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Greg Edwards69

Why so many short scale basses at the moment?

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As the title really. I’m neither for or against short scale - indeed,  my first bass was a no name beaten up short scale jazz-ish copy I bought of a mate for £35 so I’m not adverse to them.

I know they've been around since the 60s, but I’m seeing more and more of them lately and even big brands not associated with short scale are getting in the act, such as Sire, musicman, Ibanez and even Jackson. 

Is it the royal blood or Justin mendelson effect, is it just a passing fad, should I join in?

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I spent decades wondering why my bass playing improved so slowly until I picked up my first short scale and realised I should have been playing them all along. I think people are coming round to the fact that full scale basses have precisely no advantages over smaller, lighter, easier to play short scales.

Definitely try one, if we weren’t mid-global health crisis you could probably walk to my house and try mine out!

Edited by Frank Blank
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I had a short (29") scale for a while, and it was a revelation. Every song that I couldn't keep up with on the long scale bass, was easy on the shorty. In fact, I would get used to playing fast lines on the shorty, then transfer to the 'longy', and my new-found speed was still there! I became so good, that I had to swap the shorty for a mixer, because I was in danger of showing off -- Yes I was getting that good.

Now I realise that medium (32") scale is the best of all, although I have never owned or even played one.

Hope this helps. 👍

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I didn't know there were different sizes for a few years until I bought a Tokai SG medium scale. Then with the years and gained knowledge I tried short scale.

The comfort and ease of playing them is for me the advantage. All of mine feel and sound very different.

Tokai SG 32"

Aria CSB380  32"

Hofner HCT Violin 30"

2 Squire Mustangs  30"

Yamaha Motion 32" (being refurbished)

With any piece of kit, guitars or amps, I like to play around with it for a few weeks before I decide to keep or not. I would recommend to anyone with a fancy to try a SS to noodle with it a few weeks and get to know it before settling. It's usually a Mustang I pick up.

For the youngster, for small hands, for the elderly and not so nimble, or just for the hell of it, go try 1 or 2 or 3.

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6 hours ago, Frank Blank said:

I spent decades wondering why my bass playing improved so slowly until I picked up my first short scale and realised I should have been playing them all along. I think people are coming round to the fact that full scale basses have precisely no advantages over smaller, lighter, easier to play short scales.

 

This was my experience too, especially being a bit of a short ar5e myself. A wrist injury eventually made playing 'normal' basses all but impossible for more than a few minutes. A mate of mine who works in health care, and is also a bass player, suggested trying a short scale to see if that helped - and it was a revelation. I could now play for hours without cramping up and the tighter fret spacing made playing feel ridiculously easy compared to my old big basses, so much so that whenever I pick up a 34" scale bass it feels cumbersome and impractical. I've slowly replaced all of basses with short scales now and can't see myself ever owning anything longer. Fnarr. 

While it could be a passing fad, I suspect that there will be a few existing players either picking one up or even transitioning exclusively (another mate of mine who's also been playing for decades is doing just that), not to mention new starters being attracted to the ease of playing compared to the standard monoliths. After all, it's a legal requirement that every short scale review must describe the bass as 'fun'! So I think they'll be hanging around for a while yet. While they may not eradicate the standard scale bass, they do the same thing in a smaller, lighter, more comfortable and easier to play format. Why make life difficult for yourself? 

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I think it’s a mixture of all what has been said (playing advantage and a couple of famous artists using) and a gradual acceptance more widely that it doesn’t have to look and sound exactly like a ‘normal’ bass to be good.

They have their own interesting sonic space, and for something like the Stingray SS could make it have a wider appeal for those that don’t like the nasal sound, as it may temper that a little. I have a medium/short scale Fretless and it’s cool

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I'm surprised we haven't had a fanned-fret multi-scale SS bass. Something like 26-32", or whatever the maths dictates. 

Or maybe someone already did and I missed it..

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16 minutes ago, Lfalex v1.1 said:

I'm surprised we haven't had a fanned-fret multi-scale SS bass. Something like 26-32", or whatever the maths dictates. 

Or maybe someone already did and I missed it..

I’d definitely be game for a 30-33” six string!

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Maybe it was for years everyone was making copies of fender Ps and Js, which is why everything was 34", while a lot of the rest of the brands continued with their short and medium scale.

I always wondered, if you have short, medium and long, why is the long most common rather than the medium?

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There are a lot of good reasons to play a short scale, as there are longer scales.

It does feel very faddy to me though- good will come of it, but eventually the market will find something else to get excited about.

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I've read that Andy Mooney, the CEO of Fender, is specifically, trying to encourage women to get into playing guitars and basses.

If you're an average size woman, a short scale bass is much easier to play.

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5 minutes ago, Woodinblack said:

Maybe it was for years everyone was making copies of fender Ps and Js, which is why everything was 34", while a lot of the rest of the brands continued with their short and medium scale.

I always wondered, if you have short, medium and long, why is the long most common rather than the medium?

I think precisely for the reason you give in your first sentence.

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I love the BC 'Why so many......?" threads, because they identify what is usually a completely random chain of events event and turn it into a accepted phenomenon :)

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1 hour ago, gjones said:

I've read that Andy Mooney, the CEO of Fender, is specifically, trying to encourage women to get into playing guitars and basses.

If you're an average size woman, a short scale bass is much easier to play.

Really? What is an "average size woman"?

I'm a well below average sized man and have managed perfectly well on all sorts of scale length basses from 36" to 28". Unless I am playing complex chords or leaping from one end of the fretboard to the other the scale length makes no difference to the ease of playability.

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7 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

Really? What is an "average size woman"?

3" taller than Suzi Quatro

 

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16 minutes ago, BigRedX said:

Really? What is an "average size woman"?

I'm a well below average sized man and have managed perfectly well on all sorts of scale length basses from 36" to 28". Unless I am playing complex chords or leaping from one end of the fretboard to the other the scale length makes no difference to the ease of playability.

Well, it all depends on what the lines you’re playing are like. And it should, theoretically, be easier to play lines on a short scale (tension issues aside) for anyone; however this doesn’t mean you can’t play the same things on a longer scale. It’s not black and white, it’s shades of grey. 

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30 minutes ago, 4000 said:

it’s shades of grey. 

Now, that is something women got into in droves!

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I think that construction and string technology has really come a long way recently, so I think a shorter scale bass makes for a great proposition now, they're not just plummy sounding "beginner" basses any more.
I do think that there being so many of them all of a sudden has a chunk to do with them being trendy, but I don't think they will recede back to how things were a few years ago.

I personally have gone shorter, 31.5" in my case, and I really can't see any negatives.

Eude

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1 hour ago, BigRedX said:

Really? What is an "average size woman"?

I'm a well below average sized man and have managed perfectly well on all sorts of scale length basses from 36" to 28". Unless I am playing complex chords or leaping from one end of the fretboard to the other the scale length makes no difference to the ease of playability.

I suggest you send a strongly worded letter to Andy Mooney. 

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Even with the older basses, when I saw The Staves last the bassist played a P and a short scale (Mustang or similar); I thought the short scale sounded better in the mix and was more audible. Obviously there could have been a lot of other factors at work but it was interesting regardless. 

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29 minutes ago, eude said:

I think that construction and string technology has really come a long way recently, so I think a shorter scale bass makes for a great proposition now, they're not just plummy sounding "beginner" basses any more.
I do think that there being so many of them all of a sudden has a chunk to do with them being trendy, but I don't think they will recede back to how things were a few years ago.

I personally have gone shorter, 31.5" in my case, and I really can't see any negatives.

Eude

In addition to strings, bass amps and speakers have improved significantly.

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String technology has made a massive difference. When I bought my first bass (a short-scale) in the early 80s, with Rotosound round wound strings it was impossible to get a decent note out of the E string. Consequently I avoided going below A as much as possible. Later in the 90s when I had discovered that the problem was that all the mainstream string makers were actually incapable of making consistently good strings unless they were standard gauge for 4-string 34" scale instruments, I swapped to Newtone and suddenly the E string on my short scale bass sounded just as good as the others.

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My recent acquisition of a 32" Ibanez Mezzo 5 string has been an eye opener. I've got quite small hands (can handle my 37" Dingwall though...) and at a recent rehearsal there was a moment on the Ibby where the shorter scale clicked and it all just felt so damn easy - I could actually 'play' about a lot more than my meager talents usually allow. Plus, it sounds awesome in the mix.

I think 30" might feel a bit short, especially for 5's - and there only seems to be the Ibanez Mezzo and a Warwick Corvette 5 available in 32" 'off the peg' -but  I'm definitely a fan now - so keeping an eye out and maybe considering moving on a 34"incher or two.. even edging towards the scary 'custom build'...

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People suddenly discovered that Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney and Stanley Clarke despite their huge success and skill level wasn't actual second class bass players who had been wrong all along.

Edited by Baloney Balderdash

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There's a different tone, isn't there? And I know there are lots of other factors that will affect your tone in different ways, but I've found that shorter scale basses sound different from the longer scale counterparts - I'm sure a lot of people will attest that their medium scale lengths are important factors in the Warwick "growl" and Rick "clank." I read an interview with Alex Callier years ago, where he explained that he'd moved to short-scale basses because he liked the old-fashioned click-and-thump he got when playing them with a pick. No mention of easier playability, as I recall, and I think he's a pretty tall feller.

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