Short multi-scale ponderings

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by EmanantFlow, Jan 3, 2021.

  1. I’m toying with a custom build idea and I’m interested in doing a short-ish scale bass. I want to do a fanned fret because I like the look of them and would like to try one out. Most people I’m seeing are suggesting 30-34” but what about something like 28-32”? I’d honestly like something with the bass side being max 30” but idk if 30-26” would be doable. Any thoughts are appreciated and I hope you’re all having a wonderful day!!
  2. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    You should make me a 30-27.5" bass vi, for my birthday! Seriously, a short multiscale is great idea, especially for a fifths tuned or high tuned (low E or higher) 5 or 6 string. I tune a 30" 4-string shorty down to CGDA, and I think a 31-29 or 32-30 would help that kind of tuning greatly.
  3. If you sponsor it I’ll build it!! Lol thanks for the input though, I’ll keep that in mind. I was only planning on making it a 4 string, but I may jump it up to a 5 string to see how I like that.
  4. I see a lot of people say that going too short can cause strings to be floppy and hard to tune, but what if instead of adding strings to the bass end like most 5-6 string basses you added them to the higher side? This was also an idea I had at some point but I’ve never really seen anyone do it
    lancimouspitt likes this.
  5. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    The 4" spread like 28-32" or 26-30" you've mentioned is going to be too much fan for you to play if it were going to be only for a 4 string.

    I have 2 multi-scale basses: a 5 string 33-35" (2" spread among the 5 strings) and a 6 string 33.6-35.5" (1.9" spread among the 6 strings). These are equivalent to 1.5" spread and 1.14" spread among their 4 strings (G-D-A-E). Even a 5 string 34-37" Dingwall has only 2.25" spread among its 4 strings (G-D-A-E).
  6. Thanks for the info! I’ve not been able to find a lot of information about any of this online so far, so it’s a big help!
  7. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    I'd suggest no more than 1.5" spread if it's going to be for a 4 string. So, it would be something like 30-31.5" or 28.5-30" or others.
  8. I think I’m actually gonna plan this out as a five string. I have a four string full scale. This will give me a good variety. Thanks for the input. Do you thing 28-30” or 29-31” would be better? Or will there really be any difference at all?
  9. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    Ibanez has just announced a new 5 string medium to short multi-scale 2" spread for this year.

    Comparison picture of Ibanez 30-32" (top) and 32-35" (bottom) multi-scale basses:
    EHB1005SMS and EHB1005MS

    Both have standard G-D-A-E-B tuning. The medium to short scale one would be easily transformed to C-G-D-A-E tuning.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2021
  10. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    was going to mention these guys. That M-S one seems really appealing for days where playing across the fingerboard feels best.

    Regarding 28-30” or 29-31”, it’s about 30” to the second fret on a regular 34” bass, and 32” to the first fret. 31” is halfway between the first and second frets.

    Choose your strings for your preferred tuning & stiffness at that length.

    If you’re needing a B, and wanting a tight feel, you’ll want to go with a string that would easily handle an A on a 34” bass.

    If you’re not going any lower than E, the world’s your oyster.
    There are a few on this forum who tune EADGC, and Fender actually came out with a bass before 1980 intended to be tuned that way.

    Some people like the floppy feel (TI JF, anyone?), some like a super tight feel. Most people go for a Goldilocks medium.

    I’ve enjoyed tuning a 40-95 set of GHS rounds way down to ADGC on a 34”, but I started at that tension with the strings from new- it definitely seems to not work well at all playing them for even an hour at E Standard then dropping them down. I imagine that’s not too different a feel from what some are getting with TI JF strings on their SS basses tuned to E std.

    I also really like Chromes and LaBella DTF’s tuned to E std. tiiiiiight.

    Getting a “heavy” five string set and mounting it to either a 30-28 or 31-29” FF 5er would likely yield you a regular Goldilocks feel when tuned to BEADG.
    Aidil likes this.
  11. Thanks for the input! I’m planning it out right now with the 29-31”. I figured since the A (in standard tuning) would be a 30” scale then I should have plenty of flex room For however I wanted to tune. It may take a while, but when I start this build I’ll definitely be posting it on the forum and I’ll post an update on this thread in case anyone is interested in how it goes!
  12. Spiky_Bassist

    Spiky_Bassist Supporting Member

    Oct 6, 2017
    NJ, USA
    If you're looking for more inspiration/ideas, Rondo Music has been doing the more budget friendly fan-fret design for a few years with the Brice models. Not exactly short scale, but if you start getting into the 27-30" territory, that's where their extended range guitars usually cut in. If you wanted to do a many stringed bass or other mod to a cheap extended range multiscale guitar, I'd certainly be interested in following that journey. Something like a Bass VI, but actually an OctoBass (modified from the Agile Geodesic 82528)? I'd definitely want to follow the journey and climb the mountain to see what that feels/sounds/looks like.

    I also agree with the above comments; you don't want too much of a fan on the multiscale. My Strandberg 5 string goes from 33-35 and feels noticeably different from my Dingwall 6 (34-37") especially on the higher frets. You'll want to pick the parallel fret carefully so that notes higher and lower on the neck are playable; I like the Dingwall for a lot of high notes, but the fanning is pretty intense above the 15th fret and makes finding notes (from memory, without looking and without sounding it out first) challenging. The Strandberg doesn't go as high (currently BEADG, but looking to change to EADGC sometime this year) but since the fan is less, it's a lot more "standard" and easier to find the notes. But the tone of the Dingwall and the extra tension on that low B is not to be dismissed either, so picking the string gauge/tension is going to be crucial. Switching back and forth between the two probably hasn't done me any favors learning one over the other :facepalm:

    My advice would be to play (if possible) whatever fan-frets you can get your mitts on. It takes a good amount of time and practice (for me at least) to nail down what I really like/dislike. I cannot fathom putting the time into designing and building an instrument without first knowing my own preferences (unless you're making it for someone else as a commission). Also: measuring/planning/cutting fanned frets seems like a real b*tch. I know I don't (currently) have the patience for that.
  13. Yeah, idk where I got that 4 inch spread idea from, I think I saw one person on a thread somewhere say it and thought that was standard, but I’m planning out for a 29-31” spread now.
    I’ve learned that (at least for myself) if I’ve never done a thing I won’t have a limiting preference that will make something hard to adjust to. With that in mind I’m just trying to keep to general “industry standards” where I can (vertical 7th fret) and mapping things out in high detail. If anything looks out of reason I’ll adjust as I go along.
    As for mapping the frets (I can’t speak on cutting them just yet lol) it did take a little while. First I had to decide on string spacing and vertical fret. Then, to locate the exact placement of the bridges, I calculated how much string length was remaining after the 7th fret, compared each of those numbers to the center line (which being a five string is also the center string of the guitar) to get the amount of offset for each bridge up or down the “neck”. I could use the desired string spacing and the offset I calculated to locate exactly where the bridges needed to be. Finally, I just used a straight edge to join the nut to bridge on the B and G strings and marked the frets on those. It took a couple of hours, but I really like math and it felt nice to work through a problem like this.
  14. MotorCityMinion


    Jun 15, 2017
    Heh, you almost got me there with that standard tuning.
    Anyway, I would think that the short scale 4 string would be a safer bet for the first go around with a fan-fret build but hey, no guts no glory.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2021
  15. I was wondering why there was just a random quote lol.
    I’m picking the five string fan fret design because I don’t have a ton of funds to throw at building (or buying) a hundred different basses, so having an instrument that is as diverse as possible helps. I appreciate the input though.
  16. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Short scale / multi scale seems like a conflict in goals. Instead of wanting a tighter low string, it seems like you would want an even looser high strings. String selection would be an issue as well. My main 5 string is a 30" and I really can't think of any issues that a fanned fret setup would solve.
  17. Beyond aesthetics, a number of people I’ve talked to and listened to reviews from have said that fanned frets can help to reduce stress on the wrist as you move up and down the fretboard. Plus I want a shorter bass because portability and space consumption are a factor I’m trying to keep in mind.
  18. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I never understood that because you're extending your reach on the low notes.
  19. It’s about the angle at which you’re reaching. When frets are straight no matter how well you hold your arm you’re still going to be pivoting hard with your wrist to reach the lower notes. When they are fanned away from you, the distance you have to reach with your fingers may be increased but the angle of your wrist is a bit straighter.
  20. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I can see it on guitar when you're playing scales across the fretboard, but bass is more positional. Maybe my arm moves the wrong way.

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