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What's the difference between 30, 32, 34, or 35?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by AudioDwebe, Jan 11, 2012.

  1. I'm new to bass and don't understand the diffeernce between the short or medium or long scale instruments. When folks talk of the length, what is being measured? From where to where?

    And do the notes change based on the length of scale? Meaning, would an open string E on a 30" be the same note as an open E string on a 35"?

    Are the strings more taut on the longer scaled instruments to bring the same note as the shorter scaled ones?


  2. Thanks, man, appreciate it.

    So, from reading that, I gather than a shorter scaled bass will sound warmer than a longer one, right?

    Or maybe it "should" everything else being equal?
  3. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota

    Sorry. :ninja:;)
  4. I expected that to be the first response.

    What took ya so long? :)
  5. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    Two things:

    It's hard to use words to describe "tone".

    Generalizations are often not always truth.

    With that said, IMO, shortscales are not necessarily "warmer", but what I would describe as "darker".

    Longer scales have louder overtones, and would sound more piano-like.

    Shorter scales, yes the overtones are there, but the fundamental is more powerful and present.

    Is this "warmer", or "darker", or "deeper"? You'll have to decide when you hear it.

    For example, many Reggae bassists like shortscales. And many 5 string bass players like 35" scales for more definition and clarity from that big fat low B string.
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Weellll... the thing is, everything else is never equal. For example, let's say you have two basses that are ostensibly the same type or model, just different scale lengths, and you hear a difference in tone between them; but really there are hidden factors that influence the sound! The wood parts it's made from come from different trees, with different grains, densities, dryness, etc. Also the assembly and setup of the bass can affect its sound.

    Best thing to do, IMO, is try out as many different basses as you can, to get a feel for them. I like shorter scales for the comfort of playing, but longer scales for the tighter crisper tone. Actually that's how I'd break down the point of having different scale lengths: the longer the string, the tighter it will be at a given pitch, resulting in a taut articulate sound and feel; but the shorter the string, the less you have to strain your fingers and other joints.

    The 34" scale chosen by Leo Fender is actually a very, very good compromise between those two things.
  7. AndybradleyUK


    Sep 30, 2010
    Hey man, the whole thing with scale lengths is clarity on certain strings. Low B's sound 'clearer' on a 35" scale length, and each higher pitch and thicker gauge sounds clearer on a shorter scale length. This is how the fan-fret design that Dingwall is famous for works, as each string has a longer scale length and the strings therefore have a more equal tension in them. I personally don't hear the effects of fan frets or even longer scale lengths, just that the difference in scale can make it difficult to play the bass. Too long and I find I'm having to stretch too much, too short and it feels like I'm gonna miss frets accidentally. I like the standard 34", so I don't have problems playing 'stock' instruments.
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    this just simply isn't true....
  9. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    As you said, "Generalizations are often not always truth."
  10. Then again, are we talking about differences in sound that you, as a player, hear when you're playing alone as opposed to what an audience member hears is a room full of people when your whole band is playing? Your talent and ability has more to do with how it sounds than how long the neck is. Play what you are most comfortable with. I would think this is what will make you sound your best.
  11. You're right, but I can see where he was coming from.

    With a 35" scale, the B string will have more tension at the same pitch, thus it could potentially sound "clearer" or at least "brighter".

    But really, making any blanket statements about basses is a crap shoot, lol.

    After as many discussions as I've read about scale length...I really, really want to try a Dingwall...
  12. ejaggers


    Aug 18, 2009
    Hurst, tx
    Aside from tone, the feel of short compared to long scale is probably the biggest difference. Starting out, my first two basses were short scale. I had a Kalamazoo SG style; then went to a Fender Coronado II, and life was good. Years later I got a Jazz, and my reaction was, “Holy Crap, This Thing Is Hard To Play”. Especially since I played and sang lead in most bands I’ve been with.

    It took awhile before I got use to it, but now I can play both equally well. I believe that going from short to long is more difficult than the other way around. My favorite bass to play of all times is, and always will be my Coronado, because of the feel. But tonally it’s more limited than my Jazz.

    BTW, I’m GAS’n big time for a solid body SS, in particular a Mustang, but I probably will end up with a VM Jag because of the price.

  13. Why is a short scale bass easier to play? Are the strings a bit easier to press onto the neck, or are the frets closer together or both or neither?

    It really does suck being such a noobie on this forum. Now I know what noobies in the stereo forums felt like asking questions that seemed almost silly to a veteran. Oh, well. Better to ask and learn.

    On the subject of "asking and learning", on my Carvin fretless, I notice that whenever I play a note, some of the other strings will begin to sing, too. For instance, I'll play an open G, mute the string, and hear others vibrating.

    Is this normal?

  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Yes! It's called "sympathetic resonance", and it is the reaction in one string to the vibration of another string.
  15. This is something you will eventually learn how to control with muting. Welcome!
  16. Thanks, guys, for the info.

    Enjoy your (hopefully) long weekend.


  17. Bredian


    Apr 22, 2011
    Play a long scale (34) but love the easiness of short scales.

    Was digging into amp and speaker design on TB and ran across Fender vs Gibson guitar scale lengths, 25+ vs 24+, and that as much as the differences in pickups, the scale length causes the harmonics to act differently. The "twang" harmonic with the Fender is as was expected, very pronounced while with the Gibson, subdued.

    A clear example of scale length differences to the same note is to play the E1 on the D string, vs the open E on the large E string on a guitar, reads the same on the tuner, but your ear hears different harmonics due to the approximate 10" difference between the guitar and the bass, among other things.
  18. That a "B" will have more clarity on a 35" scale is probably an over generalization. In theory it would since the string is more taut when brought to pitch but there are so many other factors involved that it's not always the case.

    To my ears the "B" on my Modulus was punchier than a 5 string Jazz Bass I played with a 34" scale but there were differences in the strings, the pickups, the bridge, the materials each was made from or in other words too many other differences to say it was just the scale length that made the difference.
  19. tjnkoo


    Apr 19, 2011
    Metro Atlanta
    If you want something a little different, there are multi-scale basses with fanned frets. The main company that does this is Dingwall. Mine (ABZ5) goes from 34"on G to 37"on B.

    This causes string tension, feel, and tonality of each string to be even.

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