Best Short Scale Bass 2021: Essential Guide To 6 Of The Best

Is it fair to say the most famous bass guitar in rock n roll history, is a short scale bass guitar?

After a boom in sales, short scale bases are flying off the shelves. But Why?

We thought it’d be a good time to assist you with our in depth guide for the best short scale bass. We’ve considered some essential points, which will help you before making any decisions.

What Is A Short Scale Bass?

Generally, A short scale bass guitar is 4 inches shorter than the standard size bass. This means: closer frets, faster fingers, less weight, no back ache or wrist pain, and, a lot less overstretching. Technical playing will now become that little bit easier due to the shorter frets. 

So in terms of size, the average short scale bass is 30”. Any bass under 31” is seen as a ‘Short Scale Bass’. If you can imagine it being bigger than an electric guitar, but smaller than a standard bass guitar. Right in the middle.

The sound of a short scale bass is also different compared to the standard size. They give you a much lower, fatter tone, as the length of the strings have decreased. This in turn has lower amplitudes in its higher overtones. So, if you are looking to get low down and dirty, a short scale bass is for you. 

How Do I Choose A Short Scale Bass?

The big brand names that produce short scale basses are surprisingly affordable. This means you can get a better quality of bass for your budget (compared to the same brand on an electric guitar).

When browsing through our extensive list of best short scale bass, take a moment to check out the brand of hardware that’s been fitted. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the type of wood that’s been used on the body, neck,and frets. Believe it or not, these factors make a big difference to the overall sound and life of the instrument.

Consider the weight of the instrument. If the bass is for a child or a senior, it’s important to ensure you’re buying an instrument that fits the player. All instruments should have the weight specifications on the product page. 

Obviously, the best option is to pop into your local store and try a few out. Stand up, get used to the feel and the tension of the strings. You’ll know which one works best for you, it’s like trying on a pair of gloves. 

If you don’t have the store option, find something of a similar weight from the house. Hold it for a while, close to the body. Seems daft I know, but it gives you an idea. 

The lightweight feel of these instruments is why a lot of people are opting for the short scale bass option. 

Being comfortable is king.

Quick View: 6 Best Short Scale Basses

10 Advantages Of Playing A Short Scale Bass

  • Physical size is shorter, right in the middle of guitar and bass size.
  • You get a deeper, fatter sound
  • They’re very light, it’s so much easier playing a 3-hour gig without backache
  • You can play faster than using a standard size, as the notes are much closer together
  • If you suffer from hand/forearm fatigue and back pain over long sets, a short scale is for you. It’s a real issue with some players
  • Less of a reach for smaller hands and technical bits become easier 
  • Aging musicians with carpal tunnel or arthritis can divert to a short scale bass. Also a wise preventative option
  • Easy to play, plain and simple. If you already a guitarist or bassist, short scale basses will be a walk in the park
  • Easier to learn on, child friendly. Aids the beginner no end
  • With a recent explosion in the sales of short scale bases. Children, seniors, beginners, bassists, and guitarists are all drawn to them for the above reasons

Let’s Look at Wood Types

Alderwood

A strong, clear, full-bodied sound, with beefy mids and excellent lows

Ash

Ash comes in two types: Northern Wood (Hard) produces extra treble and a good sustain, with less warmth than other guitar woods. Swamp Ash (Soft) has a much warmer feel than hard ash.

Maple

Dense with extended sustainability. Very popular because of it’s bright tones. Plenty of bite and a good level of sustain

Poplar

One of the softer hardwoods, nicely resonant with a meaty tone. Many guitar manufacturers as a substitute for alder are using this wood, as it is quite similar in tone.

Mahogany

Mainly used on acoustics, for back and sides. Hard wearing, resonant, not as bright, a distinct attractive look

Basswood & Agathis

Basewood is light in weight, bright and gives off superb resonance, but softer than other woods. Agathis is similar to Mahogany, dark, punchy with excellent sustain

Tips Before Buying

  • Hit your local music store and try a few, There are many types of short scale basses just like guitars, so grab five and see what hits your spot. 
  • Make sure it’s comfortable. This is pretty obvious but ask any bass player in a band who plays a 26 song set. The larger basses are very heavy. Your spine will tell you this
  • Short scale basses range from very cheap all the way up to a 1000. Some lower-end guitars have shabby pickups and cheap wood. It can make you sound like you’re playing a toy. Check the details as you can really find value for money in this market
  • Choose suitable strings and a tuner. It makes so much difference. Buy a pack with your bass. The ones that come with the bass are generally poor. 
  • Check for a warranty. Always a good thing if you’re spending your hard-earned wages. 

Did You Know….

Sir Paul McCartney played a short scale bass, in fact its named ‘Beatle Bass’. The Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass is the bass you probably see when you picture him.

Paul’s association with the Hofner started in Hamburg around August 1960. The Beatles were learning their trade in those days and had no money. They certainly weren’t the power horse they were a few years later. 

The Hofner was purchased simply because it was affordable and McCartney could turn it around (as he was a lefty) and it wouldn’t look odd. The Hofner is symmetrical! He could also play guitar, so the hybrid instrument was a perfect fit for him.

Back in those days left handed guitars were not available as much as today. You’ve seen Jimi Hendrix’s guitars haven’t you? The same reason applies, it’s upside down. No left handers about like there is today. 

McCartney still plays Hofner short scale basses today. Is it the most recognized short scale ever? If it’s cool enough for Sir Paul, then we should all have one.

 

Paul & George. Paul with his Hofner bass, probably singing “Yeaaah”
Photograph by VARA

Other Heroes To Grace The Short Scale Bass:

Jack Bruce (Cream), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Andy Fraser (Free), Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull), Trevor Bolder (Spiders From Mars, Uriah Heep), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Garry Tallent (E Street Band), Bruce Thomas (the Attractions), Gary Mounfield (Stone Roses, Primal Scream), Mike Watt (Minuteman, Firehose, Stooges) John Entwistle (The Who).

AuthorityGuitar: The 7 Best Short Scale Bass Review

Fender Squire Mini P Bass Guitar

Best Beginner

 

 

Pros: World Famous Brand, Helpful For The Complete Beginner, Child Friendly Size, Chunky Tones. Cons: None

Ideal for the complete beginner, or somebody looking to dip their toe in. Weighs in at 8.35lbs, so it’s very light but durable. The Mini P is the child to the ‘Legendary’ Fender Precision Bass. Split single coil pickup with both tone and volume controls. The body is made from Poplar wood, the hard-tail bridge ensures longer lasting tuning. The neck material is made from maple wood. Fingerboard radius is 9.5″ and the scale length is 28.58″ (very short). Perfect size for kids or a player with smaller hands. It’s almost 3/4 the size of the original size precision bass.

With any Fender made instrument, you’re going to get that classic punchy tone and a trustworthy durable build. For the low price, look no further for your entry bass guitar.

‘Squire’ belongs to the biggest guitar manufacturer in the world ‘Fender’. The Squire short scale bass is an inexpensive option to the real Fender range. Just be aware, buying Fender guitars is very addictive!

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Get your ears around this funky groove: The Squire Mini P

Fender Mustang Bass – PJ – Pau Ferro Fingerboard – Aged Natural

Most Accomplished

 

 

 

Pros: Easy Play-Ability, Value For Money, Stunning Colors, Reliable Fender Build, 3 Way Pickup Switch, The Fender Pop

Cons: None

The real deal. the Fender Mustang has a beautiful selection of three colors that you gotta have a look at (aged natural, sienna sunburst, and a firemist gold). 30” scale length; “C”-shaped neck. 9.5”-radius Pau Ferro fingerboard with 19 medium jumbo frets.

A four-saddle bridge and vintage tuning machines are the classic Fender hallmark. A big step up from the Squire series in build and engineering. The Mustang series began in 1964 and hasn’t looked back. Top notch original Fender hardware, beautifully crafted pro-level finish. Full size pickups with three position controls to create and discover various tones of your own. The Pau Ferro style fingerboard is stunning. The four saddle hardtail ensures you get perfect intonation and resonance. The overall tone and comfort of the Mustang is arguably the best on the market.

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This video is just damn dirty, you’ve been warned: Fender Short Scale Bass, The Mustang PJ

Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar, Right, Pearl White (GSRM20PW)

Most Popular Rocker

  • Pros: Affordable, Nice Finish, Lightweight, Slim Neck, Very Popular,
  • Cons: Not Good For Drop Tuning

The highly-rated Ibanez short scale bass GRSM20 comes in 9 different professional slick colors. Check out the natural walnut. This short scale bass is 29.6″, it’s one of the shortest but i like that. It’s compact and you can literally play it like a guitar. Whether you’re sitting on a stool or standing up, this light weight guitar can serve the beginner right up to a good player.

The body material is made from Poplar and the neck is made from Maple. With a Rosewood finish fretboard the Ibanez ticks all the right boxes on the build. My only slight criticism, if you’re planning on tuning down to C for metal, this bass isn’t ideal. It’s due to the length of the neck but the strings become too loose. The tuner struggles to detect the notes. Even dropping the bottom E to D is borderline. I would suggest this bass is for players who are going to play in standard tuning only.

On reviewing many short bases, i must admit, i like the shape of this bass the best. It feels like a nice snug fit, and definitely doesn’t look like what it costs. A very popular affordable bass, you really can’t do any better at this price.

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Here’s a helpful run through in video: Ibanez GSRM20

Hofner IGNITIONSB Electric Violin Bass Guitar – Rosewood Fingerboard, Sunburst Finish

Best Alternative Bass

  • Pros: Instantly Resemble A Beatle, Mellow, Natural, Low Price, Excellent Sustain, Acoustic Resonance,
  • Cons: Not Made In Germany, Unlike The Other Standard Hofners.

The resonance you get from the Hofner Ignition is among the best in this review list. As the body is semi-hollow, you get a warm woody, almost acoustic tone. Comes in a traditional sunburst color. Spruce top and staple humbucker pickups, it looks exactly like the old school Paul McCartney bass. This alone is a major selling point for Hofner. You have the ability to create lots of sounds with the traditional 500/1 style tone controls. Each pick up has its own volume, this is really handy in band situations. Switch from a big heavy fat sound, to a ‘Drive My Car’ riff mode in one click. A rosewood fretboard, 30inch scale, and a trapeze tail bridge, which keeps you safely in tune.

If you’d like to get yourself a piece of history, you can do with the versatile Hofner Ignition.

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Get a look at how beautiful this bass is. This guy really gets many tones out of The Hofner

Cordoba Mini II Bass MH-E, Small Body, Acoustic-Electric Bass Guitar

Best Acoustic Bass/Home Player

Pros: Truly Beautiful To Look At, Low-End Sound Sublime, Affordable, Child Friendly, Top Choice For A Complete Beginner

Cons: Small/ Quiet Acoustic Type Bands Only

I had to review a Cordoba Electric Acoustic bass guitar, as their a highly thought of manufacturer in the Ukulele world. I also wanted an acoustic version of a short bass, for the players in acoustic type bands or quiet home situations.

The Cordoba Mini II features a (22 7/8”) scale length so it tunes perfectly to Standard E. This is the shortest in the review, yet has a completely different use in mind. Plugin its MB103 pickup, and you’ll be surprised by this rich robust tone. Beautifully built with all mahogany woods, gives you a unique mellow soft tone which the other bases cannot create. The strings are a coated phosphor bronze, nylon core. The low end you get from the Cordoba is just sublime. Clear and resonates true, no boggy, distorted buzzing sounds. Check the clip below to see what I mean. Gorgeous.

So, if you’re looking for a way into playing bass, and you’re unsure you can do it, this would be the perfect 1st purchase because of its small friendly size. It may assist you onto bigger instruments. If you’re leaning towards a quieter bass or an instrument for an acoustic band, look no further than the Cordoba Mini II.

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Just listen to how clear the low end is! Cordoba Mini II

Epiphone EB-3 Electric Bass Guitar, Cherry Red Finish, Mahogany Body and Neck, SG shape

The Beast

  • Pros: Flawless Live Instrument, Gibson SG Shape Is Classic, Tough As Nails, Low Price, A Ground Vibrator
  • Cons: Limited Range Of Tones

You have probably heard of Gibson guitars and basses before. They are one of, if not the biggest manufacturer in the guitar world. Gibson owns Epiphone, so you can guarantee a certain level of quality, just like Fender does with Squire. This means they can use all the statistics to produce a lower priced Gibson (made outside the U.S.). This already should have your ears pricking, especially when you see the low price.

I played in a cover band with a guy who played one of these for 2 years, they are so powerful. Really chunky and fat. When we hooked up on riffs, the Epiphone was an absolute beast. You could feel the ground move. So, if you’re in a band situation playing rock or metal. This Epiphone EB-3 has to be in your arsenal. With a single sidewinder humbucker (you won’t need more!), chrome hardware including a fully-adjustable three-point bridge, 30.5 inch scale length, and mahogany top and neck material finish.

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Told you the Epiphone EB-3 is a great live instrument, check the proof!

The Long And Short Of It: Review Winner

Fender Mustang Bass – PJ – Pau Ferro Fingerboard – Aged Natural

The Mustang series is easily the most versatile of all the basses reviewed. They look fantastic and are built by a world-class leader. This does reflect in the price, but you’re buying a bass that will last you. If you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, the mustang suits all. The other short basses cannot play certain types of music due to their unique sound. The Fender mustang can handle jazz through to metal. I cannot think of another bass that can cover so many avenues on the spectrum.

Go get yourself one, you won’t be disappointed.

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