The Best Short-Scale Bass Guitar (2023)
Bass guitars are just naturally big instruments, especially when you compare them to standard 6-string guitars. That could cause some aspiring musicians with smaller hands to feel left out, but, as the saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way. There’s always a product that’s right for you if you just know where to look, and we want to help you find that perfect bass for your smaller hands. We’ve compiled this list of the best short-scale bass guitars so that even you folks out there with baby-sized hands will be able to thump, slap, and pick your way to bass mastery.
Carry on reading to see our full list of the best short-scale bass guitars, followed by a recap breaking down what makes each product on our list stand out. Or jump straight to our number #1 pick here.
What Should You Look For in a Short-Scale Bass Guitar?
If you’ve bought a bass before, you’re in luck, because short-scale basses are pretty much the same as standard bass guitars except for the fact that they’re, well, short-scale. That means you’ll know exactly what to look for in your short-scale bass guitar and you can probably skip this section. Of course, if you’re buying your first ever bass, or if you just want to understand our thought process, then you should definitely keep reading. We’ve laid out a simple and easy-to-read rubric below that will list the four criteria we’ve used to find the best short-scale bass guitars. In just a few short paragraphs, you’ll be an expert on everything related to short-scale basses.
Criteria #1: Sound Quality
I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, the most important thing about any musical instrument is that it sounds good. Of course, what “sounds good” means is a bit trickier, as it will vary from person to person. We also can’t give a full report on sound quality without actually playing every instrument, so we’ll only really have reviews to go on here. But we’ll make sure to give you the fullest picture possible of the sound quality of all of our bass guitars. We’ll do that by using meaningful metrics like the information about the actual build of the bass, and what genres it lends itself to. This way, we’re not just giving you arbitrary and subjective adjectives, and you’ll be able to find the best short-scale bass guitar that matches your playing style.
Criteria #2: Size
Considering you came here specifically looking for a short-scale bass guitar, the size of your instrument is probably pretty important to you. Whether that’s because of your body type or because of your travel and playing habits is up to you. Either way, we’re going to make sure to go into detail about the size and dimensions of all of the short-scale basses on our list so that you can get the bass guitar with your ideal scale length and dimensions. We want to give you a bass that matches your physical needs as well as your musical taste.
Criteria #3: Design
“Design” is admittedly a pretty big umbrella, and some of what you might consider being part of the design is already covered by our previous criteria. That being said, we want to give you the full picture of every bass guitar on our list. That means going into detail about the aesthetics from the body to the fret inlays, to more practical aspects like durability, pickup types, material, and more. We want to give you nothing but the finest craftsmanship out there.
Criteria #4: Price
We’re not here to make you spend a ton of money for no reason. Meeting this criterion is less about being cheap and more about justifying your price. We’d rather buy an expensive product that’s cheaper than it should be than waste money on a cheaper product that isn’t worth the money and that will just break on you or not perform well. Luckily, bass guitars span a pretty wide price range, and this means that everyone should be able to find something that fits in their budget and matches their needs.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars
We measured the specs of the top products on the market against our listed criteria to see how they held up and if they’re worth buying. We then checked customer reviews, blog posts, and “best short-scale bass guitars” articles to see if the products on our list performed as advertised. We’ll also make sure to include a wide variety of products that covers different niches and price points. Finally, we’ll take the time to point out any extra features that don’t fit squarely into any of our criteria. This way, everyone can find the perfect product that will satisfy their needs and their budget.
And without further ado, here is our list – tailored to your specific needs – of the best short-scale bass guitars.
#1: Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ (Best Value – All-Purpose)
If you’ve ever held a stringed instrument before, you’ve probably heard of Fender. The producers of the Stratocaster that was used by legends from Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton get our list started off with their Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ. At this point, the Fender name is almost enough of a reason to buy any product in its own right, but here are the actual specs so you don’t have to take our word for it.
The Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ features mid and bridge pickups that have been praised for giving this bass great tone variation, and the three-way toggle switch will be easy for even the least experienced bassists to use. Plus, the three different volume knobs gives you full control of each pickup, so you can make sure that you always have the perfect volume depending on what you’re playing.
Next, our top-ranked short-scale bass from Fender has a 30-inch scale length that will be perfect for anyone with smaller hands. The Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ also features a Hardtail four saddle bridge that offers precise and stable tuning, so you’ll be able to get the perfect tune down to the last quarter tone, and you’ll keep that perfect tune. This is great for beginners who are still a little overwhelmed by tuning, and fantastic for performers who can’t risk losing their tune mid-song.
The C-shape of the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ’s body gives you full access to every fret, and though there are only 19 of them, you shouldn’t worry about that too much. Bass guitars are, obviously, mostly meant for the lower notes, so having a low number of frets isn’t as big of a drawback as it would be with a standard guitar.
The Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ features a nice orange body with a marble pick guard, and a classic maple fingerboard with black dot inlays, while the body is made from alder. The middle pickup is a precision single-coil pickup, while the bridge pickup is a jazz single-coil one.
Our number one short-scale bass guitar is featured on pretty much every list you can find of the best short-scale basses, so you know we’re not making any controversial statements here. The Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ is not exactly cheap, but it has a very reasonable price tag that really undersells itself. You’re getting plenty of value for every dollar you spend, and this price is still accessible to beginners as long as you know you’re committed to learning the bass.
The only real “flaw” of this bass is the 19 frets, but I’ve already addressed that. The Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ is the best value out there, and it was a pretty straight forward choice to be our best short-scale bass guitar.
#2: Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar (Best Overall Short-Scale Bass Guitar)
Bang for your buck is great, but anyone more dedicated to slapping the bass will probably want the best instrument they can get their hands on, even if it might be a little pricey. If you’re dead set on a short-scale, that’s probably the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar, which is the real king of the hill in this field. As we alluded to, it’s a little pricey, but the real bass snobs out there will probably find that it’s more than worth it. Here are the big selling points of the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar that just might convince yourself to treat yourself and splurge for a concert-grade short-scale bass guitar.
Reason #1 to Choose This Product: Hollowbody Design
There are a lot of reasons someone – myself included – might be drawn to the hollowbody design of the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar. First of all, it’s beautiful. This Chuck Berry-esque short-scale bass guitar is sure to catch the eye of your friends and make you feel like you belong on stage.
As they say, dress for success. That should extend to your instrument. But the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar is more than just a pretty face. The hollowbody of this high-end short-scale bass makes it lighter than ever, and the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar weighs a measely 7 pounds. Plus, the neck is just as light, which gives our runner-up short-scale bass guitar a nice and balanced feel to it.
Finally, just like with an acoustic guitar (though not to the same degree) the hollowbody of the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar will give you some solid acoustic that will give you a small boost in volume, so you probably won’t need to crank up the volume quite as much. The Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar really is more than just a pretty face.
Reason #2 to Choose This Product: Versatile Pickups
Thanks to its highly-regarded Chi-Sonic pickups, the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar will give you access to amazing frequency response, and you’ll be able to get the perfect tone that will match whatever genre or vibe you’re going for. This top-tier short-scale bass guitar decided to skip the mid-position pickup, but it features both a neck pickup and a bridge pickup that will offer something for everyone.
As a nice little bonus, the capped single-coil pickups of the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar look great. You have the classic -way pickup selector, and these pickups have been praised for providing “a warm, rounded bottom, detailed mids, and a smooth natural high end.” If you don’t like to stick to one sound or genre, then the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar will be worth every penny.
As the name implies, the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar has a scale length of 30 inches, and this electric bass guitar has 20 frets, so that gives it a small edge over our top pick in the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ. On top of the hollowbody design and the amazing pickups, this guitar features a beautiful maple top with mahogany a bottom and sides.
Just as with our previous short-scale bass guitar, the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar is a regular on all of the lists of the best short-scale basses. Of course, it’s definitely a little pricey. If you can’t afford this short-scale bass guitar, or if you just don’t like the hollowbody design, then you should probably stick with the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ. But if you appreciate the hollowbody and the versatile pickups, then you’ll want to splurge for the Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar. It’s not exactly the best value, but it might just be the overall best short-scale bass guitar.
#3: Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass (Best Wide-Range Bass)
Before I say anything else about this bass, I just need to point out the beautiful titular violin design. Who among us has never wanted to feel like Paul McCartney? That’d be enough of a reason for me to buy this retro, Beatles-themed bass, but if you still need more convincing, I’ll keep going.
The Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass has a scale length of 30 inches, and this short-scale bass guitar boasts 24 frets to give you two full octaves to work with. I’ve mentioned that extra frets is probably a luxury for most bass players, but if you want to break out of your shell and steal the limelight from your lead guitar player, then those extra notes will be a necessity. With the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass you’ll be able to do more than provide low-end rythym, and eventually you’ll be soloing like Flea or Jacko.
The legendary violin bass that you’ve seen in countless old music videos features two Hofner Ignition Staple Nickel humbuckers at the bridge and neck position, which gives you some amazing tone with great sustain. The semi-hollow body of the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass is made from spruce on top and maple on the back, while the fretboard is made out of rosewood.
As you’ve probably learned to expect, the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass has a 3-way pickup selector, and you also get a volume knob for each pickup. This means that you’ll get even more versatility out of the 24 frets on this violin-style short-scale bass. Finally, if you want to spice things up and devert a little from the classic Paul McCartney style while still paying homage to the Beatles legend, the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Basscomes in 4 different color schemes. Instead of the classic sunburst, you can opt for a sleek trans black, a vibrant green burst, or a dazzling pearl white.
The source material of this bass makes it pretty obvious what genre it’s intended for. If you want 24 frets and an amazing throwback vibe, then you’ll have to buy the short-scale Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass. It’s the best short-scale bass guitar for any classic rock lover.
#4: Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar (Best Low Cost)
If you’ve started to feel like short-scale bass guitars automatically cost several hundred dollars, don’t worry. There’s always a budget option if you know where to look, and this time, the place to look is Ibanez. A brand that needs no introduction, Ibanez did a huge favor for every small bass players wallet when they made the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar.
True to the “micro” part of its name, the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar features the shortest scale length on our list with its 28-inch scale. There’s short-scale, and there’s the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar. This short-scale bass guitar features a body made from beautiful agathis and a maple neck which has 22 frets and dot inlays. On top of the short scale length, the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar is just about the smallest bass out there with its dimensions of 39 x 11.5 x 2.3 inches and a weight of only 6.9 pounds.
Our budget bass from Ibanez features a split-coil mid pickup and a single-coil pickup at the bridge position. You have a volume knob for each pickup and a tone knob. Thanks to its small size and weight, the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar is perfect for child prodigies and small adults alike, while the unbelievably cheap price makes it ideal for beginners or anyone on a budget. If you need to save some money while you rock out on the bass, then you have to buy the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar.
#5: Eastwood Airline Map Bass (Best Unique Design)
If you’re trying to really make it big, then you’ll want to have a signature bass guitar that can act as your calling card. You also probably won’t want to go with the same Fender bass that everyone’s been using since the 60s. But with the Eastwood Airline Map Bass, I guarantee you’ll make an impression and really stand out.
This funky bass features a peninsula at the top of the body that contains the pickup selector, and you may even find this unique pickup location more comfortable for your playing style. Despite the odd design, the Eastwood Airline Map Bass has been praised for fitting comfortably around the body and having a nice, balanced feel to it.
This one-of-a-kind short-scale bass guitar has a scale length of 30 inches and is boasts two Alnico Hot-10 humbucker pickups. This gives it amazing clarity on the low end of things, and the bridge pickup in particular has been praised for sounding bright and clear. Experts suggest using the Eastwood Airline Map Bass for funk, blues, and R&B music.
The last of our short-scale bass guitars features a mahogany body, a bound-maple neck, a rosewood fretboard, and block inlays that further set it apart from the crowd. And as a nice cherry on top, it weighs just 9 pounds.
Finally, it features black, seafoam green, and white finishes, so you can make sure you’re getting the exact look that you want. The Eastwood Airline Map Bass features the standard 3-way pickup switch control with two volume controls and tone control.
If you’re looking for the best short-scale bass guitar to give you your signature look and propel you to stardom, look no further than the Eastwood Airline Map Bass.
Short-Scale Bass Guitar FAQs
Music is complicated, and looking at gear can get confusing. I’m sure you still have plenty of questions left, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least try to answer all of them. While I can’t read your mind, I can follow the trends. We’ve added this FAQ section to our article to make sure that everyone leaves with the information they need to buy the short-scale bass of their dreams. Keep reading to finish your crash course in short-scale bass guitars 101.
How does a short-scale bass guitar affect my playing?
Having a short scale length on your guitar will obviously affect your playing, hopefully for the better. First of all, if you’re reading this list, we presume that you’ve come to the conclusion that you’ll be more comfortable with a short-scale bass, and comfort is only a good thing when it comes to music. Short-scale bass guitars not only have a shorter neck, but usually smaller frets, which will be invaluable for anyone with smaller hands.
But on top of the comfort aspect, a short scale will actually affect the sound of your bass. A short-scale bass guitar will have a louder overall volume but worse articulation than a long-scale bass guitar. On top of that, it’s easier to bend strings on a short-scale bass than a long-scall bass guitar, though that’s more relevant in guitars than in basses. You should take all of these physical and musical factors into account before you decide to purchase a short-scale bass.
How do I measure the scale of a bass guitar?
We’ve given you the scale length of all of our bass guitars, but if you’re browsing in person, you might want to be able to measure the scale length on your own. The scale is defined as the measurement from the nut to the bridge, but you can’t just measure in a straight line.
The problem with measuring the scale length of the bass (or a guitar) is that the bridge is uneven and not an accurate measuring point. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution to this. Just measure from the nut to the 12th fret, and double it. Since the 12th fret is always the exact halfway point of the scale, this trick will always work! You’re now ready to measure the scale length of any bass or guitar in the world.
Verdict: Your Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars
We’re reaching the end of our list, and you’re hopefully starting to get a good idea of which of our products is best for you. But if you haven’t made up your mind yet, not to worry. We don’t want to rush, and we know how important it is to make sure you’re getting the short-scale bass guitar that’s perfect for you. That’s why we’re going to recap all of our short-scale bass guitars and focus on their standout features. This way, you’ll be able to see the highlights and really know what each product has to offer for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ.
There’s not much else to say about a reasonably priced short-scale bass that has 3 pickups, full volume control over each of them, and an excellent design that’s great for beginners and pros alike. The well-designed bridge of the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ gives you precise and sustained tuning, and the pickups have been praised for giving an amazing crisp and clear tone.
Of course, the classic design of any Fender product is always a nice cherry on top, and the 30-inch scale length of the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ will be a great fit for anyone with smaller hands or shorter arms. The price tag wraps everything together to make the Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ the best value on the market. This short-scale bass from Fender was an easy choice for you number one pick.
If you need a wide range of notes, pick the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass.
Nothing bad has ever come out of looking like Paul McCartney, and the Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass will let you do just that. But on top of the amazing aesthetic of his this short-scale violing bass, the 24 frets and the amazing and versatile pickups will let you hit every note and achieve every tone and timbre that you can think of. The Hofner Ignition Series Violin Bass isn’t limited to just Beatles era classic rock. With this short-scale bass guitar, you’ll be able to get the perfect sound for almost any genre you can think of.
If you want to keep the spending cheap, pick the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar.
Slapping the bass doesn’t have to be a hobby with a price barrier on it. The absolutely tiny Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar is a double whammy. It’s one of the cheapest basses on the market and the absolute smallest bass on the market. Whether you really need a small bass with a short scale or you just want something cheap, this is the best choice for you.
The Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar has ever feature you need, plus a super short scale length of just 28 inches, and it weighs less than 7 pounds. The “micro” in Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar is really pulling its weight, so if you weren’t kidding around when you searched for “best short-scale bass guitars”, go ahead and pick up the Ibanez GSRM20 Micro Bass Guitar.
We’ve shown you five amazing short-scale bass guitars and (hopefully) answered all your questions, and now we’re just about ready to wrap things up. If none of the highlighted short-scale bass guitars above were quite what you’re looking for, you may be more interested in the beautiful and versatile Lakland Skyline Series Hollowbody-30 Bass Guitar or the one-of-a-kind Eastwood Airline Map Bass.
Remember that all of the basses on our list have one trait that really sets them apart from the crowd, so that’s where you’ll want to focus when you’re making your final decision. Of course, you might also decide to work in the other direction and think about which feature is most important to you before evaluating each short-scale bass. No matter which approach you take, we hope that your list has helped.
That’s all for now. Enjoy your brand new short-scale bass guitar, and good luck on your musical journey!