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So, what's the actual benefit of a 34" scale bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by InternetAlias, Jun 11, 2018.

  1. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    A 25.5" scale bass will have the same tension with the lower 4 strings of a 5 string set. The notes will ring out properly, and you can intonate the guitar properly. Most 34" basses already have a ridiculous amount of sustain as is, so the slight reduction of sustain is really not an issue in most people's minds. The tone can go from "passable" to "is this really a shorter scale bass?"

    You can't convince me this sounds bad or unlike a p-bass.

    It sounds a bit thin because of how Davie mixes his videos in general (he plays very slappy, high mid/treble tone with little bass in general), but it's a real bass guitar with what looks to be 25.5" scale or something along the lines.
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I don’t know how accurate any of this is but it’s all irrelevant. 34” is the standard. It’s what people know and are used to and is what you get with 99% of basses on the market. The benefit is people prefer what they’re used to.
  3. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I think floppy strings would be the number one reason people choose longer scale instruments.

    I know you can still play with short scale strings that are not floppy. But eventually as you shorten the bass, the pitch will not be possible.

    I would guess 34" was a compromise between a guitar and a double bass in terms of scale length.
  4. Jonithen


    Dec 3, 2012
    Seacoast NH
    The La Bella 1954's in medium scale are anything but floppy in standard tuning on my ES Les Paul bass. Good luck walking in to a shop and grabbing a set off the wall though.
    BazzaBass and Pbassmanca like this.
  5. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Well, it's accurate according to math and physics, and that's good enough for me.

    And the reason it's standard is that short scale basses of the old all sounded like the hofner violin bass or EB0, were strung with fairly floppy strings, sounded muffled and so on. Today, we have access to much better strings which can suit any situation, and short scale basses aren't a specific novelty, they're real gigging tools irrelevant of the genre. Unless you want to convince me that you can't play metal or funk on the bass posted in the OP.

    I understand that the benefit of the 34" scale can be that it's the standard, but I honestly can't see how THAT is relevant. "Badly setup terrible bass" was the standard for people starting out, and they didn't keep on playing badly setup basses their whole lives if they could afford better. If you can afford a more ergonomic instrument that enables you to do more things on it, it doesn't matter what the "standard" is, since even that standard came to be by people copying each other and having short scale basses on the market, that just didn't sound great.

    Bowing to the standard instead of choosing what you find is better for you is a fool's endeavor.
    spvmhc, danomite64 and fermata like this.
  6. BassmanM


    Feb 17, 2011
    Hamburg, Germany
    Behold, the next can of worms has been opened..... :woot:;)
  7. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I'm not saying you can't have a good short scale bass or strings that sound good on that bass. I was trying to say that for the same string gauge, the shorter scale would be more floppy than the longer scale. Eventually, if you shorten the strings so much, the scale would be too short to produce pitch without special strings like a UBass has. Historically, that is why the standard scale is 34".
  8. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Well, if you want to play in E standard down octave on a 25.5" bass guitar, using a 60-130 set will net the same tension as using a 45-95 (actually, 97) set.

    That's perfectly fine. If you want to tune down to H, however, for the same tension, you'd need a 173 gauge 5th string which might be pushing it (or it might be fine, never tried it).

    I am just saying that unless you play ERBs, the "floppy strings" thing is nonsense - you'd have floppy strings if you put your 6 string set using only the 4 thinnest strings on your guitar (like, 20-80) on your 34" scale instrument too, matching the gauge with the scale is part of a good instrument setup.
  9. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    The chief benefit is more choices when it comes to what bass to buy. Because 34” is the scale length 90% of the 4-string bases out there come in. Or at least so I think.

    FWIW People tend to overanalyze things like this. Best bet is to just go find a bass you really love the sound of that’s comfortable for you to play and stop worrying about it. I’ve got basses with necks in 35, 34.5, 34, 32, 30.5, and 30 inch scale lengths. And I don’t consider any single one is demonstrably superior to any other scale length if it’s a well designed and built instrument. Mine all play well and sound great to my ears. (It would have been pretty stupid of me to buy them if they didn’t.)
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
  10. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    I bought a cheapo 30" parts bass in order to build a 25.5" scale bass out of it (will post pics of progress when I actually start) after seeing some ridiculously low scale instruments, I even bought a 5 string set that'll match the tension of my 34" jazz. So yeah, I can't get one of those for cheap to tinker with, but I can build one and see how it goes.
  11. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    No really, that’s all there is to it. It’s THAT relevant. All the innovations in the world don’t change what the vast majority of bass players are used to.
  12. Geri O

    Geri O Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
  13. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    I don’t disagree at all. People should play what they’re comfortable with. I haven’t said otherwise.
  14. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Putting practical considerations such as convincing string manufacturers develop 25.5" versions of their most popular varieties, players would also need to be convinced by the benefits that a 25.5" scale bass might bring. Even calling on 35+ years of playing experience I'm still struggling...
    Give us some tangible real-world benefits over 34" scale length and you might get some sensible replies. As it is, the question looks like shenanigans...
    Geri O likes this.
  15. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I tune my basses to open M tuning for metal and open J for everything else.

    You asked why the 34" standard is a thing. I feel that it has sufficiently been explained. Popularity of one or two models, accommodating guitarists to bass which is over 40 inches in scale, and availability of strings--especially at the time of the first bass guitar.
    Dasgre0g and wintremute like this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Good man! Therein lies wisdom - go check it out for yourself and come to your own conclusions.

    There was a time when I was 100% sold on long-scale neck through basses with high mass bridges and bodies and necks made out of carefully selected and matched “tone” woods.

    But one day I woke up and realized how so many of these basses that shared these “ideal” specs of mine didn’t sound all that great to me. So I started exploring outside my rigidly held beliefs and discovered none of that actually mattered. A good sounding bass was just that - a good sounding bass. The details of its construction turned out to be not that relevant a surprising number of times.

    So now I play a variety of basses. No two are the same in their details or sound. They range in age from this year’s model to long before I suspect a good number of TB members here were even conceived. And they range in price from a few hundred to a few grand. The only thing they share in common is great tone and feel.

    Bottom line: check it out for yourself, use your ears, and don’t let received wisdom (or the opinions of others) sway you. Follow your own vibe and you won’t go wrong.
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2018
    Gizmot, SactoBass, mikewalker and 5 others like this.
  17. Savage_Dreams


    Jan 8, 2007
    the benefit for me is that anything shorter than 34" looks like a toy on me ;)
    mohrds, Strung_Low, Jazz Ad and 7 others like this.
  18. bearfoot


    Jan 27, 2005
    schenectady, ny
    Using a .130 for an E string is likely more of a disadvantage than what is gained from less scale length.
  19. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I’m sorry.....tube down to H??
  20. InternetAlias


    Dec 16, 2010
    Gotta learn something new every day, guys:
    B (musical note) - Wikipedia

    You have more notes under your fingers, you need to stretch less, your instrument is lighter, easier to transport, etc. Do I really need to outline general benefits of playing a shorter scale bass? I actually have compositions that require my hands to stretch to the limit on a 34" scale bass, while when I play them on a guitar, they are very comfortable. Because, you know, 25.5" scale. I have some fast runs that require consecutive fourth hammer ons on guitar, where I can play them, but they're basically impossible for me to follow on bass, so I just thump away.

    I didn't ask why 34" standard is a thing, I asked what's the actual benefit of it. I know why 34" is the standard, and it's literally "because Leo Fender said so, made enough guitars that didn't sound like crap, and everyone followed suit", asking why 33.25" isn't the standard scale would net the same answers. I am just struggling to find actual benefits to playing an instrument that large, which can be brought down quite a lot to retain its function.

    Actually, the recent resurgence and increasing popularity of short scale basses argues a bit against a lot of points made here - people are going out of their way to get good strings for their short scale basses, and some get sold out fairly quickly.

    Hopefully you don't think this way while showering. Joking aside, yeah, I totally get that part, the 25.5" bass does look like a toy to me, but it'd be perfectly functional so I would not personally care.

    This is certainly something to think about, but when I capo'd my 5 string bass on the 5th fret I essentially made a shortscale bass, and it didn't feel bad at all. The key here being tension. It felt pretty good.
    XLunacy likes this.

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