and look at some good XL basses

  7. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    If you play a five string, each five-fret box on the fingerboard will give you two octaves, if you play three notes per string.
  8. There are little tricks to extended scale. Carvin has recently been offering an extended scale bass, (not quite 36"), and all they did was take their regular scale and just moved the bridge back. Compare -

    35 1/4" -


    and their 34" scale -


    Notice the bridge placement??? - same bass takes the same case but not the same length strings.

    If small hands were an issue to you, (which it sounds like they are), I'd be more concerned about fret spacing relative to the frets I need to use most often.
  9. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    What does this have to do with a 36" scale?
  10. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Ah, that explains why there's only 21 (or was it 22?) frets on the new jobbies! :) The low frets are still bigger than they were before, so it's still a bit harder to play.

    This reminds me of something Emmett Chapman just did on his new Stick models. He basically moved the nut back two inches, and put another fret in. You tune it a half-step lower than before (which is no prob because you don't use open strings on the Stick), so all the string guages, tension, and note positions are exactly the same -- you just get one extra fret down on every string! Of course all the cases for those are custom anyway so that's a moot point.
  11. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Those three-notes-per-string scales require that you span a major third on the lowest strings. For someone with average-sized hands, this is possible with some stretching on a 34" scale. For most people, spanning a major third isn't possible on a 36" scale in the lower positions.
  12. Sneaky lil' s"""tz. aren't they, geshel???

    Personally, I don't like the "caveat emptor" way of business. But they do. :rolleyes:
  13. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    OK - thanks. This wasn't at all clear in your original post. You can still play plenty of 2-octave scales in one position higher up the neck (on a 5, which wasn't part of the thread topic either...). :)
  14. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Well, they do mention it pretty prominently. I was just wondering why the heck they went down to 22 frets, having made 24-fretters (fritters?) for years.

    Now, looking at their web page, I will fault them for taking unrealistic product photos:

    They make that walnut look like rosewood or ebony! :)
  15. What I mean is - they don't mention that is how they increased the scale, as opposed to how other builders have approached the extended scale market.

    As for the woods - I never depend on monitors/digital/CRT's or a true representation of the cosmetics or colors - the raw wood suppliers' sites taught me that! :rolleyes:

    Although I'm hardly "friends" with Carvin, they use fantastic woods, IME.
  16. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Unless your technique is thoroughly flawless, 36" scale is going to give you a tough time with small hands. I have huge hands, and I still had some trouble (though, my technique is far from flawless!!). Mine, however, also had nearly full spacing at the bridge, so that contributed to the difficulty.

    Tonally, it may or may not help. I honestly can't comment, because I haven't played a bass identical to the one I had with a shorter scale. The only real manufacturer you can do this with would be Fodera, but it's still hard to find their 36" basses in stores. I loved the tone of my bass, and I still wish I hadn't gotten rid of it, but I've gotten comparable tone out of a 33" Fodera...but I can't definitely say whether the scale has anything to do with it.

    Strings, however, are a huge problem. My only two options I could find where to order either custom LaBella strings straight from the President (which I could do thanks to the original owner of the bass, who was great), or steel Fodera strings. I use Nickel strings, so that was the first problem. The second was that I couldn't get the gauges I liked, except from LaBella, but even then there were lots of limitations.

    As for the "choked" tone out of the D and G... I didn't experience that. The A-C on the bass I owned, the D in particular, where the sweetness I've heard on ANY bass. The B and E were some of the clearest. Again, not necessarily the scale, because my bass also had an ebony fretboard, brass nut/bridge, heavy neck-thru maple neck, etc etc, and FLAWLESS construction.

    I really wish I hadn't gotten rid of the bass, but with my hand condition I couldn't play it anymore because the woods made the neck so heavy. If I hadn't damaged my left hand, I would still have the bass. If it had sounded exactly the same with a 34" or 35" scale, it would be THE bass for me.

    I wouldn't, however, recommend you choose a 36" scale without playing an example beforehand. Try to play one with specs as close to the ones you want as possible, because that can make a lot of the difference. But really, you probably wouldn't notice the tonal difference between 35" and 36" scale if the bass is really well made with top grade woods and hardware. You will, however, notice the playability issues.

    Just my experience... your mileage my vary completely. But you have to try everything out for yourself.

    BTW, good luck finding a stock gigbag that'll fit a 36" scale bass. And three finger Simandl(?)/upright technique wasn't necessarily for me to reach from the 1-5 frets on my bass, but it was a BIG reach. If my hands were just a bit smaller, it would not have worked very well.

    Hope that helps.
  17. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    36" is really too long of a scale to expect the G string to sound very good and the D is getting marginal. If you don't use the G much of if you string it down to F# it should be fine.
  18. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    My hands are average sized, certainly not large (I'm 5'8"). I can do minor-third reaches in the low register on my 36" scale, but not major-third---but then again, I can't quite get a major-third stretch on a 34" scale either, so this doesn't seem like much of a limitation!

    I find it a little less quick to get around on a 36" scale than 34", but certainly nothing that required any sort of major change in technique, and I don't have anything resembling flawless technique to begin with! I was playing 35" scale 5's before I picked up this 36" scale King, though, so I wasn't leaping straight from 34" to 36".

    I do not notice any particular problems with the sound with the G and D strings--I wonder how many people who claim that have actually played a 36" scale?--but I do find that the low B is absolutely amazing, and very usable all the way up. Then again, there are other factors like the wenge neck that come into play, so it's hard to figure out how significant the scale really is.

    Finding strings is a real problem, though. DRs will fit, but the only other maker who makes a set for 36" scale seems to be Fodera, and most places that carry Fodera strings don't stock the extra-long scale.

  19. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    What a bunch of Blatant Speculation. You ever played one? I've NEVER, EVER experienced this to be true.
  20. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    all i can say is that the lowest, clearest, deepest bass i ever heard is a 34" tuned with a low F#. and i own it :). i've played 36" - shoot, i even played a fanned fret where the low B was a 37". they were tight, but not enough to warrant needing them, and they didn't sound any better.