The short-scale bass is an instrument that is underrated, misunderstood, and a lot of fun to play. Now, I believe we can all agree that the Fender Precision Bass is the founding father of the bass guitar as we know it. When it was first produced in 1951, this innovative instrument forever changed the face of popular music and rock music, and it’s still being imitated today, with its 34-inch scale length being the most copied aspect of its distinctive design. However, as this guide to the best short-scale basses demonstrates, not all basses follow in the footsteps of the P-Bass.
Before we get into our top recommendations for the best short-scale bass guitars on the market, it’s important to understand what distinguishes the short-scale bass from other bass guitars. Short-scale bass has come to mean any bass having a scale length of 31 inches or less, with the average being 30 inches or thereabouts. While it may seem trivial, removing four inches off the vibrating length of a bass string (normal scale length is 34″) has a major impact on timbre and feel. The frets are closer together, making the bass simpler to navigate, and the tension on the strings is lowered, giving it a slinkier feel. The bass can actually sound larger and fatter from a tonal standpoint.
Clutch Spector Bantam 4 Bass Guitar
- Spector Bantam 4 Bass Guitar
- Black Cherry Gloss
- Spector NS Hardshell Case
While the majority of the models on our list of the short scale basses are around $500, there are a few models that are on the other end of the spectrum, giving a quality instrument at a premium price point. That model is the Spector Bantam 4, and while it is pricey, bass sound you surely get what you pay for. This is a high-end instrument for bass guitar players.
The Spector Bantam features a distinct body design that makes it difficult to confuse with any other model. The sleek NS body type is made of alder and chambered to produce the best tone possible. The Bantam is also visually distinctive, with four appealing and intricate treatments applied to a quilted maple top. The bolt-on neck has a deep-inset design that allows for optimum vibration transfer. With a three-piece maple construction and graphite rods for added stability, this is one of the most sturdy necks we’ve seen on a short (30″) scale bass.
The EMG BTS Active EQ Circuit is used in conjunction with two EMG 35DC pickups on the Bantam. Single volume knobs for each pickup configuration and a third knob with a stacked bass cut/boost and treble cut/boost feature control this unique combination. The hardware is all finished in a classy black and is unquestionably top-of-the-line. The Spector Aluminum Locking bridge design is a standout feature, allowing individual saddles to be locked in place after they’ve been adjusted to the correct position. The Bantam’s tuning machines are also top-of-the-line, with high-quality Gotoh GB-707 sealed units as standard.
When an instrument’s price tag is at the high end of the scale, it’s reasonable to expect performance to match. The Bantam has no trouble delivering when it matters most. The EMG pickup/active onboard EQ circuitry provides a very appealing sonic pallet, with remarkable lows and highs that ring like a bell. It’s also exceptionally well-balanced and requires very little effort to play. This is the Best Short Scale Bass Guitar in 2023.
Sterling by Music Man 4 String Bass Guitar
- StingRay Short Scale featuring a 30" scale for easier playability due to the narrower spacing between the frets
- Daphne Blue finish with Mahogany body with Maple neck and fretboard
- Equipped with Sterling by Music Man humbucker with neodymium magnets for higher output, passive "Push-Push" boost, and rotary pickup selector. The...
The Stingray Short Scale Bass from Sterling by Music Man has the same familiar body design as its bigger brother in the music industry. It’s made of a blend of nyatoh (a tough hardwood) and mahogany, and it comes in three different finishes (Daphne Blue, Dropped Copper, and Olympic White). The 30″ scale length neck is made of hard maple, which is a fantastic tonewood that not only gives strength and longevity but also has outstanding vibration transfer properties.
The type of fingerboard you choose is determined on the color you choose for the bass guitar market. Olympic White and Dropped Copper are rosewood, while Daphne Blue is maple. There are 22 medium frets on all versions. Neodymium humbucking pickups are controlled by three knobs: volume (with a push/push pot for an overall boost), tone, and a three-way selector switch that lets you choose between series, parallel, or single-coil modes.
The hardware on a mid-priced bass guitar is sometimes subpar, but that is not the case with the Sterling Stingray. Individual intonation and string height changes are possible with the Sterling-designed bridge, and the smooth action tuners offer an open gear design for a classic aesthetic. The performance of the Sterling Stingray Short Scale is what makes it stand out. The three-way selector provides a wide range of tonal options not generally found on a bass guitar, and each setting produces a smooth, full, and balanced sound quality that will impress even the most discriminating bassist. This is the Best Short Scale Bass for Beginners in 2023.
Squier by Fender Bronco Bass
- Slim and comfortable “C”-shaped neck profile
- Single-coil Bronco Bass pickup
- Short 30“ scale length
The body is double-cutaway made of solid agathis and it’s pretty light, while the neck is a slim C-shape made of one-piece maple with a satin finish that offers a robust tone and is really comfortable to play for a cheaper bass. Because of its tiny scale (30″), it lacks the depth of long-scale basses and gives a less wiry tone. The fretboard is composed of maple as well, with 19 medium jumbo frets that are suitable for novices, with a 9.5″ radius.
As one would anticipate from a short scale bass, the range of notes is sacrificed in favor of a lighter and more playable instrument. With the passive arrangement, it only has one specially constructed single-coil magnet that forms the sound of the bass. Tuning on the bass is good with the 2-saddle chrome bridge as long as you don’t dig in too deeply with this bass models. Like a P-bass, it has two knurled dome control knobs, master volume controls, and a master tone control knob. All of the hardware is finished in chrome.
You can’t go much simpler than this bass in terms of simplicity; less hardware means fewer issues; keep it simple and groovy. Anyone can play the bass, and at $200, you get your money’s worth for the best short scale bass under $500.
Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro 4 String Bass Guitar
- Fast, slim Maple neck
- Compact, light-weight Body
- Dynamic P pickup
What makes this bass stand out is its capacity to produce a pleasant sound. Whether the sound is clean or muddy, the pickups function well and have a solid responsiveness. The lowest notes are rather steady, and you can easily navigate the fretboard. As one might expect from a short scale bass, it’s quite light and feels like a toy, which I enjoy a lot. When it comes to touring, a compact bass is ideal because it doesn’t take up too much room.
The body is a very normal Ibanez design, built of Agathis, and it follows the shapes of the rest of the GSR range. While Agathis isn’t the most expensive tonewood, it works well in novice bass guitars. The slim-shaped maple neck is particularly intriguing because it has a scale length of 28″, which is much less than the normal scale length for a bass. The rosewood fretboard features pearl dot inlays and 22 medium-sized frets. It has a regular bridge on one side with fully adjustable saddles and die-cast tuning machinery on the other. The pickups are precision split-coil at the neck and a single coil pickup at the bridge, and they’ve proven to be extremely adaptable. Your regular Tone, Bridge pickup volume, and Neck pickup volume knobs regulate these.
In its price category, this is a strong bass guitar, and it’s definitely one of the best starting guitars I’ve seen in a long time. You can’t go wrong with the Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro as a beginner. This Ibanez model appears to have almost all of the features of a full-sized GSR bass guitar playing experience. This is, in my view, the best budget short scale bass in 2023.
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II
- Jet body shape
- Basswood body back
- Basswood body top
The versatility of the Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II Bass pleasantly impressed me. You can play a variety of musical styles with ease. The tone it produces is ideal for both precision work and smooth bass lines. Short scale instruments, particularly basses, have a reputation for sacrificing tone for comfort and playability, but this is not the case here. Both pickups have a clear and bright tone, and the passive pickups do a good job of transmitting the instrument’s tone. It’s got exactly the right amount of fatness and punch. It has a lot of old sounds that work well in rock as well as many other modern genres that call for a nostalgic feel on the low end.
Basswood is used to create the single-cutaway body shape. The D-shaped, slim, and slinky maple neck looks great with the black gloss finish. It’s straightforward to use, and the setup is generally excellent, with no sharp fret ends. The neck is a shorter scale with a rosewood fingerboard and 20 well-placed medium jumbo frets, as well as a Jet design headstock. It’s equipped with a vintage bridge with four fully adjustable saddles. All of the hardware is chromed, the tuners are precise, and the bridge maintains excellent intonation. It’s equipped with a set of Gretsch mini-humbuckers, each with a chrome cover. This gives the bass a distinct personality. Basic controls, master volume knob, and tone control knob are all included.
Solidly constructed, with a good tone, comfort, and playability. If you’re searching for a solid bass with a shockingly good sound but don’t have a lot of money to work with, this bass is a great option. This is the best short scale bass under $500, in my view.
Ibanez GSRM25 5 String Bass Guitar
- Fast, slim Maple neck
- Compact, light-weight Body
- Dynamic P pickup
This Ibanez bass surprised me because it is a short-scale five-string bass that is light and easy to transport. It’s an entry-level bass, but it still offers a lot of tone shaping potential and a lovely warm sound with strong low-end response. Of course, there will be constraints in terms of what you can achieve due to the price range, but the twin single-coil pickups will provide you a lot of options in terms of musical styles. Ibanez attempted to create a bass that has a little bit of everything, which I believe is a good thing because that is something that all starting bass players need.
The body weight is smaller due to the shorter scale neck, which is made of poplar and is relatively light, giving the bass a warm tone with good presence. Because the bass sits comfortably on the shoulders, the rounded corners of the body style make it easy to handle and play. The body is finished in a high-gloss polyurethane. The narrow short scale maple neck features white dot inlays on a smooth jatoba fretboard. With a scale length of 28.6″, there are 22 medium-jumbo frets. At the bridge and neck positions, two single-coil magnets are used. With a B15 Fixed Bridge, it has a plastic nut and a set of Ibanez die-cast tuning machines that keep the intonation.
Bottom line, it’s an excellent beginner’s bass in general, with good playability, a smooth neck, and a stylish look. Shorter scale basses are more suitable for novices or for travel, according to some experts. This bass is likewise quite light, and the fifth sting gives the player an extra low range. Its small size makes it ideal for taking outside and usage in home studios with limited space. The Ibanez GSRM25BK is a solid and loud guitar that delivers a lot of bang for your buck. This is the Best Short Scale Basses in 2023.
Fender Player Jaguar Bass
- Alder Body with gloss finish
- One player Series single-coil J bass Bridge pickup; one player Series split-coil P bass middle pickup
- Two volume controls; master tone control
Since its introduction in 1964, the Fender Mustang Bass has made quite an impression as a budget pick, landing in the hands of everyone from Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads to Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones and even Mikey Way of My Chemical Romance. The original Mustang, as fantastic as it was, wasn’t the most acoustically diverse vehicle. That’s where the new Fender Player Mustang into the picture.
This Mustang certainly puts out a fantastic amount of tone, combining the historic aesthetic of the original with the highly adaptable PJ pickup setup. With a 9.5′′ radius fingerboard, the popular C profile neck will accommodate most hands. At the same time, the Satin Urethane finish provides a silky smooth feel to the instrument. So, if you’re searching for a versatile, good-looking bass with a lot of punch, the Fender Player Mustang is the bass for you.
Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass
- One of the World's Iconic Guitars
- Fully Hollow Body
- Hofner Style Tailpiece
What’s not to like about this vintage-inspired bass? It looks fantastic and gives off a vintage, or dare I say Beatles, atmosphere. This antique model defined Paul McCartney’s playing. The body is light, and the short-scale neck is lovely to play and would be ideal for tiny bassists. The bass has that vintage tone that you’d expect from a bass player. It has a wonderful warmth and clarity to it that transports you back in time.
The designers strove to stay as true to the original antique violin bass as possible, resulting in a slightly modernized rendition. On top, the semi-hollow body is built of spruce, while the back is made of maple. It has lovely vintage ornamentation, like white binding and a plastic pickguard, as well as a great violin sunburst finish. It has a maple neck with a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets on a 30″ scale. The fretboard is embellished with simple dot inlays. Rosewood is also used for the Hofner Fretted bridge. The bridge and neck positions on the bass are fitted with two Hofner Ignition Staple Nickel humbuckers, which are superb at delivering the warm tones that Hofner is known for. There is a volume control knob on each pickup, as well as three switches that turn the pickups on and off. The rest of the hardware is in keeping with the retro theme.
This is an absolute must-have for anyone who enjoys playing old school Beatles-style songs. The string tension looks and sounds fantastic, and you can don that cap and play those Paul McCartney bass lines. The Ignition Series offers a low-cost vintage bass that lives up to expectations. Given that this is still an inexpensive bass, the craftsmanship is quite impressive. For under $500, the playability, tone, and build quality are outstanding.