Question about changing scale length

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Thomas Kievit, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    I've seen some threads coming by of people who want to change the scale length on their bass guitars. Some prefer getting a shorter scale length, others prefer getting a longer scale length.

    Now if you have a bolt on neck bass guitar, I asume you ''just'' change the neck and / or replace the bridge position. How do you do this with a neck through bass guitar? Do you have to change the fretboard for this and place the bridge in another position?

    P.S. I'm not going to do this, just being curious ;)
  2. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    In almost all cases, changing the scale length of an instrument means putting a different length neck on an existing body. That, is, changing the distance from the body to the headstock. It's possible to change the scale length of an existing neck by putting on a different fingerboard, but you can't change it very much without getting into some weird geometry at the heel.

    For example, you could take a 34" scale neck-thru bass and put a new 32" scale fingerboard on it. The nut would have to stay at the same place in relation to the headstock. You'd gain a couple of extra frets down at the heel, probably out to 24. But the problem is back at the bridge. You'd have to move the bridge forward 2", putting it about where the bridge pickup would normally be. The pickups would have to be moved. You'd end up extensively filling and re-routing the body, and changing the overall shape and look.

    The basic answer to your question is that changing the scale length of a neck-thru bass usually isn't practical. Changing the neck on a neck-thru means sawing off the wings (the sides of the body) and then reattaching them to a new neck and center spine. Almost a new instrument. If you are going to do all that anyway then, yes, you could make the new neck to a different scale length, different overall length, and keep the bridge and pickups in the same location on the body.
    Thomas Kievit likes this.
  3. Thomas Kievit

    Thomas Kievit Guest

    May 19, 2012
    Thanks for the input
  4. you could cheat and put it in D tuning then capo at the second fret. that in effect changes scale length. I did this to my acoustic bass and went from a 32" scale to a 30. the dots will be off but you soon get used to that.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2014
  5. Fat Steve

    Fat Steve The poodle bites, the poodle chews it.

    I assume you were refering to D Standard tuning, where all of the strings are tuned a whole step lower, versus drop D tuning where only the E string is tuned down to D while the rest of the strings remain at standard pitch.
  6. you are correct thanks for clearing that up steve. I will edit the correction.