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Short scale conundrum... please help

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MonkeyMan2, Mar 12, 2018.

  1. MonkeyMan2


    Mar 12, 2018
    Hello -

    I have been lurking on these threads for a while now but this is my first post.

    Here is my situation: I am a guitarist who is playing bass in a band that can best be described as prog/metal/pop band. It's very weird and technical.

    When I started, I was using an Ernie Ball Music Man bass - it sounded great. But the stretches were starting to hurt. I found that after an hour of playing or so my left hand really hurt.

    Then I discovered short scales! And it seemed like the magic solution.

    I bought a Squier Vintage Modified. Love the neck and it's so easy to play. I joke that it's the bass equivalent of a video game cheat code. My hand didn't hurt after playing. But it's very thin sounding.

    I went out and got a Fender Mustang - the tone was better, but the Mustang I bought was a major dud. The neck was all of whack, it buzzed like crazy To get rid of the buzz I had to make the action so high it was no fun to play. I took it to two people to have it set up properly and they both told me it was no good. I brought it back to Guitar Center - they confirmed the neck was warped in three places. Fender told me it would take up to 90 days to get a new neck - which was crazy to me (I still don't have the new neck). The bass was under warranty (less than four months old) and I just asked them to replace it which they refused. Luckily Guitar Center was awesome - and they took it back and gave me a credit. Needless to say, I am not too thrilled with Fender or their customer service. Being fair, I played it for a but before I realized how bad it was. I was told basses need some to get broken in so I waited. Side question -is that true?

    I am willing to spend some money to get a good short scale. I see that some people love Birdsong, Supro, Reverend etc. I just can't find a place to try one. I have called dealers in several cities I have visited (NYC, Pittsburgh, Albany) etc and no one has short scales in stock (Other than Squire's and Ibanez). I don't want to spend the money to get something that isn't right.... only to return it and start over.

    Maybe I am asking too much?

    What do you all suggest? We are playing gigs now and I really want my bass to sound better. Help!


  2. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    My advice is, stick with the bass that sounds best to you (the Music Man) and take lessons with a good teacher who is a bass specialist (not a guitar teacher who also teaches bass). Trying to use guitar technique like "stretches" on bass can hurt your hands! With safe and comfortable bass technique, you'll be able to play for hours without any pain or fatigue. This topic comes up daily on Talkbass; here is today's iteration: "Short fingers" and "small hands" guys...your fingers are JUST FINE!

    But, if your mind is made up that you definitely want short scale no matter what, my advice is to head on over to the Classifieds sub-forum and see what your fellow TB'ers are currently offering for sale. Or, check out the Ernie Ball Silhouette. It's just shy of 30" scale length, and they describe it as "a bass for guitar players." :)
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
  3. Basstards


    Oct 7, 2016
    +1 for working on your technique. You’ll injure yourself, no matter what scale bass you play, if you are using improper technique.

    I don’t think warped necks will play their way into being straight, but I imagine straight necks can play their way into being twisted. My $.02 for your future bass choice.
  4. SaucyJackBass


    May 6, 2009
    For sure Birdsong, but you would have to find one used. The current time to get a new build would make you miss the next tour.
  5. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011
    I wish people would stop giving the same answer each time someone is looking for a short scale bass. "Work on your technique and play a long scale" :rollno:

    There are many reasons that someone may prefer, or need, a short scale bass.

    There is nothing wrong with opting to play a short scale bass no matter what the reason.

    Now that the rant is over...

    You could also have a short scale neck made for your music man, if you wanted to that is. There is a member that has done just that.

    Also, you may find that a pickup swap on the Squier (I am guessing it is a Jag?) may work for you. Check out the short scale Jag club for advice and experiences.

    And while looking for great short scale basses that you can't find to try, take a look at Maruszczyk/Mensinger, Adrian makes some amazing basses ;)
    AlekB, geof_, Duder and 16 others like this.
  6. Get a Supro Huntington if you can. They’re excellently balanced, versatile (II and III) and ergonomic, with a matte neck finish and unimpeded access up to the 20th fret. If you want to save money and not buy a bass, I would reccomend buying some flatwounds or the new GHS Balanced Nickel roundwounds to give the sound more “oomph” and fullness. If that doesn’t help, I’d suggest replacing the pickups. Aguilar does a P/J set that would fit in the Jaguar bass that you have (assuming it is Jaguar. There’s not many other Squier VM short scales that I know of). Aero does some nice pickups but I’m not sure if you’d have to buy a P and a Bridge J separately.

    Edit: JACink’s reply above only just loaded. Said pretty much the same apart from strings.
    moonbass-de, dan1952 and jla2111 like this.
  7. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    That's a really good suggestion! :)

    Another way @MonkeyMan2 can accomplish this, without spending more than $10, is to down-tune the Music Man a whole step (to DGCF tuning) and put a capo at the 2nd fret. This essentially results in a poor-man's short scale 30" Music Man.
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Break-in on solid body instruments is minimal. And doesn't have anything to do with straightness of the neck.
    Things move around a little as they vibrate for a few hours and you might have to tighten a few screws and nuts here and there. That's about it.

    Here's a suggestion I haven't seen yet: Tune your Music Man down to D (assuming you're in standard now). You'll end up playing everything two frets higher and everything will be closer together. You might need heavier strings. Or go down to BEAD.

    Edit: Dangit, @Mushroo!
    mexicanyella, MattZilla and Mushroo like this.
  9. Basstards


    Oct 7, 2016
    Working on your technique and deciding to play a short scale bass are mutually exclusive.

    When someone says “work on your technique”. They aren’t also saying, “play a long scale bass”. They are saying, “Make sure you’re playing a short scale bass for the right reason”.

    Sure, you can put duct tape over a leaking pipe, but one day that duct tape will fail and the pipe will leak again. Are you going to apply more duct tape? I can just see the future posts, “Anyone know where to find a 25” scale bass? I have pain when playing my 30” scale bass.”

    Pain usually means improper technique. Better to fix it the right way now, then to have injury or constant strain in the future. Or else that pipe is just going to continue to leak.
    Lobster11, eJake, MattZilla and 4 others like this.
  10. 2F/2F


    May 26, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Firstly, let me state that this post got way longer than I initially expected. Feel free to skip to the last paragraph for the TL/DR version.

    What happened to the Squier VM? That could easily have been given a beefier tone. It sounds to me like perhaps you didn't give that bass enough time.

    First thing that needs to go on those things is the strings. The stock ones are like rubber bands, and that is only exacerbated by the short scale. IMO, short scales need heavy gauge strings to feel and sound their best. I use .110's on mine, and would go to .115's if I knew of a set. Anything lighter and to me the bass is exhausting to play due to fighting the rubbery strings that have a bit of a mind of their own – bouncing about, taking too long to settle, never quite being exactly where I expect them to be. Also, the pickup sounds weaker, and the neck intonates worse when playing.

    Then, the whole bass needs to be set up. Due to the floppiness of short scale strings, I tend to go for extra string height to lower the amount of fret rattling, but that's just me. You might not find that useful if you are a light player. Setting acceptable intonation can be frustrating on short scales, but it's worth the battle to find a good compromise, because no tone will sound good if the notes are off-true.

    Then, on Squiers, you usually need to set up the pickups, and spend some time tinkering with the amp to get a good tone. If the pickups sound muddy, try lowering them. If they sound thin, try raising them. Tilt the pickups as needed to balance the string volumes as well as you can. Inch down the bass control on the amp if the sound is muddy. Remove high end and add low-mid if it sounds distant and thin.

    One other thing: Go around the entire instrument and make sure every screw is in all the way. Not tight, just in all the way and snug. Bridge and tuners will benefit most from this (and you'd be surprised how something as simple as snugging up a strap button can often eliminate that phantom rattle that has been driving you nuts).

    Often, Squiers are set up like crap from the factory. Then, shops often don't bother fine tuning them, because they are usually quick-in, quick-out basses in a shop. And while they don't win any medals for tone when stock, they are certainly usable, and offer a broad enough range of tones that an amp should be able to do the rest (especially if you're only playing the bass for part of a set). So, a thorough initial once-over, string change, and setup can go a long way on these instruments.

    I played my stock Bronco for several gigs, and could get it to sound great just by dialing down the treble on the amp slightly more than normal...and I never even bothered to change the strings on that bass. Eventually I decided to sell it to my sister-in-law only because it was redundant to my Musicmaster, and I needed to purge some stuff. I had a VM Jaguar short scale too, on which I did a pickup swap. That bass was a beast with Duncan Quarter Pounders - a simple and inexpensive addition. It sounded better than any other P/J I have played. But the reason I changed the pickups was because the stock ones were muddy, not thin as you described.

    My general point is that you can't really just pick up a bass out of the box and have it suit you perfectly…and the cheaper you go in terms of build quality, the more this becomes true. Squires in particular need a fair amount of adjusting before they can be fully judged...but with that basic adjustment, they can perform remarkably well. IMO, you would be best served by stopping the instrument hopping. Stop and breathe before continuing to dump one bass for another. Pick one bass that is within your budget and feels good in your hands, and that generally sounds decent, then fully commit to it. The details can be tweaked to your liking with some patience and dedication.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
    project_c, blue4 and GotRoot? like this.
  11. JACink


    Mar 9, 2011

    I agree totally with what you are saying, I just get tired of the same answer every time that someone is looking for a short scale bass. And yes, not everyone that says work on your technique means you should play a "regular" scale bass, but a large percentage do say that exact thing (maybe not in this thread, yet).

    I have been told countless times that I should "Work on my technique and play a real bass." "No need for short scale, just more practice" etc.

    All these comments come from people who have no idea what my (or other people's) technique is like.

    I personally find 30" scale basses very comfortable, much more so than 34" or 28.5" (other scales that I own). The shorter scale also helps me not feel discomfort and pain over long playing periods. And no matter how much I work on my technique, it won't fix multiple broken wrists, fingers, hands and other parts that all seem to combine playing the bass.

    Anyways, I guess I just decided I would rant in this thread, for which I apologize. It just seems that lately short scales are getting more popular ( :thumbsup: ) but so are the negative comments ( :thumbsdown: ). But yes, I agree that technique is very important no matter the scale, but I also say that there is nothing wrong with a shorty, even if the reason is "I'm too lazy to move my hand that far" ;)
    Giffro, gln1955, Plectrum72 and 3 others like this.
  12. Squier VM Jaguar with some souped up pickups like Quarter Pounders, Geezers or perhaps better yet a set of active EMG pups. Or maybe just adding the right preamp internal or external might be the trick.
  13. brett adams

    brett adams Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2015
    if you didn't ditch the squier, i would say to swap pickups or buy a preamp or eq pedal.
    dmt and pcake like this.
  14. tpa


    Dec 1, 2007
    København, Danmark
    Hello, and welcome. If Your VM Jaguar SS is thin sounding on the P pickup (neck) I propose checking the signal chain including the jack socket on the bass and potentiometers. If all is well change strings to a 0.105 set. I did this on my VM Jaguar SS and I was overwhelmed by the beefy and full sound from the neck pickup. Almost too much, actually. The bridge (J-style pickup) is just thin and many - if they require this pickup - replace it.
  15. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Nobody is saying there’s anything wrong with playing a short-scale. Replies that address technique are motivated out of concern any bass player with a shred of responsibility will feel whenever somebody is complaining of discomfort while playing bass. Because you should not feel discomfort at all if you’re employing the correct technique regardless of the scale length. Truth is, there just so happens to be correct ways to play a bass guitar in order to develop speed, fluidity, and accuracy while avoiding injury.
    Lobster11 and Mushroo like this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    @MonkeyMan2 - suggestions about technique aside (which are all very valid) short-scales generally have a certain vibe to them. Most think of it as being rounder or tubbier or warmer. But it doesn’t have to be. I’ve got a Gretsch Junior Jet strung with pressurewounds that is remarkably versatile tone-wise. It gets the classic short-scale sound but it can also get more into prog country with a little more aggressive a playing style. And it’s buttery to play.

    I also have a Chowney SWB-1 that sounds to my ears almost exactly like a Jazz bass and nothing at all like your average shortie. Beautifully built, affordable, and well worth checking out IMO.
    Anders Barfod and Stellvia like this.
  17. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've used short scales and long scales for decades but the last few years I've been using short scales exclusively. I like the dimensions of the Hofner neck. They're just very easy for me to play.
    Rob Martinez and fermata like this.
  18. Plectrum72

    Plectrum72 Supporting Member

    Warmoth bass built to your specs.
    Gretsch Junior Jet
    Gibson SG, Epiphone EB-O or EB-3 Elitist
    Rondo Music has some nice 5-string shorties by Brice if you're looking to go that route.

    I love my Mustang, but I can see why you might not want to try again based on your recent experience.
    scuzzy and Rob Martinez like this.
  19. timonvh


    Oct 16, 2010
    I have a couple of '70ies Japanese short scale basses. Both have plenty of low end and are a joy to play. I'm not uncomfortable on long/normal scale basses, but I'm extra comfortable on short scale ones. Not because of finger stretch issues, but of arm/shoulder stretch issues.