Perhaps to start just to clarify what a short-scale bass is. The scale means the distance between the nut and the bridge. It is not the overall length of the neck. A short-scale bass is usually about 30 inches but is classed as anything less than 31. Long scale basses are 34 inches or more.
The short-scale was the norm at one time. Hofner and Gibson made short scale electric basses but with the exception of the Hofner Violin, made them badly. Designers too busy concentrating on their Strats, Teles and Les Pauls to worry about the bass. It’s not important as an instrument was the feeling.
A certain Leo Fender changed all that. He knew. And in the 50s, the Fender Precision arrived. Bass guitars were never the same again. The 34-inch Precision took over, then came the Jazz, and Fender dominated the bass market and have since. Fender eventually made some short scale basses themselves. We had one. But it was the ‘big boys’ that ruled the playground.
Manufacturers got their act together and started to produce quality short scale basses. Too late, of course, as the ‘Pros’ had adopted the big sounding 34-inch monster.
Gibson had the EBO. A nice short scale with a future. People started to use them. Andy Fraser from Free made it popular. But then Gibson did what they do best, they lost the plot and did a 34-inch version, the EB3. No comment.
Size, of course, and that is what the majority of people think is the defining difference. Frets are closer together, easier to play. True, of course, but for bass players, not the defining thing.
That thing was the sound. Short scale basses sound different. It’s a bit of a secret in the bass community. Short scale basses have a lower string tension. It gives a smoother tone and the lower notes… ahh those lower notes. The 34 inchers can’t do it. Tensions are too tight.
The higher notes are sweeter as well on a 30-inch scale bass. To a student player, it’s about the size; to a bass player, it’s about the tone and sound. The short-scale 30-inch scale bass still lives amongst us thankfully. So let’s have a look at the Best Short Scale Bass Guitars currently available and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 6 Best Short Scale Bass Guitar 2020 Reviews
- Best Short Scale Bass Guitar Buyers Guide
- So, What Is The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar?
Top 6 Best Short Scale Bass Guitar 2020 Reviews
1 Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar
Ibanez is a Japanese company that has seen remarkable growth since its formation in 1962. They know have factories in many parts of the world and have manufactured 165 models of bass guitar,
This model is a short scale bass with a 28.6 scale design with 22 frets. The body is made from Poplar and shaped with two cutaways. Its most noticeable feature is the exaggerated horn shapes, a design that makes it look bigger than it is.
The body is nicely contoured with a beveled elbow edge for comfort. It is finished in attractive in a brown sunburst that shows the grain of the wood. Being Poplar wood means that it is lightweight and weighs just under seven pounds. It is, therefore, ideally suited to young students.
The bolt-on neck is Maple with a Rosewood fingerboard with white dot inlays. It has a slightly flattened ‘C’ shape design that makes it very comfortable to play. And it also makes it quite fast to get around the length of the neck. It is fitted with a truss rod.
Ibanez has fitted a hardtail bridge with individual adjustments for each string, which is a good idea. Up at the top end, the headstock is black and fitted with some good quality machine heads.
Pickups are an interesting combination with one designed to look like a Precision bass and the other a Jazz. They don’t sound like them, of course, but they do make a decent sound. Both are passive, so no need for batteries. Simple controls with a volume for each pickup and tone control.
You may find with this bass that when you first play, it sounds a bit lifeless and toppy. That isn’t the guitar its the strings. Unfortunately, Ibanez has built a decent guitar but put some very cheap strings on it. Change the strings, and it sounds a lot better.
It looks nice, and it plays ok and for the money a very good bass. Ideal as a starter guitar. Probably would not qualify as the best Best Short Scale Bass Guitar around. But it has its good points and is set at a very attractive price point.
- Good looking, well-made instrument.
- Decent sound at a nice price.
- A string change will massively improve the sound.
2 Epiphone EB-0 Electric Bass Guitar
It still looks great after all these years. The famous EBO shape. Not used by Jack Bruce as some think, but used by Andy Fraser of Free and Felix Pappalardi. Not a Gibson, of course, but Epiphone.
It was first introduced in the late 50s. And was always to us a very good idea that didn’t quite catch on.
They have deliberately tried to include as much of the original design ideas as possible, starting with the body. Solid piece of carved Mahogany, shaped in that classic look, and finished in cherry red. There were other colors back in the day, but the red was THE color to have.
The neck is also Mahogany, and it has a Rosewood fretboard with dotted inlay. It has a 30.5-inch scale. The neck is bolted on. So far as per the originals.
The shape has been maintained, and there are four heavy-duty machine heads. They are a quality fitting and have a positive winding action holding the bass in tune.
The bridge is a three-point bridge that is fully adjustable. The bridge on the guitar in its original format had quality adjustors to make sure that there was no fret buzz when you lowered the action. Epiphone has maintained that design.
Oh, how could we forget – that Sidewinder humbucker pickup that growls and bites you if you don’t feed it! It’s a great sound. Now let’s upset the Gibson-only fraternity here. One of our writers recently held this one in his hands and then tried an original Gibson. The verdict? You can’t tell the difference; it is so well made.
However, there is one difference between them, the price! You haven’t got to sell your house to buy the Epiphone.
Fantastic bass at a fantastic price. Is it the Best Short Scale Bass Guitar? This one is going to take some beating.
- Great design and build.
- Has that EB0 humbucker sound.
- There won’t be one left in the shop when you go to buy it
3 Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II
Gretsch is, of course, a well-known manufacturer of a variety of musical instruments. Perhaps best known for their guitars. Especially those popularised by country players like Chet Atkins, but also their drums, which are highly respected.
Founded by Friedrich Gretsch, a German immigrant in New York. They went on to become a large-scale supplier of instruments. In 2002 they entered into an Agreement with Fender for them to manufacture and sell the products. The Gretsch family retained ownership.
Nowadays, virtually everything is made in the Far East. Although they have never been recognized as a major player in the bass guitar world.
As the name implies, it is bass designed for the young player. The short neck, of course, is a feature, making it easy for young hands to come to terms with it. Fingers stretches are easy, and the 30-inch scale length a perfect size.
It has a solid body made from Basswood, no pun intended, that is lightweight. It has been given an attractive black glossy finish. The neck is Maple with a Rosewood fretboard. At the top end, the headstock is laminated with four decent quality machine heads. The neck is attached to the body with four screws and is quite secure. It has a bridge with individual string adjusters.
Controls are quite simple, with a volume and a tone for each of the two pickups and a three-way pickup selector switch. Two mini-humbuckers drive the sound, and they are quite decent. You certainly get a reasonable bottom end, and they are quite loud. They are passive pickups, so no batteries required.
It is a decent bass guitar for a beginner. Though as with any budget level basses, the strings leave a bit to be desired. A change there would be a good thing.
It is not going to win any awards but a good guitar to learn the basics. However, it might be considered a little expensive by some.
- Nicely made with an attractive look.
- Onboard hardware and pickups are quite acceptable.
- It might be a little expensive.
- Needs a better set of strings.
4 Squier by Fender Bronco Bass
Of course, Fender produces a short-scale bass guitar, and here it is. Fender produces the world’s two most successful and iconic bass guitars. One then wonders whether this is a serious attempt at a short-scale bass. But then you look at it and have an idea of what they are doing.
Although it’s not dissimilar to the old Musicmaster Bass, which we had quite a few years ago, it is more of a scaled-down ‘baby’ Precision Bass. It has been designed for a starter or improver of for those that have smaller hands. Maybe its design is also saying start on this. When you’ve got the basics, its big 34-inch brother is waiting for you.
Whatever Fender’s reasoning, it is a decent short-scale bass. It has a lightweight one-piece Agathis wood body with a glossy black polyurethane finish. A nice traditional shape to the scratchplate in white.
The 30-inch scale neck is all wood maple with 19 frets. Fender might have created a short scale bass, but they can still make it feel Precision-ish. The ‘C; shape neck does that and also gives an easy playing style.
Hardware is quite good. Sealed chrome-plated machine heads up at the headstock and a saddle bridge with individual adjusters. Control knobs, though, are plastic with chrome covering.
The pickup, of course, is single-coil and is designed for this bass. It is not as big sounding as those they put on the 34-inch models. We can’t see why they wouldn’t use the same pickup, probably the budget?. The sound is ok but not going to excite you. It has the Precision style layout of one volume and one tone.
Overall maybe we are not doing this bass justice. Squier makes good bass guitars in their factory in Indonesia, and this is one. The sound is ok, but it plays very well, and it feels good. For the money, it is great value. So, it could well be in the running for Best Short Scale Bass Guitar.
- Great Fender-style looks and well made.
- It plays nicely.
- Available at a very good price.
- Pickups are a little weak.
5 Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar
This is a similar bass guitar to others in the Ibanez GSRM range, but this is the five-string version. Five-string basses are not a new phenomenon though in the last decade, or so they have gained popularity.
Fender gave us the first electric effort in 1965, the Fender V. The tuning was different in that it had a high C. It was a flop. It came back again with a low B tuning in the late 70s. And has been with us ever since.
Construction of this bass is very similar to its 4-string cousin. The body is made from Poplar, and it has deep cutaways and those familiar Ibanez horns. The bevel on the top edge is maintained for ease of playing. It is finished in an attractive black. Being Poplar, it is lightweight and easy for a young player to manage.
The neck is maple wood with a Rosewood fingerboard. It is a very short scale design at 28.6 inches. Ths neck is fitted with a truss rod. Hardware is also similar. Good machine heads up at the headstock, which are chrome-plated, and it features an adjustable hardtail bridge.
The pickups are quite powerful and give a positive sound that is slightly humbucker in style. They are passive, so no batteries are required.
As a 5 string short scale bass, it is a decent guitar. It is made well as Ibanez guitars are with some good quality fittings. The only issue we have is that we are traditionalists. We are not so sure it is good to learn the bass on a five-string. What happens when you go to a 4 string, and suddenly the bottom is an E, not a B?
It might be better to learn the 4 before going to the 5 until you know what is going on. Just a point that we think needs to be taken into consideration
For a small-handed player, though, it is a good bass and worth looking at. The price point is about average for a budget bass guitar.
- Well made with good hardware.
- Decent sound from the pickups.
- Is going to need a string change to get the best from it.
6 DIY Electric Bass Guitar Kit
For all those that like a challenge, you won’t find a better one than this. Build your own short-scale Precision bass.
It is in kit form and comes complete with everything you are going to need to build your own bass. And don’t worry, they haven’t just collected a load of random spare parts from around the factory that are have not been used. As an example, the neck has been pre-fitted as a test to make sure you get a good fit. It comes unassembled, of course.
The body is already drilled with the holes in the right places. The wood is unfinished, and they have left you to sand it down and apply the finish. You get basic instructions, and the package includes the body and 20 fret neck made from Maple with a Maple fretboard and neck materials. It has a bolt-on neck joint, and the neck is pre-fitted with a truss rod.
Hardware includes a Paulownia bridge and chrome pickups. It has two control knobs, one volume, and one for the tone and machine heads.
It is an interesting idea and one that will appeal to some and will absolutely horrify others – like us.
If you are technically-minded, like a challenge and fancy customizing your own bass, here is your chance. Certainly a novel idea but really quite an expensive one unless you know what you are doing. Just make sure you don’t try and do it if you’ve just given up smoking or drinking. Have fun!
- It is better than a modeling kit.
- You can basically do what you like with the design.
- Should carry a health warning!
Best Short Scale Bass Guitar Buyers Guide
How To Buy The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar
Short scale basses. A novelty or a necessity? Some might consider them a novelty, but to some, they are essential. To others, they are their first choice.
When Andy Fraser’s bass lick kicked off Paul Kossoff’s solo in ‘Alright Now’, he didn’t use a Fender or anything else. He used his EBO. His short-scale EBO. Was it because he had small hands? Not really, he wasn’t the biggest guy around, but he could’ve played a 34 inch. He just preferred the short scale. He knew the bass players’ secret of how to play it to get THAT sound.
So What Do You Want Your Short-scale Bass Guitar For?
As we have pointed out, there are several reasons why you might be wanting to buy one.
For a starter, a new player, it could be a great introduction to the driving force behind a band. If they are young and have small hands, it is almost a necessity. Four inches on the scale size doesn’t sound a lot. But the fret distances in the lower regions of a 34 inch are far too much for a young player to be comfortable. In that case, they will find it easier on the short scale bass.
They will learn faster and not become frustrated that they cannot physically perform some of the exercises. If you are buying for a starter, then the balance and the weight are important issues. If a bass is heavy, which the solid wood ones can be, that is something to consider.
Short scale basses also feel different when you play. The string tensions are less than the 34-inch versions, and they feel softer and looser to the touch. Great for someone starting out.
What If You Are An Experienced Player, Do You Need One?
Our answer to that would be yes. Are you the kind of thoughtful bass player that might do a lot of studio work? If so, it is another ‘sound string’ to your bow. You have options that a 34-inch scale just won’t give you. The harmonic structure of the sound changes because of the lower string tensions.
And whilst the deeper notes have a great thud, the higher notes have a natural harmonic sound. It hasn’t got a great sustain at the harmonic level, but it is a sweet sound. As an experienced player, you can use this and emphasize those harmonics. Again a listen to ‘Alright Now’ will let you hear Andy creating harmonics that have a natural but short sustain.
It can have serious consequences to the overall sound. The short-scale tends to be more melodic. Creating a band sound with a short scale and then suddenly changing to a long scale can have a dramatic effect. McCartney didn’t use his with the Beatles, just because it looked pretty. Even though there may have been a bit of that, he experimented a bit with the then fashionable Rickenbacker but always came back to his Hofner Violin.
Selecting the pickup style is also important. Some have humbuckers. Others single-coil. Different sounds for different purposes. A humbucker for a lounge trio might not be a good idea.
So going to pick your short-scale bass think the size of course but also think sound, it won’t suit every style of music. It probably isn’t going to work in a thrash metal band, for example. But for most genres, it will sit comfortably, and for some, it will be better than the 34 inch.
Still not convinced?
If all this hasn’t converted you to a devotee of the short scale bass, then you may find our in-depth best bass guitar reviews more useful? It’s also worth checking out our reviews of the best bass distortion pedals as well as the best Precision Bass pickups and the best Jazz Bass pickups currently available.
So, What Is The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar?
To be honest, in the end, it wasn’t a very difficult decision for us. Whilst every short-scale bass that we looked at had some very good points. There was one that stood out from the others, not only in its look but also in the construction materials used and the sound.
We wanted a short scale bass to be easy to play, but we wanted that soft string sound that a 30-inch scale gives. They all had it in varying degrees, but one had it just right. Our choice as Best Short Scale Bass Guitar is, therefore, the…
Great look and a great sound at an amazing price.
If you bought this bass guitar as a starter, you might never need to change it.