Roundup: Short-Scale Basses
Fri, 17 May 2013

THE OLD ADAGE THAT “LEO GOT IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME” WITH THE Fender Precision Bass is hard to dispute; the combination of styling, ergonomics, and tone from that design forms the core of our consciousness as bass players. But was Leo actually the first to get it right? It’s hard to say for sure, but we do know that as early as 1936, the Seattle-based Audiovox Manufacturing company, led by player/builder Paul Tutmarc, introduced its Model 736 electric bass guitar, a funky little number with a solid walnut body, a magnetic pickup mounted under a steel pickguard, and a 30.5" scale length. Only around 100 instruments were made and distributed around the Northwest. Had the bass received wider exposure, perhaps we might have ended up with a different Founding Father of the Electric Bass Guitar.

Leo Fender and partner George Fullerton settled on a 34" scale length after experimenting with shorter (and alonger) scale lengths for the 1951 Precision Bass, but theirs was not the only game in town for long. Gibson’s 1953 EB-1 was a 30.5"-scale affair, and the 1956 Höfner 500/1 had a 30" scale length. The production rate of Fender Basses—not to mention their unbeatable tone—went on to set a 34" standard for scale length that continues today. But if popularity of new short- and medium-scale basses hitting this year’s NAMM Show floor is any indication, we may be experiencing a sea change in that department. We’ll continue to review new 30"- and 32"-scale basses as they become available—we’ve got orders in for the new Guild Starfire Bass, the Lakland Hollowbody 30, the Ibanez Artcores, and the Blast Cult Thirty2, to name a few—but this month we check out three new stumpy thumpers from Fender, Warwick, and Warmoth.

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