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The REAL difference between 34" and 35" scale

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by StuartV, Jun 9, 2014.


  1. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I didn't play either of my 35" scale basses for quite a while (over a year?). Last week, I decided to put down my Sterling (34" scale) and pick up my Peavey Millennium 5 (35" scale) and just play it for a while. I quickly noticed that difference in distance between the frets. I've always read (here on TB) that the difference in distance between the frets (comparing 34" to 35" scale) was so tiny as to not really be a factor in playing.

    In playing my two, it has felt like when I try to span from fret 1 to fret 4, there was enough extra distance on the 35" scale that it was causing me problems. On the 34" scale, when I fret a note on 1 and then reach with my pinky to fret on 4, my pinky doesn't reach all the way to the 4th fret, but it's close enough behind it that I am pretty consistent in getting a clean note. But, on the 35" scale, it has been seeming like my pinky is often ending up more like halfway between frets 3 and 4 and often results in a clanker instead of a clean note.

    This morning, I decided to run the numbers. I found an online fretboard calculator and checked the distance from fret 1 to fret 4 on the two different scales.

    Distance from fret 1 to 4:

    34" scale: 129.575 mm
    35" scale: 133.386 mm

    So, the reach from 1 to 4 is 3.811 mm longer on a 35" scale than on a 34" scale. Or 0.15 inches, which is just slightly less than 1/6 of an inch, for you SAE guys :). Personally, I'll just call it 4mm.

    And looking at it that way, 4mm is not insignificant. And, I think, completely explains my difficulties. And leaves me really wondering if I should spend any more time trying to play 35" scale. I've been working at it for a while and my fingers just don't seem to want to spread that far. I mean, they don't even spread far enough to fret 4 as cleanly as they should, when I'm reaching from 1.

    Anyway.... discussions of 34 versus 35 are not infrequent here on TB and I have never seen anyone post these numbers before, so I just thought I'd throw them out there for you all....
     
    dralionux, The Nameless and Tunaman like this.
  2. mbelue

    mbelue

    Dec 11, 2010
    What a guy wouldn't do for an extra 4mm....
     
  3. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    Do they both have the same number of frets?
     
  4. Tunaman

    Tunaman

    Dec 26, 2004
    Boston
    You know man... thanks for this, 4mm is pretty significant and will lead to fatigue over a long night PERSONALLY. I've never had a weak B issue on my EBMMs. I've tried a few basses 34" scale where the B wasn't great... but every 35" scale I play I suck at.

    So I have a 70%+ chance of liking a 34" scale & a 0% chance of liking at 35" scale... thats MY personal math, ha ha! Thanks for posting!
     
    The Nameless and StuartV like this.
  5. nicopiano

    nicopiano Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Levis, Quebec, Canada
    If you have short arms and hands, it makes most 35" basses more difficult to play especially at the 1st fret position. I find the low F is hard to reach in a confortable way. That's why I play 34" exclusively.

    Also for a player using a lot of muscle/hands/fingers memory (kinestetic), it can take a few days to adapt from a scaling to another.

    Thanks to the op, interresting topic!
     
    edpal and dralionux like this.
  6. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I'm not sure. It doesn't matter (to me). The distance from fret 1 to 4 is the same on any two basses that are the same scale, no matter how many frets they have.

    I never knew that there are bassists who don't understand this until I was talking another bassist friend the other day. He thought that a 24 fret bass had the frets closer together than the frets on, say, a 20 fret bass. That is incorrect. If you are comparing, for example, a 34" scale bass with 20 frets to a 34" scale bass with 24 frets, then the first 20 frets on both are spaced exactly the same. The 24 fret bass will just have a fretboard that is a little bit longer. Meaning, the fretboard extends closer to the bridge. The distance from the nut to the bridge will be 34" (approximately) on both.
     
  7. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    The only math that really matters... :) And now we know why!
     
  8. I ditched a Peavey Cirrus 5 rather quickly due in part to the difficulty I had adapting to the longer scale. Mind you, being a four string player forever I was also having trouble adapting to the B string.

    I should the distance between frets between my Jazz bass and my Rick 4003, as the Rick has a shorter scale (which I don't notice when switching between the two).
     
  9. wrench45us

    wrench45us

    Aug 26, 2011
    I've played a few Lakland 35 inch scale basses in a friendly accommodating music store and as I was aware that some players say it makes no difference, esp with the offset that Lakland bridge placement provides, I didn't find that to be the case. My little hands couldn't handle the extra distance -- these fingers only stretch so far and having to shift pivot on one fretboard and not another wouldn't seem to be a good idea.
    There are many things to like about a lot of basses manufactured with 35 inch scale, but there are enough choices with 34 inch scale with an equally good B string that it's not much of a problem for me to stick with 34 inch scale.
    That said I wouldn't mind at all if the next generation of Lakland Skyline models came out at 34 ".
     
  10. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    SEPA
    ???
    Fret placement is determined by the scale length.
    1->12 doesn't move if you have 20 or 30...

    I pretty much just play my 35" and I can tell you that 4mm is enough to be horribly out of tune on a fretless.
    So as much as I like the 34's they just don't get played much...
    I know there are people who can go back and forth effortlessly but I get just enough practice time to maintain muscle memory on -one- scale length...
     
  11. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    This is not necessarily sound logic. The reach to the first fret is not necessarily 1" further. In fact, it is usually NOT 1" further. Some basses, like the Peavey Cirrus neck-thru, the reach is definitely longer. But, that's because of the body shape and where it positions the strap buttons - not because of the scale length.

    Most basses have the strap button on the upper horn positioned even with the 12th fret. The distance from the 12th fret to the nut is 17" versus 17.5". So, the reach to the first fret would typically (obviously, not always) be closer to 1/2" longer on a 35" scale. And if the builder positions the bridge 1/2" more to the right/bottom of the bass, the reach would be the same.

    So, I guess what I'm really saying is, if the reach to the first fret is an issue for you, don't write off a bass just because it's 35" scale. Try it. They're not all the same and some of them are definitely no longer of a reach to the first fret than some 34" basses.
     
    HaphAsSard, Fuzzbass and Red Four like this.
  12. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    I *think* once you're used to a certain scale, switching to shorter scales would be easier than going the other way. I mean, you're already used to playing with frets that are closer together, by virtue of playing your 34" scale further up the neck, where the frets are closer together anyway. For me, anyway, it's going to a longer scale that seems to be a problem - and only out on frets 1 - 5 or so, where my hand just doesn't span 4 frets very well. If I'm playing up the neck where the frets are closer together, 35" scale is fine.
     
  13. Dave W

    Dave W

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Going from 34" to 35" is noticeable to me but it's something that I get used to very quickly and doesn't cause me any issues.

    It also depends on the bass ergonomics. Something like my Roscoe Century is a very playable bass. It's 35" but it doesn't feel very different than a 34" while standing up. Now, if I were playing a Tele style bass that was 35" that might be a stretch. The upper horn is so short that your left hand is already stretched out pretty far. Add some extra scale length and it would be tough to deal with over a night IMO.

    Going from a 33 3/4" Ric to a 34" bass isn't noticeable at all for me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  14. Wiegraf

    Wiegraf Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2013
    New York, NY
    My Conklin 7 string has a 35" scale and it's quite easy for me to play in all positions. I'm short (5'9) with smaller hands. I think it depends a lot on the ergonomics of the instrument as a whole. That being said, I think my next custom is going to have a shorter length, haha.
     
  15. EdwardofHuncote

    EdwardofHuncote I Still Dream of Jeannie Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Southwest Virginia
    I'm that guy that can switch scales without much trouble.... maybe it's because I learned on a 42" scale upright.

    Keeping multiple basses set up the same is a bigger issue. (string spacing and action)
     
    Jon Moody likes this.
  16. Rickett Customs

    Rickett Customs

    Jul 30, 2007
    Southern Maryland
    Luthier: Rickett Customs...........www.rickettcustomguitars.com
    You don't always need to stretch, to reach the next note......
    Shifting your hand will reduce any fatigue you might experience, when
    stretching apart your finger span. I do not have large hands either, but
    use mostly a 35" scale.
     
    BassBuzzRS likes this.
  17. mbelue

    mbelue

    Dec 11, 2010
    I don't think the issue here is any one technique.
    I believe it's related to having to use two different technique on two different basses to play the same passage.
    I know that was my problem with changing between long scale (34") and short scale (30"). Always took too long to adjust one to the next, impossible to do at a performance for me.
     
  18. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    My 35" Cirrus basses were the BEST sounding and playing ever, but that 4mm all night long was just too much for my old hands.
     
    fretless19 and Tunaman like this.
  19. Joedog

    Joedog

    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    The total package matters more than scale to me (5' 8", smallish hands). I've had 35's that were easier to play all night than some 34's, due mostly to ergonomics and (primarily) neck shape/profile. Having said that, a 34 is A BIT more comfortable for me, everything else being equal. Luckily, I personally never found it a big problem. If it bugs you significantly. by all means switch to a 34 if you find/have one that you are more comfortable with. I have only owned/played a handful of 35's, but felt very comfortable with my Schecter Studio 5. I find with a 5'er, I tend to play in the higher registers a bit more often, which I surmise moderates the problem, at least for me. As mentioned above, I think playing a 35" often, helps (most of?) us accommodate the extra length. Bottom line, we all need to be playing an instrument that brings joy every time we strap it on. I guess it's not a "one size fits all" thing. For the record, my only 5'er these days is a 34" scale.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2014
  20. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Personally I use 1-2-4 (or "double bass fingering") so I would not try to stretch from 1 to 4 whether I was playing 34" or 35". Try shifting instead of stretching, I think you will find it is much more comfortable for your left hand. :)
     

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