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Scale length: Steve and Michael, do you switch?

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by marsk, Sep 10, 2002.


  1. marsk

    marsk

    Aug 17, 2002
    Hello Michael and Steve,

    Do either of you play basses with different scale lengths? If so, I'm particularly interested in whether intonation becomes a problem when playing fretless. I'm in the process of determining the specs for a custom bass for myself, and am considering a 33 inch scale, and am wondering, if I do go for this length, whether it will be best to switch all of my basses to 33".

    Thanks,

    Mark
     
  2. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi,

    not sure what Michael's scale lengths are - do tell us Mike! :)

    My two current basses are both 35", so no switch there, but I used to have a 34" Modulus VJazz, and didn't have any problem playing in tune - I guess it might be a slightly bigger issue if you don't have lines, but I always make sure that I'm up to speed on fretless before gigging or recording with it anyway, so I don't need to rely on suddenly jumping in and playing a line in a critical situation when I've not been playing fretless for days...

    I wouldn't worry too much about it, though I'm intrigued as to why you'd want a 33" bass? do you have particularly small hands? just find it easier?

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  3. maxvalentino

    maxvalentino Endorsing Artist Godin Guitars/ Thomastik-Infeld

    Hi Steve (and Michael!)...if I might chime in here about the scale length...
    I recently had the privilage of playing a Fodera Matt Garrison Signature Model five string. This beauitiful bass hasa 33" scale, set up with a high C string and a Hipshot on the E string (very nice setup, BTW..) I was quite curious about the reason behind the somewhat "odd" scale length, so I asked both Fodera and Matt about this.
    Comfort is one issue...the shorter scale is a whiz to play on. But, more importantly, the scale length has a great effect on the higher strings. Just as the extra length of a 35" (or 36" in the case of Anthony Jackson) enhances the tone of the B string (and you should be a bale to attest to this, Steve), that same extra length can have to opposite effect on the higher (G and C) strings. At least this is what I am told....and this was in reference to wooden necks (so that kinda throws both you guys out of the pool!). Shortening the scale length to 33" enhances the G and C strings (which for Matt, are primary..and he leaves his E usually tuned to E, and engages the hipshot when neccessary to dive lower).
    Nonetheless...I too am VERY interested in 33" scale lengths. The Garrison Model Fodera is one of the most comfy playing basses I have ever touched, and methinks the scale length has a great deal to do with this....(Lemme see...if I sell the car and take out a second mortgage....save all the paper route money, and get a day job...I might be able to afford one in a few years!)

    Max
     
  4. marsk

    marsk

    Aug 17, 2002
    Comfort and playability are my primary reasons for being interested in the 33" scale, plus possible better tone on the G and C strings (I'm interested in having a 6 built, tuned B-C). I actually have fairly large hands, but, especially on a 6, a little less length would help. I'm also interested in my own longevity as a bassist, and I think the more comfortable I am, the less likely I am to be injured. I already have some discomfort in my left hand after I play my 34" 5 for a long time (though generally not during playing). I do think it will be very interesting to observe the technological development of the instrument over the next couple of decades, with my guess being that extra-long scales may become unneccesary for satisfactory low tone production, and various scale lengths, from very short to very long, will be chosen primarily for their feel.

    Mark
     
  5. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    sounds good, guys.

    For the hand discomfort - get Michael's hotlicks video, there are some VERY useful stretching exercises on there - just simple stuff, but good for keeping your muscles in order... Also, make sure that your computer workstation is set up ergonomically - a lot of the hand pain that musicians are getting actually stems from typing and mouse use with the damage showing itself when you pick up your instrument...

    Michael's string guages already break a lot of the perceived wisdom stuff about the way a bass should sound - all that tone from very thin strings! 33" can obviously sound amazing...

    good luck!

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  6. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Hi guys,

    Most of my instruments are 34" scale, but I do have a couple that are 33.5" (I'm not sure why they're made that way!). It does seem like a good idea to keep fretless and fretted basses the same scale length so that intonation doesn't get too complicated, but I agree with Steve that the key thing is to be very familiar and comfortable with any fretless before you take it on a gig.