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Short Scale Basses... WHY?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by aznsk1d, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. aznsk1d


    Jan 8, 2009
    Just curious. What are the pros and cons of shortscale basses from a sound perspective?

    I've read that you can actually get a FATTER bottom end from a shorter scale bass. Can anyone validate that?

    Also, do you have to string a shortscale with flatwounds?

  2. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Well one thing is we have hundreds of threads about all that, so you have some reading to do. :p Yes, some shortscales can have a fatter bottom end than some longscales. The tradeoff is that they are usually less tight feeling and less focused-sounding. All that is generalization though, there are exceptions--and with shortscales you really do get what you pay for. Cheaper shorties will often be disappointing, but a really well-designed shortie (which will usually cost a lot more) can rock the block.

    You can string a shortscale with any kind of strings. There are fewer varieties on the market compared to longscale, but you don't have to use flats.
  3. lug

    lug Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2005
    League City, Tx
    Instead of a "fatter bottom", I think it's more accurate to say less overtone levels compared to the fundamental's level. Sustain also seems to be a bit less.
  4. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    yeah, the bottom sounds bigger because there's less of everything else.
  5. Kind of a tough and broad question. An Alembic Stanley Clark and a Squire bronco have little else in common. And you can string a bass with whatever you want, including rubber bands or shoelaces. Sounds may vary.
  6. BassBob185


    Oct 25, 2007
    Rocking Chair
    Still works for most styles of music.
  7. rfclef


    Jan 19, 2007
    Gervais, Oregon
    Some of my shorties have less seustain... some have hours of it...
  8. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I don't hear much difference between my long and short scales, but I really like the shorter reach, lighter weight and overall convenience of a short scale. I seem to be migrating in that direction, but I'm not giving up my '63 P.

    Of course you don't HAVE to put flats on ANY bass. I just happen to like them. (I have a couple of basses with rounds that are 2-8 years old.)
  9. Oric


    Feb 19, 2008
    Lexington, Kentucky
    I've found that the Fender Mustang bass has quite a slap sound- it's nothing like the modern slap sound you hear a lot. It's meaty and chunky, and the most important part, it feels really good. Something about those nice loose strings makes slap feel great.

    of course, some people like high tension for slapping, so the previous paragraph is irrelevant...
  10. anon65884001

    anon65884001 Guest

    Feb 1, 2009
    Well tone is tone...
    But if your hand gets any smaller than mine
    Then it would make a lot of sense to play short scale
  11. rfclef


    Jan 19, 2007
    Gervais, Oregon
    I have giant hands... long arms. Yet all my basses are shorties. I like the feel, and I will put mu Birdsong Corto up against ANY bass for tone and sound and quality. My EPi Viola is no slouch either...
  12. ProfGumby


    Jan 15, 2007
    Michigan's U.P.
    I'd bet that bright flats, like D'Addario Chromes, would feel very nice on a shortscale, and maybe give a really unique sound....or half rounds?
  13. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I regularly use both short and long scale, but have been playing my shorties lately. I've been playing reggae with my 30-inch fretless, and it certainly is not lacking in low end. The sound is not quite as complex (fewer harmonics, more fundamental), but it has a charm all its own.

    Here is my home-built short-scale that I've been using lately.
    I've also been using this super-short scale that I built using Ashbory parts. The string length is 20 inches, and it sounds like an upright on steroids. The guitar is for comparison.

    I also like playing short-scales just to be different from the crowd. My mini-bass certainly gets a lot of attention at gigs.

    Attached Files:

  14. Rob Martinez

    Rob Martinez

    Sep 14, 2005
    Short scales work for me, since I sing a lot in my band and a SS requires less attention from me. Fun to play! Sound great!
  15. RedLeg

    RedLeg Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2009
    Kaiserslautern, Germany
    Nov Shmoz Ka Pop?
    ask tina weymouth.
  16. Mesa


    Mar 20, 2008
    Holly Springs NC
    Or Allen Woody (via seance)
  17. You can get an idea of what they're like by putting light strings on a 34" bass. Not exactly the same, but similar. I pretty much agree with what's been said-less harmonics, a seemingly 'fatter' tone, and easy action.
  18. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've owned over a dozen shortscales and I've never had a any problem with a lack of upper harmonics, focus or too much low end with any of them.

    One thing I do notice with the shortscales is a definite lack of dead or hot spots compared to my long scales. The shortscales are generally much more even sounding.
  19. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    Mongo, you make a good point about a lack of dead spots. I have never consciously noticed this, but now that you mention it, I agree. It does seem that my shortscales are more consistent.

    That being said, I sometimes notice that playing high on the neck sometimes doesn't seem to sing in quite the same way. It doesn't sound dead, but is not quite as satisfying somehow. You have a whole lot more experience on different shorties than I have, however, and may have a different experience.
  20. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw

    I've found that any instrument can be a bit sensitive to pickup to string distance which could come into play when playing in the upper register. Play with the pickup height and see if that helps it sing better up there. The pickup placement relative to the string length can also be a factor but there's not much that can be done about that.

    Also many shortscales have floating wooden stick bridges and tailpieces, an arrangement that doesn't offer the most sustain in the world. That could also be a factor. For example, my Fender/Squiers and Rumblekat have considerably more of a sustained singing quality than my Viola and Kay.

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