7 Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars of 2024

When you buy through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Bass guitars are generally known as the bigger, longer, and often more unwieldy big brother of the standard guitar. While these are an essential component of many bands' lineups, a lot of players, especially those with smaller bodies and hands, struggle with their expanded scale and size.

The solution: short-scale bass guitars. These shorter and more compact bass guitar variations offer a shrunken scale length, resulting in a shorter neck and increased playability for players, whether they have smaller hands or just want something more nimble.

There are countless short-scale bass guitars on the market, which can present a bit of a headache when you're choosing one - but it's essential you pick the right model, otherwise, you might find yourself creating even more stress in your playing.

That's why I've put this short-scale bass guitar comparison together. Here, I'm going to share some of my favorite short-scale bass guitar models - and give you some tips for choosing - so you can easily find the perfect match for your style and tastes.

My #1 pick is the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ because of its incredible tone and versatility while keeping a reasonable price tag, although there are many other great models out there - so let's have a look together!

Quick Summary of the Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars

  1. Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ (Overall Best)
  2. Hofner Ignition Violin Bass Guitar (Most Iconic Bass)
  3. Gibson SG Standard Bass (Best Premium Bass)
  4. Ibanez miKro GSRM20 Bass Guitar (Best Budget Bass)
  5. Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II (Best Value Bass)
  6. Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass (Great Budget Bass)
  7. G&L Tribute Fallout Short-Scale Bass Guitar (Best Tribute Model)

Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars

Best Overall

Featuring a "PJ" pickup configuration (Precision Bass + Jazz Bass pickups), this stylish offset offers value and versatility.
Why We Love It
image
Diverse tonal range
image
Compact
image
Cool offset body shape

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Alder Body
  • Scale Length: 30"
  • Pickups: Vintage-Style Single Coil

Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ is a modern version of one of the world's finest commercial short-scale bass guitars, and it comes at a decent price. The Mustang Bass has a long history that goes back to 1964, and it's not just a short-scale version for beginners.

The Fender Mustang Bass has been frequently used by many influential players such as Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, and this classic bass has been upgraded for the modern bassist.

I like these basses because of their PJ configuration. This means that they come fitted with both a Jazz and Precision style pickup. This gives you a broader range of tones, from thick and punchy to thinner and more articulate. I like having the best of both worlds, as it means I can really find any sound I'm looking for.

The 30" scale length also makes this bass a perfect starting instrument for beginners, but it has good enough tone and playability that a professional bassist can take it on their tour. This is one of my favorite basses on the list, and I recommend it for most players.

What Could Be Improved

  • More of an old-school look and sound
  • Offset guitars aren't for everybody

Most Iconic

The iconic violin-shaped Hofner made famous by none other than Paul McCartney is now available with a shorter scale (and shorter price).

Why We Love It
image
Classic Paul McCartney sty
image
Has a deep, vintage-style
image
Very resonant and woody

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Maple Body
  • Scale Length: 30"
  • Pickups: Hofner Ignition Staple humbuckers

Perhaps the most iconic short-scale bass guitar ever, the Hofner 500/1 bass is known as the "Beatle" bass because it was Paul McCartney's most used bass. This unique violin-style hollow body bass was used for many of the iconic Beatles bass lines like "Come Together".

The original Hofner 500/1 bass is rare and ridiculously expensive, but luckily the company has put out many different affordable versions of the bass. Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass is one of the many versions, and Ignition Series Violin Bass has most of the same features as the original, like the famous violin bass designs with hollow bodies.

I think these are more suitable if you're looking for a more vintage and stylized type of look and tone. These aren't as versatile as most guitars on this list, but they do what they do well.

If you are a big fan of Paul McCartney or just want that unique Hofner bass sound, Hofner Ignition Violin Bass is a great place to start. The bass comes with its own Hofner Ignition Staple humbuckers and teacup master tone control knobs.

What Could Be Improved

  • The tone style is very specific
  • Not suitable for all genres of music

Premium Pick

A small but mighty bass guitar with devilish aesthetics and tone.

Why We Love It
image
High build quality
image
Fat, punchy tone
image
Responds well to distortio

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Mahogany Body
  • Scale Length: 30"
  • Pickups: SG Bass Humbucker

I love Gibson instruments - they have a rich heritage, are always built with the best quality materials and workmanship, and just sound and feel fantastic.

SG guitars have a unique look with their double-horned bodies - giving you extended fret reach, and a scorching rock aesthetic. I just love the way SGs look, and the one in my collection is probably my favorite.

While these basses are a little more unconventional, I think they still have a certain place in the guitar/bass community - and their quality is just delightful. Compared to others on this list, these are definitely more geared towards rock and metal than other genres.

With the iconic SG mahogany body, the SG Standard Bass features an amazing set of Gibson SG Rhythm and Lead pickups. The SG Standard Bass is well-known for its deep sound and creamy tone, making it suitable for rock, pop, R&B, and more.

This short-scale rendition has all the quality, feel, and tone that you get out of the full-sized Gibson models. I highly recommend this to any bass player looking for a small but mighty bass guitar.

What Could Be Improved

  • May be too aggressive looking and sounding for some players
  • Pickups are noisy when used separately

Best Budget Bass

Super-affordable short-scale bass offers impressive versatility and tones for its price point.

Why We Love It
image
Highly affordable
image
Looks sleek and cool
image
P and J pickups for versat

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Poplar Body
  • Scale Length: 28.6''
  • Pickups: Dynamix P&J Pickups

The Ibanez miKro GSRM20 is one of the cheapest short-scale bass guitars, and it offers some serious bang for your buck.

At around $200, this guitar looks gorgeous with its curvy and light poplar body and gives you access to both the P-style and the Jazz-style pickup configurations - making it great value for money. The Ibanez miKro series was started for young students with smaller hands, but this bass guitar could be used for all age groups.

This bass has the shortest scale length out of all the basses on this list at 28.6'', but has plenty of frets up to 22 frets. Combined with a slim neck profile, I think this bass is extremely comfortable to play with, even for a complete beginner.

I think that this is easily one of the best short-scale bass guitars in the affordable price range, and it's definitely a bass I would recommend to beginners.

I will say, that this is only really suitable for new players. The feel and sound won't be good enough for pros, and it's not the best long-term investment if you want to take playing bass seriously.

What Could Be Improved

  • The feel is a little unrefined
  • Sound quality could be better, the stock pickups are a bit flat

Best Value

Stylish and affordable short-scale bass that's perfect for beginners (and beyond).

Why We Love It
image
Affordable with decent qua
image
A unique look and tone
image
Broad range of tones

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Basswood body
  • Scale Length: 30.3"
  • Pickups: Mini Bass Single Coil

The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II Bass is a simple and light electric bass guitar that is worth every bit of its affordable price tag - even professional bassists like Mike Kerr of Royal Blood use this bass on stage.

This has a basswood body and a maple neck with a classic Jet design and a one-of-a-kind 30.3" scale length. The scale length makes this bass so much more comfortable to play compared to a long-scale bass guitar, and I think even beginner bass players will find this to be a nice fit.

The bass comes with two simple single-coil pickups, and just one volume and one tone control with a 3-way toggle pickup switch. Even though the bass itself is super light, the tones from this bass are warm and big. The tones from the Junior Jet II are suitable for rock, blues, pop, metal, and R&B.

For me, this is a very attractive bass at this price point. While I would be looking to invest more money personally, if you were looking at buying a guitar in this price range, it's certainly a strong contender. Check out our full review to learn more.

What Could Be Improved

  • The weighting may be a bit uncomfortable for some players
  • Pickups are not the most dynamic or rich-sounding

Vintage Vibes

This super-cool offset from Squier offers premium styling and versatility at a price point that's just within reach for beginners.

Why We Love It
image
Sweet jaguar styling
image
Hybrid P and J pickups
image
Versatile tonal range

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Nato
  • Scale Length: 32"
  • Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coil

The Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass is based on the Fender Jaguar Bass of the '70s, and this is another great short-scale bass guitar that you can purchase at a bargain price. I'm a huge fan of Jaguar guitars, both basses and 6 strings. I think the cool offset shape makes them stand out and have a really attractive vintage look. They are typically pretty dynamic in terms of tonal range and playability too.

This model comes with both P and J pickups, letting you get a wide range of tones, and dial in the perfect amount of punch and articulation. It comes with a simple master volume and master tone control knob - which doesn't give you the amount of versatility as standard Jaguar guitars' tone controls, but you still have a decent amount of range.

With the classic '70s 3-Color Sunburst finish, the Squier Jaguar bass guitar is the perfect mix between the old and the new, and it's a great bass for both beginners and experienced bass players.

I'm personally a big fan of these, and I don't think you'll be disappointed if you're looking for a nice vintage-style short-scale bass guitar.

What Could Be Improved

  • Some players might not find the offset shape comfortable
  • Relatively expensive

Best Tribute Bass

Another premium pick from G&L, the lesser-known brand from Leo Fender that features a lot of the style and quality you would get from a Fender, with a punchy attack it owes to its Magnetic Field humbucker.
Why We Love It
image
Unique body shape
image
High-quality build
image
Deep tonal resonance

Specs

  • Number of Strings: 4
  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Scale Length: 30"
  • Pickups: G&L Magnetic Field Humbucker

G&L electric guitars and basses are lesser known to the public, but they are another legendary company built by Leo Fender of Fender Musical Instruments. This is an affordable short-scale bass called the G&L Tribute Fallout Short Scale Bass guitar.

This has a beautiful single-cutaway Poplar body with a rather uncommon pickup and control setup. It's powered by a single Magnetic Field Design humbucker in the middle position of the bass, and it offers much more versatility than expected.

Within this one MFD humbucker, you have the option to choose between parallel, split-coil, and series configurations. I love the tonal range this provides, and it certainly has a unique sound.

I found the overall build quality to be impressive. It had excellent tuning retention, great playability, and an all-around nice feel. While it is a fair bit more expensive than other guitars on this list, it certainly won't disappoint, and it's packed with quality.

What Could Be Improved

  • Relatively expensive
  • Unusual balance

Best Short-Scale Bass Guitar Buyers Guide

It's not a straightforward process to choose a new bass guitar. I've bought a few in my time, and I know the important things to look out for. I recommend running through this list before you buy, so you can pick one that's a perfect match.

Price

When compared to a regular bass guitar, short-scale bass guitars are more affordable on average. However, when compared to its close sibling short-scale guitars, short-scale basses come in a much more variety of price ranges.

Short-scale basses can cost anything from $200 up to $5,000 depending on their craftsmanship and quality. If you're a beginner looking for your first bass guitar, I recommend you look at the $300 price range. This is a good starting point that gives you better quality than the cheapest models but isn't too much of a daunting investment.

If you're an experienced bass player, I'd suggest looking in the region of $500+. Obviously, the more money you spend, the better the quality (generally). But at the same time, I would recommend saving some of your budget for other parts of your setup, like a bass amp, pedals, and other bits of kit.

Type of Bass

Just like regular, long-scale bass guitars, short-scale basses come in various styles - some come with Precision Bass pickups or Jazz Bass pickups, or some even come in a violin-style body like the Hofner bass guitar. I'm personally a huge fan of jazz basses, but this ultimately comes down to your preferences.

Violin-Style Bass

Violin-style basses are some of the most iconic short-scale basses you'll find, and they are essentially a mix between an acoustic bass and an electric bass guitar. Although they were first introduced in 1955, they were popularized in the '60s when Paul McCartney of The Beatles frequently used this bass guitar.

I think Violin-style basses have a very unique tone that is warm and boomy, and because it is semi-acoustic, they are not as versatile as a solid-body bass guitar. But for getting that classic Beatles bass tone or for that warm and round bass tone, I'd say Violin-style bass guitars have some of the best sound quality for that style.

Fender & Squier Short-Scale Bass

Fender has a long history of producing short-scale basses just like Hofner, and Fender's short-scale models like Mustang and Jaguar basses are extremely popular. Fender basses are widely regarded as having the most "classic" and most versatile tones around, and their short-scale basses are no exception.

If you want the best all-around sound that can work across multiple styles of genres, affordable Fender-style bass is the way to go. Like I say, I think jazz basses are one of the best options if you're looking for articulation, clarity, and punch - but it's a matter of taste.

Gibson & Epiphone Short-Scale Bass

Gibson and its sibling company Epiphone are also equally popular brands in the bass guitar market as Fender. In fact, Gibson's EB-1 model predates Hofner's short-scale bass and is one of the first commercially sold short-scale bass guitars.

Now Gibson does not officially produce the legendary EB series, but there are similar basses available like the Gibson SG Standard Bass and the Epiphone EB-0 or the Epiphone EB-3. These basses are iconic staples in the history of rock, and for rock fans, Gibson or Epiphone short-scale basses are great choices. I think these are a rarer choice, I find them pretty exciting due to their uniqueness.

Scale Length

Even within the short-scale basses, a wide range of scale lengths are available. Some basses like the Airline Pocket Bass have a scale length of 26.5", and there are slightly longer ones like the Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass with a scale length of 32".

Although the standard length is 30", these different variations result in quite interesting bass tones and playability. I usually go for short-scale basses in the 30" range, but this can vary a fair bit.

Obviously, shorter basses will have much less tension in the strings and will be much more comfortable to play on. But the downside is that the number of frets will be quite limited, and it will be awkward to transition to a full-scale bass, which normally has a scale length of 34".

Strings

Strings are often overlooked, but the type of string you use has a massive impact on the overall bass tone and playability. The two main types of strings are round-wound strings and flat-wound strings. I prefer flat wounds due to their punch and pluck, but round strings equally have their place.

Violin-style basses usually have flat-wound strings, which creates a much more muffled and round tone. Flat-wound strings are harder to play on, and bends are difficult with flat-wound strings.

On the other hand, round-wound strings are more common types of strings and they are much more comfortable to play on. Round-wound strings have more treble-y quality to them and are a much more versatile type of bass strings also usable on acoustic bass guitars.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of playing a short-scale bass guitar?

Short-scale bass guitars are often recommended to younger players with smaller hands. Because regular bass guitars require a fair amount of hand strength to press on, players with small hands will find short-scale bass guitars much more comfortable to play on.

Another main benefit is its unique tonal quality - short-scale basses usually have a relatively deep and warm tonal quality to them. There are many professional bass players who prefer short-scale basses in some styles of music because of their unique bass tones.

Can I use standard bass strings on a short-scale bass guitar?

Although using standard bass strings on a short-scale bass guitar is possible, it is generally recommended to use strings that are specifically designed for short-scale basses. There are plenty of great options for a set of short-scale bass guitar strings from Ernie Ball Strings, D'Addario Strings, Elixir Strings, Jim Dunlop Strings, and more.

Who are some famous short-scale bass players?

The most famous short-scale bass player is certainly Paul McCartney, and he popularized the use of violin-style short-scale bass guitars in the mainstream media. Other than Paul, there are other notable players such as Bill Wyman of Rolling Stones, Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, Jack Bruce of Cream, and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue.

Conclusion

This concludes my review of the best short-scale bass guitars. I only put great models on this list, so none of them will let you down. Ultimately, I would say that the choices come down to the visual and sonic style that you're interested in.

One of my favorite short-scale bass guitars is the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ. I like this because it gives you the best of both P and J-type pickups, giving you a very broad range of bass tones. I'm also a fan of Mustangs and other offset Fender guitars for the looks alone. Although the build quality, feel, and sound of this guitar are all exceptional for the price – it feels like a real bass, which isn't always the case.

Leave a Reply

Live Nation Facing Federal Lawsuit Over Fumbled Taylor Swift 'Eras' Tour Rollout

Live Nation Facing Federal Lawsuit Over Fumbled Taylor Swift Eras Tour Rollout