String Length

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by dragonetti11, Oct 10, 2004.

  1. dragonetti11


    Jun 20, 2002
    It seems that string length is pretty important, I see it on almost every ad for basses. What exactly are the benefits of bigger or smaller string lengths? Is it all about the left hand and spacing of notes? I am looking at a bass that has a 40 1/2" string length. I am currently playing on a bass that has a 42" string length. Its feels fine. Would I have trouble with a 1 1/2" difference?
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've been told that basses that get much shorter than 42" are hazardous for makers as so few turn out well as compared to 42" and longer basses. Longer than 42" and they get harder to play the longer they get.
  3. My current orchestral bass is small 3/4" with 40-5/8" scale. My old bass was full 3/4" with 42" scale. There was (is) a period of adjustment. If you woodshed with the new bass exclusively for a period of time (one or two weeks for me) it will probably feel like home, but it also has a lot to do with how long you played the longer scale bass. If you have to switch back and forth between instruments alot, say for jazz vs. orch. you might want to match up the string length. Other than that, and the obvious fact that the shorter string bass will be easier to play, there shouldn't be much difference in sound. I've heard that string length is not as big a deal as it was with gut strings unless you play 5-string but opinions vary. I bought my new bass based on sound alone, but if I had my choice, like if the neck needed replacing or something, I would probably up it to at least 41.5 if possible. But that's just me. Someone who is on the small side and plays alot of solo stuff might prefer the shorter strings.

  4. There are a few things that others have not mentioned that you might consider. The same string on a bass with a shorter scale will be need to have less tension than on a bass with a longer scale to vibrate at the same frequency. You can counteract this by going up in gauge (sometimes even referred to as tension). This will not, however, give you the same tone characteristics as the longer strings, just the same tension. So you might have to play around with the string type a bit to get it sounding like home if you switch string lengths.

    Another thing, the slight difference between 40.5 and 42 seems big. But you don't experience the total difference all at once. The biggest difference is in half position (next to the nut). For instance there is less than a half step between these two string lengths. You will actually need to shrink your left hand position less than a quarter inch in half position. By the time you get up the fingerboard we are talking about millimeters. It will be an adjustment, but not that much unless you are constantly jumping from half position to thumb position.

    If it were me and I was already comfortable with 42", I would look for one with 42". In general the longer strings sound fuller to me with more overtones. Just my opinion. :)
  5. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    yes, but some of those testores sound great at around 40.5..
  6. Mudfuzz


    Apr 3, 2004
    I have this problem every time I play a bass in a store [my bass is around 43 3/16" and it has a Ed neck], it takes me 5 minutes or so of me telling myself "this bass is smaller then mine, don't move your hand as far" to adjust, after that I'm fine.

    Which bass SOUNDS BETTER, if both are easy for you to play I would think that is the factor.
  7. One reason you see it in every ad is that there is no absolute standard for bass dimensions. It's simply information.
    I think too much is made of adapting to different lengths. Think of bass teachers who will take a student's bass to demonstrate something. The period of adjustment is a matter of seconds.
  8. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Going between D-necks and Eb-necks is more dramatic for me than going between 42" and 41" string lengths.