The Best Short Scale Bass Guitars Buying Guide

A guide to the best short scale bass guitars on the market and the brands making them.

If you have been paying attention to the bass guitar market over the past few years, you may have noticed an uptick in the popularity of short-scale bass models. While short-scale basses—which typically sport scale lengths of around 30- or 31-inches, compared to the 34-inches of something like a Fender Precision Bass—have always had loyal champions, it would be fair to say that in some circles, they have long carried an undue stigma as not entirely serious instruments.

Many short-scales, like the famous Fender Mustang and Musicmaster basses, were marketed as "student models," which has fed their reputation as somehow not as up to professional standards as the standard 34-inch fare. But for many players, the idea of a student instrument is just part of the appeal.

Short-scale basses usually are lighter and more physically manageable than their full-scale counterparts, and for new bass players (and especially guitarists making the leap to a lower register), short-scales can offer a more approachable overall playing experience. They're easier on the back, potentially easier on the hands, and perhaps most important of all, they're a lot of fun to play. It's not uncommon to see festival-favorite pop acts with a keyboardist doubling on a short-scale, and a growing number of studio pros have found the rich sound of this class of a bass a useful tool in their belt.

It's for these reasons and more that an increasing number of players from all styles of music are embracing short-scale basses, and in turn, spurring modern makers to produce more to keep up with demand. Ernie Ball Music Man, for instance, unveiled a new short-scale take on their classic StingRay model at NAMM this year, while the number of options from Fender and Squier variations on their classic shapes increases every year.

With this in mind, we here at Reverb have gone ahead and compiled a short guide to the best short-scale basses that you should know when searching for your new bass.

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The Best-Selling Short Scale Basses on Reverb

Violin-Style Basses

Hofner '62 RI Violin, 500/1, and More

Designed and introduced as a semi-acoustic bass in 1955, the Hofner 500/1 "Beatle" Bass would not reach international popularity as instruments until Paul McCartney played it in the Beatles' early peak years, after first procuring it in Hamburg, Germany in 1962. After Paul brought the bass to international prominence, there was a manufacturing craze that enveloped the 500/1, with it now being one of the most copied short-scale basses to ever exist.

Known for its warm yet boomy sound, the 500/1 with flat wounds and its many copies are now the go-to short-scale basses for players worldwide who seek a vintage sound. The great thing about these basses is again that they have been copied so many times over, that more than a few of the copy-cats nailed the formula.

For one, if you can't afford an authentic vintage Hofner 500/1, Hofner has since made many different versions. You can also check out Univox's faithful and arguably comparable MIJ imitation from the late '60s and '70s, the Lectra bass. While prices have gone up on these over these, they are still significantly cheaper than vintage Hofners and are more than good enough for a professional.

Gibson & Epiphone Short-Scales

EB Series/"SG Standard Bass" and More

Gibson has its own equally legendary history with short-scale basses. Gibson actually pre-dated Hofner with its own short-scale, violin-inspired EB-1 model in 1953 before discontinuing the original series in 1958. From then, Gibson replaced this model with the ES-inspired EB-2 and the Les Paul Junior–shaped, one-pickup EB-0 in 1959. Soon, the EB-0's body would change to an SG shape. And in 1961, the EB-3 would debut as the two-pickup version.

With famous players like Jack Bruce and Bill Wyman, the EB series is an undeniable classic in Gibson's line and bass history. While these are Gibson's best-known short-scale basses, Gibson also briefly produced short-scale Flying V basses in 1981 and 2011 through 2012. These short-scales have a cult following of their own and would serve as a welcome addition alongside Gibson's newer short-scales, like the SG Standard Bass or the brand-new Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Bass.

Essentially a revisited EB-3, the SG Standard Bass is a welcome return to what Gibson does well. If you can't afford the new Gibson, Epiphone's own take on the EB-0 and EB-3 are worthy takes on the classic models and can often be found for a steal on the used market.

Funky Vintage Short-Scales

In our video above, Jake Hawrylak shows of an unidentified Tele-style bass from Japan. While we may not know the provenance, there's no denying the cool, funky vibe.

In the '60s and '70s, there was no shortage of similar short-scale basses by the likes of Teisco, Harmony, Kent, Kawai, Burns, and more. While there has been some growing interest in recent years, you can still find plenty of affordable options. Take a look at Reverb's handpicked collection of funky vintage short-scale basses.

Fender Short-Scales

Mustang/MusicMaster Bass and More

Out of all of the short-scale bass manufacturers, Fender might have the most beloved offerings of the class among their fans. While it was widely accepted that Fender's first short-scale bass, the Mustang bass, was introduced in 1966, Fender actually originally got into the short-scale bass market in 1961 with the Bass VI (though, because it's more of a low-register guitar than a proper bass, many people classify this instrument outside the normal bass discussion).

In addition to the Mustang bass, Fender introduced the increasingly popular Musicmaster bass in 1971 until discontinuing the model altogether prior to the Dan Smith overhaul at Fender in the early '80s. In recent years, prices on these vintage options have gone up and up, underlining the increased demand for this style of instrument.

Since then Fender has introduced a number of short-scale bass models including the recent Modern Player Short-Scale Jazz Bass, the Justin Meldal-Johnsen Road-Worn Mustang Bass, the hybrid Mexican-made Offset Series PJ Bass, or Squier's Vintage Modified Jaguar Bass SS or Bronco Bass.

Most of these models will offer a similar playing experience, with some variation on the shape, pickup configuration, and price point. It's because of their wide variety of offerings and iconic takes on the genre, that many players consider Fender to be the ruling king of short-scale basses.

Supro Huntington

Perhaps the most interesting short-scale bass series to come out in the past few years comes from the team at the revived Supro. Taking inspiration from vintage Supros like the Ozark, the Huntington—on a stylistic level alone—is more than a welcome addition to the market with a finish and style that offers something for everyone.

When you factor the playability of the model with its satin neck and contoured heel joint, it will give other popular short-scales a run for their money. Perhaps my favorite thing about these basses are the high-output replicas of the original, sought-after Supro gold foil pickups. Supro/Pigtronix more than succeeded with their takes on the vintage gold foils, and offer Huntington basses with one, two, or three pickups. With friendly prices on new and used Huntingtons, these are absolutely welcome additions to any bassist's arsenal.

Gretsch Short-Scales

G2220, G5442, and More

It's hard to talk about new short-scale basses without at least mentioning Gretsch's latest offerings: the G2220 and G5442. While these are not Gretsch's first entry into short-scale basses, they are a return to the dance in a big way for the legacy brand.

Humorously, the first short-scale bass that Gretsch produced was back in the '60s with the 6073 model. Like the Hofner 500/1, the 6073 has gotten its nickname—"The Monkees' Bass"—from another '60s pop band. With its modern takes, Gretsch is nodding to its classic shapes and styles in a way that is both respectful quality-wise and aesthetically pleasing.

If you are looking for style and bang-for-your-buck, the G2220 (especially in Torino Green) might be the best way to go. On the other hand, if you have a little bit more cash to spend and are looking for a step up in quality and more classic Gretsch looks, the G5442 is your bass. In the case that you are a big spender, might I recommend the Gretsch Billy Bo bass designed by iconic bluesmen Bo Diddley and Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top.

Ibanez Talman Bass TMB30

Last but not least is Ibanez's latest short-scale bass offering, and one of the most affordable: the TMB30. The TMB30 finds it heart in the Talman series, which was initially introduced in 1994 at the height of the alternative/grunge craze, before being discontinued in 1998. Since then, Talmans had become one of the most celebrated and sought-after '90s-era instruments in Ibanez's history.

Because of the popular demand, Ibanez has been reissuing and reinterpreting these models in recent years, including the relatively new TMB30. Besides being fun and inexpensive, the TMB30 is one of the most tonally versatile basses that you will find in its price range. For the price, it makes it not just a great entry-level short-scale bass for beginners, but it will make one hell of a beater bass—if you will—for more experienced players.

Boutique Short-Scales

Serek Midwestern II and More

Rounding out our video above, Jake plays one of his personal favorite short-scale models from Serek, a local boutique brand based in Chicago. This particular Midwestern II has five strings, unusual for short-scales, but Serek offers four-string Midwesterners and other short-scale basses as well, and they're far from alone from the only boutique builder making exciting short-scales. Alembic, Birdsong, Spector, and others are known to make short-scale models as well.

Top Short-Scale Brands

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