A lot of people ask me why I’m so dedicated to this whole short-scale thing, so let’s start be looking at the most obvious advantages…
- Lightweight (less back fatigue)
- Faster & easier to play
- Smaller (easier to transport)
- Shorter (less stretching meaning less shoulder strain)
Due to everything being scaled down on a short-scale bass, this usually translates to lighter too. Any bassist who plays long 90-120 minute sets will know the strain wearing a heavy bass can put on your back and shoulders. I often have developed cramping in my lower back after standing for long periods with a bass which is no fun at all!! Most short scale basses will allow you to stand for longer without any huge sense of back fatigue.
Faster & easier to play
My first encounter with short-scale was when I picked up a Danelectro Long Horn bass in Forsythe’s Music, Manchester back in about 1993. The first two things that hit me were a) how unbelievably comfortable and easy 1-finger-per-fret playing was, even right down the bottom of the neck and b) how awesomely pure and bell-like the tone was coming from the bass acoustically. At that moment I KNEW short-scale made 100% sense, all I needed to do was find a short scale bass in production that fitted the bill in terms of pickups, electronics, number of frets, balance, looks etc – that, as it turned out, was a different story… 😀
As I said above, short-scales are generally smaller basses and as such will often fit into guitar gig bags and cases. This means they’ll fit in the boot of most small cars etc., and are a doddle to carry about on your shoulders in a gig bag.
The bass being generally shorter means everything is much more within reach. Having to stretch your fretting hand out to reach the 1st fret on a long-scale bass can really leave your arm and shoulder aching, particularly if you’re playing a part that hangs around that area of the neck for some time! With a short scale, everything is just that bit quicker and easier to get to. Coupled with the lighter weight of a shorty, it’s a compounded ‘win-win’ combination!
Are there any disadvantages to playing short-scale?
Generally no, but there are some pitfalls to avoid!!
You have to be much more careful about which strings you use on short-scale basses, bad strings sound REALLY BAD! The good news is there are lots of excellent options that make your shorty sound in no way inferior to long-scale basses. Check out my article here on Short-Scale String Choice.
Cases can be a little awkward to source, but after a lot of digging around I’ve found some great options that are easy to obtain. Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for help on this.
A lot of the off-the-peg short-scales are a little quirky or vintage-sounding; or they have fewer frets than a long-scale. Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all, and they should be embraced for what they are. But if you want to get the same pure tones you’re getting from your current long-scale bass in a short-scale format without paying a small fortune, it gets a little trickier. This is why I designed my SWB-1 bass which is now available as the affordable SWB-1 Standard. Check it our here.
If you have any further questions regarding short-scale-basses, please drop me a line on email@example.com