Why Short-Scale?

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 scott@shortscalebass.co.uk 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 scott@shortscalebass.co.uk


7 Responses to “Why Short-Scale?”

  1. Scott Pope 15th October 2020 at 2:27 am Permalink

    I have some lengths of 4mm i.d. / 6mm o.d. steel tubing that I use between the ball end of the string and the anchor on the back side of the bridge. This extends the ball of the string out so that you retain the taper and silk at the tuning machine post without binding the full diameter of the E-string wrap around the post. Generally, my 3 cm tube works, but I have a couple both longer and shorter depending on the strings available if I can’t get my favourite short scale strings.

    I find that usually, only the E string needs the spacer because on 2+2 tuner configuration basses, the A and D tuners are usually far enough away from the nut that a regular long scale string doesn’t bind, and of course, the G string is skinny enough it doesn’t matter as it can be wound around anything. Think about it: most G strings are 45-50 gauge. Acoustic guitarists routinely put 52-56 gauge strings around skinny guitar tuning machine posts.

  2. merseymale 25th February 2019 at 12:56 am Permalink

    I love Short Scale BUT much prefer BEAD tuning… what strings/bass combination works?

    • Scott Whitley 22nd May 2019 at 4:53 pm Permalink

      I’ve only used this tuning a few times and used a long Scale Rotosound 5-string and just dumped the G string. I used (45) 65 80 105 130

      Worked pretty well!!


      • James 1st June 2020 at 12:48 am Permalink

        how do i use a long scale string for a short scale bass?

  3. Paul G 25th May 2018 at 6:21 am Permalink

    I have a Ric which I love, but suffered from Hand/forearm fatigue and back pain over long sets. I bought a Mustang PJ as a low cost ‘toe in the water’ on short scale. I now use my Mustang exclusively, my Ric stays pretty much in its case. I love the whole weight and ease/comfort of play thing Scott mentions, plus the tone is actually pretty darn good and certainly not inferior to a 34”. I’m definitely looking to stay with short scale and am thinking about a SWB as my next purchase!

  4. Jordan Fonseca 9th November 2017 at 8:52 pm Permalink

    Hola, muchas gracias por crear tan fantastica web dedicada a estos bajos, estoy por comprar mi primer bajo. ya he probado escala normal lo que aun a mi parecer no me acostumbro, sera que un escala corta (SS) me ayudara a desarrollarme? soy principiante intermedio, y me encanto el Squier Modified Jaguar bass short scale. creo que lo comprare, pero, que cuerdas me recomiendas para dicho bajo?

    gracias y saludos desde Costa Rica.

  5. Grayn 25th December 2015 at 10:33 am Permalink

    I have owned a couple of Fender Mustang Basses.
    Both had go faster stripes; 1 from the US and the other, Japanese.
    Both were a delight to play and sounded very good.
    I remember, in the past, it was said, the E-string lacked something, on short scaled basses.
    I did notice that on the US model but not so, on the Japanese bass.

    More recently, I owned an Epiphone Allen Woody bass.
    Seriously cool looking bass and very well built.
    Though very nice to play, the tone was too vintage for me.
    I also tried flatwound strings for the first time, on this bass.
    And found I loathed them. More for the feel than the slightly dead sound.

    I’ve pretty much stuck with Jazz bass style instruments (various makes) for the last 5 years. But fancy another go, in the world of the shorter scaled bass. So finding this site, via Basschat, has been invaluable.
    Many thanks for all your info and enjoyable vids.

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