The short-scale bass guitar was made popular by guitar makers that wanted to offer a 30″ option for players with smaller hands or arm length. Typical long scale versions have a neck length between the nut and bridge of 34″, which is still the standard for electric bass guitars.
There are extra-long scale bass guitars that have neck lengths up to 36″ and these provide higher string tension, which gives a more defined tone on the lowest string. While some bass guitars have gone longer, some have also gone shorter offering bass guitars with 28″ scale necks, which are perfect for younger players with small hands.
A short-scale bass guitar is popular with adult players, too. Many like them because they are lighter and offer the ability to play fast. The players that switch-hit between guitarists and bassists find them especially user-friendly, because of the shorter neck. To understand why some prefer the shorter neck, it is important to understand scale length.
Scale length refers to the vibrating length of the string, which is determined by the distance between the nut and the bridge. With this in mind, the fret placements are a ratio based on the scale length, so there is more distance between frets on a long scale bass guitar versus less distance between frets on a short-scale bass guitar. This makes it quicker and easier to play a short neck version.
Another difference in long scale and short-scale models is the tonal quality. Because the scale length influences the tonal value due to the tension of the string at a certain pitch, the tonal quality on 5 string bass guitars is enhanced with a longer scale neck because it gives better sound to the lowest string. On short-scale models, the G string will sing out and the tonal quality is perfectly acceptable.
When it comes to choosing the neck length on your bass guitar, the number of strings is an important consideration, besides the size of your hands and arm’s length. The neck on 5 and 6 string bass guitars are wider, so smaller hands should consider a 4 string bass and it is also the reason that many chose a short-scale bass guitar over the longer, and 5 or 6 string models.
Paul McCartney of The Beatles played a short scale bass and it was a large part of the distinctive sound their music had. Some describe the shorter scale guitars as a “plinky” type of tonal quality, although it might be better described as clearer high notes than long scale bass guitars have, the long neck models offer better lower tonal qualities than a short neck does.
Because of the distance between frets on the long scale models, many bass guitarists prefer the short-scale models on 4 string models because they can move much faster between frets and manipulate the neck easier. The longer necks and wider 5 and 6 string bass guitar necks demand quite a stretch for some guitarists, which feels uncomfortable or makes for awkward moves.
There are many different models of short-scale bass guitars on the market and they still remain the most popular 4 string bass guitars for many performers and they are necessary for the younger students. Many manufacturers offer them in a variety of styles and shapes.
Jesse Nash is a seasoned musician that has been helping beginners to the more advanced learners to play the guitar and understand the theories and techniques involved. Jesse has almost 40 years of experience and has picked up many tips and tricks from other artists along the way. Jesse offers a wide range of programs and services to help guitar players achieve their goals.