Popular Short Scale Bass Guitars

T.J. Mimbs
Paul McCartney's Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass
Paul McCartney's Hofner 500/1 Violin Bass

Finding the right short scale bass guitar can pose a challenge for guitarists who want to find the perfect instrument. Whether you're interested in this type of instrument specifically for its size, or if you like the effect of thicker strings, there are a number of options available to you. Learning about popular models is a great way to start your search.

Five Popular Options

1. Fender Mustang

Fender Mustang- Photo courtesy of Fender Musical Instruments Corporation
Fender Mustang

Features

Developed in 1965 and released in 1966 (just before the exit of Leo Fender, the namesake of Fender guitars, from the company), many believe the Fender Mustang Bass to be one of the best bass guitars on the market. Customers often cite the Mustang's ability to produce big bottom tones from a relatively light body as one of its main advantages.

Shopping

While the original 1960s models can easily be found on auction sites such as eBay (for upwards of $1,000 depending on the specific model), Fender has also begun putting out "reissue" versions, such as the Mustang Classic and the Pawn Shop Mustang. The latter features a humbucker pickup that adds fuller, warmer, even growling tones. The Mustang Classic generally retails for around $750, while the Pawn Shop Mustang will cost about $25 more.

2. Gibson SG

Features

The Gibson SG Bass is a redesign of the classic Gibson EB0. Similar to the Mustang, many musicians praise the SG's deep tone and versatility but also give it high marks for its comfortable action. Another distinguishing factor of the SG is its longer sustain, or resonance.

Shopping

The reissues of the vintage SG bass are readily available at retail outlets such as Guitar Center. The SG Standard Bass retails for around $1,400 and the new Gibson SG Special Bass retails right at $700.

3. Ibanez Mikro

Features

With a scale of 28.6 inches, the Ibanez Mikro bass is one of the smallest bass guitars on the market. Its size coupled with its pricing seem to make it a favorite for beginners and those looking to try out a shorter scale bass. As often is the case, its bargain pricing brings with it some caveats, such as plastic tone and volume knobs designed to look like chrome.

Shopping

Check out the Mikro bass at Sam Ash Music Direct., where it retails for just under $180. It is also available from Musician's Friend for just under $150.

4. Ampeg "Plexi"

Features

The Ampeg Dan Armstrong Series Plexi Bass incited waves and admiration when introduced to the music industry in 1969. While the Plexiglas body is super cool to look at, it also functions to enhance the bass' sustain. With all 24 frets clear of the instrument's body, the Plexi bass provides a much more comfortable playing experience. Another incredibly unique feature of the original model was the quick-change pickups, which allowed players to easily design their tone dependent upon the style of music they were playing.

Shopping

Unfortunately, the modern Ampeg ADA4 reissue, which include some evolution-inspired changes, has been discontinued from production, but for those willing to do a little treasure hunting the ADA4s and the original models can sometimes be had via auction on eBay or through a search on your local Craigslist. Of course, the price you'll have to pay will depend on the situation, but expect to spend around $1,000.

5. Hofner "Violin"

Features

The Hofner Violin Bass (or 500/1 more technically) is arguably one of the most recognizable guitars ever made, thanks to Paul McCartney's loyalty to the model. Outside of its appearance, the 500/1 is well-known for its characteristic "woody" tone and hollow body design, making it extremely light.

Shopping

Multiple versions of the Violin bass are available today for prices ranging from $500 (for the Ignition Series made by Hofner) to almost $3,000 (for Hofner's more faithful representation of the original).

Short Scale Bass Capabilities

Today's short scale bass guitars, and their vintage predecessors, offer the player unique capabilities when compared to their longer scale counterparts.

  • The most obvious differentiating feature of a short scale bass is its physical size. Technically speaking, short scale basses have a scale of between 30 and 32 inches - the scale being defined as the length of the string between the bridge and the nut.
  • To compensate for the shorter scale, the gauges (or diameters) of short scale bass strings are often thicker. The tension of these shorter, thicker strings need not be as high as the tension required for a long scale bass, which enables short scale basses to achieve fatter low notes and sweeter high notes.
  • Many musicians, especially those with smaller hands, believe short scale basses are more comfortable to play because of the shorter distances between frets.

Fun and Useful Alternative

As with any musical instrument, the short scale bass has its advantages and disadvantages. While these bass guitars offer players more comfort and a unique "thumping" tone, problems can arise when the bass needs to be tuned lower than standard or the player is more accustomed to the higher string tensions of long scale basses. Some boutique bass manufacturers, such as Birdsong and Landing, are attempting to remedy the inherent issues of the short scale bass with intriguing results. Without a doubt, short scale bass guitars offer musicians a fun and useful alternative to standard scale basses.

Popular Short Scale Bass Guitars