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Pros/cons of longer scale =?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by qveda, May 11, 2002.

  1. qveda


    Apr 3, 2002
    I'm considering getting a 4 or 5 string fretless bass. I prefer low action, highly responsive to vibrato on the fretboard, etc. What are some advantages/disadvantages of 34" scale vs 35", or longer?

  2. dreadhead


    Feb 1, 2002
    Hello! You must consider that a longer scale (35" or more) gives a great focused tone to the lower notes, that remain dry. But playing a 35" scale bass is a little harder than playing a short-scale one.
    34" scale is the standard... it's definitely a good compromise between sound&playability.
    35" scale basses could give you some problems playing in the first position if you have very little hands. Short scale basses usually have a "boomy" low end... but it's not a problem of all the 30" or 32" basses! I hope this helps!
  3. Variable scale!
  4. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Well, there's a growing lot of people who believe the extra inch will not help in any significant way, and that any well made bass will have just as focused a "B" string on a 34" as if it were a 35". Afterall, it is only an inch, so how much impact would you expect?;)
  5. I'm by no means a huge slap/pop fanatic, but it seems to me that popping would be rather difficult with that neck pickup where it is!

    Back on the subject, I've noticed that the B strings on my Zon and Stingray (34") are as tight and responsive as the one on my Spector (35"). I think it's much more a question of neck strength....but I could be wrong as well.
  6. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    My guess is shorter scale.

    When doing vibrato effects you move your hand so that you either shorten or lengthen the amount of string vibrating, therefore slightly changing the note. If on a 35" scale bass the spaces between notes are larger, then you must move your hand a greater distance to get the same amount of vibrato than you would on a 34".

    My suggestion is if the sound and B string tension is not of major concern, go with a custom (or standard if you can find it) made bass with a scale length les than 34". If those are a concern, a 34" shouldnt be a problem. and if they are a major concern, go with a variable scale bass such as the Dingwall basses, or other Novax Fanned fret basses.

  7. qveda


    Apr 3, 2002
    Hi NickMan,
    your comment about the shorter scale making it easier to create the vibrato effects with subtle movement makes sense.

    So, if I understand correctly, 35" scale will provide tigher tension on the strings at the same tuning than 34" would.

    Who makes the blue fanned fret bass? What is the range of the various scales? Since I am not interested in popping the pickup placement would be OK for me. Looks very interesting - if I can afford to go that way.

  8. That blue bass pictured above is a Dingwall Afterburner. The scales range from I think 37" on the B to 34" on the G with the others falling in between.

    I'm sure Funky could tell you a bit more about it.
  9. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    On the Dingwall the B is 37" and the G is 34", like you said. The other strings vary by 0.75", ie 34.75", 35.5", 36.25" for the others.

    I haven't had any problems with slap and pop on my Dingwall nor on the ones that had the pickups positioned like on the Afterburner (it wasn't an Afterburner though, it was a Prima).

  10. geshel

    geshel Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2001
    1" / 34" = 3%

    So if the tension on the B string was 30lbs at 34" scale, on a 35" scale it would be 31lbs. Not a big change.

    .005" / .125" = 4%

    So the increase in tension from a .125 B to a .130 B is more than going from 34" to 35" scale. (roughly, but you get the idea)
  11. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    That's a very questionable way of doing the calculations. For one, the difference that would be crucial on the string thickness would actually be the differnce in mass per unit length, which is figured from the cross-sectional area (pi * r-squared), not the diameter. So increasing the diameter from .125 to .130 actually changes the cross-sectional area (and mass) by closer to 8% (if I didn't screw up my caluclations).

    For another, going from a lighter to a heavier string does more than increase the tension--it also increases the stiffness of the string, thus changing the way the overtone series works by making the harmonics slightly more out of tune with the fundamental.

    I'm sure there's more to it, but I'm too tired to think about it!

  12. geshel

    geshel Supporting Member

    Oct 2, 2001
    :eek: DUH! Thanks. :) Luckily that just reinforces what I was trying to say.

    And you're right about the changing stiffness - I wasn't so much equating the two (scale increase / guage increase) in terms of tone as in terms of tension. Simplistically. Just to kind of put in perspective the small effect that 1" extra in scale will have.
  13. Jeff in TX

    Jeff in TX Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2000
    Lone Star State
    My experience is that it depends more on the luthier than the scale. I've played 35" scale basses where the "B" sounded flabby. My 34" scale basses have a very solid and articulate B.

    Plus, for my hands, 35" is often too much of an uncomfortable stretch.

  14. Blues Bass 2

    Blues Bass 2 Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2001
    Davenport Iowa
    For me the 35" scale was not very hard to switch to.I played a Millenium5 at the local music store and it felt comfortable right away.All the strings seemed to have an extra snap to them compared with the Fenders,Carvins and Kubicki 5s ive had or tried.I bought the Peavey and liked it so much I sold my last 4-string and got another 35" scale bass,a Kingston5.I know their are 34" scale basses out there that also have a good B string but these two really float my boat.The best bet is to go out and try both scale lengths to see if they work for you.
  15. Tumbao


    Nov 10, 2001
    Master Luthier Mike Kinal:
    "A 35" scale gives a great B string but can make the G string sound a bit thin and poinky " So, he suggest 34.5" because you get a more tighter stings and clear sound without compromise the tone.www.kinal.com
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Get a bass that's designed and built well.

    While it's probably fun to pontificate on why something works, the bottom line is that there are way too many variables to come up with something approaching a set of "rules".

    String bending? Put a set of Funkmasters on any bass and see if bending or vibrato is a problem. Stiffness? As Jeff said, floppy 35" scale B's happen.

    I'm lucky enough to have an arsenal of some of the best B strings I've ever heard but comparing them would be a real apples-to-petunias kind of task. You could try to do an "all things equal" test but the fact of the matter is... they rarely are. My 84 Tobias has a low B that can hit like a jackhammer. It's 34" scale. My Zon Legacy Standard fretless (34") is also excellent. So are my 35" basses like the F, Brubaker, MTD, Lakland, FMT, etc.

    They do have a couple of things in common: excellent design and construction. Scale lentgh is just one item on the checklist and IMO some give it much more weight than it deserves.

    Some 35's "are" harder to play than 34's. They're also harder to play than some other 35's. A well designed one shouldn't be. Alembic long scale (34) Series basses are cool as heck but the reach for the first fret is much harder than say a Lakland (35). If they made a 35" you'd probably need the arms of an orangutan to play an F*;)

    Check out bridge placement on any extended scale and check any bass out standing up... it makes a difference. My MTD 635 puts a 35" scale into the same physical space as a 34" by moving the bridge closer to the edge of the body. Same reach to the first fret, longer scale. Mike is the man;)

    *you must be this tall to play this bass
  17. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Right you are! And the elements that are easily measurable, like scale length and string tension, don't correlate directly with the more intangible things you really want to get at: feel and tone.

  18. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Right, Mike. I can't count the number of times I've looked at gear that appeared almost identical on paper yet had drastic differences in my hands.

    The folks who have figured out what it takes to go from a list of specs to something almost magical is very short. You could get out your calipers and clone a bass from MTD, F, Sadowsky, Elrick, Brubaker;), etc. but the chances of making something that does exactly what these guys have been able to accomplish is pretty slim IMO IME.

    It's kind of like saying "If I could make a guy with Shaq's feet, I'd have Shaq".

    Uh huh.
  19. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    FYI, FWIW, the F should have a 34.5" scale. At least all the ones I have seen and played have been that way.

    Oh, and your's has the coolest finish of all the F basses, IMO.

  20. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Thanks Geoff, I think it's pretty cool, too. When I first saw pics of the Ceruse' finish when it first came out I wasn't exactly feeling it. IRL it looks great.

    BTW I knew it was 34.5", I kind of lumped it together with the longer than 34" crowd;)

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