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Small hands and long scale

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by LotusCarsLtd52, Apr 14, 2010.

  1. LotusCarsLtd52


    Dec 6, 2009
    I have small hands and currently play a Ibanez SR300. I find that playing closer to the nut can be bothersome as I am not able, for instance, to stretch my index finger and pinky from the 1st fret to the 4th fret; I have to "jump" from 1st to 4th fret even when using my index and pinky fingers. I have been thinking about upgrading for awhile to a new bass and have been stuck on whether I should get a short scale or get a long scale and "just get used to it". I really like the feel of the shorties but still find the jumping bothersome on long scales. Yes I can do it but if at all possible I'd rather not.

    What should I consider doing?
  2. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    1 finger per fret is totally overrated anywhere in the lower frets. It's not cheating to move your hand, and it's not cheating to use 124 fingering.

    anchor your thumb in one spot on the back of neck , somewhere opposite the 2nd fret. using your thumb as an anchor/reference point, slide your palm and fingers up or down the neck to cover the 4 fret range. Don't kill your hand trying to stretch to make a 1 finger per fret spread. unless you have large hands and long fingers, it's pointless. Think about classical upright players: they have a 41" scale and often demanding music, and aren't concerned with 1 finger per 'fret' at all....

    With practice it will become as fluid a natural as 1 finger per fret, and the your hands will be relaxed and less tense.

    also realize that most phrases that you must play in the first 4 frets can probably include many open strings, so look for opportunities to use them.
  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    I play 124 all the time.
  4. becker4567


    Jul 26, 2008
    Go to Rondo and pick out an inexpensive short scale. For around $100 you can find out if a shorty is for you. If you like it, you can mod it to your hearts content and end up with a killer bass, if not, sell it and your not out much money. My opinion is that your going to like it. I just got into shortys a couple of years ago and my full scale basses have been in the closet ever since.
  5. I too have smallish hands and up until recently have always played long scale basses. I had an epiphany a few months ago while playing my short scale Rogue Violin Bass and ended up buying a Fender Mustang Bass. I have found that I just enjoy playing the short scale bass more, it is easier for me and feels more natural. I love the tone of the Mustang as well so it's a win win for me. My advice would be to play a bunch of different basses and go with the one that feels the most comfortable.
  6. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    +1 for not having to use one finger per fret on the lower frets. Also, instead of the hand "jumping", use the thumb as a pivot, keeping it in the same place. This clip explains it at around 06.38 in.

  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i have THE smallest hands of any guy i ever met, and i can do 1 finger per fret and a 5-fret stretch no problem. certainly doesn't hurt your hand to do 1-2-4 down south, but if you've got good technique, it's not that hard and isn't hard on your hand at all.
  8. Sell it? You could GIVE it away if you don't like it and lose way less money than you would if you bought a more highly regarded new bass and sold it. Could a $1000 Fender be sold for $900?

    I got a Sky ABG for $105 on ebay to have something to play when I don't want to plug in and to try short scale. I love it. I had to file the fret ends, but it was worth it.
  9. whitedk57


    May 5, 2005
    Franklin, NC
    The good news is that you have the freedom and the choices available to you. If a long scale is uncomfortable to you, go short scale - there are some pretty nice shortys out there. If you can adapt, then that's good too. I have seen some really good bassists play, and they don't always have the best technique, but it works for them and they make more money than me.

    It reminds me of Lee Trevino of the golf world. He had the ugliest swing of any professional, but he still managed to win.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    sorry, but i consider getting a short scale because he's having problems on long scale to be fixing technique problems with gear, which is a big no no in my book. if he's playing with technique that doesn't allow him to do what he wants, a short scale won't solve the problem.
  11. Dee-man

    Dee-man Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2004
    SF Bay Area
    Life is short (as are my hands) and you should enjoy playing. Yes, as Jimmy says, you shouldn't use gear to compensate for bad technique - in a perfect world - but if you don't have the time or inclination to improve your technique to that extent, and you're frustrated with the long scale, definitely try a short scale. Even a 34" will be an improvement over a 35", and the thinner (narrower) the neck, the better. That said, I have a 30" Rob Allen Mouse which sounds great (of course) and is so comfortable it really makes playing that much more fun (I only play for fun, not as a job). Also, I've found that if you're uncomfortable in frets 1-4, it may force you to play down at the 7-10 frets more, which is a good place to be/try, esp. with 5ers. But you have to weigh the fingering issue vs. the tone you can get with a long vs. short scale. Good luck, DM
  12. becker4567


    Jul 26, 2008
    I agree with everbody here....really...but like Dee-man said, if your not comfortable with your gear it's not much fun, and if it's not fun, your not going to keep playing. As for the tone in long vs short scale, I don't think there is much. A little maybe, but its just a different tone, not better or worse, just a little different.
  13. okcrum

    okcrum in your chest

    Oct 5, 2009
    Verde Valley, AZ
    RIP Dark Horse strings
    I had a problem similar to this, long ago. It started to go away when I started to learn piano for composing, figuring out changes, etc. The hand stretches I did to get the maximum span on a keyboard that I could had the effect of stretching the muscles and fascia in my palm, and my fingering span increased on bass.

    So, I'd say sustained stretching (or playing) will help you improve your span to the limit that your hand size allows. Like Jimmy said, I've no problem doing stretches that give players with hands the same size as mine problems.

    Here's a picture of the stuff I'm referring to stretching:
    ASQTec likes this.
  14. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Take lessons with a qualified instructor. Learn to play upright bass. Both will help. Without proper technique, you're likely to sustain repetitive stress injuries. Once you've learned to play DB, the problems you're experiencing on electic bass will seem insignificant.

    Consider this: when children take piano lessons, they don't bring in miniature pianos, they teach proper technique.

    I've taught several middle-school students to play electric bass using 34" and 35" instruments. Some of these kids have incredibly small hands compared to adults, but they learn to play by using technique that's appropriate for them.

    There seems to have been a growing sense over the past 30 years that something has to be fun or easy to be worthwhile. BS! What ever happened to self-discipline and tenacity? If you don't push yourself, how will you ever surpass your current skill level?

    Good luck!
  15. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
    Ah, but it often does! The fact is, the stretch will be easier on a shortie. The real question here is, what is the sacrifice of playing a shorter scale? Any player considering scale length would do well to play around, find out firsthand what difference scale does make, and go from there. If basses all sounded and felt as good at 30" as they do at 34+", how many of us would stay at 34"? Some would, surely, because they're comfortable there, but there are a lot of benefits to a shorter scale. And feeling comfortable on an instrument goes a long way towards making you reach for things that you otherwise wouldn't... Going shortie may actually help some players to play harder/faster passages than they otherwise would have. I fully agree that good technique will solve most any problem, but I don't see any reason a player should feel obligated to stick to "standard scale", especially when short scale is often just easier.
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i have a short scale bass. it's a little easier but it's not that much easier. i don't know, it might work for the op but you still have to have some technique.
    ASQTec likes this.
  17. unless you need to use someone elses instrument.....there are just not as many options for short scale stuff or if you are one of the guys with a big collection of short scale basses,i'd assume a limited market for selling .....there are lots of smaller hand guys playing regular and even db......we all have limitations and strengths,and you just have to adapt
  18. nic salsus

    nic salsus

    Mar 16, 2010
    I play short scale instruments partly because I feel they offer technical advantages over 34" or longer. Hand size is a non issue though. If you want to play a long scale bass you can do it with small hands as well as someone with big hands.
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    stanley clarke has giant hands and he uses short scale basses.
  20. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize!

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    +1 I have short fingers and found that the short scales didn't help that much.

    Cheap tip: Capo at the first fret. Now try playing as if that is the nut. IIRC, that is about the difference between a long scale and a short scale. If you notice a big difference in playability, got for the short scale.

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