what's 34 , 35 and 36 scales?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Rome, Nov 24, 2001.

  1. Rome


    Nov 21, 2001
    hi, i'd like to buy a new bass but i don't know the difference among 34, 35 and 36 scales.
    Could someone explain me that?
    I's something about the way you play too?:oops:
  2. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    hey there, and welcome

    well, the simple answer is that the scale length is the distance from the nut to the bridge, in inches.

    the reason i say "simple answer" is that a 34" scale length is probably not going to be exactly 34" from nut to bridge saddle - it will probably vary based on intonation settings of each individual saddle.

    to accurately measure the scale length of an instrument, measure from the nut to the 12th fret, and double it. that will give an accurate measurement of the scale length.
  3. Hi Roman,

    I've been stirring up the scale issues here lately so I'll help you out...

    34" scale is the industry standard. Leo Fender came up with it when he brought out the Precision Bass-the first electric bass guitar.

    Longer scales, some people believe give you a more clear or focused low B string on a 5 or 6 or 7 string bass. I and others have found this to be not a universal benefit by any means. Many 34" scale basses have superior low B sound. It's largely due to construction and the luck marriage of tone woods, etc.

    Shorter scales for small handed folks exist. 30" and medium scale s 32" 33". It IS universally harder to get a good sounding low B out of anything less than 34" but I am considering a small comprimise on a 32" myself.

    If you try out basses at the store and want to know what scale you're playing jus bring along a tape measure. Measure the distance from the nut to the bridge where the string bends over it. That'll give you
    the scale in inches. Jim T.
  4. DO TELL more about 33" if you own one.

    Is there anything that's EASIER to play on a 36"?
    that would seem to be ironic/or oxymoronic but.....:rolleyes:
  5. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I think the most important difference in the scale lenghth has to do with the tension of the strings. The shorter the scale, the softer (and IMO the easier to play) the tension will be. A 36" scale would have real tight strings, which some people prefer - much like piano strings. I never played a 36", but own a 35" Warwick, and the tension is pretty tight.

    On 5 string basses longer necks are preferred because when the tension is not tight enough the B string usually wobbles a lot and is not very defined.

    I prefer 34" scale on a 4 string. My 34" basses seem a lot more comfortable and easier to play than the Warwick. There's also a bit more of a reach on Warwick to play around the 1st fret. NOt sure if that's due to the design of the bass, or the scale, but if I'm playing in F for a while it can begin to take a toll on my wrist.
  6. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Length does not add tension.
  7. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses

    Please explain?

    What I stated above has been my experience. I owned a 30" bass - the strings felt like rubber. They could be bent, twisted - they were definitely much less taught than my other basses.

    On any 35" bass the stings have always been tighter. Most 5 strings are made 35" inches now to tighten up the B string. Arent they?

    I disagree with you, yet I'm open (and would like) to be proven wrong if I am. Might my experience just be coincidence with all the 30, 34 and 35 inch scale basses I've played?

  8. :mad:


    1)you are wrong, it does add tension... it's simple physics.

    2)you are extremely quick to offer very cold, uninteresting and unhelpful information sometimes

    3)since you are a high and mighty moderator, i'll be shocked if you don't delete this post, but oh well, you read it
  9. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Interesting, you feel the need to be rude, too? I can't delete it, it's 1) not my forum, and 2) I have no reason to delete it. That was unneccessary.

    Now, if you wouldn't mind, I'd love to see the physics.

    BTW, Nerve, what short scale basses? Again, I can name quite a few with horrible/"incorrect" construction that would lead to it more than anything. I've played some great piccolos and short scale instruments that didn't suffer this.
  10. hi angus,

    i never said that longer scale basses were better, in any way, shape or form.

    "simple physics..."

    take a rubber band 13" long and hang 1 pound from it. pluck that baby.... (boing)

    now, cut that rubber band down to 12" long, hang 1 pound from it and.... (boing, only higher pitch)

    the longer string will need more tension to produce the same pitch.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Correct me if I'm wrong again, but doesn't a piccolo bass use a completely different guage of strings?

    The 30" bass I had was a pretty old Fender Mustang. My girlfriend has a Squier Musicmaster and it's the same deal. I've played a bunch of Dano Longhorns and it they all seem to have that rubbery feel to them. I really think you're wrong on this one - but if I am, and someone can show me the light - I am definetely open to it.

    PS. I also think your original comment on my post was kind of cold.
  12. on this scale vs tension concept...

    ever see guitarists or bassists "bend" a string? it's a technique of taking a fretted note and increasing the tension of the string to raise the pitch.


    if you fret a note on your bass, say, on the 5th fret, listen to the pitch...
    then on the same string, play a note on the third fret, you can get the same pitch as the 5th fret if you tighten that tuning peg. you just put more tension on that string. this is like comparing a short scale bass (5th fret note) to a longer scale bass (3rd fret note, longer but having more tension to give the same pitch)

    i promise, longer scales have more tension.
  13. *ToNeS*


    Jan 12, 2001
    Sydney AU
    Angus is like Robocop. RoboAngus, even :D
  14. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    to try to clarify a little:
    The pitch produced by a string is a function of the combination of:
    a] the speaking length of the string. This is the distance between (the witness point of) the bridge and either the nut for an open string, or the fret you are fretting at. Distance past the nut to the tuner or string tree, or past the bridge witness point to the anchor does _not_ enter into it.)
    b] the tension the string is held at.
    c] the mass per unit length of the string. Thicker (heavier) strings have a higher mass per unit length. Such as (using made-up numbers for example!) a .105 at .05 oz/inch compared to a .110 at .055 oz/inch

    Given the same guage string, and a longer scale length, one must increase tension in order to produce the same pitch.
    If you want to keep the same tension, you can keep the same pitch while going to a longer scale length only if you go to lighter strings.
    These relationships are the reason that light guage strings are often referred to as "soft"-- they require less tension to get up to the same pitch.
    I have a spreadsheet to calculate these relationships, if anyone is interested. Although I am not sure how to post it.

    Hope this helps.
  15. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    If you want a 4 string, frankly I think some of the shorter scale basses have the best sound. The string tension is less so you get more of the low frequency growl that accompanies that set up.

    Also, some of the hollow body basses, which are traditionally short scale, add some very nice resonance.

    Gibson, Guild, Epiphone and some of the Italian Luthiers are producing some great short scale basses. I think something about 32" would be perfect.
  16. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I posted last night, somehow it didn't go through.

    I believe in the last mega-thread we had on this, we discussed something to the order of that the added length requires more turns around the peg to bring the string to pitch, but it does NOT add to the tension that your strings force on the neck.

    String bending, as I understood it, isn't adding tension, it's stretching the length over a given tension.

    Given that NOBODY here is going to change their mind, why don't you guys go and find the 10+ page megathread on this? You'd find a lot more answers there, because there were some real mathematical calculations going there.
  17. boobinga


    Feb 9, 2001
    Pacific NW
  18. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    bimplizkit, have you ever played an Alembic Series I 30.75" scale 6 string? I have one time(belonged to a studio guy that a friend of mine knew) and the low B on it was phenomenal It was also pretty tight. Not as tight as a 35" Modulus Qunatum, but as tight as some 35" basses that I have played.

    Scale length does have at least some contribution to tension, but neck stiffness, construction, string break angle over the nut and possibly bridge, string core design, core to winding ratio, and string gauge have more to do with it in scale length IMHO. I'm sure there are other factors that I don't have a clue about, too.
  19. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Hey Angus, what kind of crack you smokin'? :) Pilotjones was right on: lengthen the amount of vibrating string, the pitch goes down but *it is still at the same tension*. Yeah you have to crank the tuner, *to increase the tension*. Think about it, when you fret a note, the tension doesn't change, but the length of vibrating string gets shorter -> pitch goes up.

    Bending a string 1. increases the length of vibrating string, 2. increases the tension on the string. Since the length of string on the *other* side of where you are fretting is increased too, but the tension on *both* sides goes up by the same amount (funny thing about strings), then #2 raises the pitch twice as much as #1 lowers it! I didn't even really grasp this myself until just now (which of course means I could be wrong :) ) Anyway it's the increased tension that raises the pitch when you bend strings.

    Now, I do completely agree: it all comes down to construction. It's been said before, the difference between 34" scale and 36" scale is a 6% increase. Hardly much! It definitely sounds like how far the tuner is from the nut has an effect on the sound of low B strings. My own theory is that it allows the string to flex more. But again, the difference there is slight, so I think angles and woods have more to do with B sound. Also, Steinbergers are supposed to have pretty good B sounds and they have *no* string distance on the other side of the nut! :D
  20. i agree with pilotjones and geshel with regards to theory and physics of scale length vs tension. i feel nothing more needs to be said


    embellisher - i believe whole- heartedly that the alembic 6 30.75" has a sweet B.

    i am certain that i never stated anything about a longer scale bass sounding or playing any better than a standard or short scale.

    hey rome - (started this thread) something to think about...if i were switching between two or more instruments during a gig, i would want them all to be the same scale. particularly if one was a fretless.