There are no surprises as to why short-scale bass guitars have grown in popularity over the past years – they are easier to play and offer a deeper tone than full-scale basses. Don’t be fooled by their size, these basses pack quite a punch. Today we review the best short-scale bass guitars, used by both beginners and professional bassists.
We’ve got a lot to cover!
At a Glance: Our Pick of the Best Short Scale Bass Guitars
- Editor’s Choice: Lakland Skyline Hollowbody-30
- Best Value: Fender Mustang PJ Short-Scale Bass Guitar
- Best Budget: Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short-Scale Bass Guitar
- Best Versatile: Danelectro Longhorn Bass
- Best Premium: Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Short-Scale Bass
- Best For Live: Hofner HCT5007SBO
- Best Gibson Alternative: Epiphone EB-0 Electric Short-Scale Bass
- Best Affordable Violin Bass: Hofner Ignition Short-Scale Bass Guitar
- Best 5 String: Ibanez GSRM25
- Best Under $500: Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II
Lakland Skyline Hollowbody-30 – Editor’s Choice
The Lakland Skyline Hollowbody 30 is made of carved mahogany and maple top. As the name suggests, this short-scale bass has a hollow body which makes it extremely light (7 lbs) and well-rounded. Equipped with a pair of single coils, this bass delivers a broad frequency response with deep low-end, warm mid-range, and smooth highs. Simply put, solid low-frequency support that cuts through the mix.
This short-scale bass has a nice vintage look with decorated dot inlays. The neck is a familiar J Taper design made out of maple. If you are a picky bassist, you’re going to appreciate the high-quality Indian laurel fretboard. Price aside, this is the best short-scale bass available today.
- Wide tonal range with single-coil pickups
- Aggressive sound as a solid-body bass
- Great comfort and playability
- Excellent build quality
- Besides the price tag – there is none
Fender Mustang PJ Short-Scale Bass Guitar – Best Value
Fender is known for its tone and playability. With a fresh spin on the classic Mustang bass from the 1960s, Mustang PJ makes no exceptions. It provides a classic Fender tone and should be considered as one of the best short-scale bass guitars available. It’s equipped with two pickups, arranged in a P/J configuration for great sonic flexibilities. The Precision bass pickup in the neck combined with the Jazz Bass pickup in the bridge offers a blend of both classic and vintage sound. Unlike the original Mustang, this short-scale bass incorporates full-size P and J pickups and a three-position switch, with controls limited to volume and tone.
This bass is well set up without any sharp edges. The cutaway allows for a nice fingerboard approach and playability. It has a nice satin finish and a body made of alder, like the majority of Fender electric instruments. The 19-fret Pau Ferro fretboard has a smooth solid feel made of maple, like the classic Stratocaster and Telecaster.
- P/J configuration offers a warm and punchy sound
- High-quality design
- Great tonal options with separate volume control for each pickup
- Not exactly like a traditional Mustang
Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short-Scale Bass Guitar – Best Budget
Ibanez GSRM20 is one of the smallest short-scale bass guitars on our list, measuring only 28.6 inches. It’s worth mentioning that not everyone likes a smaller bass guitar and for some bassists, it’s a big no. However, if you have small hands or just looking for a great bass guitar to mess around with, it’s one of the best choices available. The body is solid and made of agathis and equipped with a maple neck and jatoba fretboard. This is a reliable bass that easily outperforms its price tag. The body and neck joint are designed for maximum comfortability and playability and the 22 frets have a smooth solid feel.
Ibanez GSRM20 is equipped with two of Ibanez’s classic Dynamix single-coil pickups combined in a classic P/J pickup configuration. There are two volume controls, one for each pickup, as well as a master tone control. This allows you to blend characteristics from both pickups, which is great for basic tone shaping.
- The small size makes it a great choice for beginners and children
- Great ergonomic qualities
- Very priceworthy
- The small size is not ideal for everyone
- Passive bridge pick-ups can be noisy
Danelectro Longhorn Bass – Best Versatile
The Danelectro Longhorn short-scale bass has an interesting and unique design with a deep horn cutaway. This bass features a slick body shaped with a distinctive horn made of alder wood. The neck is made of maple and the scale length is 29.75”, which is considered the medium range for short-scale bass guitars. The sound characteristics are very clear and versatile, with low deep notes as well as warmer higher notes. Weighing 10 lbs, the Longhorn Bass is one of the heavier short-scale basses on the market. This is not ideal when playing live but it is still a lot lighter than a full-scale bass guitar.
So what makes the Danelectro so versatile? It features 24 frets, allowing bassists of playing two whole octaves. It’s also equipped with two high impedance Lipstick pickups as well as the addition of double-stacked controls. This is great for bassists who want to experiment with the sound, as it offers great tonal shaping capabilities. The Pau Ferro fretboard is decorated with classic dot inlays and has a nice vintage look.
- 24 frets
- Great tonal shaping capabilities
- Vintage single-coil tone
- There are lighter alternatives
Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute DC Short-Scale Bass – Best Premium
Les Paul Junior by the legendary company Gibson is a straight-ahead rock bass. This short-scale bass embraces its name. With a body made from solid mahogany, a rosewood fingerboard, and a maple neck, you’ll get a solid bass with great comfort. Measuring in at 30.5” on a 20-fretboard, the Les Paul Junior could almost be considered a standard-scale bass.
If you’ve ever owned a regular Les Paul, you know they are a delight to play on. This bass is equipped with one single LP BassBucker, inspired by the famous humbucker pickups that we all love. One could argue that you will get more tonal capabilities with dual pickups, but this short-scale bass has some serious vintage weight in its tone.
The controls are few, one volume knob and one tone control knob. This tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the tone range. However, you will be surprised by the attack and aggressive sound. Gibson Les Paul Junior is also equipped with a coil tap for more precise and sharp single-coil tones.
- Built to last a lifetime
- Aggressive sound with plenty of attacks
- Very fun to play with
- One pickup offers limited tonal capabilities
- Feels heavy
Hofner HCT5007SBO – Best For Live
Inspired by Hofner’s original bass, the HCT5007SBO is one of the best short-scale bass guitars available. Weighing in at only 5.9 lb, this bass guitar is extremely light, making it ideal for gigging. The semi-hollow design is very appreciated when you play for long periods, travel, and transports your instruments back and forth from the gig. The scale length of the HCT5007SBO is 30”, making it a smooth transition for bass guitarists used to full scale.
This bass guitar is built upon a spruce top with maple on the back and sides. The neck is a 3-piece made of maple with a rosewood 22 frets fingerboard. This short-scale bass reminds a lot of Hofner’s original bass in both sound and quality. It features the original Hofner stable pickups as well as added tone and volume controls. This ensures a modern and deep bass sound that also reduces feedback issues that cheaper products encounter.
The sunburst color scheme gives the HCT5007SBO a nice vintage look. Sure, this bass is expensive, but it is considered premium. The added price is an investment in quality sound that comes from quality engineering. Hofner HCT5007SBO has a perfect mix of historical construction and modern sound.
- Great sound quality
- Original Staple-Top Pickups
- Very lightweight
Epiphone EB-0 Electric Short-Scale Bass – Best Gibson Alternative
Epiphone is accustomed to producing affordable yet quality bass guitars. Their model EB-0 is a budget version of Gibson’s classic model. Epiphone EB-0 Electric Short-Scale Bass keeps the classic features intact while delivering an accessible alternative for bassists without thousand dollars to spend. The tone emphasizes the low-end and mid-range and reminds me of the great 1960s and 1970s. It is also very versatile and can be used across different genres like blues, country, and rock.
Epiphone EB-0 uses mahogany for both the body and the neck, finished in Gibson’s striking cherry red stain. The overall build provides a superb sustain while being extremely solid. The 30.5” fretboard is made of rosewood with classic pearl dot inlays. Epiphone EB-0 has a slightly different pickup configuration compared to its competition, as it has a single humbucker in the neck position. The humbucker is extra-wide which gives the bass a fat, deep and warm sound. It is equipped with simple controls, including a single tone and a volume knob.
Overall, this guitar provides a lot of bang for the buck. This is one of the few cases where a cheaper price doesn’t translate to lower quality. If you want Gibson’s premium sound without spending a fortune, the Epiphone EB-0 is a great choice!
- Pretty much the same quality as Gibson EB-0, without the hefty price tag
- Extra-wide humbucker pickups handle distortion and fuzz very well
- The solid mahogany body makes it heavy for smaller bassists
- The original bass strings are not great (can be changed easily)
Hofner Ignition Short-Scale Bass Guitar – Best Affordable Violin Bass
Hofner Ignition belongs to the entry-level segment of Hofner bass guitars. However, it shouldn’t be judged by its cheaper price tag. This violin bass looks fabulous and brings you back to the Beatles era when Paul McCartney defined his playing with this vintage model. The Ignition short-scale bass is made with the same kind of precision as the classic 500/1-model. One interesting aspect of this bass is its semi-hollow body, making the sound resonates with the body before it goes out to the amplifier.
As suspected, Hofner’s Ignition short-scale bass delivers a vintage sound, with warmth and clarity that takes you back in time. The designers have tried to keep it as close as they could to the original 500/1-model – delivering a slightly modern version of it.
The body is made of flamed maple on the back and sides with spruce on the top. The violin sunburst finish with the white plastic pickguard gives the bass a nice vintage decoration. The neck is made of beech and maple with a rosewood fretboard with 22 frets. The neck measures 30”, with a 42-mm nut width which is much more narrow than other short-scale bass guitars.
Hofner Ignition is equipped with a pair of passive custom-made Staple Nickel Mini Humbuckers. The controls are simple yet powerful, with two individual volume knobs plus three dim switches.
- Dual humbuckers cover a wide range of frequencies
- Warm and airy sound – just like Paul McCartney
- Great playability, tone, and build
- The flat neck can be uncomfortable if you are used to chunkier necks
- Not suitable if you prefer a fat bass sound
Ibanez GSRM25 – Best 5 String
Ibanez GSRM25 is an affordable short-scale bass guitar that differs from the competition for having five strings. This gives you more notes to play in each position, which offers more tonal varieties compared to four-string bass guitars. With the extra B-string, you don’t have to re-tune your bass guitar as often and you can play almost any song in standard tuning.
The materials are great with the body made of poplar and neck made of maple. GSRM25 provides a wide range of tone-shaping capabilities and produces a nice warm sound with a good low-end response. Weighing only 7 lb, it’s extremely easy to transport around and it doesn’t burden players when being played live. The rounded edges make it a great practice guitar since it’s very easy to hold and play as the bass rest nicely on the shoulders. Also, the scale length is 28.6”, making it ideal for children or beginners.
It is equipped with 2x standard J5 single-coil pickups, at the bridge and neck positions. Ibanez has always developed instruments that have a little bit of everything, and the GSRM25 makes no exceptions. This is one of the most versatile and best short-scale bass guitars on the market today.
- 5th string for extra low range
- Comfortable and easy to play
- A warm tone with a good presence
- I’m getting some disturbing feedback through my amplifier
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II – Best Under $500
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II provides a unique and outstanding sound, at an excellent price. While Gretch might be a more household name in the guitar world, their basses offer great quality. The body is comfortable and balances perfectly on the strap, and the single-cutaway Les Paul-esque shape offers great access to the upper frets. It’s made from basswood, which is a tonewood that provides a clean and balanced tonal profile. The maple neck and walnut fretboard add bright trebles and warm low-end to the overall sound.
Gretsch G2220 is equipped with two mini-humbuckers that combine aspects of both single-coils and traditional humbuckers. The dual-pickup setup gives a lot of flexibility in terms of sound since you can change and blend tonal characteristics from both pickups. The tone from both pickups is surprisingly clear and forthright for a bass guitar priced under $500. This is a versatile option and the best short-scale bass under $500!
- Simple visuals and tones in a very player-friendly package
- Dual-pickups offer great flexibility
- Warm low-end and bright trebles
- The extra-small body might be uncomfortable for taller bassists
- Can be too basic for experienced bass players
What is a short-scale bass?
Scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut, and most standard electric bass guitars offer a scale length somewhere around 34 inches. As the name suggests, a short-scale bass has a shorter scale, usually somewhere between 28”-31”.
A short-scale bass is extremely versatile and features the same materials and pickups as standard bass guitars. The lighter and smaller short-scale bass guitars are also a preferred choice for many bass players during long sessions or travel.
Is a short-scale bass easier to play?
If you are a beginner you’ll find short-scale basses much more enjoyable and easy to play. String tension is usually lower and strings don’t offer as much resistance, compared to a long-scale bass. You will be able to play through longer sessions and practice more often since your fingers won’t be as sore.
To be able to fit more frets on a shorter fingerboard, they made them much more compact compared to the frets on long-scale basses. This makes it much easier to navigate for bassists who can’t stretch their fingers across the entire scale length.
It’s worth mentioning that short-scale bass guitars are played by professionals as well. Over the years short-scale bass guitars have been used regularly and made famous by bassists like Paul McCartney, Bill Wyman, Andy Fraser, Tina Weymouth, and Garry Tallent.
Does a short scale bass guitar sound different?
Yes, the size of the instrument has a huge impact on the sound. Short-scale basses usually have a thicker tone because of a slightly heavier string gauge than their long-scale brothers. Short-scale basses can function with lower string tension and still maintain proper intonation, which gives them a more sloppy sound.
Choosing the best short-scale bass
Strings are one of the most important factors when deciding which short-scale bass to buy. Even if they are delivered with strings attached, the original strings might not be your preferred choice. It’s important to do some research to make sure that your favorite strings are recommended by the manufacturer. Most short-scale bass guitars require strings of 45-100 gauge.
Most short-scale bass guitars have rosewood as the common material for the fretboard. Why? Because rosewood is extremely soft compared to other materials. This will give you a better feel when you are pushing your fingers down on the strings. Generally, the number of frets varies between 20-24 frets. If you want the ability to play across two whole octaves, you should go for a bass guitar with 24 frets. It is down to personal preference as to how many frets you would like.
Whether the choice of electronics or wood is most significant in the overall sound is up for discussion. However, I think every bass expert can agree that the right material is important to whatever sound you are trying to achieve. Standard tonewood for bass guitars and their characteristics include:
- Maple – bright sounding with a strong midrange
- Mahogany – punchy midrange with pronounced lows
- Alderwood – warm and balanced sound
- Ash – bright with tamped-down midrange response
- Basswood – transparent and uncolored sound
And there you have it! The Lakland Skyline Hollowbody 30 is the best short-scale bass guitar available. It’s not the cheapest bass guitar on this list. However, if you are a picky bassist, you’re going to love the high-quality sound it produces.
If you are on a tight budget I recommend the Fender Mustang PJ or the Ibanez GSRM20. Or maybe you travel a lot and looking for a short-scale bass that offers professional sound despite being lightweight and smaller in size? Then I recommend the semi-hollow design in Hofner HCT5007SBO.