Short scale basses haven't had the best reputation in the past.
The first ones ever produced weren’t the best quality, and since they were geared more toward students they were never taken seriously.
Modern day short scale bass guitars are a different story all together.
They are expertly crafted and used by some of the worlds best bassists. From kids, beginners, students, people with small hands, people with bad backs, and world class professionals, the short scale has a place in everybody’s heart.
Let’s take a look at the best short scale bass guitars on the market.
Best For The Money - Squier Vintage Short Scale Modified Special Jaguar
Best Sounding - Fender Mustang PJ Bass
Best For Small Hands - Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short Scale Bass Guitar
What Is A Short Scale Bass?
A short scale bass is a lightweight and portable bass guitar that has a scale length of 31” or under.
It’s important to note that even though the neck is shortened the body is still the same size as a regular bass guitar.
If you are looking to buy a regular bass guitar but scaled down you are better looking at something like a ¾ bass guitar which is talked about in our article Best Bass Guitar For Kids.
Compared to a standard 34” bass guitar neck, the frets are closer together in a short scale which can make it easier to play, especially if you have small hands or if you are transitioning from a regular electric guitar to bass for the first time.
Fender introduced the Mustang Bass in 1966 which was the first ever short scale bass. It was the last bass guitar designed by the very own Leo Fender himself, and he created it with a short 30” neck to make it friendly to students with smaller hands.
Throughout the late 1950’s and early 1960’s various other guitar manufacturers like Gibson and Hofner began creating their own short scale basses.
The early cheap student models didn’t have a great tone, so people began to dismiss short scale basses in favor of long scale. Eventually the manufacturers started creating higher quality short scale basses and popularity slowly began to raise.
Soon, big-name guitarists all over the world started using them including Paul McCartney, Jack Bruce, and Bill Wyman.
Does A Short Scale Bass Sound Different?
Since the length of the strings are shorter than a standard bass, the sound produced has a lower amplitude. This causes a fatter and less bright sound. A short scale bass requires lower string tension than a full bass guitar which leads to a looser playing feel.
Short scale basses also use a thicker gauge string than a standard bass which adds to the heavy low-end tone.
Some bassists love this “fatter” sound so they strictly only play on short scale basses.
Best Short Scale Bass Guitars
1. Squier Vintage Short Scale Modified Special Jaguar Bass
Squier is a sub-section of Fender that produces affordable versions of Fender’s most iconic guitars, and they hit it out of the park with the Vintage Short Scale Modified Special Jaguar Bass making it one of the most affordable and well built short scale guitars to date.
The sleek offset-waist body and ultra-slim 30"-scale maple neck make it extremely playable by almost anybody, and the PJ pickup configuration is a great addition.
With a single tone control knob you aren’t getting a lot of features here, but for the money they are asking for it’s an absolute steal.
Using light gauge round wounds you’ll find lots of harmonics and a deep sound. Switch over to medium or heavy flats and you’ll find a nice punchy in your face tone.
There’s almost no weight to this bass so it’s great if you struggle carrying around a full sized guitar.
There are a few different color options, but the Candy Apple Red color is just so gorgeous that I can't stop looking at it. It's seriously one of the sexiest looking basses I've seen.
A lot of people still associate Squire with entry-level or beginner instruments, but the Special Jaguar is proof that they produce guitars that hang with the best of them. For the money you won’t find a better short scale bass in this price range at all which makes it my choice for best short scale bass on a budget.
2. Fender Mustang PJ Bass
When Fender introduced the first Mustang Bass in 1964, it didn’t pick up as much steam as the iconic Jazz and Precision basses. Still, it garnered a following and it paved the way for many other short scale bass guitars to come.
This updated modern version of the Mustang comes ready for the players of today with it’s integrated P and J pickups.
The 30” scale of this short scale bass guitar is perfect for students or for those with a small reach, and the 3-way pickup switch makes sure that you can achieve the sound you want.
You can select from a range of eye-catching and classic colors - Capri Orange, Olympic White, Sonic Blue, and Torino Red.
While you won’t get the full sonic range of a full scale bass here, the Fender Mustang still sounds fantastic and has a sound of its own.
This Mustang is on the high-end of bass guitars when compared to the others on this list and it shows in the price, but it’s worth every penny if you want a short scale bass to take on gigs or jam out on for many years to come. If you can afford it, I’d say it’s the best short scale bass under $1000 you can get.
3. Ibanez GSRM20 Mikro Short Scale Bass Guitar
The 28.6” scale length of the Ibanez GSRM20 Short Scale with slim profile maple neck is about as short as bass guitars can come.
This isn’t just a great bass guitar for kids, it’s a great bass for traveling with. Pop it in your suitcase or into the back of your car and it will fit with no problems.
P and J pickups come standard here, along with separate tone and volume controls for each pickup.
The frets are so close together that it takes almost no effort to play down at the end of the neck compared to a regular bass. For beginners or students looking to learn on something a little more simple it’s a great option.
The only main complaint with this guitar to keep in mind is that the neck can be really dry, so you might want to get some mineral oil to alleviate that problem and make it easier to slide up and down the neck quickly.