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Short-scale bass, pros and cons

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Staceman, Mar 14, 2005.


  1. Staceman

    Staceman

    Mar 8, 2005
    Everett, PA
    Being a total newbie when I first purchased a bass, I unknowingly got a short-scale model.

    I'm curious to know what the pros and cons are of learning on one of these, or playing one long term, compared to a "normal" bass.

    I've read that they were once considered student guitars, and I also read somewhere that people have been using them a lot for the blues in recent years. I do know that not a lot of people use them, overall.

    I definitely plan to upgrade to a "normal" bass eventually, I just wanted to get everyone's input on here about these style of basses.
     
  2. Rowka

    Rowka Supporting Member

    Dec 9, 2002
    Jacksonville, FL
    What is the scale you got? What kind of bass is it.
    Stanley Clarke plays on a 30.75" short scale Alembic that no one would consider a student instrument.
     
  3. Staceman

    Staceman

    Mar 8, 2005
    Everett, PA
    It's a cheapie, you might say; It's called a Drive Wildfire. I've seen it described somewhere as having a 29 5/8" neck, but I measured it from the bottom of the fret board up to the nut, and it was an even 30".

    I wanted to learn to play bass and 6-string, and also wanted to see if my kids took and interest in it at an early age, so I started by getting cheaper instruments, just in the case that none of us got into it and lost interest, it wouldn't be that big of a loss if they ended up just sitting around. I'm really loving the bass, and thus I plan to eventually get a better quality one, but I think this will do for now.

    I'm sure I don't yet have an eye for what to look for, but from I can tell, it seems to be built pretty decently, with only a few relatively minor flaws I could find, that don't affect the playability of it at all. (mostly craftsmenship-type flaws, from being produced somewhere with low quality-control standards I'm sure.)
     
  4. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    Scale length is twice the distance between the nut and the 12th fret which is approximately the distance between the nut and the bridge saddles.

    The length of the fretboard does not tell you the scale length. It determines how many frets there are. 30" of fretboard does not sound short scale to me because there must be some distance from the end of the fretboard to the bridge saddles. Most 4 string basses are made 34" scale and most 5 and 6 string basses are built 35" scale. However, there are many many basses that vary from these numbers. Go back and measure the nut to the 12th fret.
     
  5. Staceman

    Staceman

    Mar 8, 2005
    Everett, PA
  6. Staceman

    Staceman

    Mar 8, 2005
    Everett, PA
    It's a 29 5/16" scale bass.

    So anyway, back to the question, what are the pros and cons of learning/playing a short-scale? Will learning on this hamper my ability to get used to a regular scale bass later on?
     
  7. bluemonk

    bluemonk

    Dec 17, 2002
    Michigan
    No, short scale will not hamper you. They are not student basses, particularly. A student bass would bass would be a cheap one that a beginner, or beginner's partents, buys to see if a person is interested in the bass.

    Those who prefer a short scale like how easy it is to get up and down the neck quickly. It is also often preferred by people with short arms and/or short fingers. The long scale basses (35) are usually preferred for 5 string basses because the extra length allegedy helps tighten the low B string (not all agree).

    Just play it! And have fun!!

    Plus, welcome to planet bass and to talkbass.com.
     
  8. Offbase

    Offbase

    Mar 9, 2000
    I have the Switch Wild-1, which is pretty much the same bass, but made of Vibracell (a synthetic) and neck-thru construction. It's the bass I play most, despite having some nice "real basses". Have at it!
     
  9. byrdsfan

    byrdsfan

    Feb 9, 2004
    L.I.
    The Beatles (Hofner) and the Rolling Stones (Fender Mustang) both got along pretty well with shortscales.
     
  10. FireAarro

    FireAarro

    Aug 8, 2004
    austr-
    Then again many people have a strong dislike for Hofners...
     
  11. amper

    amper

    Dec 4, 2002
    US
    The biggest drawback I see to short scale basses is that the heavy gauge required to get the bass down to "regular" pitch gives you a whole bunch more overtones that can muddy the fundamental.

    I have a custom made 30" scale Warwick Corvette Proline fretless that cost me about $1500, so you can't really call that a "student" bass, can you? Of course, the reason I got the 30" scale was so that I could tune it up to C and have fun playing cello lines.

    Learning on a short scale is fine. It won't take much to adjust to a 34" scale later on, assuming your hands are large enough to reach. Most people are OK with the 34" scale. The thing I find difficult is switching between 34" and 35" scales without screwing up a little bit!

    Actually, though, in the end I recommend that most people learn on a 34" scale, unless:

    1. Their hands are too small to reach comfortably
    2. or, they prefer the sound of a short scale

    The new Fender Mustang re-issues are a pretty nice bass for the money. Otherwise, Warwick will make any of their bolt-on 4's in 30" (or 32") scale--for a beginner this is way too much money (unless you have money to burn), but if short scale was good enough for Stanley Clarke, it should be OK for anyone.
     
  12. rllefebv

    rllefebv

    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    There is definitely some stigma associated with short-scale... probably stemming from the 'student' models and the 'muddy' sounding 60's era basses... Pshaw! I play my Musicmaster and Danelectro Longhorn plenty... Both of these basses have more than paid for themselves in gig money earned playing them, (as has all of my gear)...

    Newer short-scales, like your Switch, have benefitted alot from improvements in manufacturing, pickup, amplifier and string technologies... That looks like a pretty nice bass for 3 bills, and you should enjoy it immensly!! It won't hamper your ability to 'move up' to a longer scale...

    I like my shorties for their vibe and 'tude. My Danelectro Longhorn is a re-issue, and as such, doesn't have much in the way of 'modern' improvements... That's why I bought it and love it! It's wearing a set of five year old strings, a rosewood bridge piece, a masonite body, and couldn't possibly be more suited to my roots-rock band... The Musicmaster has updated electronics and wears D'Addario EXL Short Scale strings in .045 to .100 guage, (.005 thinner than my long scale strings)... Full bottom, rich tone, nice player... Cuts when I want it to, fills the bottom when it's expected to...

    -robert
     
  13. Staceman

    Staceman

    Mar 8, 2005
    Everett, PA
    Excellent! :)

    Thanks for all the input, everyone. I really do enjoy playing the bass since I started, and even though I've never yet had my hands on a full scale yet, playing this one doesn't make me feel like I'm being slowed down or anything. I just wanted to get some fellow bass player's opinions on the short-scales, as I was at least aware there was a difference, but couldn't really find some good hands-on opinions anywhere.

    Currently I'm using a set of Fender flatwound strings on mine, and that brings me to another question; Are flatwounds not good to use on a short-scale bass, or is this yet another outdated theory associated with the older shorties? I've been using the flats on it for so long now that I almost forget what the rounds feel and sound like! I think I read somewhere that they don't sound quite as good on a short-scale, but heck if I can tell, I think it sounds great! But being a newbie, perhaps I just don't know what to listen for yet.

    It's a funny story as to how I ended up with the flats. One night I was a little under the influence and tuning the bass, when I lost my place on the E string, and like an idiot I kept tightening it, and it snapped. I had a new set of bass strings that someone had left at my house years back, so I pulled them out to try and use them, when I discovered that the E string from this pack wouldn't fit in the machine (keep in mind that this is before I even knew there were different sizes in guitars), and while the tapered end of the string would fit, there wasn't enough of it there to wind up. I went to a local music store the next day to get new ones, and this is when I found out about having a short-scale. He didn't have any short strings in stock, but knowing how much I wanted to get back to playing, he asked if I wanted to maybe improvise a little. He went through the packs of strings he had there, holding them up to my machines, and found that the .095 Fender flats would be usable. He even put them on for me, giving me a little lesson in stringing a bass at the same time, which was damn cool of him; I'm sure I would have ruined the strings had he not showed me.

    He also explained to me some of the advantages of flats, such as how they're a little easier on the frets, easier on your fingers, and make moving around just a tad smoother. He then said that they might not have quite as warm of a sound as rounds, but at this stage in my learning, I really didn't care, I just wanted to be able to pluck away again. ;)
     
  14. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    :cool:
    Pros- light weight, eazy to play,
    Cons- bass sounds good frets 1-12.
    Frets 13-21, cramped, do no sound as good a lower
    frets.
    Hard to find strings to fit bass.