Short Scale Basses: Inferior?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bigcardinal, Dec 19, 2005.

  1. I ask this question because I am a short scale player myself. Having come over from the guitar world, the scale was much easier to adjust to for me, and besides, I've got small hands anyway. I want to know why there are not very many short scale basses around in comparison to the 34's? I know that many bassists dismiss them as a child's instrument or something, and not a "real" bass even. Are they technically inferior to their longer-necked brethren or is this simply an unfair stigma? Let me know what the difference is...

    I am looking to upgrade from my Bronco and would like to know why I should/shouldn't go with another short scale bass. Thanks.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I personally don't think that short scale basses are inferior in and of themselves. But tonally, the sound of a 34" scale bass has become the standard, and to my ears, they sound better. There's a place for a good short scale bass, but if you're going to play in bands, you might want to get a long scale.
  3. dunamis


    Aug 2, 2004
    Rare maybe, but inferior... no. IMO, it depends on who made it. I offer as exhibit A, the attached photo, and rest my case!

    Attached Files:

  4. echo008

    echo008 Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2004
    Long Island, NY
    Not inferior just different I used to own an Alembic Brown Bass (30in) and I currently own a 1970 Fender Mustang.... they were both/are Killer basses that can definitely hold there own.

    I myself also prefer to use a regular 34 inch scale though for most of my playing. Just my preference.

    - Tom
  5. D.A.R.K.


    Aug 20, 2003
    not inferior or worse sounding in any way.
    different, as stated already.
    i like my short scale hagstrom for a certain approach to a rock band
    i play with. great for a pick/chordal approach.
    it's better suited for this than my 34" scale bass.
  6. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Inactive

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    I play a kubicki Ex-Factor bass that is 32" scale, and when you want to, you can coax an incredibly deep and rich sound from it.
  7. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    Don't tell Stanley Clark if they are. He played an Alembic short scale. Man he can play :bassist:
  8. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Inactive

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    You can say that again...his electric playing astounds me even more than his upright playing!
  9. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    It is just a sight to see when he plays. I have not figured out how to be that at ease with my playing. Long or Short scale. :smug:
  10. i dont think there inferior but i think they kinda limit what you can do sometimes. you make not have as many frets or be able to tune down as low, say BEAD, or even drop c or something.
  11. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    No more inferior than a short grand piano is to a long one.

    Sorry to be so un-PC, but it's really a matter of physics.

    If you want to produce a low tone well, you need some size. A baby grand piano can make the low notes, but not as well as a concert grand.
  12. dangnewt

    dangnewt Veteran Dispenser Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2003
    MetroWest Boston
    I agree that it bacame the standard - probably because Leo Fender choose that scale for the P-bass. That he nailed the entire design and tone doesn't hurt.

    Being the first widely-accepted anything helps. For example, Detroit became the center of the auto industry because Henry Ford lived there. If Ford had lived in Chicago or Cleveland or any number of large Midwestern industrial centers - any of those might have become the Motor City.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Definitely. But I don't think 34" scale acceptance is as random as where Henry Ford lived. I think there's a good reason for it. I used to fight it my own self. Had an EB-0 and used it over my Fender for a year. But when I did a session on the EB-0, that totally changed my mind. Compared to the session I did on my P the year before, the sound was not nearly as good.

    However, if you're looking for a really fat sound that plows through everything without much subtlety, a short scale bass is your thing. And I say that as a compliment, because there are times that it's exactly what you want. But if you can only own one bass, I say get a long scale.
  14. Kitsapbass

    Kitsapbass What key is this?

    May 26, 2005
    Bremerton, WA
    34" is the standard - but you can still get a good sound from a shorter than normal scale length.

    While physics does play a part, it is not the only path - after all, if longer is better, why doesn't everyone use a fanned fret design with a 36 1/2" low E, and 37" low B?

    the key is to get a feel similar to a 34" scale. To do that, you need to get some heavier than normal strings to help counter-balance the issue. Case in point: if you have a low B, and fret on the 5th fret, giving you a low E, aren't you then using a shorter scale (remember the vibrating length is what creates the sound, not the over-all scale length.

    Personally, I use a Kubicki with the Rotosound Billy Sheehan strings, I have no problem getting the sound I want and need. I do have a 5 string, but I get a deeper sound with my 36" low D (after extension) than I do with my 35" scale Yamaha.
  15. SGT. Pepper

    SGT. Pepper Inactive

    Nov 20, 2005
    I got a Brice Beatle bass. You can't slap and pop on it but it has more bottom and balls than my long scales.
  16. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    Besides Stanley Clarke here are a few other people who have gotten along just fine with a short scale bass:

    Mike Watt, Bill Wyman, Allen Woody, Jack Bruce, Tina Weymouth,
    Jack Cassady, Glenn Cornick(Jethro Tull), etc.,etc.
    Oh yeah and I seem to remember some British guy named "Paul" I think it was.
  17. Pianos aren't amplified though. When you throw in amplification the volume question is gone, and it becomes one of tone.
  18. anonymous278347457

    anonymous278347457 Guest

    Feb 12, 2005
    Ive always thought short scale basses were always just cheap P-bass copies for small kids starting to play bass.......meh guess it shows what i know :meh:
  19. GSRLessard14

    GSRLessard14 All-Things-Claypool Enthusiast

    Jun 23, 2005
    Newington, CT
    Les' main CT is a piccolo bass, 32" scale i think, tuned normally.

    I prefer long scale basses just for the string tension, and it's easier to eliminate fret buzz and such.

    I'm looking at a Ric for my next bass though, that's a bit shorter thatn 34", 33" i think. Only 20 frets, i'm hoping it doesn't limit me too badly, but i'm sure it won't be a big deal.
  20. quallabone


    Aug 2, 2003
    In my opinion a solid bottom end relies more heavily on mass than scale length. If your instrument doesn't have a high mass truss rod, hardware and an energy efficient neck joint, the bottom end will never be what it could...

    I play 31.640" scale 4 string basses. They have the tightest and beefiest low end of any bass I've ever heard/played. One of them is down to a low C and sounds better down there than both of my fivers (Lakland U.S.A. and Yamaha Nathan East)