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Short scale?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by codiak, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. codiak


    Mar 16, 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Im looking at getting a mustang but I’ve never owned a short scale bass. Are there any cons to short scale vs full scale? Or any other opinions?
    TSbR Bass likes this.
  2. It sounds different. Due to the shorter strings, the harmonics aren't as pronounced as on a full-scale instrument, thus they sound a bit more "boomy" and thuddy. Apart from that: an as valid instrument as their longer scale brothers.

    J-Bassomatic and Squittolo like this.
  3. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    I gigged and recorded with various short scales exclusively ( mostly used a Rickenbacker 3000, but also some customs ) for about 20 years. Never had any problem getting a good sound...
    GBassNorth, Joe Ty and salcott like this.
  4. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I've been using short scales on an off for over 45 years, and exclusively for the last several years. I've been experimenting with several sub-shortscales for the last few years and I've recently settled on the 28.6" scale of the Ibanez Mikro neck I spliced to a lightweight Telecaster dual humbucking guitar body also using the bridge from the donor Mikro.

    As far as differences between long and shortscales, I've noticed that my shortscales offer easier playability, usually lighter weight, are much more even in their response and rarely plagued with deadspots. Other than that there have been no other differences for what I play.
  5. knumbskull


    Jul 28, 2007
    Slightly different tone and feel - i like it. Mustang sound is definitely something special. Comfort is improved, though maybe not if you have shovel hands.

    I find i need to check tuning slightly more often, but that's about the only downside for me.
  6. rockscott


    Aug 28, 2010
    I play mostly shotrs these days, my primarys being birdsong short bass, gibson sg & a fender (vintage japan} mustang. To my ears, shorts sound just as good as longscales, if they are quality guitars! I have owned and played some cheap shorts that sounded bad, would not stay in tune, would not hold intonation and had a very weak E string signal! Bottom line, buy a higher and bass if you want a really nice short scale!
  7. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    Unless you're down tuning to A and playing metal you won't see any real cons. Some will say string selection but if you're a full scale player who uses anything other than rounds or Chrome flats from GC there's really not that much difference in difficulty finding strings.
    Happy Face and MrAtomic like this.
  8. fermata


    Nov 10, 2015
    Mountain West
    I've recently switched to all short scale all the time (a Hofner CT and an Ibanez Talman). I like the feel, the ergonomics, the rich tone up the neck (even on the G string), the lack of dead spots, the lighter weight...lots to like with short scales. The Mustang (I assume you mean the new PJ one?) is a good one--go for it!
    TSbR Bass likes this.
  9. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I'm in the process of converting to short scale. The string selection is more limited, it is incorrect to claim otherwise. However, so far I have had no trouble shortening strings to fit a short scale bass so unless there are some types of strings that are particularly hard to stabilize when you partially unwind them you should be able to use any long scale string you like, it just takes a little more work on your part.

    My technique which has worked fine so far on the string types I have tried is to put the string on the bass, mark where I want the outer winding to end, put some electrical shrink tubing on the string between the nut and that point, and then cut the string to length and unwind the outer winding down the the shrink tubing. No trouble yet but I just started this a few weeks ago and have only tried it on GHS round and pressure wounds so far.

    I have no physical issues which are driving me to use short scale. It is just that having played a Squier VI for several years I find myself increasingly drawn to and comfortable with it to the point where I now prefer it. Whatever your reason is for wanting to try one, short scale basses have a long and successful history as a professional as well as amateur instrument. They managed to get the reputation as being children's basses, small person's basses, and beginner's basses and they are frequently an excellent choice for those applications but they are in no way limited to those applications.
    TSbR Bass and AltGrendel like this.
  10. codiak


    Mar 16, 2017
    Madison, Wisconsin
    Yes that is the one I’ve been looking at. I’m going to wait until the new year, but now I just have to decide whether I want Olympic white or Torino red...
    admh1972 and fermata like this.
  11. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    I've been on the fence (very close) to going short scale myself. I'm thinking like you: the P/J Mustang, or I REALLY want this: SWB Pro | Chowny Bass
    nonohmic and iondico like this.
  12. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Nothing but shorties for me for a couple of years-no complaints, and no more wrist problems.
    trudeau11, Squawk and Dee-man like this.
  13. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    Short (and medium) scale basses generally have less of a problem with the dreaded dead spot. Balancing that, for folks with huge hands (me), they can feel a little toy like. I have a medium scale for crowded stages or when I just want a really light bass (6.2 lbs!), but I have to play it for a few days to get used to it before taking it out on a gig.
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I've got a Gretsch Junior Jet, a Chowny SWB-1, an Epiphone Viola, and just recently purchased a Gibson SB-300.

    I mainly play 34" scale. But there's a certain sound and vibe only a short-scale can get you. For classic 60s rock and blues I think they're a great choice. Played judiciously and they'll work well for jazz too.

    Strung with flats you get really good thunk and woody tones. String it with rounds and you can get a pretty sort of singing quality in the mids. And plenty of bass since short-scales have a huge amount of low end that belies their shorter scale. So much so you'll need to pay attention to your technique and EQ settings to avoid getting muddy - unless that wall o'sound swampy bass tone is precisely what you're after.

    I don't see or hear any cons in using a short-scale. With some of the newer designs like the Chowny SWB-1 you'd be hard pressed to know it was a shorty in a blindfold test. It sounds more like a long scale bass most times.

    Best thing to do is give a few different short-scale basses a try. Each one has its own vibe. The Gretsch Junior Jet, Squier VM Jaguar Short-Scale, and Fender Mustang are affordable and all good candidates to start with. I think you'll end up really liking what you hear.
  15. BusyFingers


    Nov 26, 2016
    That does sound boomy, but the pickups could be attributing a lot to that tone.

    The newer Mustang P/J does not sound that thick and boomy at all.
  16. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's

    I started with short scale many years ago and I am going back one bass at a time. They are more comfortable, and I must say that some of the newer ones sound fantastic. I have a Lakland Hollowbody 30 that is my new favorite and the Ibby miKro in 4 and 5 strings, and they are awesome, and so easy to play! No one complains about the sound at all.

    Be aware that the older Mustangs are Thru-Body ONLY that really limits your string selection - They must be Medium Scale. The new P/Js have a normal bridge.

    If you want to try short scale with a GREAT bass at a low price - get a Squier VM Jazz SS. You won't be disappointed and they are under $200 new and around $100 pre-owned.
    TSbR Bass and mikewalker like this.
  17. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Here is an experiment you can try at home, for free, with the 34" bass you already own, to help you decide whether or not a short scale bass is for you.

    Tune down a half step, to Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and put a capo at the 1st fret. This approximates a 32" bass. If you love the sound and feel of your 34" bass with a capo at the 1st fret, then a 32" scale bass might be a good choice for you.

    Now drop the tuning an additional half step, to D, G, C, F, and move the capo to the 2nd fret. This is approximately 30". If you love the sound and feel of 34" with a capo at the 2nd fret, then a 30" scale bass might be a good choice for you.
  18. jjmuckluckjr


    Mar 24, 2015
    Man, short-scales are awesome. I’ve got some pretty big mitts, and at first it felt smallish. But you adapt pretty quickly. Because of the scale, sometimes the E is floppy with certain string brands. D’Addario Chromes seem to have overcome that well. Yeah, I wish I got one 20 years sooner.
    Joe Ty likes this.
  19. Most short scales I've tried and owned (albeit not "high end " ones) all have really good low end.

    I own three shorties.

    Its' the upper frets near the 12th where things sometimes go awry.

    For instance a "D" played up on the E string will sound tubular and hollow compared to a lower "D" elsewhere.

    Much of this has to do with string choice. (As well as tone and amp settings).

    I also have a long scale and I will get that same effect on that too, depending what strings are on there.

    Ironically my best sounding shorty for overall evenness of tone is my stock Ibanez Mikro which is 28.5" scale.

    I did try out a new Mustang P/J the other day and this bass seemed to have cured those ills quite a bit.

    You can EQ these idiosyncracies out quite well with a parametric EQ. I have an Empress Para EQ.

    Whenever I try out a new shorty , the first frets I play are the upper ones. If it's good there, then I am further interested.

    (By the way, when playing and recording most basses sound way better in tonal evenness than playing through an amp. And this is true of my shorties. They sound very good when recording.)
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
    TSbR Bass likes this.
  20. tpa


    Dec 1, 2007
    København, Danmark
    Cons? Choice of strings is less complicated since there are fewer to choose among. I now use EXL160S which are slightly heavier (0.105) than the standard short scale set (0.095). Works well for me. The only real con is probably that some bass players might consider your bass as a beginners/childrens instrument. Ignore that. Soundwise my short scale has a a full tone compared to some of my 34" scale basses. I do not miss anything on that account, but that might be because of the pickup/string combination rather than the short scale.
    TSbR Bass likes this.

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