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Short/Medium Scale advantages and disadvantages

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by cmprock, Dec 3, 2013.

  1. cmprock


    May 28, 2010
    Hey all....

    I'm a guitar player... so the stupidity of my question may be a bit more understandable now....haha!!I need a bass for writing/recording and regular basses just feel huge on my tiny hands/frame and guitar player brain. I heard about medium and short scale basses and wish to find out what the sound differences are. 25.5 compared to 24.75 in the guitar world is a HUGE tonal difference... so I'm thinkin the 34 to 32 and more so to 30 must do SOMETHING to the tone and feel? I had a Music Man Sterling and a Big Al.... and the sound was killing but just couldn't get around on them so they sat. Tryin to get my hands on a warwick short or medium scale is like pullin teeth... so any help I can get from you guys would be so much appreciated. And any brands/models to suggest would be awesome. Thanks in advance!

  2. Martin89


    Nov 8, 2010
    Glendale, AZ
    Unofficial Endorser: Ibanez, D'Addario, Zoom
    So I may be a little off because I'm not primarily a short/medium scale player, but honestly the advantage is going to be comfort if you have a hard time reaching 1st position etc. I have a 32" but it's an Acoustic Electric Bass so it's kind of it's own thing, but I'm sure any tonal differences between the scales can be compensated for via strings/eq/amp settings. The only thing I would say to watch out for is the short scales tend to mostly be available in student/starter models. Honestly if you hands/frame don't allow for the big stuff try out some 5-string Ibanez Sound Gears at your local music stores. They have closer string spacing and you'll be able to play all the 4 string bass line parts you're thinking about writing/recording from 5th position which should make a guitar-esque feel more feasible.
  3. grrg63


    Dec 14, 2005
    Ive been playing for 30 years and have used all 3. IME the tone of the longer scales has more of a "presence" especially noticeable in the G string. Not that you cant get a good sound out of a short scale, its not hard at all. I think I prefer medium scale the most out of the 3.
  4. canuckshort

    canuckshort Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2011
  5. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High

    Jul 21, 2012
    I have, and play all three scale lengths regularly. Eq'ing has never been an issue, just take some time to find what you're looking for. I think, at least a 3 band EQ will help you get the grind of a long scale with a short or medium scale bass.

    I agree with what Martin89 said when he posted, "... honestly the advantage is going to be comfort...".

    Personally, while I enjoy and usually default to long scale basses. That said, sometimes, during particularly long gigs, I have been known to resort to a shorty or medium scale bass, and a bar stool.
    I've reached the bass player's magical year of 64 years old ("When I'm 64") and sometimes I feel that old, too. ;)
  6. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    Because an archtop style bass needs some extra string between the bridge and the tailpiece, a medium scale takes long scale strings. So that's one way to take a couple inches off the scale, without having to round up special length strings.
  7. I recently got a Brice HXB-405. I changed the pickups to Lace Alumitones and a Stellartone Duo 6 and couldn't be happier. It uses long scale strings cause of through body. It plays and sounds great. I have started using it more and more!
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    I've played a bunch of short and medium scale basses, and they've all been fine until you get to the E string. 9 out of 10 of them just don't sound or feel 'right' to me. The stiffness of the strings (not tension, stiffness) is completely different. The harmonic content is different as well.

    On guitar scale length doesn't make as much of a difference in tone as most people think, if you keep everything else the same. A capo or barre chord at the first fret on a Strat makes it have the same scale length as a Les Paul, right? But it still sounds like a Strat.
  9. cmprock


    May 28, 2010
    Wow you guys are awesome!!! I appreciate all the insight. That one article is amazing! Just heard there is a Warwick showroom here in NYC and I'm gonna get my hands on one of their Medium scale basses... as soon as maybe tomorrow. Thanks again for the warm welcome and advice. You bass players sure stick together!! HaHa!!

  10. On my Brice short scale the strings are not floppy on the E or B. And the notes/tones are solid. Explain what your talking about.
  11. Heres a way to try short scale on the bass you now use to sample it in an effort to determine if its right for you:
    "tune down to DGCF and throw a capo on the 2nd fret to get it down to 30 1/4"
    That should tell you what you need to know.
    Personally I have two short scales (30") & two medium scales (32"). No more 34"ers.
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Floppyness is tension, as in pounds of pull. I'm talking about stiffness, as in bendyness, which is a different thing entirely.

    To get the same tension on a shorter scale bass, you have to use thicker strings, which are less bendy.

    Longer, thinner strings, even at the same lbs of tension, usually have more harmonic content. Most people would say they sound more piano-like than shorter, thicker strings.

    For a more exaggerated version of the same thing, listen to the difference in tone between the E at the 12th fret of the E string and the E at the 2nd fret of the D string. Same note, very different sound because of string length and thickness.
  13. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    We're like that. If you get the chance, check out the Squire Jag SS. Most of us that have one have found that it's tone keeps up with the 34 in scale basses.
  14. Ok , on my Brice the headstock is angled so i have great tension, but as for as bendiness it's there i have to be careful and i changed the strings out cause they were terrilble but i put in a normal set of long scale -through body bass. I feel this is why it was such a great purchase.

  15. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Headstock angle doesn't change tension.

    The same string, at the same nut-to-bridge length, tuned to the same pitch will always have the same tension regardless of how long or at what angle it is beyond the nut.

    Break angle impacts feel in other ways, but not tension.
  16. J2Kbass


    Nov 14, 2011
    Gainesville, FL
    Here's a clip of my roscoe shortscale(30 inch). It's a five string with a low b that is surprisingly good. In fact it's my favorite low b I've used. It's HUGE in a live mix.

    I made this track so I could practice soloing and slapping but it gives you an idea of how a shortscale can sound.
    My guess is everyone would think its a 34in.

  17. Teacher


    May 3, 2012
    Agreed. While I still haven't pulled the trigger on one, I've played a couple and thought they were great.