The short scale bass is a wonderful instrument if you are a guitarist switching to bass, a new player, or if you just want a slightly different sound. Here is our full review of the best short scale bass guitars available today.
Short scale bass guitars seem to have a negative reputation. Many players associate them with a beginner's, or even a child's instrument. While they can be good learning tools for new and young players, they're flexibility as an instrument takes them far beyond those tiny boxes.
They are a pretty versatile instrument and should rightly get a little more respect from the music community. So, if you are in the market for a short scale bass, you have come to the right place. Here are our 8 favorite short scale bass guitars.
The Best Short Scale Bass
Our Top Pick
Our top pick from this list is the Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar. Everything about this bass is great. The tone, the pickups, the size and weight. Plus, it's a 5 string! You can't beat this bass.
Look below for a more comprehensive review.
Best Short Scale Bass Guitars Review
Here are 8 of our favorite short scale bass guitars.
Let's start this out with a solid choice. Gretsch is a name that is synonomous with quality. The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet is no exception. With a solid basswood top and body, you can expect to get some nice, rich tones from this bass.
Switch between either of the two mini dual-coil pickups or both at once. The playability of this bass is evident right away. The scale length is just over 30". The fingerboard is a nice rosewood and each of the 20 frets are comfortable to play.
Features: Jet body shape, basswood back and top, 20 medium jumbo frets, dual gretsch mini dual-coil pickups, rosewood fingerboard, four saddle bridge, synthetic bone nut, die-cast tuners
Dimensions/Weight: 47 x 19.5 x 5.25 inches; 8.5 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30.3"
- neck plays well
- frets are comfortable
- easy to setup/intonate
- a bit neck heavy
Get the Gibson quality you love at the price of an Epiphone. The classic SG tone is exactly what you will get without breaking the bank. Enjoy the single Sidewinder bass pickup and enjoy a warm, vintage bass tone.
The solid mahogany body with bolted on mahogany neck lends itself to a deep and resonant bass tone. The neck is narrow in width with a 1.5" nut width. The body has a SG, double cutaway design so you can reach every single fret down the 30.5" short scale neck.
Features: Gibson quality at the Epiphone price, carved mahogany w/ bolted mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard, 30.5" scale length, single Sidewinder bass humbucker pickup, fully-adjustable Chrome 3-point bridge
Dimensions/Weight: 51 x 20 x 7 inches; 12 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30.5"
- good intonation
- no fret buzz
- low action
- some reports that the cloth of the string may touch the saddle causing buzz
- factory strings don't sound great
The Fender Mustand PJ Bass is a combination of the Fender Mustand, P-Bass, and J-Bass to give you a truly unique and wonderful sounding instrument. The solid alder body gives your bass a very full sound with lot's of mids and lows. The f-saddle hard-tail bridge is also designed to keep you in tune and give you plenty of sustain.
What's really cool is the interesting setup of the pickups. You have a staggered, single-coil neck and bridge pickup configuration. Using the 3-way toggle switch you can use either of them or both at once.
The scale length of this bass is just at 30" and is perfect for anyone wanting to get familiar with playing bass.
Features: short scale length (30"), PJ pickup configuration gives a lot of "tonal versatility", 3-way pickup toggle switch, hard-tail 4-saddle bridge, "C"-shaped neck
Dimensions/Weight: 47.3 x 15.1 x 4.5 inches; 11 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30"
- perfect for small hands
- unique pickup configuration
- Fender quality
- reports of small amount of fret buzz
The Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro ¾ Sized Bass is super compact. It weighs under 7 lbs and has a scale length of just 28.6"! If you want a starter bass, an instrument for your child, or something to travel with, this is a steal. Especially if you find it under $200!
The agathis top has a smilar tonal quality to mahogany. So you can expect to get some nice, warm, and mellow tones from this bass. Combine that with the maple neck and rosewood fretboard and you are in bass heaven.
Three pickups, each with a tuning know, will give you total tonal control over your sound. Take this bass with you anywhere!
Features: slim maple neck, lightweight body, dynamic P pickup, short scale length of only 28.6", agathis top, poplar body, rosewood fretboard
Dimensions/Weight: 39 x 11.5 x 2.3 inches; 6.9 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 28.6"
- super affordable
- sounds and feels great while playing
- super short scale length
- no switch to change pickups. have to adjust volume per pickup
This is our top pick of the list. The Ibanez GSRM25BK 5 string bass is a remarkable deal. It goes through the same quality control standards as any Ibanez instrument yet it is a fraction of the size.
The scale length on this bass is only 28.6" and it weighs just around 7 lbs. That makes this bass super easy to handle and play. The cutaway body style also allows you to reach just about every fret on the rosewood fretboard effortlessly.
The poplar body combined with the maple neck help give this short scale bass it's beefy, full bodied sound.
But the real reason this is our top pick is that it is the only 5 string on this list and it won't cost you a fortune. Short scale basses are not super common so short scale basses with alternative string setups are even harder to come by. The fact that this is 1) a high quality bass, 2) a 5 string, and 3) incredibly affordable all add up to make this the top choice for best short scale bass guitar.
Features: slim maple neck, lightweight body, dynamic P pickup, short scale length of only 28.6", poplar body, rosewood fretboard, 5 strings
Dimensions/Weight: 39 x 11.5 x 2.3 inches; 7lbs
# Of Strings: 5
Scale Length: 28.6"
- only 5 string on this list
- Mikro goes through same QC process as all Ibanez instruments
- neck is comfortable to play
- Ibanez only offers one type of string. If you want a different kind you will have to find them from another manufacturer
- stock B string is a little floppy, but playable
Once again, Fender has made an appearance on this list. Like Ibanez, they offer multiple short scale basses and both are excellent choices. Like with their guitars, you get the Fender stamp of approval at the price of a Squier.
The Squier Bronco Bass has an agathis body which, like the Ibanez Mikro, has a similar tone to mahogany. You can expect to get some really meaty mids and thundering lows out of this instrument.
Features: "C" shaped neck, single coil Bronco Bass pickup, 30" short scale length, lightweight and thin body, satin finish neck, online lessons from Fender, 2-saddle chrome bridge, agathis body, maple neck
Dimensions/Weight: 49 x 3.75 x 14.5 inches; 10.5 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30"
- great action
- comfortable "C" shaped neck
- reports that the pickup may need to be replaced with one a little more powerful
This Dean short scale bass is a super great deal. It falls firmly into the realm of "budget guitar" but looks, feels, and plays like a premium axe. You will not be disappointed with this one.
The mahogany body and maple neck give a rich and warm tone like you would expect from a quality bass guitar. The 30" scale neck makes each jumbo fret on the fretboard more accessible.
Top this off with a set of single-coil humbucking pickups to really deliver the sound you want.
Features: mahogany body and top, bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, matching black hardware, dual humbuckers, 30" scale length
Dimensions/Weight: 44 x 6 x 15 inches; 8.6 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30"
- sounds really smooth
- flat finish is beautiful
- pots and knobs are high quality
- frets may need to be filed down before playing
The Hofner Contemporary Club Bass is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. If for nothing else, this bass will look wonderful in any home, studio, or stage.
But, it isn't just looks alone. The Spruce top and maple body combine to give this bass guitar a unique tone. The rosewood fingerboard is easy to play and really complements the 30" short scale length of this instrument.
The neck pickup gives off a nice fat tone that any bass player will love. The bridge pickup can also be used for a nice overdrive. All in all, this short scale bass guitar is a solid addition to anyone's arsenal.
Features: spruce top, maple body, 22 fret rosewood fretboard, Hogner HS11B Staple-Top Nickel humbucker pickups, 30" scale length
Dimensions/Weight: 53 x 17 x 6 inches; 12.92 lbs
# Of Strings: 4
Scale Length: 30"
- pickups are super responsive
- narrow neck
- high action due to design, not setup
How To Pick Out A Short Scale Bass
Honestly, to pick a guitar for small hands, you will still want to consider a lot of the things any other guitarist would look for; soundboard material, quality of build, price, etc. However, there are a few other things that you may want to consider specifically to accommodate small handed players.
What exactly is a short scale bass?
A standard, or full length, bass guitar generally has a scale length of 34" or so. A short scale bass has a scale length around 30" or under. Medium scale basses, which are a little less common, are right in the middle at 32"
So, what is scale length?
The scale length of a guitar, bass, acoustic, electric, or otherwise, is the distance from the nut to the bridge. When you have a short scale bass, that means the scale length of the instrument will be 30" or shorter.
Why would I want a shorter scale?
There are many reasons why a short scale bass is valuable. The most popular reason is that the actual instrument is smaller and lighter. That makes it ideal for kids and those without a lot of upper body strength to play. The lighter weight is honestly just more comfortable for anyone.
Is it easier to play?
That depends on what you mean. The actual knowledge and skill of playing is the same as any instrument. You need time, dedication, and lots of practice.
Is it physically easier to play? I would say it is a little bit easier to play. As we mentioned, it is smaller and lighter and, therefore, easier to hold and move. Also, the shorts the scale length of a guitar, the less tension the strings need to stay in tune. Which means it takes less effort to fret and hold down the strings while playing.
It is also a little bit easier if you are a guitarist picking up the bass. The shorter fretboard means the frets are closer together. So a short scale bass fretboard is more similar to a standard guitar fretboard, making the transition a bit less awkward.
Just like short scale and ¾ length guitars are good for guitarists with small hands, short scale bass guitars are good for bassists with small hands. They are also a bit more compact and easier to travel with.
Differences between short, medium, and long scale bass guitars
They are all pretty similar, with just a few key differences. The average length of a short scale bass is 30" or under. A medium scale bass is around 32". And a long scale, or standard length, bass is 34" or higher.
Another difference is in the strings they use. The long scale actually has the thinnest gauge strings while short scale basses have the thickest, with medium falling in the middle, yet again.
The reason for the string thickness is again due to the amount of tension needed to stay in tune. A longer scale instrument needs to keep more tension, therefore, it is easier to do that with a thinner string.
How do you tune it?
As with any bass or guitar, the standard tuning is E-A-D-G. However, with short scale bass guitars it is recommended to tune your E a little bit flat. For some reason, of which the physics is out of the scope of this writer, the short scale bass goes sharp when fretting. It is only noticeable, though, on the E string.
You don't need special strings either. You can use a higher gauge set of standard bass strings. The most often recommended gauge is 45-100.
I'm not a beginner, should I still play one?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions about the short scale bass guitar. While it is a good instrument for beginners, it IS NOT just a beginner's instrument.
It is a bass guitar, however, it sounds different than a standard length bass. Because the strings are typically heavier and looser, you can get a nice, deep, rich, bassy drone that is not possible on a larger instrument.
It is also played a bit differently. If you enjoy the style and sound of slap bass, you may not want a short scale bass. However, if your style of playing is a little lighter and more delicate, you can get a nice, tight groove that sounds unique.
What To Look For
These are some of the features that you will want to pay attention to when picking out your instrument.
You want to be comfortable while playing. Struggling with an over-sized instrument is, at best, distracting, and, at worst, painful. Find the guitar that is comfortable to hold, both in size and in weight.
String Type and Gauge
As we mentioned above, the typical string gauge for a short scale bass is 45-100. You can, of course, play around with this and try something heavier or lighter until you have a sound and playing style you are comfortable with.
Tonewood is just another term for the type of wood used to make the instrument. Different types of wood have different types of grain, density, and ways in which they resonate.
All of these characteristics effect the overall tone (hence the name) of your bass. You will want to know what tonewood your bass is made from and what kind of tone it will produce.
The neck is incredibly important to the construction of your bass. As with the body, you will want to know the tonewood with which it is made. A few other factors to check are the width and the shape.
If you are buying a short scale bass because you have smaller hands, the nut width is the most important factor in how easily you can fret the strings. You literally just measure across the nut (thin piece between the top of the neck and headstock). The width will gradually increase as you descend down the fretboard.
Just like with guitars, bass guitar neck come in one of three different shapes; "U", "V", and "C" shaped. The most comfortable and natural feeling shape is the "C" shaped neck.
Just like the tonewood used for the body and neck of the guitar, the material for the fingerboard impacts the sound of your bass. Rosewood is used quite often but you will want to know what material and what sound/style you're going for.
The pickups that come with your bass may be fine. However, some more budget style guitars have budget quality pickups. You can ask around at your local music shop for which pickups sound best for your style and instrument.
Bass guitars are heavy, even short scale ones. You will probably want a decent strap. Will you play pick a pick or just pluck with your fingers? Different techniques require different gear, or no gear at all.
If you gig or play with others you will probably want a case, or at least a gigbag. If you only play at home, a decent stand should be fine.
Finally, if your bass is electric, which everything on this list is, you will need a decent amp. Then you may want some effects, cables, etc. You get the idea. Figure out what gear you need/want and make a list.
I know, this is the LEAST, rock n' roll thing to talk about. But you don't want to find the perfect instrument and not be able to take it home with you. Figure out what you can spend, ONLY look at bass guitars within that price range, and find something awesome.
Overall Top choice
Again, our top pick for best guitar for small hands is the Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar. As we mentioned above, this is the only 5 string on the list. It is super lightweight, super short scaled, and able to deliver an awesome tone that you will love.
You should be convinced by now that the short scale bass is an awesome instrument and not just a kids toy. There are a ton of great options above that hit various budget levels. Pick one out, take it home, and get to jamming!