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Scale length question

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

  1. Wallace320

    Wallace320 Commercial User

    Mar 19, 2012
    Milan, Italy
    But you see?
    That's the right spirit to approach things...

    It's the same for me whenever I look at difficulties... look at those guys/gals who are better and more motivated than me, for they're an inspiration

    So I'm with Jim... and Jim... your guys are great! Chapeau;)

    Back to the OP
    I switch with no pain at all from Fender parts Steve Harris WestHam Precision (34") to 2006 Fender MIM Precision jr. (28,6" just like Ibby micros) the only problem havin' with the latter is when I have singin' parts, whereas I'm normally well used not watchin' fingerwork yet on the 28,6" frets is a considerably different kinda thing

    btw I prefer 34" scale and, for strange that it may seem, have no problem at all with 28,6" (or 30") short scales

    My fav thing is 34" bolt on 4/5 string basses, whatever string spacin'

    I wrote "for strange that it may seem" 'cause I had, and have no more, for I don't get accustomed to them:
    32" scale
    35" scale
    6 strings

    and, with guitars as well, I found myself at home with 25,5" and absolutely "forced" with 24,75"

  2. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Another factor to consider is where the bridge is located on the body and how the bass hangs on you when it's strapped. Some hollowbody short/med scale basses have bridge saddles that are a few inches further in toward the neck compaired to a typical P-bass(for example), so your plucking/picking hand will need to be shifted more inward towards your body. This can take some adjustment.
  3. Splods


    Oct 7, 2012
    Adelaide, SA
    A lot of the time it's just people being able to pass off being decent. I know I can sound alright on anything from 32-36 inch scale, but after an hour my hands would be in all the wrong places.

    To the OP; Just pay attention to what your left hand is doing for a while, and then you will get used to it. Soon you will be able to play a 32'' scale blindfolded :bassist:
  4. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2008
    Yep - 40+ years of labor, some of it very hard manual labor, has a way of catching up to you. I've really noticed the difference in the past 2 years or so.
  5. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    i have owned the following-

    30" hofner,33" (six string), many 34", several 35", three 35.5", and my double bass is standard 42" string length (two of those, if that matters.)

    i switch between them constantly and it's never really an issue. any longer than 35.5" and it starts to just get too big for an electric bass. i'm 5' 8" with average sized hands.
  6. I have 34" inch basses and a 27" scale baritone guitar. I play bass with my fingers and baritone mostly with a pick. It's actually more awkward for me to use a pick then the difference in scale length. A lot of companies are coming out with various mid scales 33" scale is building popularity for its easier playability yet still having good low b string.
  7. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Yeah, the design of the bass, bridge placement, how it hangs on your shoulder, etc. is a bigger consideration than scale length. Some basses make you reach further out to fret the notes near the nut, which screws with your reference points all the way up the neck, often unconsciously.

    You do get used to it pretty easily, but for a little while a bass with a longer "reach" will probably have you hitting notes a fret or two high - in other words, you automatically go for an E on the A string and find yourself playing an F or F#.
  8. I occasionally jump between my 32" fiver and a 34" Fender P and can adjust rather quickly. That doesn't mean I like it. After a few minutes, the P goes back in the case because it's inferior to the five string. I still love it, it's a great bass, just not as good as the other.

    I agree with most TBer's assessments that 35" basses generally have a good B but I'm also in the camp that believes if you buy a 32" that's built well with quality materials, it can keep up with any extended scale bass.
  9. Mark Nye

    Mark Nye

    Sep 18, 2012

    I switch regularly between 34, 32, and 30 (and even a 30" Bass VI), and I find that the differences are more about the individual instrument than scale length. You can't really generalize about scale length unless you're comparing instruments where most of the other characteristics are same. (i.e. a 30" Mustang doesn't feel anything like a 30" Rumblekat, despite having the same scale, because one is set-neck and the other is bolt-on, pickup configuration and position are different, and fretboard radius is different.)
  10. I've switched between 20" (U-bass) to 34" without a problem in the past. However
    playing my 34" is become a painful endeavor because of pain in my left index finger
    because of what is most likely arthritis. So I have been using my U-bass only for the last couple of months and may very well sell my 34" soon. The u-bass sounds great is a no pain to play instrument for me anyway.
  11. Mustang Surly

    Mustang Surly

    Jul 10, 2013
    I have the "aging hands" (arthritis) issue and, like the OP am a longtime guitar player who only recently started playing bass. My hands are actually fairly large.

    Picked up a Fender Mustang Bass (30" scale) and love it. It actually gives my hands less trouble than my 24.60", 24.75", 25" or 25.50" scale guitars. I haven't spent a lot of time trying to play a 34" scale, but don't think my hands would like the longer stretches.

    Haven't tried any flat-radius basses, but I have noticed that guitars with FB radii greater than 12" make my thumbs hurt. I have a Tele FMT with a 15" FB radius that looks and sounds great but kills my thumbs every time I play it. No clue why that would be, I just know it is. My Mustang Bass has a 7.25" FB radius and 1.50" nut width.

    Since I hang out in the low end of the EQ spectrum anyway, am planning on switching to flats (from the rounds that came on my Mustang) because I'd like a bit more tension on the E string.
  12. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    You might also consider going with a thicker string set or using thicker E (and possibly A) strings and staying with rounds. FWIW, I do.

    My two cents on this is that the shorter scale lengths do tend to emphasize the fundamental and reduce the harmonics. For me, having rounds helps add higher frequency content, bringing the harmonics to a more "normal" level. Of course, this can vary with the music you play, your personal playing style, how your band is mixed, etc.
  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
    Nope. Just pointing out to the OP that hand size and scale length are not so easily correlated. BTW, I am an older hobbyist, too. I taught myself electric bass 6 years before studying upright. I'm still studying with myself—the price is right! :D

    At maximum, my elementary school students have about 5 hours a week of playing time. I supervise all of their practice, and while I am a professional teacher, left hand technique is only a small part of what we do. :cool:

    However, as I grow older (I'm 63 now), I too suffer from minor aches and pains from overuse and mild arthritis. Ice, rest, and aspirin are all good, but better technique really makes a difference. There is a lot of instruction available on the internet, most of it is free. :ninja:
  14. "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."

    Shhhhh, don't give away our little secret!

    "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."

    The MYTH personified. I find it quite sad. Have you spent any serious time with a QUALITY medium scaler with proper set up and long scale strings? If so, I am not quite sure why you would perpetuate the great myth? You would know better!

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

    The truth personified....and WOW - ZERO dead spots on medium scalers - especially the Fenders!


    "One of my favorite stories along the way was when I arrived at Keith Roscoe's shop in September of 1999 to pick up the first medium scale bass he had ever built. As I walked in he was unplugging the bass from his amp and he had kind of a strange look on his face. After we exchanged pleasantries, I asked him if everything was alright with the bass and he said: "You know, after everything I have heard over the years about the performance of anything less than long scale, I gotta tell you - this bass sounds as good as any bass I have ever built."

    The truth is the truth is the truth.



  15. spiritbass

    spiritbass Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Ashland, MO
    My ultimate preference is multi-scale (Dingwall Super series) but BassHappy is one of the players that got me intrigued enough to chase down a medium scaled bass to play. I purchased an '85 Squier from the classifieds here. I will add my testimony that there is no sacrifice in tone. Since the string tension is a bit less than a 34", I do have to keep my right hand from getting too enthusiastic.

  16. Hey Spirit Bass

    Great to see some sanity added to the discussion! (Along with several others, for sure).

    C'mon, keep that right hand enthusiastic, you have earned it and she can take it! She is a real beauty by the way!

  17. Mojo-Man


    Feb 11, 2003

    Proper technique, will allow you to play any scale.
    It should not be a problem.
  18. Might I point out that allowing you to play, and playing optimally with the least amount of stress and energy expended - are completely different issues.

    Basses are like shirts, they come in S-M-L-XL-XXL. Play what fits you.

  19. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    If hand size determines the scale you should play, than a normally sized human should NEVER play a violin.

    I would also point to Stanley Clarke, who has freakishly large hands and consistently goes back and forth between an upright and a 30.75" scale bass in concert. Contrast that to Tai Wilkenfeld who plays 34" Sadowsky basses.



  20. If hand size determines the scale you should play, than a normally sized human should NEVER play a violin.

    I would also point to Stanley Clarke, who has freakishly large hands and consistently goes back and forth between an upright and a 30.75" scale bass in concert. Contrast that to Tai Wilkenfeld who plays 34" Sadowsky basses.

    Who said anything about hand size? I know I didn't. There are a laundry list of other issues to consider when selecting the "optimum" instrument for you.

    Like I said - play what fits you and feels right.....


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