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Scale length question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 86general, Oct 21, 2013.

  1. 86general

    86general Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2010
    Central NJ
    Been playing bass 3 years....played six string guitar for 30-something years.

    I started with a standard, 34" scale bass.

    I have average sized hands and am considering buying a 32" scale bass. Wondering what you folks think of mixing gauges.....do any of you own both scales, and switch back and forth? Is it hard to get used to or adjust to both scales?

    I had a friend buy a 32" scale Hofner and I tried it and I was all messed up on it; I really noticed the difference.

    But I think all things being equal, a 32" scale might suit me better given my hand size.

    Thanks. JP
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I alternate all the time between guitars that have 25.50 and 24.75" and different radii, basses ranging from the Ashbory's 18" to a 35", fretted and fretless, and gigged for a while where I played all of those at different times for one gig. It's mostly mental if you have proper left-hand technique.

  3. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Same here and I agree
  4. I alternate between two 34" scale lengths, and a 30" Mustang. I find it more of an effort going from 1.5" to 1.625" nut width than between regular & short scale, to be honest.

    With some 32" scale length instruments, you may not even notice a difference, due to body size and bridge position.
  5. garmenteros

    garmenteros Bass Enthusiast Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2008
    Dominican Republic
    This. I play 32, 34, 35 scale basses both 4 and 5 string. It shouldn't be a problem once you're accustomed to a particular instrument.
  6. PDGood

    PDGood Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I'm impressed with guys that can play all these different scales effortlessly. I'm also impressed with guys who can pick up someone else's bass with a different setup and bridge location and scorch a lick from one end to the other flawlessly. Those people really do exist, but not everyone can make that happen.

    So I think your own experiences may prove more valuable. You know that you can improve anything of this sort with time and practice, but if you struggled before with the Hofner you probably won't wind up being one of those guys that find it so effortless. You may need a little warm up time each day on either instrument before feeling comfortable.
  7. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    My first bass was a cheap 30 inch violin bass. I hadn't played it in years and in fact I didn't play bass at all for years. When I resumed a few years ago I bought a new 34 inch bass. I recently tried the old violin bass again and it certainly felt weird. I think it might take a bit of practice to adjust to it again and to switch between the two scales. I used to play both scales without trouble so I imagine that I could do so again. I probably won't play that old dog much anymore but I do plan to get a 30 inch bass VI of one kind or another when I can afford to do that and of course the scale length difference will only be the half of that adjustment!!

    That said, there may be people who cannot play both scales interchangeably and you may be one. That possibility should not deter you from trying one because even if you cannot play both you may find that you really prefer the shorter scale over the longer. Short trials with friend's basses or in stores don't always give you the full picture. Some things you have to live with for a while to make a decision about. So I would go ahead and try one. You can try to find a used one to start on and that way you lose little to no money if you hate it and sell it off again. Being a guitar player you might even prefer a 30 inch bass or bass VI or an even shorter scale baritone that you could tune down to A or G or maybe even E. People here are going to tell you that a baritone can't be tuned down to E but I know that guitarists tune them as low as D....
  8. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2008
    I find that 32" and 30" scales are much easier on my aging hands.

    I really like how the E string sounds on my 32 inchers.

    I recently picked up an Ibanez Mikro that has a 28.6" scale. This thing is a dream to play. Sounds decent too. Nice E string and nice tension on all the strings.
  9. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I have 34" and 35" basses and see no difference to speak of. I used to play a short scale bass too. I loved the way I could reach double stops and such on it that could not be reached on the full scale basses.

    But I gave up playing it when I went to 5 and 6 string basses. The short scale B string just wasn't up to it. I always felt the tone on my short scale was a bit lacking even as a 4 string, but I think that short scale basses today do a much better job with tone than my old one did. Especially 4 bangers.

    So yes, reducing the stretching for aging hands is indeed a dream to play.
  10. chadhargis

    chadhargis Jack of all grooves, master of none Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2010
    Nashville, TN
    I have a 20" (U-Bass), three 34", and one 35". On top of that, two are four string and three are five string. I have more of an issue with the missing B string than I do the scale length.

    That said, I'm not a great player. I'm a "functional" bass player. Meaning I don't play any fancy stuff. No slapping, no tapping, no chords, no solos, no fancy runs....so I'd be able to play a wash tub bass if I wanted. :)
  11. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I think playability is affected by two things:

    1. How long you have been playing bass.
    2. How often / regularly you play other basses with different scale lengths, number of strings, etc.

    I don't know for sure, but I suspect that you could hand me any 4 or 5 string bass of any scale length between 30" and 34" and I could play songs as well (or poorly :p) as I always do without any real adjustment period.

    Still, there is no question that some basses are much more comfortable and natural to play than others.
  12. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    My 9 and 10 year-old bass students play upright basses with 37 inch scales. It is about technique and practice.

  13. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Another pic of my 9 and 10 year-old bassists wielding 37" scale double basses today before a concert.

  14. Eight_Stringer


    Feb 22, 2009
    Such an individual characteristic, the swapping between scale lengths, number of strings and the, ( for me ) most relevant, inter string spacing. 16-19.5m/m at the bridge which changes spacing at the nut. Found it a big leap after 33 years on fender and Rick 4 strings. Though i did/do play a 32" 8 string same period as the 4 strings. It took many many hours of well structured "swapping" between 4,5,6,7,8 string basses 32" to 35", fretted and fretless, 32-35" variable scale is in the plan as well. Playing the 7 string made the 6 seem a breeze, so even though the 7 is hard to play, it produced a result on the 6, if that makes sense.

    To the OP, try it, do you best, identify the hurdles, and be patient, it has taken me years to swap at will now. You may surprise yourself!

  15. My 31.181" scale 3-string bass tuned in 5[SUP]ths[/SUP] is very easy to play but that is mostly because of the way it rest and the 1/2" string spacing @ nut
  16. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I switch back and forth between 34- and 35-inch scales and don't really notice the difference. It would take me a few minutes to get used to a 32-inch scale, and it ultimately would be easier to play, but I'd worry about sacrificing tone.
  17. Uncle K

    Uncle K The bass player doesn't get a sandwich Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2011
    Erie, PA
    I go between 30 to 32 to 34 without any problems.

    FWIW 32 feels the most comfortable and doesn't sacrifice tone.
  18. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    You're equating younger students who are professionally taught to older hobbyists who probably have limited practice time. And who usually are self taught.
  19. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    +1 those Mikros are sweet. I can sit on the couch and play that thing for hours on end. I wouldn't gig it (though I have and it worked out fine) just because my 34" looks more "normal".
  20. Tom_RCJ


    Jan 4, 2010
    Cardinal, Ontario, Canada
    Band is sponsored by Trinity Amps and Sennheiser.
    There's a bass player in my area who is 4'10" at most. His hands are minuscule with stubby little fingers. He prefers his 34" Fender to my 30" Epi. His bass looks gigantic on him, but he can play the heck out it. I don't believe hand size should be a consideration when choosing scale length. Use whatever feels and sounds best to you.

    Xaxxat talked about his aging hands. At that point I could see scale length being relevant.

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