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Why 34" scale?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by capnjim, Jan 10, 2012.

  1. capnjim


    Mar 13, 2008
    How did it come to pass basses have a 34" scale?? Did Leo just pick this number? I'm sure there's an answer probably related to stand up basses.
    I did a Google search and searched here, but I can't find the origins of scale length.
    Just curious...
  2. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    I don't believe it had anything to do with double bass scale length, which is generally between 41" and 43".....
    I could be wrong.
  3. spiritbass

    spiritbass Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2004
    Ashland, MO
    Good question. I have also wondered but don't know...
  4. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Oh, but there is an obvious numerical relation: take the digits 43, reverse them, and you get 34! :D

    I have no idea what the real reason may be. I don't suppose that it would have been impossible to use 43 for some of us anyway. That is only 9 inches more than what we have. More folks can reach fret one on a 34 though, plus it is easier to swing around on stage so there are good reasons to be shorter than a DB. I just don't know if there are any specific reasons to pick 34.

  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    As I recall, Leo Fender didn't design an electric bass just so it could be amplified. The other factor was portability: no reason to stick with 40+ inches of scale length with an electric instrument... not when one goal is to allow players to carry it easily in their car (or a taxi).

    My hunch is that 34" was simply an educated guess on his part. Not that 34" is the "best" scale length for electric (longer and shorter scales can work just fine, after all), but after 60 years the spec has certainly proven itself well enough.
  6. jruberto


    Dec 23, 2008
    Denver, CO
    Staff Producer / Audio Engineer: Blue Tower Studio, Denver, CO & Mighty Fine Productions, Denver, CO
    I'm pretty sure that it was decided that 34" was an appropriate length for low E string to intonate & function well. Any longer and the instrument becomes cumbersome to play, any shorter & the E string starts sucking.

    Hence the 35" scale length if you add a low B, and the difficulty in finding a 34" 5-string with a decent B......
  7. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    There is no difficulty in finding a 34" bass with a good B string, IME, IMO.
    I've had plenty, and have 5 or 6 right now.
  8. Khronic

    Khronic Richard J. Naimish Banned

    Oct 24, 2006
    Grand Junction, CO.
    Curious too, and subscribed.:confused:
  9. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005

    Agreed - I've owned a few 34" basses with good B strings, and currently own 3...

    - georgestrings
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member


    String intonation and performance will of course depend on both scale and gauge. Electric bass strings have been designed for 34" scale length (unless otherwise specified), rather than the other way 'round. I'm not sure that electric bass strings were even available back when Leo created his P-bass. ;)
  11. I don't know the average arm length but at some point beyond 35" it makes the bass guitar hard to sell for most musicians. Unless you are an orangutang. There are plenty of shorter than 34" models, mostly for kids. Sometimes I've been tempting to get a 3/4 bass guitar from rondomusic.com just to check if it's useable or not.
  12. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    There are plenty of playable, great sounding shorter scale basses too; 32 and 30 being the common lengths.
  13. jruberto


    Dec 23, 2008
    Denver, CO
    Staff Producer / Audio Engineer: Blue Tower Studio, Denver, CO & Mighty Fine Productions, Denver, CO
    Fair. I have two.

    Point being, you can't assume that a 34" B is going to be worth a damn. I once checked out a whole showroom full of Warwicks and couldn't find one where I thought the B sounded good.. And this was with string changes & setups. Nothing against Warwick, hell, maybe the shop was just putting the wrong string gauge on em.
  14. Lennard III.

    Lennard III.

    Aug 21, 2008
    Endorsing Artist : Fodera Guitars , Harvest fine leather bags & straps
    the problem here is that most of W. basses do sound like s*****

  15. drewfx


    May 14, 2009
    According to Jim Roberts book, "How the Fender Bass Changed the World", it was a combination of information from a physics book owned by Leo's secretary and/or trial and error - George Fullerton said they tried 30" - 32" and possibly 36", but chose 34".
  16. I'm not sure how relevant it is, but 34" is 4/3 scale of Leo's 25.5" guitars.
  17. Scale length doesn't make a low B sound good, it's construction.

    It is interesting how they settled on 34" scale. Out of my many basses, I don't have many 34" scale in the collection.
  18. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    Nope. That very small percentage difference between a 34 and 35 inch scale is pretty trivial regarding B string tone. String design and neck stiffness have a much larger impact. All of my 5 strings are 34" scale. The fattest, most amazing E string I've experienced (by amazing, I mean big and huge sounding) is on my 30" Rob Allen Mouse, most likely due to the piezo pickup and the buffering preamp).

    Everything that I've read concerning the development of the early Fender P bass scale describes Leo and his crew just trying different scale lengths until they found one that felt and sounded OK and worked with the design. Relatively 'unscientific'.
  19. This is total speculation on my part, but here goes: A typical DB scale is ~ 43". A typical guitar (Can we use that word on TB? I usually call them "six string short scale piccolo basses.) is ~ 25" scale, right. The average between the two is 34". This give portability relative to a DB and allows the guitar (pardon me, again) player to adapt to the instrument.
  20. I read somewhere that Fender actually built some prototypes for the scale length...

    I don't know what other scale lengths he tried, but, 34" seemed to work for him with the materials and construction methods of the time.

    I wouldn't have chosen 34" myself....I would've chosen a scale between 32" and 34"...maybe 32.8, or 33". A little bit more comfy for my arms.

    I have a 32" scale ABG and it's so confortable to play.

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