When you think of a bass guitar, it is easy to think of a long scale type, yet short scale bass guitars exist – and they pack more of a punch than you may initially assume.
Short scale bass guitars are underrated, and yet they are some of the coolest instruments you can own. In my experience, most people usually choose a bigger and longer bass – and yet, using a short scale bass is surprising because of its power.
The typical bass guitar can be off-putting to many people when choosing an instrument to learn, and understandably so – it is quite heavy and has a longer body.
This is where short scale bass guitars come in as a compromise; they are much easier to learn and tune, which also makes them easier to play. If you are a shorter person or happen to have a younger person in your life who aspires to learn the instrument, the short scale bass is a blessing in disguise.
These are not the sole advantages that this instrument offers though, as an interesting result that I noticed when using them is their peculiar and interesting tones they produce.
I will get into outlining some of the best ones I have seen in the market, all catering for different budget limits, as well as some important criteria to use when looking for one.
Best short scale bass guitars
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Ibanez 4-string guitar
Maple neck with Agathis body
Fender Mustang PJ electric bass
Maple neck with alder body
Lakland hollowbody skyline bass
Maple neck, curved maple top, curved mahogany back
Gretsch G2220 Junior bass guitar II
Maple neck, basswood body
EpiphoneEB-0 electric bass guitar
Best short scale bass guitars for 2021
The most interesting aspect about this guitar is its ability to deliver very nice, clear sounds, regardless of whether the sound response is muddy or clear.
- Maple neck, Agathis body
- 28-inch scale length
- Fretboard comprised of rosewood with 22 frets
- Pickup configurations in use are single coil and split coil
The body design is very similar to other Ibanez guitars, with an Agathis body and maple neck. While the Agathis material is not premium-level tonewood, it does a very satisfactory job when used in a beginner bass guitar.
The neck is quite slim in shape, with the 28-inch scale making it interesting as it is significantly shorter compared to the average scale bass. All the 22 frets are of medium size, while the guitar includes a standard bridge mount that has die-cast tuning machines on one side and fully adjustable saddles on the other.
Its pickup setup uses a single coil on the bridge and a precision-split coil at its neck, proving versatile. The aim of the instrument is to serve consumers that want value for money while still getting a bass guitar at an affordable price. It will also serve younger players very well, and is convenient for bassists who travel frequently with their instrument.
- Its compact size makes it easier for children to use
- Compact and lightweight
- Easy to play
- The pickup screws can misalign after a few days
- Passive bridge pickup tends to become noisy
- Some rough edges along the ends of the frets close to the neck
I really like that the lower notes it delivers are stable, and it is easy for a beginner bassist to use. The weight is also quite light and it feels like a toy, making it easy to travel with when you decide to do so.
Since short scale bass guitars began increasing in popularity, Fender was ahead of the competition the moment they released the Mustang back in the mid-1960s. This bass builds on that reputation, and is very comfortable to handle as well.
- Pau Ferro fretboard with Alder body
- Scale length of 30 inches
- Pickup configurations are a Vintage-style jazz single coil and a Vintage-style Split-coil
One thing I noticed from this instrument is the very good setup that makes it very comfortable to handle. It does not have any sharp edges along its neck, and maintains good playability due to the round C-shaped body and satin finish. Its sound is also very responsive and warm, making it an excellent choice if you want to play precision parts in a song.
Its body is comprised of alder and has a nice satin finish, while the neck has a C-shaped bolt with a Pau Ferro fretboard. The scale length is 30 inches and has 19 medium-jumbo frets, with white position markings on the side and front neck facings. It has a fretboard radius of 9.5 inches, and has J and P Bass single-coil pickups that give it a Precision Bass sound even when a dynamic tone is simultaneously playing.
Its attributes make it very good for smaller bassists, while its sound quality allows it to hold the weight down when using it in longer gigs.
- Offers very usable, big tones
- Very good construction
- Its tone is softer compared to a long scale bass
If your aim is achieving a classic vibe and a wide tonal variety, then this is a great bass choice. It has the fit-and-finish and hardware that you expect in a pro-level bass.
This bass delivers one of the most impressive sounds I have heard so far, with a full and rich quality. The single-coil pickups do not seem to have any noticeable hum either, making it sound very enjoyable to play.
- Maple neck and top, carved mahogany sides and back
- Pickup configuration in use is a 2x Chi-Sonic single-coil
- 20 frets on a Pau Ferro fretboard
- 30-inch scale length
The instrument balances very well despite being lightweight, which is typical of a hollow-body bass. The pickups also deliver smooth natural high-ends, detailed mids, and warm rounded lows.
Its body is comprised of carved mahogany on its sides and back, along with a maple top. That does not make it heavy though, as it weighs about 7 lbs. It comes with unique Chi-Sonic pickups that give it some extra response, while the dot inlays on the maple neck add a vintage, elegant look. The bridge is a custom Lakland type that only uses a through bridge stringing system, and the controls are one master tone and two volume ones.
This bass is primarily for an experienced bass player that wants to change up some aspects of their playing style, and is an easy choice for a gig setting.
- Very rich and full sound
- Fits a wide variety of music genres and playing styles
This is definitely a high-quality bass option, especially for more experienced players. Even though it is quite pricey, you will not regret spending money on it.
The main surprising aspect of this bass guitar is the versatility it offers – I was able to play a variety of music styles simply by changing minor aspects of its tuning. This makes it a perfect choice if you want to do precision work, as well as achieving a smooth bass line even in a gig setting.
- Maple neck with a basswood body
- Rosewood fretboard and has 20 medium-jumbo frets
- 28-inch scale length
- Pickup configuration in use is a 2x Gretsch mini humbucker
This instrument is among the biggest surprises when looking at short scale basses, and was partly the inspiration for this list. Many people assume that these instruments sacrifice the typical playability of a long-scale bass, but that issue is not the case here. Both its pickups deliver a bright and clear sound and convey its tone very well, allowing it to offer a variety of vintage sounds that would work very well in modern genres as well as rock music.
Basswood comprises the entire body, and it has a glossy black finish for added elegance and fitting in with the design of the D-shaped slinky maple neck. Its usage is very easy even for beginner bassists, as it does not have sharp fret ends.
The neck is 28 inches and has 20 medium-jumbo frets that are well-positioned, as well as a Jet style headstock. The 4 fully-adjustable saddles are on the vintage bridge, which keeps very good intonation when you use the tuners. It also includes a whole set of Gretsch mini-humbuckers, each having a chrome cover to add some interesting character to it.
It will work for people that need a simple instrument without too many components, as well as a bassist that enjoys soulful grooves in their music.
- Simple build that is easy to navigate
- Good sound quality
- Very good playability for its price
- Limitations in tonal variety
This bass is the epitome of reliable playability, comfort, solid tone, and a durable build. If you want a bass that provides good sound but are on a budget, it should be among your considerations because it gives plenty of value for your money.
This bass is compact and nice to work with, and has a familiar feel if you have some experience playing electric and acoustic guitars. Its rich tone makes it an excellent choice if you want to record songs, and it has a retro sound that allows it to work best in rock, country, and blues tracks.
- Scale length of 30.5 inches
- Rosewood fretboard and a mahogany neck/body
- Pickup configuration in use is a single sidewinder humbucker
Epiphone use distinct body shapes in their guitars, and this is no exception. Mahogany comprises the entire body and neck, which allows the guitar to achieve good sustaining levels. The neck interestingly has a SlimTapper D profile with pearl dot inlays, which I have not noticed in most bass guitars.
The 30.5-inch neck has a wide tonal variety and is easy to play, making the guitar great for beginners, while its compact design helps a smaller-handed player to use it comfortably. The bridge also keeps intonation very well because of its fully-adjustable Tune-O-Matic three-point piece. You will notice that the pickup configuration is unique as well, because it uses only one humbucker in the neck.
This instrument is great for starter bassists, though it can work for experienced ones too. It also works very well for players who are transitioning to bass from guitars, as it has a similar feel.
- Solid and reliable hardware
- Excellent neck/body/wood
- Very good sound quality
- Tends to experience buzzing after heavy use
With this instrument, you will easily achieve a lot of bass for its price. It is a solid choice for gigs, recordings, travelling, and home practice.
What you should consider when buying a short scale bass guitar
The features and parts of the instrument
Before going shopping for any type of bass guitar (this also applies to stringed instruments), you will need to know the parts of the instrument. Some of its parts will work well for different music styles than you are planning to play, so you need to select the right bass for the music you want. If you are choosing a short scale bass, you likely know what you want to achieve (except if you are a beginner).
Materials making up the body
To make the right choices of the bass, the materials making up the body and components play a major role. The shape of the instrument does not have as much of an effect on the sound, but it will impact your posture and playing style, which is also important to keep in mind.
For this reason, a short scale bass is the best choice when you want maximum playability and managing the weight of the instrument. You will likely encounter solid body basses, which are comprised of solid pieces of wood – their main advantage is their longer sustain compared to hollow-body basses, but their disadvantage is their heavier weight.
Aside from the type of body, the shape is important to consider because it will determine whether the instrument is comfortable to use, regardless of whether you are standing or sitting.
The materials making up the instrument are essential considerations when it comes to durability. If the materials are lighter, they may be comfortable but are vulnerable to damage compared to sturdier materials. The wood needs to have great levels of playability, tone, and resonance, and the factors affecting these are the wood softness and density. As a general rule, softer woods have more warmth and resonance in their sound, while harder woods produce a brighter and more aggressive sound.
The most common materials making up bass guitar bodies are:
- Maple – this is the heaviest of the materials, and has medium density and hardness. It offers a warm sound with plenty of emphasis on the lower-range and low-mids, as well as great sustain.
- Basswood – a more affordable material that has short sustain. Poplar is a similar material in the quality of its sound, though it is lighter.
- Mahogany – has the same qualities as maple. Basses with mahogany can also be quite pricey.
- Alder – makes up most P-basses. It has excellent levels of clarity, and a full, warm, and balanced tone.
The best options are those that combine good sound with a weight you can manage, though it will all depend on your personal preference.
The nut, frets, and fretboard
You will need to know the fretboard and neck types, since your fingers will fly over this section frequently and it will determine the playability of the instrument.
The purpose of the neck is to project the sound to the bass pickups and body from the strings, as well as allowing you to place your hand comfortably. To attach the body and neck, various systems are used, with some being more reliable than others. These are:
- Bolt-on-neck: The most common system. The neck has nuts that bolt it to the body, which keep it in place. The result is great stability, good sustain, and great string vibration.
- Thru-body and set neck: This is more common in high-end bass guitars. The set neck system is the more reliable type, though more challenging to attach, while the thru-body is the most expensive choice even though it works the best.
The neck material is also important, as it determines the tone of the instrument. Tonewood, for instance, proves tricky because it can produce different sound tones depending on other factors.
Most commonly, necks use rosewood and maple – rosewood gives it a mellow and warm sound, while maple gives it a bright and clear tone.
The fretboard is the next feature to check, as the nut and quality of the frets will impact the sound quality. This part works to regulate the transfer of vibrations to the bass body from the strings, so a better-sounding bass is always due to a well-designed fretboard. Like the neck, most fretboards use maple (white in color and gives a percussive sound quality) and maple (brown in color and gives a dark, warm tone).
The size of the frets also has an impact on playability, with jumbo frets giving more sustain and playability.
Scale radius and length
The scale length is the distance between the bridge and nut, and affects the sound due to its impact on the string sound quality. The standard is 34 inches (a long scale bass), though you can get extra-long (36”), medium (32 to 34”), and short (30 to 32”). The scale radius also impacts playability – the smaller it is, the better it is for chord playing, while a bigger radius lends itself better to single note playing.
Getting a small scale bass is important if you are a beginner, because it is easier to learn and use, and it also proves convenient if you travel a lot with your bass and need to carry a light instrument.
Is a short scale bass easier to play?
What is usually considered a short scale bass?
The scale is the length of the bass from the nut to the bridge, so short scale ones are usually 27 to 30 inches.
Can I put long scale strings on short scale basses?
Yes it is possible, though you will need to increase the gauge tension when you want to achieve a crisper sound.