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Switching between long scale and short scale basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Justshootit, May 3, 2021 at 8:10 PM.

  1. steve_ss

    steve_ss Shiny, let's be bad guys. Supporting Member

    Dec 6, 2016
    Southern NJ, USA
    Between a 30" and 34", I learned some songs on the 30 and only played them on the 30. Some songs I learned on the 34 only. Never had a problem switching between songs. If I tried to play a song I learned on one length on the other length, I had some problems. I'd over shoot or undershoot the distance fret to fret. It's in my muscle memory.
  2. alex1fly


    Feb 5, 2008
    When I was gigging regularly in 2017-2020 I switched between a 30" and a 34" between sets, or sometimes between songs. No problem. The 34" took more of a "focus on my instrument" vibe, the 30" was more of a "focus on the crowd" vibe. The 30" made it easier to play my lines without looking at the fretboard... just took a slight adjustment in my default finger spacing.

    Whatever makes you comfortable, though. If you practice switching, you'll probably be able to do it just fine. You'll hit some snags, and can adjust your technique. Do practice it though so you don't get flustered.
    Kubicki Fan likes this.
  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I disclose nothing
    practice will make you comfortable on different basses ...
  4. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I don't have any problems going between different combos of 30", 32", and 34" basses on a gig based upon scale length alone. In fact, it has been several years since the last time that I took two basses of the same scale length to a gig.

    However, I do sometimes get briefly tripped up by basses that have different numbers of frets if I play a tune where I need to quickly jump into the highest registers, probably because my brain is trying to make a snap judgment regarding the correct fret to land on based upon where the last dots/markers are.
  5. utterlybored


    Apr 16, 2021
    Yes, I switch back and forth pretty easily. I've always kept my stage bass in the basement where my band rehearses and I kept my short scale acoustic ovation upstairs to practice on. I usually learn songs on my short scale and then jump right to the traditional bass at practice and play them without issue. My brain is just used to it at this point, I guess.
  6. smart51


    Dec 11, 2019
    I switch between 34", 30.5" and 23" basses without a problem except for one song. Too Shy by Kajagogo. It has lots of jumps up and down the neck. I just keep missing the jumps on the short scale. I find fretting no problem at all. But if I've been playing short scale a lot, when I switch to long scale I find my plucking hand gravitates to the 24th fret.
  7. matdras

    matdras Supporting Member

    Dec 18, 2011
    Fort Collins, Colorado
    I frequently switch between a Guild Starfire (30.75”) and a Dingwall 5 string (34-37” multi-scale) with no issues. Both have certain ergonomic qualities to them, and the range of available tones is enormous. I wouldn’t hesitate to add another scale length to the herd if that is what you’re after. The scale difference with switching between an electric and an upright (technique aside) is far greater than what I experience, and many bassists seem to acclimate to that just fine.
  8. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    The more often you switch, the less relearning there is. If you play both while you practice in no time you won't even notice the difference in scale length.

    Conversely, ignore one of them for months and then play it at a gig for one song and boy, will it feel different.
    Michael Jewels likes this.
  9. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    I often play UB or EUB — 41 1/2” scale and BG —35” or 34” , for the same gig.
    Often on theater/choral pit work.
    Just do it!
    I’m glad my BG’s aren’t fretless, intonation could be tricky after a quick switch.
  10. JES

    JES Supporting Member

    For a year I was in a situation where I was switching between a 21" Kala u-bass and a 35" Lull on gigs. Zero problems.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    If you're used to playing them on a regular basis, you can switch between anything. But just be aware of possible volume and tonal differences. I always like to use a separate preamp if the basses I'm switching between sound significantly different. I try to avoid it when possible.
  12. Treblefree


    Apr 8, 2016
    Never really had a problem switching scales between songs. I've gone from 35" 5 string to 28.6" 4 string plenty of times as much most extreme, but also between 34" and 30" as well.

    I have shorter fingers so prefer to play faster stuff on my smaller scale personally. I'm kind of on a short scale kick lately. They are so much fun to play.
  13. How much do you rely on muscle memory versus looking at the fingerboard to establish what position you’re in?

    I saw an interview with Stu Hamm where he complained that he took a new bass to a session and kept playing everything a semitone sharp. The problem was that the new bass’ body shape positioned the neck an inch further to the left than he was used to, so his muscle memory consistently landed him in the wrong place.

    If you rely on muscle memory to that extent, you might have a problem switching scale length.
  14. Ken Morgan

    Ken Morgan

    Jun 14, 2014
    Midland, TX
    No problem going back and forth. Occasionally when going from 30 or 34 to the Kala I’ll feel a bit constrained once in a while, but otherwise no problem

    I DO have the occasional glitch swapping between 4 and 5 strings though
  15. Justshootit


    Mar 21, 2021
    Wow everyone thanks so much for all the replies. I'm still mulling over the decision but I'll for sure factor your answers into it!!!!
  16. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    May 9, 2021

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