Theoretically speaking, are shorter or longer scales capable of lower strong height without buzzing?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Cut the middle, Jun 12, 2020.

  1. Cut the middle

    Cut the middle

    Apr 17, 2020
  2. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Longer because of higher tension. That's why a lot of 5 strings are 35". Though my 32" has the lowest action of any bass I've had. Though in the grand scheme, scale length matters very little in how low of action you can achieve.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Scale length has absolutely nothing to do with the lower limit of action on any instrument.

    That limit is determined by how level your frets are, how tight your strings are and how hard you play. Those are the only factors.
  4. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    Scale does affect string tension though.
  5. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Not really. Strings come in different gauges, so you can achieve a wide range of tensions on any scale length.
  6. Samatza


    Apr 15, 2019
    Hard to say. It really depends how the string vibrates on that bass.

    All things being equal you may go a little lower with longer scale because of increased tension but I don’t think it’s an appreciable difference and the extra stretch renders it harder to reach down at the money end so it’s kind of a trade off.
    PotsdamBass8 likes this.
  7. As others have said, there are other variables. If you keep the gauge the same, then yes a longer scale will have more tension and less likely to buzz. But you’d also be working harder to fret the strings and pluck.

    Here’s an example. I moved to short scale in January, and I’m used to the lower tension of that bass. I’ve adjusted my playing style in both hands to fit that instrument, and to limit buzz. Now, when I pick up my 34” basses, I’m not used to the extra tension and reach, and I get more buzz from my left hand not fretting hard enough. It would take me some time to adjust back.
  8. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    The difference between 34" and 30" is not all that great and IME, my action is the same for both. I notice no tendency for buzzing.

    Theoretically speaking, shorter scale is going to mean less string tension but a shorter string is going to be stiffer than a longer string. Like if a 2 inch needle is stiff, a 12 inch needle is going to be flexible.

    So, there is a bit of a paradox. Longer scale means more string tension but a longer string is going to be more flexible than a shorter string.

    Blah, blah, blah...............bottom line, there's hardly any difference between 30" and 34".
    Cut the middle and TN WOODMAN like this.
  9. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    I recall the 32" Kubicki Ex Factor required slightly higher action. This was per the instruction manual, I believe. I'll assume this was addressing a given string set / gauge. As always, YMMV depending on string type (hex vs round core, etc.) and gauge.

  10. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    I play 30"mostly. I like a pretty low action but I don't like playing with cables. The answer is to learn to play with a lighter touch than you might with a longer scale and accept that when you do dig in some buzz is going to be part of your sound.
    Cut the middle, Nashrakh and ajkula66 like this.
  11. Turxile


    May 1, 2011
    That’s true. And the longer, more flexible strings will need more room to vibrate freely.
    Let’s take an extreme example; upright bass string tensions are typically much higher than electric bass tensions, and the scale lengths are much longer as well (mine is 41”). The lowest action possible however, is much higher than an electric bass; Low action is probably about 4-7 mm G to E strings at the end of the fingerboard?

    For my electric basses, and only comparing those with good fretwork, my lowest action is on a 33” BTB, and I couldn’t get my action that low on my 35”s (note that they can and do get very low, just not as Low as the BTB). Of course there are lots of variables at play here, and 33 to 35” is not a massive difference.
    Theory aside, I wouldn’t worry about the difference it makes to action.
  12. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    If you had a bunch of basses from 35" down to 30" and put the same brand and gauge string on them all and set them up exactly the same and tuned all the basses to E, they would get progressively looser as you went down from 35" to 30", that's just physics, the same string would have to be stretched tighter to be tuned the same on a longer scale bass and looser on a short scale bass. I will usually put heavier gauge strings on 30" scale basses to tighten them up so there is no drastic difference between them.
    Cut the middle likes this.
  13. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    I don't think the difference in flexibility between a longer or shorter string really has much to do with it, the same string on a short scale bass will be a lot looser than on a long scale because the tension will be lower on the short scale. I have both and sometimes use extra light .096 La Bella DTF's and the same string that feels good on a Ric or a Fender feels like spaghetti on an EB-3, the much lower tension offsets any increase in stiffness. (I tried the extra lights on my EB-3 because Jack Bruce used them)
    bassdude51 likes this.
  14. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    34" -> 35" B string is only 2 lbs of tension difference, 5-6%.
  15. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Properly leveled frets and optimal relief are probably the biggest factors, IMHO.
    mcnach likes this.
  16. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    I took his question as being all other things being equal, in other words a theoretical question.
  17. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    OK, then I'll say that the initial premise is mostly meaningless. Other factors will dominate the issue.
    mcnach likes this.
  18. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    I disagree, there are other factors of course but scale length is one of the bigger factors and is why a lot of 5 strings basses have longer scales: to tighten up the B string which of course also tightens all the others.
    fourstringdrums likes this.
  19. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Cool. I have a 30" and a 34" string with identical strings and I'm going to disagree. Scale length has an impact, but it's not the dominating factor.
    mcnach likes this.
  20. bobyoung53

    bobyoung53 Supporting Member

    I didn't say it was the dominating factor, I said one of the bigger factors. I also have both short and long scale basses and already posted about my experience with the same strings on them above, did you read them?