Let’s start off this review by looking at…
What Exactly Is a Short Scale Bass Guitar?
For guitars and other string instruments, the “scale “is the length of the vibrating part of the strings, from the bridge to the nut. A regular electric or acoustic guitar’s scale length is usually between 24.75 inches (most Gibsons) and 25.5 inches (most Fenders).
Fender Musical Instruments introduced the Precision Bass in 1951, with a 34-inch scale that’s become accepted as the standard for bass guitars. However, some of Fender’s competitors produced basses with significantly shorter scale lengths. These are known as “short scale” bass guitars.
For many years, short scale basses didn’t catch on with musicians, who preferred the larger instruments.
One reason is that many of these were aimed at students, so they got a reputation as being designed for children. This made them less attractive to professionals, and to the wider market of players who follow them.
However, this has changed recently. Short scale basses are regarded as a viable option, offering a unique tone and a smaller, more playable neck.
Some Advantages Of Playing a Short Scale Bass
The most obvious reason to play a short scale bass is its physical size. The shorter neck, with less distance between frets, and the more compact body dimensions, make the short scale bass a good choice for players with smaller hands.
It’s also comfortable for a guitarist who wants to play bass, since the smaller scale more closely resembles the guitar’s size.
This means that playing techniques that might be difficult on a long scale bass, like wide intervals that stretch the hand, or drastic string bends, are much easier. Even full chords are possible.
The other big advantage of a short scale bass is its unique sound. Defying its small size, it can produce a fat, deep sound that’s different from a larger bass and sits well in a mix.
It’s a simple matter of physics. When you pluck a string, it vibrates in a complex pattern that produces not only the fundamental note you want, but many higher harmonic frequencies. The combination of all the harmonics gives an instrument its unique tone color.
This mix of harmonics changes as the string length is shorter or longer compared to its thickness. For example, the E at the 12th fret of the E string, and the E at the 7th fret of the A string are the same pitch. But they sound very different.
Same note, different sound…
Also, tone color changes as a string has more or less tension. If you tune the G string down to D, so it’s in unison with the D string, you’ll notice that the G string sounds very different because of the lower tension.
So, a short scale means the strings are shorter and have less tension than on a long scale bass. These differences combine to give short scale basses a darker, thicker sound.
Popular Short Scale Basses
Now that we’ve gone through exactly what a short-scale bass is, and why it might be a better fit for you, let’s take a look at a few of the very best currently available from different manufacturers and find the perfect one for you…
Top 8 Best Short Scale Bass Guitar In 2020 Reviews
1 Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar, Brown Sunburst (GSRM20BS)
The Ibanez GSRM20 miKro bass is made with the same materials, construction, pickups, set-up, and inspection as the company’s full-size models. It has a 28.6-inch scale, which is ideal for guitarists who also play bass.
The “BS” in the model number refers to the black sunburst color. It’s also available in black, weathered black, pearl white, transparent red, metallic purple, metallic root beer, starlight blue, and flat walnut.
The GSRM20 features a lightweight (6.9-pound) but strong poplar body and a slim maple neck with a 12-inch radius and 22 medium frets. The fingerboard is made from Jacoba; a red-brown hardwood said to produce a rich midrange and crisp high end.
Perfectly in tune all the way up the neck…
The Ibanez B10 bridge features individual string saddles enabling accurate intonation. And the maximum spacing between strings is .75 inches (19mm).
A Dynamix P neck pickup is split into two sections, one for the E and A strings and the other for the D and G strings. This design provides some humbucking action while preserving the single-coil sound.
The bridge pickup is a more traditional Dynamix J single-coil design. Both pickups have adjustable pole pieces. Each pickup has a separate volume control, and there’s a master tone control. The control knobs are chrome.
The GSRM20 comes strung with fairly lightweight round wound strings, which can buzz. We would recommend replacing them with a set of heavier-gauge flat wounds for a more solid tone.
- Same quality as Ibanez full-size bass.
- Short scale is easy for guitarists.
- Round wound strings can buzz.
- Case not included.
2 Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar, Black (GSRM25BK)
The Ibanez 5-string GSRM25 miKro bass is nearly identical in design and materials to the 4-string GSRM20 model, with a few exceptions. Most obviously, it has five strings, and they’re spaced more closely: .65 inches (16.5mm).
Also, the GSRM25 has Standard J neck and bridge single-coil pickups, which do not have adjustable pole pieces.
And finally, the GSRM25 miKro bass is available in black only.
- Same quality as Ibanez full-size bass.
- Scale length is excellent for players with smaller hands.
- Round wound strings can buzz.
- Pickup pole pieces are not adjustable.
3 Jackson JS Series Concert Bass Minion JS1X Bass Guitar
The Jackson Minion JS1X also has a 28.6-inch scale, so it’s perfect for beginners, female players or anyone with small hands, or for anyone who wants to move around the neck as easily as they would a guitar. It has a lightweight poplar body with a black satin finish. The iconic Jackson headstock and all-black hardware gives this guitar a sleek, space-age look.
The bolt-on maple neck includes graphite reinforcement rods. Its Amaranth fingerboard with pearloid shark fin inlays comes with a 12-inch radius and 22 jumbo frets. The hardtail bridge has a black baseplate and individual string saddles.
The JS1X has two single-coil pickups, a Jackson P Style offset neck Pickup, and a J Style bridge pickup. Electronics include separate volume controls for each pickup and a master tone control. A case is not included.
- Twenty-two frets with a short scale.
4 Squier by Fender Bronco Bass, Black with Maple Fingerboard
Squier is Fender’s entry-level guitar line. Their Indonesian-made Bronco bass has a 30-inch scale that makes it ideal for guitarists who sometimes play bass, younger players, or anyone who prefers the playability and sound of a short-scale bass.
The Bronco bass has a body of Agathis, a basswood-like softwood from the southern hemisphere. This makes a very lightweight instrument, though it can be dented more easily, and some screws might become loose in the long term. It’s available in black, or Torino red with a white 3-ply pickguard, or white or Race red with a black pickguard.
The bolt-on neck is maple, with a C shape and a polyurethane finish. It’s also a bit shorter, with just 19 medium jumbo frets, and joining the body at the 15th fret. The fingerboard is also maple, with a 9.5-inch radius and black dot inlays.
Other Bronco bass hardware includes a 2-saddle chrome bridge and standard covered mini-tuners. It has one single-coil “special design” pickup, which is actually a 6-pole Squier Stratocaster pickup, with master volume and tone controls.
- Affordable Fender-style bass.
- A variety of color options.
- Single Stratocaster pickup not ideal for bass.
- Basswood body is not as strong as most.
- Two-saddle bridge so perfect intonation is difficult.
- 19-fret neck.
5 Hofner HCT-SHB-BK-O Shorty Electric Travel Bass Guitar
The Höfner Shorty CT is a full-featured instrument that can go anywhere, even in an airplane overhead compartment. It has a very compact one-piece basswood body, about 38 by 10 inches and 1.5 inches thick, and it weighs a mere 5.5 pounds (2.5kg). It’s available in black only. A gig bag is included.
It features a maple neck with a 29.9-inch (76cm) scale and an exceptional 24 frets. Joined to the wide-cutaway body at the 18th fret, you have easy access to the full neck range. Because the body weight is so small, the Shorty can be prone to “neck dive,” i.e., the neck wants to continually drop unless you are supporting it.
A chrome bridge provides individual string saddles. Tuning machines are nickel-plated with pearloid buttons.
The Shorty CT has a single Höfner high-output humbucker pickup, with master tone and volume controls. The control knobs are black chrome.
- Unique styling.
- Very lightweight.
- 24-fret neck.
- Gigbag included.
- Single pickup.
- Prone to “neck dive.”
6 Hofner IGNITIONSB Electric Violin Bass Guitar – Sunburst Finish
The Höfner Violin Bass is possibly the world’s best-known bass guitar, ever since Paul McCartney stepped onstage with one in 1961. The Höfner Ignition Bass is based on their violin bass designs from the 1970s.
The Ignition bass has a hollow resonant body and a 29.9-inch (76cm) scale. It’s priced for bassists on a budget who crave the classic Höfner sound. With a solid spruce top and maple back and sides with white binding, it’s very lightweight, about 5 pounds (2.3kg).
The set one-piece maple neck has 22 frets. It’s relatively thin for a bass, .83 inches (21mm) at the first fret and just .87 inches (22mm) near the neck heel. It’s capped with a rosewood fingerboard with white pearloid dot inlays.
The unique Höfner rosewood bridge has individually-adjustable string saddles for perfect intonation. Nickel-plated open tuners have pearloid buttons.
Two Höfner Ignition Staple Nickel pickups, coupled with the famous (or infamous) Höfner Control Panel provide a sound that’s different from any other bass. Seemingly more appropriate for a guitar than a bass, the control panel has two volume knobs, one for each pickup.
In between are three slide switches. Bass On turns the bridge pickup off and cuts the treble. Treble On turns the neck pickup off and cuts the bass. And the Solo – Rhythm switch reduces the overall volume by about 30 percent and cuts the treble slightly.
Versatile and practical…
The Ignition bass comes with round wound strings, but installing flatwounds will better bring out its signature deep and penetrating tone, reminiscent of a double bass. It’s perfect for the sound of the 60s pop music, or (with a touch of distortion) a modern rock band.
Also, many studios use it today for fat dance mix bass lines. However, some bassists claim it’s less suitable for heavier styles of music.
- Beautiful, iconic design is instantly recognizable.
- Unique signature tone.
- Easy to play.
- Unusual control panel can be confusing.
- People will compare you to Paul McCartney.
7 Fender Offset Series Mustang Bass PJ MNBlack w/Tortoise Pickguard
Fender Musical Instruments, the company that invented the electric bass guitar, introduced the original Mustang bass in 1964. It has been used by bassists in countless bands, from The Rolling Stones to My Chemical Romance. Originally a one-pickup design, the newer PJ model features both Precision Bass and Jazz Bass style pickups.
The Mustang PJ bass has an alder body. This hardwood is slightly denser than poplar but still relatively lightweight. This special offer from Chicago Music Exchange has a gloss black polyurethane finish with a tortoiseshell pickguard. CME also offers other custom colors, specifically Lake Placid Blue, Capri Orange, 3-color sunburst, and Sherwood green.
Sticking with the classic design…
The bolted-on maple neck has a C shape, with the original Mustang bass 30-inch scale and 19 medium jumbo frets. Its natural (maple) fingerboard has a 9.5-inch radius and black dot inlays. The nut is made of durable synthetic bone, which is very durable.
Hardware is all chrome-plated, including a 4-bolt neck plate, 4-saddle bridge, vintage tuners, and a string tree for the G and D strings.
Two is better than one…
The Mustang PJ bass has two pickups. The middle (neck) pickup is a vintage-style Precision Bass split single-coil design, while the bridge pickup is a vintage-style Jazz Bass single-coil. A 3-way toggle switch selects the pickup configuration. Master volume and master tone controls and the output jack are mounted on a separate metal front plate.
- It’s a Fender!
- Varied sound with Precision and Jazz Bass pickups.
- Synthetic bone nut.
- Higher cost than other brands.
- 19-fret neck.
8 Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II – Black
The Gretsch G2220 Electromatic® Junior Jet Bass II offers classic Gretsch Jet design in an affordable instrument. It features a 30.3-inch scale and a 20-fret neck.
The lightweight basswood body has a deep single cutaway that provides access to the highest frets. It comes with a gloss black finish. And the black plexi pickguard bears a white Gretsch logo.
Gretch design standards…
The maple neck has a gloss urethane finish and bolts to the body at the 15th fret. It has a black walnut fingerboard with a relatively flat 12-inch radius, medium jumbo frets, and white pearloid dot inlays. The longer neck with the small body makes it slightly more prone to “neck dive.”
The Junior Jet also features a 4-saddle adjustable bridge, a synthetic bone nut, and die-cast chrome tuners. It comes strung with .045 – .105 round wound strings. But, you’ll probably want to replace them with some quality flatwounds to get the best tone out of this instrument.
Got to love the control knobs…
Two Gretsch high output mini humbucking pickups are complemented by a 3-way selector toggle switch and master volume and tone controls. Control knobs are Gretsch’s own G-Arrow design.
- Gretsch high-output humbucking pickups.
- Synthetic bone nut.
- Prone to neck dive more than some other models.
Looking For Some Other Options?
So, What Is The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar?
It’s nearly impossible to come up with any good reason not to choose the…
It has two great, very different style pickups to give you a variety of tones. It feels good in the hands, and it looks awesome (which means you look great when you play it).
The only negative for the Mustang PJ bass is price. It’s the most expensive of all the models reviewed.
What if you’re on a budget? Or you want a smaller and lighter instrument?
In that case, our runner-up is the…
It packs a ton of features into a very portable package, including two humbucking pickups and a full 24-fret neck. And the styling gives it a strong cool factor in its own unique way.
Whatever your budget or musical taste dictates, you should certainly consider adding a short scale bass guitar to your arsenal. You’ll find it opens up many new tonal and technical possibilities.
Happy bass playing!