Best Short Scale Bass Guitars of 2020 – Complete Review

The short-scale bass guitar has asserted itself as a true force in the recording and performing industry. 

That is because it is portable, affordable, and makes great tones that fit well with many musical genres.

If you are looking for a short-scale bass guitar for your own usage, read our review to learn more about these and discover some of the best currently on the market. 

Comparison of the Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Compact and convenient body and at a scale of 30.3 inches
  • Two mini pickups to ensure excellent sound quality and distortion
  • A smooth rosewood fingerboard that will allow you great control even with smaller hands
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  • Best short scale bass guitar for under $500
  • Rosewood bridge and smooth fingerboard ensuring low action
  • Featuring powerful dean pickups for controlling volume and treble
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  • Features a split-design pickup;
  • Best Fender short-scale bass guitar.
  • Jumbo frets, 9.5-inch radius fingerboard and a 30-inch scale neck good for starters;
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What is a Short-Scale Bass?

These bass guitars have a scale length that is less than 30 inches long. It looks more like a standard guitar and neck than the current standard for bass guitars. These days, the standard is about 34 inches. That gives them the iconic long neck featured on many popular bass guitars.

A short-scale looks more like a standard guitar. A good example that virtually anyone might recall is the short-scale Hofner Violin Bass Guitar that backed just about every recorded Beatles song.

The short-scale is a bit more user-friendly due to its smaller size. A shorter scale and neck use shorter strings than a standard bass. Those shorter strings do not get wound as tightly as the longer strings on a standard guitar. Less tension makes the shorter strings more pliable, pluckable, and playable.

How to Choose a Short-Scale Bass Guitar

No matter the scale, make, or model of bass guitar you are playing, you should look for some common features that really make it stand out. 

It’s All About the Neck

It all starts with a great neck, which is essential for tone and tuning. A good neck has a solid connection with the body. The best type of neck is a through-neck, which means it is one solid piece of wood running from the headstock all the way through the body. The next best is a set neck, which is glued in place on the body. A bolt-on neck is the other type. All three work well when done correctly.

Quality Headstock

A good headstock with quality tuners that do not pull the thick strings at an angle through the nut makes a big difference. The straighter the strings are when passing through the nut, the greater your ability to stay in tune and adjust properly.

Good Tuners

Excellent tuners hold tune and adjust readily. They always are key ingredients to any quality bass guitar. You also need a good bridge that lets you adjust intonation on each string. The need for quality pickups goes without saying. Fortunately, those are easy to install with affordable aftermarket upgrades if your instrument does not already have good ones.

Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II

Affordable

A good bass also fits your budget. Pick your maximum budget and stick to it by locating quality options that you can afford along with quality materials and construction.

Review of the Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars

The short-scale has asserted itself as a fixture in recording studios and during live performances around the world. You hear it on hit songs from this year and many years ago. Its friendly size, outstanding tone, and accessible pricing make this an invaluable tool for touring and professional musicians.

Here is a look at some of the absolute best.

Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II - Black

PROS

  • Two humbuckers
  • Classic Gretsch rock body and look
  • Great maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
  • Fixed bridge with separate intonation adjusters for each string

CONS

  • Rear pickup weaker than front
  • Neck dive can become an irritation

What Recent Buyers Report

The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet is a very fun bass guitar that feels great while playing. The pickups deliver a great tone, the neck is fast and playable, and the tuners hold well. Intonation is easy to adjust at the saddle. It’s a great-looking instrument that is affordable and fits well with a rock ensemble.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Gretsch gives you 20 medium jumbo frets on a rosewood fingerboard and a maple neck for classic tone. The two humbucker pickups and basswood body fully complement the excellent set neck. With a 30.3-inch scale, the Gretsch gives you a lot of playing room.

Who Will Use This Most

This is a great rock-style bass guitar that will work well in country bands with its iconic Gretsch body and humbuckers. The price is very affordable and the instrument gives you lots of room for upgrades as your playing style improves. It will suit most players well as it is, though.

Bottom Line

Gretsch delivers a very playable and affordable instrument with a 30.3-inch scale that experienced players will find familiar and is easier for new players to learn. It will work particularly well for players used to a standard guitar and who want to double up on bass. Also a great backup for those who prefer a standard version.

Dean Evo XM Mahogany Short-Scale Electric Bass Guitar - Black

PROS

  • Light and nimble playing feel
  • Two humbuckers for endless tonal possibilities
  • Vintage-style bridge enables exact intonation adjustments on all four strings
  • Solid basswood body, maple neck, and rosewood fingerboard create classic tones

CONS

  • Stock tuners get a little loose
  • Frets often have sharp edges and can use some dressing

What Recent Buyers Report

This is an incredibly affordable instrument that plays surprisingly well. Some owners say replacing the stock tuners with Grover tuners help keep it in tune. Others say it really helps to get it set up properly, which is the case with virtually any new and inexpensive bass guitar.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Great looks, a classic tone, and a very playable neck really make this a fantastic instrument for the money. The blacked-out hardware looks great also.

Who Will Use This Most

Anyone looking for a fun bass guitar that plays well and does not cost a lot of money will find a great deal of value in this instrument. Any bass with a good maple neck and rosewood fingerboard is worth a look. When it costs as little as this one, it suddenly becomes worth the investment.

Bottom Line

This is a very fun and good-looking short-scale instrument that anyone from beginners to experienced players will find fun to play.

Best Fender Short-Scale Bass:
Squier by Fender Bronco Bass

Squier by Fender Bronco Bass, Black with Maple Fingerboard

PROS

  • Classic Fender look
  • Very affordable price
  • Quality single-coil pickup gives great tone
  • Fender-style tuners hold tune well enough
  • Great maple neck and fingerboard with 19 medium jumbo frets

CONS

  • Bolt-on neck not always snug on some models
  • Cannot adjust intonation on single strings due to the two-saddle bridge

What Recent Buyers Report

The 30-inch scale and relatively light weight make the Bronco Bass a truly fun instrument to play. The 19 frets give you plenty of room for maneuvering on the excellent one-piece maple neck and fingerboard.

Why it Stands Out to Us

You get a classic Fender-style, all-maple neck with solid tuners, a good pickup, and great looks. The Agathis body and polyurethane finish really add sparkle and good looks to the package. The specially designed single-coil pickup is a lot better than you might expect for a bargain-priced instrument.

Who Will Use This Most

Ideal for those looking to learn to play bass guitar but do not have the money for more expensive Fender standard instruments. The single-coil pickup gives classic Fender tones in a package that looks and plays great.

Bottom Line

Beginners will find this to be a dynamite deal on a good bass guitar. Its Mustang-inspired body and classic Fender neck and headstock look great, but the specially designed pickup really makes it special.

Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar, Right, Brown Sunburst (GSRM20BS)

PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Split-coil and single-coil pickups
  • 28.6-inch scale makes it ideal for small venues
  • Rosewood fingerboard and highly playable neck
  • Four separate controls for volume and tone on each pickup

CONS

  • Rough fret edges need some attention
  • Stock strings are weak and need immediate replacement

What Recent Buyers Report

The Ibanez four-string is an incredibly fun bass guitar with great pickups and built from classic tonewoods. Its short-scale length makes it much easier to play chords and more notes. That is especially true for players with smaller hands. You get the typical exceptional Ibanez build quality in an affordable and highly versatile instrument. 

Why it Stands Out to Us

You get great bass with good, solid construction, a very playable fingerboard, and excellent pickups. You can buy this for a first instrument and use it well into professional years if you intend to keep playing and gigging.

Who Will Use This Most

Players who want to save some money while buying a bass guitar that they can use for all occasions will love this instrument. The tuners, bridge, pickups, and build quality are very good on a very affordable instrument. Dual cutaways give you very easy access to the upper frets, while the shorter scale makes it a lot easier to navigate the neck.

Bottom Line

This is a good, solid bass guitar that will provide great service for beginners and experienced players alike. Any shortcomings can be overcome with affordable custom improvements as your playing style improves and grows.

Best Short Scale 5-String Bass:
Ibanez 5-String Bass Guitar, Right-Handed

Ibanez 5 String Bass Guitar, Right, Black (GSRM25BK)

PROS

  • Truly great build quality
  • Great-looking dual cutaway body
  • Dynamic P-pickups deliver outstanding tone
  • Slim and fast maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
  • Very short-scale, at 28.6 inches makes it a very playable five-string bass

CONS

  • Poplar body can take a beating over time
  • Very short scale makes it harder to find suitable strings

What Recent Buyers Report

The bass looks and plays as well as many higher-priced Ibanez alternatives. The size is very accommodating, while the light weight makes it a lot of fun to practice. It holds its own while playing live on stage so you do not get lost in the crowd. This is a great instrument that feels good and plays even better.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Ibanez is known for its great build quality, and this five-string bass is no disappointment. A quality build and additional components all add up to one great deal on a quality five-string bass. It is the kind of bass you can buy and never need another.

Who Will Use This Most

Anyone looking for a great instrument at a reasonable price that will last a lifetime of playing will love this option. It is great for beginners, as well as experienced pros who want to add a quality short-scale to their lineup.

Bottom Line

It looks good, feels great, plays very well, and should last a lifetime of normal use. The potential for customization makes it an even better value.

Pros and Cons of Short-Scale Bass Guitars

Short scales continue to enjoy wide acceptance across all musical genres. Many famous musicians prefer these bass guitars due to their smaller size, shorter scales, and lighter weight. That makes it a lot easier to stand and play for hours at a time without killing your back.

These instruments have about the same number of scales as a standard version but on a shorter neck and fingerboard. That makes it easier for players with smaller hands to play chords and navigate the frets.

Pros

  • Smaller size and lighter weight

  • Shorter strings produce darker and richer tones

  • More compact fingerboard enables faster playing and easier bends

Cons

  • Can be harder to correct the intonation

  • Many players find standard scale instruments are easier for them to play

With a short-scale instrument, you have shorter strings. Those strings are thicker at the nut than standard strings. The thicker, shorter strings can make it harder to adjust and control the intonation, especially at the nut. It also makes it harder to glide through for tonal adjustments.

Shorter strings also cause discomfort for many players. That can be especially true for those who are used to playing a standard scale. The shorter and thicker strings often are harder to manipulate than longer strings. That can put a lot of wear and tear on your fingertips and hands.

Short-Scale Bass vs Long-Scale Bass - Comparison Overview 

Scale length refers to the distance between the nut and the bridge. On a long-scale bass guitar, 34 inches is the standard. A short-scale measures about 30 inches or less. The shorter length means the strings typically have more snap or twang to them. That has helped the short-scale become the standard on country music recordings.

Similarities among all types of bass guitars include:

  • Pickups
  • Headstock and tuners
  • Number of frets
  • Bridge
  • Nut
  • Subtle Changes Make a Big Difference

The hardware and tonewoods generally are the same no matter what type of bass guitar you play. The real difference comes in the impact of the shorter strings and scale length. You do not need to stretch your fingers as much to play chords and particular phrasings with a short-scale instrument. Those shorter strings are thick, especially when playing the lower end near the nut. That is where the strings are thinner on instruments with standard scales. Those thinner strings affect the tone and playability. Generally, the strings are more pliable and carry a deeper tone on standard scales than on short scales.

Differences among bass guitars include:

  • String length and intonation
  • Body size and weight
  • Neck length
  • Playing feel

The subtle differences among bass guitars can make a real difference in the playing ability of individual bassists. Many will find the short-scale more to their liking. Others will prefer the standard alternative. And yet, more will find both very useful and take full advantage of those variations in their playing styles.

Conclusion

No matter what your preferred musical genre or playing experience might be, a short-scale bass guitar is a great addition to your tonal palette.

People Also Ask

Many do not realize there are differences in the type of bass guitars they have enjoyed hearing on popular recordings throughout the years. Those differences are very real and affect how each type feels, plays, and sounds. The following are answers to commonly asked questions.

Is My Bass Short or Long-Scale?

If your bass measures about 30 inches or less from the bridge to the nut, then you have a short-scale. There is no "long-scale" bass. That is simply the standard bass, which typically has a scale length of about 34 inches from the bridge to the nut.

Is a Short-Scale Bass Easier to Play?

A general rule is players with smaller hands find the short-scale to be easier to play due to the frets being more compact. A smaller and more compact neck makes it easier for people with shorter fingers. The shorter scale means shorter and thicker strings, which some players find are harder on their fingers and hands.

How Many Frets Does a Short-Scale Bass Have?

A short-scale has about as many frets as a standard instrument. Most have about 20 frets, regardless of scale length.

Can I Put Long-Scale Strings on a Short-Scale Bass?

Yes. You just cut them shorter at the tuners and wind them like you would on a standard bass. The shorter strings wind up being thicker near the nut than on an instrument with a standard scale.

How Many Inches is a Short-Scale Bass?

These bass guitars measure about 30 inches or less from the bridge to the nut. A mid-scale version would be about 31 or 32 inches in length, and a standard version is 34 inches. A standard bass is what many players think of as a long-scale.

Do Short-Scale Guitars Sound Different?

No matter the scale of the instrument you play, a properly played note is one you can replicate on any other bass with the same number of frets. There is a difference, though, in how the strings play. Longer strings tend to be more pliable, which makes it easier to bend and manipulate them in other ways that truly do produce different tonal varieties than a short-scale instrument.

What Size of Short-Scale Bass Do I Need?

Whatever fits and feels best is the size you need. If you are completely new to the bass, then it will not matter. You are learning a new instrument and have the same learning curve. If you already are accomplished at standard bass, you might find one closer to 30 inches more to your liking.