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Short Scale Sets

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by JennySuzuki, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. JennySuzuki


    Dec 18, 2013
    I didn't want to derail someone else's topic, so I brought this over here to a topic of its own.

    I play a short-scale bass: a Gretsch Junior Jet II (G2220), with a scale length of 770 mm / 30.3". I'm also working on paying off a 35" scale Daion from the localish vintage shop. And I have questions!

    First of all, is there really a value to getting a short-scale set? Will it solve the [DEL]problem[/DEL] noticeably slacker E string? Or should I pick up a balanced set? If I get something like Elixir strings which don't offer a short-scale set, is there an issue, or do I just clip the excess once I've changed the strings?

    On the 35" scale, that's longer than "industry standard," so do I need to get a long-scale set, or are standard strings going to be long enough to put on with maybe a turn or two less on the tuning peg? Should I be looking at different gauges for the short vs. long scale?

    How do flatwounds interact with scale length? If I get flatwound short-scale strings, am I going to get more of a basso tone from my Gretsch?

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to discuss these issues with me.
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Great questions I read somewhere that putting a long scale set on a short scale bass isn't a good idea because of the tension? Hopefully someone can verify this and short scale flats are the same as long scale flats when it comes to tone or that's been my experience.
  3. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Ok here is the deal with "Long Scale" strings on a "Short Scale" Bass.

    In short... The strings are the same* The difference is from the scale length of the instrument. If you have a .105 string 60" long, and have two points in which the string pivots (call it a Nut and a Saddle) this will create a vibrating length in the middle of the string. If that Vibrating Length was 36" long the string would be a specific tension to vibrate in E. If you reduce that length to 34" the string will be a little lower tension to vibrate in E. Reduce it even shorter to 30" and the string will be even lower to vibrate in E. Keep in mind the over all length of our 60" string has not changed, only the "Vibrating Length" has changed. This is the same on a bass.

    This is a fun thing to do if you have a Capo: Tune your instrument down a half step and place the capo on the 1st fret. Now your instrument will have the tension of close to a medium scale instrument! Tune down another half step and place the capo on the 2th fret and you now have a tension similar to a Short scale! (See how it works now?).

    So really the strings on a Short Scale instrument and Long Scale instrument are the same it is just the vibrating length of the string (distance between nut and saddle) that determine the overall tension.

    The reason for different strings between short and long scale instruments? Plain and simple... Fitment. If you put a string too long on a short scale instrument (even a long scale instrument) if the full winding of the string begins to wrap around the tuning post the string can and most likely will snap** and break.

    There are some instrument manufacturers that claim that having an extended B-String is going to add more tension to the string, while really it is debated that it just helps with the installation and fitment of the B-string. This way you can use any B-String pretty much that is out there and you do not have to worry about the full winding going around the tuning post and breaking (extended b-string instruments usually have the B string tuning post where the A string tuning post is (at the end of the headstock rather than closest to the nut).

    So the reason for * number 1? In the case of Thomastik-Infeld their strings have different gauges depending on the scale length of their flatwounds. They do this because they want the user to experience a similar feel of their strings regardless of the scale instruments they have them on. The Short Scale set has a .106 E, the Long Scale has a .100 E, the Super Long has a .096 E. Each E-string will have a similar tension to one another while installed on a Short, Long or Super long... (.106 Short Scale Instrument will feel like a .100 on a Long Scale instrument or feel like a .096 on the Super Long instrument... dig?)

    **On the bass it is important with most string types that the full winding lengths do not go around the tuning post. Not all bass strings are very flexible so they can break when bent to much. Low-B strings are notorious for breaking when the full winding is wrapped around a tuning post.

    So overall the main reason for having the correct length strings on an instrument is for fitment. If you put long scale strings on a short scale instrument of say a 45-105 set, the .105 E-string will most likely break doing around the tuning post. But keep in mind the same .105 gauge string in a shorter length will yield the same result.

    If you want your short scale instrument to similar tension of a 34 or 35" scale instrument you are going to need to up the gauges. Use the Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Flat set as a guide as to what I am getting at.

    If you like a .105 on your 35" instrument, you will most likely need a .115 on your Short Scale instrument to have a similar tension. But that .115 is going to need to be the correct winding length for your short scale instrument otherwise it most likely will break going around the tuning post.


    • overall string length does not determine tension, the vibrating length of the string (distance between nut and saddle) determines the tension.
    • want a short scale to feel less rubbery? up the gauges!
    • make sure the winding lengths are correct for your instrument
    • more information on the correct winding lengths for your instrument here
    mbell75 and bassbassnfiue like this.
  4. Jeff Bonny

    Jeff Bonny

    Nov 20, 2000
    Vancouver, BC
    Interesting thread.
    I'm wondering how much the excursion if the string is a factor? A .100 string at 34" tuned to D seems floppier to me than the same .100 at 30" tuned to E. I'm wondering if the longer length at D has a greater excursion than the shorter at E and that's why it feels looser to me? Or am I just imagining this?
  5. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Sometime today I will crunch some numbers. I'll figure what gauge string has the same tension in each scale
  6. jasper383

    jasper383 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2004
    Durham NC
    Yeah, in my experience, you must up the gauge on short scale strings to make them less floppy.

    Roughly, again ime, go up one gauge from a long scale set for a short scale set. If you're used to 45-105 long scale strings, a 50-110 set will feel the same on a shortie.
  7. Fixed it for ya.

    True, though some brands do a slightly different gauge for short scale sets on one or all of the strings. eg. E string on TI's.

    OP: I would rate tone and volume balance across strings more important than gauge/ measured tension. A dead sounding E string, or a G string thats quieter, thin-sounding, or slides off the fretboard are deal breakers for me.

    I play Eb tuning with Sadowsky Flats (40-100) on a P Bass for one band and they feel and sound just right to me.
  8. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Thanks, yeah. 2nd fret is closer to a short scale length. My bad :)
  9. All good. :)
  10. I'm curious then, if tension decreases with scale length for a given string gauge, why are so many short-scale sets such light gauges as it is? 40-100 D'addarios, 40-90 Rotos, 45-95 GHS, etc?

    Doesn't that result in uber-flopiness... who wants that?
  11. SLaPiNFuNK

    SLaPiNFuNK Commercial User

    Jul 28, 2006
    LA California
    Owner: BassStringsOnline.com
    Yes it does in most cases. Many short scale instruments were made without trus rods etc, (vintage instruments) so those sets are ideal for those.
  12. Ah, that makes sense.
  13. JennySuzuki


    Dec 18, 2013
    Thanks, folks, for the discussion! I feel like I understand string dynamics much better, and have a better understanding of what I want to order for my bass.
  14. It's a trade off - strings too thick and they can sound dull, too thin and they're floppy..... it's about finding the sweet spot for that instrument.

    Then it's also gotta suit a persons preferences, etc.
  15. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    As an addendum to what's already been said, although it appears that short scale strings being identical to their same-gauge counterparts, only wound shorter, is indeed the norm, there are cases in which this is not the case: a look at the D'Addario tension chart .pdf showed (unless I've dreamt it all) that *some*, not all, of the short scale nickelplated rounds have different unit weights than the corresponding long scales. I guess the idea is to compensate for the floppiness with more massive strings, but with familiar gauges (something traditionalist players seem to be sensitive to, even net of the understandable resistance to nut-filing).
  16. Ive just restrung my Shergold Marathon 6 string short scale with some strings from these guys:

    They did me a custom set 034-040-060-080-100-120.

    Very knowledgable and helpful if you want something funny for a short (or long scale)
  17. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    FWIW - 34 - 32 - 30.325 - 28.625 - 27 - 25.5 - 24 - 22.75 - is progression by fret from 34". This is a gift from Leo Fender who cut fret slots with gang saws and did shorter scale lengths by removing one or more of the slotting blades to do it. He did this to execute everything from the Precision on down through the student scale Duo Sonics.

    Another FWIW - you run risk of strings breaking when wrapped around a post at or above .120 - .115s can wrap around near-any post and not snap the core which is usually the damage suffered. If your short scale length calls for something lighter than this you can get away with a longer length string so long as the tuning machine is capable of the string size. GREAT BIG CAVEAT - his is rounds wounds. I do not know what flats will do.

    Still another FWIW - If a string is tight in the first place it will get logarithmically tighter as you go up in pitch. The reverse is true when you go lighter. A .105 at E has roughly 43.5 pounds on it. At Eb it will have 5 pounds less. At D 4 pounds less. At C# Just under 4. At C slightly more than 3 pounds. At B it is slightly less than 3 pounds difference. This holds true based on overall tension on any gauge, so if you know what your tension is roughly at 34" you can estimate with some reliability what the difference would be and potentially from that what gauge you would need to compensate.
    Tubamark likes this.