Short- or long-scale bass for beginner swapping between bass and guitar when recording

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deanodeano Frets: 192
edited November 1 in Bass

I want to start playing bass after playing guitar for forty years. At this stage it will simply be for home recording and home playing. I want to make my own backing tracks for playing the guitar and singing over. Maybe I will take it into a band situation if I get good enough, but it isn’t my priority.

So, given that I will still be playing my regular guitars as well as the bass, I am wondering if a short-scale length will be better for me to learn on due to the scale-lengths being closer.

 Maybe I am wrong and switching to a long-scale bass to record some bass lines after playing a Les Paul for a couple of hours isn’t something that people struggle with. Does anyone struggle with this?

Would it be easier to switch to playing a short-scale bass after playing the Les Paul for a few hours?

Am I worrying about something that isn’t a problem?

Edited title to clarify the concern is swapping between bass and guitar when playing and not just another "what bass should I buy" thread.
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 3016
    Won't make a difference as bass and guitar are so different anyway. Get a regular scale length as they sound better 99% of the time. 

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3401
    Whatever stringed instruments you have access to, the more often you switch between them, the more quickly it should be possible to adapt between different scale lengths.

    The main thing with switching between guitar and bass will be developing the calluses to cope with the big strings. For a while, in his twenties, my brother changed to Rotosound Tru Bass nylon-wound bass strings. Less friction = fewer blisters.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • deanodeano Frets: 192
    Won't make a difference as bass and guitar are so different anyway. Get a regular scale length as they sound better 99% of the time. 

    Wow. That seems like a controversial statement. Is it true though? Surely some good sounds can be coaxed from a short-scale?
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15892
    Totally agree. If you play bass with a guitar mindset it will sound like a guitarist trying to play bass. 

    Short scales do sound different - and if you are looking for a specific sound you may find a long scale much better.

    Bass is a lot about rhythm, muting and getting into the groove. Treat it as a different instrument and go full scale
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  • deanodeano Frets: 192
    Cool. I understand the point about treating it as a different instrument and that it is more about the rhythm and groove. I think my question was simply more about the practical aspect of playing a bass for a few hours to record a bass line with a drum machine, then switching to a guitar to record a rhythm guitar track, and whether or not that switch has the potential to trip up a beginning bass player.

    I don't have a specific sound or artist in mind, but I like to play anything from rock and roll, blues, country, blues-rock, country-blues, country-rock... and so on and so forth. So an instrument that will help me get down a good bass line in those genres. Basically anything influenced by the major and minor pentatonic scales if you get my drift!

    I am not looking to solo on the bass or to take it to that kind of level. I suppose I should never say never but at the moment I want something to fill out my home recordings. As a guitar player I would love to be able to play jazz and I will keep trying but again the bass will be used for the rhythm aspect, not Jaco'isms. As great as he is he just isn't my cup of tea.

    It sounds like the consensus is that swapping between bass and guitar isn't really an issue so long-scale is the way to go.
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15892
    deano said:
    Cool. I understand the point about treating it as a different instrument and that it is more about the rhythm and groove. I think my question was simply more about the practical aspect of playing a bass for a few hours to record a bass line with a drum machine, then switching to a guitar to record a rhythm guitar track, and whether or not that switch has the potential to trip up a beginning bass player.

    I don't have a specific sound or artist in mind, but I like to play anything from rock and roll, blues, country, blues-rock, country-blues, country-rock... and so on and so forth. So an instrument that will help me get down a good bass line in those genres. Basically anything influenced by the major and minor pentatonic scales if you get my drift!

    I am not looking to solo on the bass or to take it to that kind of level. I suppose I should never say never but at the moment I want something to fill out my home recordings. As a guitar player I would love to be able to play jazz and I will keep trying but again the bass will be used for the rhythm aspect, not Jaco'isms. As great as he is he just isn't my cup of tea.

    It sounds like the consensus is that swapping between bass and guitar isn't really an issue so long-scale is the way to go.
    Yep - you’ll get used to the swap - and I honestly think a long scale being different will mean you get into a better mind set when swapping so the bass line is different and you aren’t tempted to just copy some of the guitar parts
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 3016
    edited November 1
    deano said:
    Won't make a difference as bass and guitar are so different anyway. Get a regular scale length as they sound better 99% of the time. 

    Wow. That seems like a controversial statement. Is it true though? Surely some good sounds can be coaxed from a short-scale?
    Not at all controversial. Try to find a world class (or even successful) bassist playing a short scale bass as a main instrument and you may come across 5 including McCartney if you're lucky. Some sound ok with flats but generally the low E has too little tension and just sounds flabby, undefined or without a clear crisp pitch. 
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  • deanodeano Frets: 192
    deano said:
    Cool. I understand the point about treating it as a different instrument and that it is more about the rhythm and groove. I think my question was simply more about the practical aspect of playing a bass for a few hours to record a bass line with a drum machine, then switching to a guitar to record a rhythm guitar track, and whether or not that switch has the potential to trip up a beginning bass player.

    I don't have a specific sound or artist in mind, but I like to play anything from rock and roll, blues, country, blues-rock, country-blues, country-rock... and so on and so forth. So an instrument that will help me get down a good bass line in those genres. Basically anything influenced by the major and minor pentatonic scales if you get my drift!

    I am not looking to solo on the bass or to take it to that kind of level. I suppose I should never say never but at the moment I want something to fill out my home recordings. As a guitar player I would love to be able to play jazz and I will keep trying but again the bass will be used for the rhythm aspect, not Jaco'isms. As great as he is he just isn't my cup of tea.

    It sounds like the consensus is that swapping between bass and guitar isn't really an issue so long-scale is the way to go.
    Yep - you’ll get used to the swap - and I honestly think a long scale being different will mean you get into a better mind set when swapping so the bass line is different and you aren’t tempted to just copy some of the guitar parts

    That's an excellent point and I must admit I hadn't thought of it from that angle.

    deano said:
    Won't make a difference as bass and guitar are so different anyway. Get a regular scale length as they sound better 99% of the time. 

    Wow. That seems like a controversial statement. Is it true though? Surely some good sounds can be coaxed from a short-scale?
    Not at all controversial. Try to find a world class (or even successful) bassist playing a short scale bass as a main instrument and you may come across 5 including McCartney if you're lucky. Some sound ok with flats but generally the low E has too little tension and just sounds flabby, undefined or without a clear crisp pitch. 

    Fair enough. I must admit to not knowing about basses and good advice like that is great. Thanks.

    I think I'll look for a full length bass. I can't have it till Christmas so I can go and try some out!
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  • JezWyndJezWynd Frets: 2505
    There's always medium scale - 32.5, or a Rick, 33.5. There's not a lot of difference soundwise from medium to long to my ears, though I'm sure many will disagree. For all practical purposes, in a gigging situation I don't think many people will know the difference and short scale can sound double bass-like with its dominant fundamental notes.
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  • Regular scale, unless you have a physical reason you couldn't cope with it.  They sound better and there is a much larger selection available especially used.


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  • maw4neumaw4neu Frets: 184
    I recently sold a cracking Mexican Jazz Bass, and Im in the process of buying a Mustang PJ Bass ( hurry up PMT Manchester ) which is a Short Scale Bass at 30"  . . . The main reason for the sale and the pending purchase is comfort . . I have joint issues ( not weed ) and my left elbow and forearm are in constant pain . . I found a full size bass just compounds the problem and I couldn't play for too long. Im not saying the Short Scale Mustang is the cure, its just easier for me and causes me  a lot less pain . . . I have two beautiful Stratocasters in the house but these days I just seem to pick up my Taylor GS Mini which is a shorter scale and much comfier guitar to play. I hate being old !!!!!  I think I'll always be a Guitarist playing Bass but , occasionally, I sound reasonable and it always makes me happy . . . Playing a Bass now and again has given me an appreciation of just how good some Bass players are . . . Love it ! 
    Id just like to point out that, despite all the video and DNA evidence, it genuinely wasnt me, your Honour  ! 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33342
    maw4neu said:
    I recently sold a cracking Mexican Jazz Bass, and Im in the process of buying a Mustang PJ Bass ( hurry up PMT Manchester ) which is a Short Scale Bass at 30"  . . . The main reason for the sale and the pending purchase is comfort . . I have joint issues ( not weed ) and my left elbow and forearm are in constant pain . . I found a full size bass just compounds the problem and I couldn't play for too long. Im not saying the Short Scale Mustang is the cure, its just easier for me and causes me  a lot less pain . . .
    Having broken my elbow quite badly this summer is also why I'm currently playing a Mustang Bass instead of my usual Rickenbacker.

    To me the fact that the scale is shorter makes no difference - it's still a bass. A short-scale bass still feels hugely different from any guitar, which is not surprising when the scale length is still closer to a full-scale bass than a guitar, whether you go by absolute measurement or percentage.

    25.5" - (5") - 30.5" - (3.5") - 34"

    75% - (15%) - 90% - (10%) - 100%

    And that's from Fender scale length, not Gibson - it's even more so from a 24-3/4" scale.

    In fact the difference between short and long scale bass won't change how different it feels from guitar anyway - if you approach it properly as a bass player and not as a guitarist.

    @Bridgehouse and @Funkfingers I know will laugh :), but I'm enjoying playing the Mustang so much that I'm even thinking about whether to get another short-scale bass...
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
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  • I prefer my Squier Jaguar to any long / normal bass I've played. It's just more fun - which is kind of the point for me!
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3401
    ICBM said:
    @Bridgehouse and @Funkfingers I know will laugh :), but I'm enjoying playing the Mustang so much that I'm even thinking about whether to get another short-scale bass.
    Nah. You know that we are just teasing. You suffered a serious injury. Anything that keeps you playing is a good thing. 

    deano said:
    Maybe, ... switching to a long-scale bass to record some bass lines after playing a Les Paul for a couple of hours isn’t something that people struggle with. Does anyone struggle with this?
    I make noises on guitar, bass guitar and Chapman Stick. I claim no great facility for shredding on guitar. I actually find that speedy stuff easier to play on the Melody string half of the Stick - especially if it is triggering a synthesizer or a virtual guitar sound. 


    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • horsehorse Frets: 583
    Playing a bass feels so different, I don't think you'll muddle it up with your guitar parts
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15892
    ICBM said:
    maw4neu said:
    I recently sold a cracking Mexican Jazz Bass, and Im in the process of buying a Mustang PJ Bass ( hurry up PMT Manchester ) which is a Short Scale Bass at 30"  . . . The main reason for the sale and the pending purchase is comfort . . I have joint issues ( not weed ) and my left elbow and forearm are in constant pain . . I found a full size bass just compounds the problem and I couldn't play for too long. Im not saying the Short Scale Mustang is the cure, its just easier for me and causes me  a lot less pain . . .
    Having broken my elbow quite badly this summer is also why I'm currently playing a Mustang Bass instead of my usual Rickenbacker.

    To me the fact that the scale is shorter makes no difference - it's still a bass. A short-scale bass still feels hugely different from any guitar, which is not surprising when the scale length is still closer to a full-scale bass than a guitar, whether you go by absolute measurement or percentage.

    25.5" - (5") - 30.5" - (3.5") - 34"

    75% - (15%) - 90% - (10%) - 100%

    And that's from Fender scale length, not Gibson - it's even more so from a 24-3/4" scale.

    In fact the difference between short and long scale bass won't change how different it feels from guitar anyway - if you approach it properly as a bass player and not as a guitarist.

    @Bridgehouse and @Funkfingers I know will laugh :), but I'm enjoying playing the Mustang so much that I'm even thinking about whether to get another short-scale bass...
    Danelectro. I’d love a short scale longhorn
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3401
    Bridgehouse said:
    I’d love a short scale longhorn
    Bona. ;) 
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • I probably don't have enough knowledge or experience as to suggest what scale length bass you should play....but I've always played short scale basses. Had a Fender Mustang for years (and like the idiot that I am) sold it and ended getting a long(er) scale bass which I couldn't handle.
    Now have a very short scale (28.6") Ibanez GSRM 'Mikro' bass.  Eminently playable....only downer is that the pickups don't 'have much definition or clarity. It may not be the guitar but rather the crappy home combo amp that I use..the guitar might sound better through a 'better' or bass specific amp. OK maybe for home use.....but useless for slap bass.
    There are basically three types of people. The ones who can count.....and the ones who can't.
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  • blobbblobb Frets: 910
    My solution to this was a 4/6 doubleneck! Don’t even need to get up to switch instruments (bit heavy on the old back mind you). 
    Feelin' Reelin' & Squeelin'
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  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 3878
    I definitely prefer to play short scale.  I don't think I've ever met an adult male with shorter fingers than me (possibly except my dad).  A long scale with a Jazz neck is ok.  Some of the wider Precision necks are too much for me.

    I'm seriously looking at a medium scale, but there aren't a lot of options.
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  • pintspillerpintspiller Frets: 565
    Long scale will be fine. It's not really like a guitar. It's more about groove. If you are just plodding on the root it's a piece of cake.
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  • PolarityManPolarityMan Frets: 4285
    I really dislike short scale especially with low action on bass. When I play bass I like a bit of fight in the instrument as otherwise I feel like it's harder to get the range of expression you need.

    FWIW in some ways I think bass can be more expressive than guitar, certainly than rhythm guitar and tiny variations in how you mute and attack the string can really change the feel of the line.

    Also I really like  able to really dig in and spank the fuck out of the bottom string sometimes to get the phrasing I want.
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  • deano said:

    So, given that I will still be playing my regular guitars as well as the bass, I am wondering if a short-scale length will be better for me to learn on due to the scale-lengths being closer.

    I did what you’re doing, and I found I really liked playing a medium 32” scale p-bass - only problem is they are very hard to find. However due to the old GAS syndrome I soon started picking up full size p-basses and sold the medium scale. Go and try a few out and see what you think. Technique is very different to guitar, especially if you want to play with fingers.





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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3401
    tedmanzie said:
    Technique is very different to guitar, especially if you want to play with fingers.
    As Bridgehouse has already written, the mindset required is different. Bass is the part of the music to which people dance.

    Funkadelic once wrote a song titled "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow". For bass instrument playing, try that the other way around. Get yo' ass shaking and your brain will work out what to play to keep the groove going.
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15892
    tedmanzie said:
    Technique is very different to guitar, especially if you want to play with fingers.
    As Bridgehouse has already written, the mindset required is different. Bass is the part of the music to which people dance.

    Funkadelic once wrote a song titled "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow". For bass instrument playing, try that the other way around. Get yo' ass shaking and your brain will work out what to play to keep the groove going.
    You so need to change your name to @FunkBum
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  • deano said:
    Won't make a difference as bass and guitar are so different anyway. Get a regular scale length as they sound better 99% of the time. 

    Wow. That seems like a controversial statement. Is it true though? Surely some good sounds can be coaxed from a short-scale?
    Certainly can, check this guy out:
    https://youtu.be/LQsW96I1mbE
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