short scale bass guitar

Small Bass Guitars for Children (And Adults)

The bass on the left is a regular scale 1961 Fender Precision, which could be quite heavy for a child. The bass on the right is a Jerry Jones Longhorn bass which is preferred my own daughter as it lighter with its hollow body and a short scale neck.

It’s great to get kids into music.  Music is often seen as a positive activity, which can get them away from too much screen time.  The allure of having some fun with your mates and forming a band can provide endless opportunities to socially engage.    

I do not think that music is appreciated enough in the school curriculum, it is often seen as the lesser subject.  For us when our daughter decided that she wanted to take music as an option we did not hesitate to let her do so.  For a start, the mental health benefits are huge, it gives children a creative balance against all the other curriculum demands.  It is often also appreciated when applying to university later in life as it is an indicator of a well-rounded extracurricular activity. 

We are seeing or, we are aware of (I’m not sure which it is) a lot more mental health issues with our young people, so it is great to get them into music.  Any attempt to stave off stress and help with wellbeing for anyone is surely a positive worth pursuing.

Skills from Learning Music

Even though we could have pretty much taught her most things she needs to know on her main instruments, the benefit of getting input from other musicians, working things out in a group, learning to practice her instrument and turn up in a group to practice, is of course worth while alongside the pure joy of just having a skill that can if kept up last a lifetime. 

Be Child Led

When buying an instrument it is important to get something that that is going to meet the desires of the player and not the parent, otherwise there is a chance that they will simply not gel with the instrument.  Not only financially possibly a waste, but arguably more important a waste of opportunity in terms of getting the kid into music.

Can They Learn on a Full Sized Bass Guitar?

It is perhaps worth noting that most children can learn on a full size bass, depending on their age and stature of course. But the larger size and weight of a full size instrument just makes it a little more challenging.  The suggestion of getting a smaller sized instrument is an attempt to reduce the challenges especially felt when they are in the early stages of learning.

Options for Children and Basses

We are big fans of ukuleles (ukes) in our house and own a few (always wanting more of course) they sit nicely alongside our collection of basses.  I’m going to suggest that ukes are generally great instruments to have, they are fun and addictive as instruments go, and the good news is that there is a bass ukulele option. More on Ukulele’s here.

The fingering is different for a bass ukulele as opposed to a ‘regular uke’ – however, bass uke’s do have the same fingering as regular bass guitar so they can be switched between easily with a little adjustment in playing action.  Sometimes children start off with a bass ukulele then ‘upgrade’ when they are older to a bass guitar.

I’ve added ukulele’s to the recommended list as they will have by design a short scale neck and are light and portable.  Additionally, if the school has a ukulele orchestra this will be a qualifier, and the chances are there are not many bass ukes so most likely they will be a welcome addition. 

It is important to note that you are not going to get a big sound at all out of a bass ukulele you will need to put it through a bass amp for the instrument to be reasonably heard.

Short Scale Bass Guitars

It’s quite possible of course that your child has a very good idea in their head as what they want to do and that might well be to play bass guitar in a band. 

There is something special about going to a guitar shop seeing racks of shiny new instruments whether it is to buy or just browse. Either way it is a good opportunity to try out a few models to see what works. 

Something like the Ibanez TMB30-BK Talman Short Scale is going to look and sound the part.  Ibanez generally do a few beginner entry models which are short scale they are also a popular option in schools.   

There is of course the secondhand market.  The supply of short scale instruments is not as great as regular full size instruments and given the relative low entry point you might want to go for a new guitar and pick up a small practice amp on the second hand market if budget is being checked.

Bass Guitar Sizes

Most electric basses are 34” referred to as a standard ‘long scale.’

Extra Long basses would be over 34”

Quite often basses with 5 strings would be around 35”

A ‘medium scale’ bass would be 30”-33”

Short Scale is 30” or less. 

If your child is a young teen or say below 12 years, a short scale is a good option, or indeed if you are a more petite adult.  OR if you are an adult who is looking for something to easily carry around when travelling. 

The Advantage of a Short Scale Bass Guitar

Basses can be big heavy instruments, so the obvious advantage of a short scale bass is that the overall body is scaled down a bit, allowing better reach.  The fingerboard is shorter, which as expected means less reach, more suitable for smaller hands.  The spacing between the frets is a little smaller. 

A regular scaled bass is usually around 34” from the ‘nut’ which is the bar just below the headstock to the bridge.  A short scale bass is typically bellow 30”.  You will also find that the strings run a bit looser over the fingerboard which makes it a little easier to bend the strings.  This is due to lesser string tension on these shorter scale models.

Being a little more technical here with regards to the sound, as the strings are shorter from the nut to the bridge, than say a regular bass you will find the sound might have a little less sustain. (Whish is the length of the note when played) This is because the strings are shorter.  This should not be a major concern however and as mentioned below there are plenty of musicians who play short scale basses. 

Short Scale Basses Are Good for Adults

Short scale basses are attracting some interest at the moment from all musicians, adults included.

Remember Paul McCartney is famous for playing a short scale.  There are loads of other examples as well: Jack Bruce (Cream), Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones) Andy Fraser (Free), Glenn Cornick (Jethro Tull), Trevor Bolder (Spiders From Mars, Uriah Heep), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Garry Tallent (E Street Band), Bruce Thomas (the Attractions), Gary Mounfield (Stone Roses, Primal Scream), Mike Watt (Minuteman, Firehose, Stooges).

These instruments have been around since the 1950s so this is nothing new or gimmicky.  So if your kid decides they want to go on and learn the trombone after six months you’ll have an instrument which will be equally playable for most adults.