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7 Best Short Scale Bass Guitars of 2021 – Reviews & Buyers Guides

If you love the bass guitar but are worried about small hands and short stature, you don’t have to settle for ukuleles. Just buy a short-scale bass guitar instead. Full-size guitars are 34 inches from their bridge to their nut. Short scale guitars range from 31 to 28 inches.

You can also get a short-scale guitar if you’re transitioning from regular or rhythm guitar to bass. The shorter length makes it easier for your fingers to adjust. They’re also recommended for kids, beginner bassists, and younger players. So let’s start with a list of the best short-scale guitars.

Quick Glance: The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar on the Market

 

The Best Short Scale Bass Guitar 2021

1. Dean Evo XM Short Scale Bass Guitar

Dean Evo XM Mahogany Short-Scale Electric Bass Guitar - Natural

You may have special reasons for buying a short-scale bass. But it’s probably because you’re a first-time bassist. This could mean you’ve played guitar for years but want to try your hand at bass. Or maybe you’re a t(w)een that dreams of playing in your favorite band. Either way, early jitters are expected. So if your guitar sounds bad out of the box, you could easily give up or quit.

And that’s a huge factor with the Dean Evo. It’s a lightweight guitar is if you’re picking up the bass as a hobby, you’ll love lugging it around on your shoulder. And if you’re a teen looking to up your cool factor, you’ll probably take it out in public and play a lot. So buying this cool guitar is a great way to get kids to practice more often. But it’s such a basic guitar so it could be a challenge.

How so? You need to set it up as soon as you unbox it. And you need to tune and re-adjust it often to keep it sounding right. So beginner bassists, lessons in guitar maintenance are essential before buying this piece. But once you’re at ease with frequent set-up, this guitar will give your hours of playing pleasure (and the popularity that comes with it!) It’s made of hollow mahogany.

The fretboard is rosewood and this 30-inch guitar weighs well under 10 pounds. The humbuckers have a smooth finish with no visible studs. Its maple neck features the trademark gothic arch that Dean Edge guitars are known for. But you may need accessories like new strap holders, a customized bridge, or even glow-in-the-dark fret markers to keep it playable.

The Dean Evo XM is the best short-scale bass guitar for beginners because it’s light and looks cool. This encourages learners to play more often. But its frequent set-up needs can be a downer.

Pros:

  • It has a stylish black body and dual humbuckers.
  • It’s a 30-inch humbucker and weighs 8.6 pounds.
  • The jumbo frets make it easier to play.

Con:

  • This is a low-end guitar so you need to set it up before you use it. So if you’re a beginner, get a teacher or seasoned bassist to help you or you’ll give up before you start.

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2. Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Short Scale Bass Guitar

Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Electric Bass Guitar II - Black

Music is a form of art, so yes, aesthetics are a big deciding factor when you’re buying musical instruments. But looks should never compromise on function. Unfortunately, that’s a mistake any beginning bassists make. Maybe you watched your favorite band. Then you rushed to buy something (cheap) that looks like the one in the music video. Luckily, the Gretsch solves that.

It’s a pretty guitar with a black and silver finish. But these glossy gray elements are functional as well. The clean minimalist appearance of its unstudded humbuckers ensure crisp sound. And the silver finish on its bridge, strings, and control knobs ensure durability. The visible screws add visual appeal while maintaining the clean, elegant aesthetic of your guitar.

Functionally, this guitar has a 30.3-inch scale. It has a basswood body and a rosewood fretboard. The guitar has 20 frets with doted inlays. These are useful finger-guides as you learn to play. And even seasoned players appreciate the dotted guides when they’re gigging on darkened stages and dingy clubs. The portability of this guitar is good for gigs as well.

This guitar features a permanent bridge but it ships without a case. Its pretty outer body may seem susceptible to marring, so if you want to keep it pristine, consider buying a hard case for your guitar. The tuning nuts are die-cast from synthetic bone and the bridge has four saddles.

This guitar is most commonly sold in black but you can get other colors. And it has a powerful bottom for something that looks so sleek. Some newer models use walnut fretboards rather than rosewood. Instead of the usual three knobs, it has two knobs and a three-way toggle switch that lets you toggle between your pick-ups. The slim, comfy neck measures 1 and 9/16 inches.

The Gretch G2220 is a guitar that’s both pretty and practical. It has round-wound strings and its visible screws give the guitar a distinct visual effect. Buy a separate hard-back case for it though.

Pros:

  • Its medium jumbo frets are a blessing for beginners.
  • The dotted fret inlays are a handy learning tool.
  • Its black and silver accents are both beautiful and functional.

Con:

  • This guitar looks delicate and it ships without a case, so you may consider buying a sturdy hard-body guitar bag, just to be safe. Also, the pick-up toggle can get a little squeaky.

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3. Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 String Bass Guitar (Our Top Pick)

Ibanez 4 String Bass Guitar, Right, Brown Sunburst (GSRM20BS)

The Ibanez Mikro is known for being a small guitar with a big sound. This could why it’s so popular with beginners and stage performers. The ‘cool factor’ adds extra flair for giggers, buskers, and cover bands because image does matter when you’re in the showbiz scene.

For teens and tweens, the visual coolness and lightweight board also encourage extra playtime. This may not seem important but consider this – the more you play, the quicker you improve, and the higher your motivation to keep at it. So buying a good-looking, easy-to-play guitar is the surest way to keep your kids (and guitar students) interested in their instrument.

This guitar has a 28.3-inch scale that matches its nickname. The body of the guitar is poplar and its fretboard is metal. The neck feels a little flimsy for seasoned players – especially if you have large hands. And despite its size, it squeezes in 24 frets by spacing them tighter at the base. It’s a PJ guitar with a split-coil design on its upper humbucker. And it’s compact for tight storage.

The strings that come with this guitar are round-wound nickel. Young players may not care, but if you’re more experienced, the scratchy sound may bother you. So as you’re considering a DIY switch-installation, you may opt to re-string your Ibanez as well. It could be a good training tool.

Think of it as a sneaky way to teach advanced guitar maintenance and ‘superior musicality’. Start the kids on the guitar as is, playing it straight out of the box. Then as their skills improve, show them how to change the strings and install a switch so they understand the difference. They will be better at identifying the finer points of sound quality so they will value this lifelong tip.

The Ibanez is popular with both beginners and touring musicians. For starting bassists, it teaches them about the value of fine-tuning your instrument, pun intended.

Pros:

  • Its scale is a deliciously tiny 28.3 inches.
  • The dynamic pick-up gives you more playing options.
  • At under 7 pounds, the guitar is conveniently portable.

Con:

  • This Ibanez has a good color selection but the amp cable isn’t included. Also. The basic model has no three-way switch so you may consider getting a newer upgraded version that has the switch built-in. Otherwise, you’ll have to install one yourself.

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4. Jackson JS Concert Short Scale Bass Guitar

Jackson JS Series Concert Bass Minion JS1X Bass Guitar (Satin Black)

When you’re starting out as a bass player, you may think more frets are better. But spacing is a large factor in playability. Especially on short-scale guitars that have less space to begin with. Jackson bass guitars have fewer frets but wider spacing, so you only get 22 frets from this model. But because they’re nicely spread out, the high notes are way easier to play.

The guitar also has decorative details on its fretboard. The frets are made of glossy pearloid materials and alternative frets have a sharkfin plate. These plastic bits make the guitar pretty and help with heat dissipation and acoustics. But they also serve as playing guides because they help you identify the frets by touch. This PJ guitar has both single and dual pick-ups.

The single-coil side has split-coil styling and the bridge uses the patented Jackson hard-tail step-ladder system. It’s a passive short-scale bass guitar so it only has three control knobs. The neck on this guitar is made of maple wood while the fretboard is amaranth wood. The outer body is poplar with a glossy satin finish that matches the bridge plate, buttons, and humbuckers.

While anyone can play the minion, it’s built with kids in mind. So it’s deliberately lightweight and the maple neck is bolted in place and reinforced with graphite rods. This helps it better withstand the rough handling of kids (and angsty adult guitarists) who may shred a little too enthusiastically as they try to look cool. Color options include neon green and bright purple.

The Jackson Minion short scale guitar is built for big bass and little hands. It has a PJ system for broader sound control but it doesn’t have a toggle switch so you may have to put one in.

Pros:

  • The shark fins and pearloid frets are a nice visual touch.
  • It’s a PJ guitar with convenient tone control.
  • This guitar has a 1-piece amaranth fretboard.

Con:

  • Guitars with multiple pick-ups function best if they have a three-way switch. This guitar doesn’t have one, so going from P to J isn’t as smooth as it could be.

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5. Squier by Fender Bronco Short Scale Bass Guitar

Squier by Fender Bronco Bass, Black with Maple Fingerboard

The main reason people choose short scale bass guitars is their physical height (or lack thereof). But there are other differences besides the length of the guitar. The best short-scale bass guitar has a distinct feel and sound. So if you want the benefits of short scales but you’re stuck on your Fender, you have two options: get a low-end version like the Mustang, which we’ll look at next.

Or buy yourself a Squier. This sub-brand is specifically designed for beginning bassists. So it has all the beloved features of a pricier Fender but it’s built for small hands and entry-level budgets. This Bronco Bass is one of the top models in the Fender line of low-end bass guitars. It has multiple color options, a low body mass, and a traditional C-shaped neck for ergonomics.

Like many modern musical instruments, there’s an app for it. Fender Play lets you practice various tunes, styles, and finger exercises for dexterity. And because it’s intended for shorter musicians, this bass guitar has a bolted maple neck and a reinforced fretboard and satin finish. This helps it balance better given its low weight. The 2-saddle bridge is made of chrome.

Because this is a ‘Fender for kids’, the pick-guard has s single ply and the tuning pegs are die-cast. The fretboard is carved from laurel wood and the outer body is agathis, sometimes called ashwood. The guitar comes fitted with alloy steel strings, and the frets are harsh so they may discourage beginning bassists. Squier short scales are built in Indonesia and shipped to the US.

The Bronco is a smart purchase when you’re seeking a Fender for petite players. It has a solid build and passive system. It’s a single-coil guitar with a 2-saddle bridge and a decent sound.

Pros:

  • It’s a single-coil guitar and has a Bronco Bass pick-up.
  • Its length from the bridge to the nut is 30 inches.
  • The guitar is available in various mixes of black and red.

Con:

  • It doesn’t need setting up like other low-priced guitars, but if you’re a short pro (rather than a gangly teen), you may want to change the strings and shift the bridge for better play.

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6. Fender Mustang PJ Offset Short Scale Bass Guitar

Fender Player Mustang Bass PJ MN Black w/Tortoise Pickguard (CME Exclusive)

You can get a Squier short-scale guitar for two to three hundred dollars. Sometimes less. But if you want to go into the six-hundred dollar range without hitting a full Fender budget, you could go with something like the Mustang. It’s priced higher than typical Squiers, and it has a few advantages over its cheaper sibling. It has PJ pick-ups but it’s still a passive short-scale bass.

The guitar has a toggle switch, that’s always a nice touch. And it’s positioned closer to your strumming hand (instead of being clustered with the rest of your control knobs). This positioning is more intuitive for switching pick-ups in the middle of a high-intensity session. The guitar has a maple neck and an Alderwood body. The fingerboard is 9.5-inch maple.

A lot of Mustang buyers are driven by its heritage. This guitar has been played in top bands like My Chemical Romance and The Rolling Stones. But the short scale version is an entry-level remake, so no, you’re not playing the same guitar that Bill Wyman played. But you’re getting a pretty good clone, designed by the same team and customized for your pocket, so it’s a good deal.

The Mustang does have a ‘plasticky feel’ because of its glossy polyester finish and satin polyurethane neck. The tuning pegs are synthetic bone and it has a chrome bridge. So this isn’t a guitar your kids will sell for vintage value. But it sounds great and has Fender ‘street cred’ so it’s the best short-scale bass guitar when you’re starting out. Not so much if you’re touring.

The Fender Mustang guitar looks amazing and sounds sufficiently ‘punk rocky’. But it’s not as sleek or elegant as a ‘proper Fender’. Still, it’s an affordable way to work your way into Fenders.

Pros:

  • The tortoise pick-guard is gorgeous!
  • Your mustang is a mix of alder and maple.
  • It has a PJ system with a top-facing pick-up switch.

Con:

  • This Mustang has a high price considering it’s in the low-end range of bass guitars.

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7. Hofner Ignitions Violin Bass Guitar

Hofner IGNITIONSB Electric Violin Bass Guitar - Rosewood Fingerboard, Sunburst Finish

Violin bass guitars were popularized by Sir Paul McCartney back when he played with the Beatles. It’s a beautiful instrument and lots of contemporary brands have mimicked the shape and silhouette of this popular instrument. But let’s talk more about the original Hofner. Visually, it has gorgeous curved, glossy nickel tuners, and pearloid finishes on its pick-up and tailpiece.

It’s a lightweight guitar that only weighs 6.84lbs, perfect for gigs, and offering excellent portability. The guitar has a slim profile, a pretty face, and a deep bass thrum. The fretboard is rosewood. And while it’s a 30-inch shirt scale base, its design makes it seem longer.

The Ignition series is the entry-level Hofner line, so while it looks, sounds, and feels like what the Beatles played, it won’t hit your pocket too hard. Initial Hofner’s were built in Germany. These lower-end versions ship from China, but they’re still true to the brand and maintain all its quality controls. The guitar has a trapeze-style tailpiece and a sturdy wooden bridge.

On the control panel, you can switch from solo to rhythm, bass to treble, or migrate between pick-ups. You can also ‘mute’ your guitar by flicking off both pick-ups when you want to quietly practice your fingering. It’s a good guitar for beginners and pros and its low weight is a delight.

Pros:

  • It’s a pretty mix of spruce and maple with nickel tuners.
  • The semi-hollow boy offers a unique resonance.
  • Its control button holds three toggles switches and two knobs.

Con:

  • This guitar is portable because it’s so light and sleight. Plus it’s popular for busking and bussing, so you should probably invest in a hard case to keep it well protected.

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Buying Guide

Whether you’re a guitar soloist worried about stretching or a kid just getting into bass, short-scale guitars will sort your music fix. But how can you be sure you’ve found the best short scale guitar? Whenever possible, go to the music store in person and test out the guitar to see how it feels in your hands. But if you can’t, here are some key points to consider while you shop.

String Selection

Short scale bass players often have a smaller stature, so a lot of them are kids and teens. Meaning the ‘cool factor’ is important. Especially if they’ve saved and are choosing the guitar themselves (As opposed to shopping with their parents or music teacher). But while tweens may go for the cool and unusual, help them consider practicality as well. And yes, the strings matter.

4-string bass guitars are the most common kind, though you can also get 5-strings or 6-strings. Some custom guitars have even more strings. You can also choose between flat-wound and round-wound strings. Many bassists prefer flat-wound strings, but they’re rarer and cost more. Contemporary guitars often ship with round-wounds, though you can change them if you want.

Pick-up Style

We’ve touched on string number and style, but we haven’t mentioned how strings affect the physical size and sound of your guitar. Another important ‘physical issue’ is the style and number of pick-ups. They can be variously defined as magnetic or non-ferrous, single-coil or dual coil, split or humbucking. These terms can be confusing and they involve a lot of overlaps.

To make it even more puzzling, precision guitars (P-Style) often have a split-single coil while jazz guitars have an eight-coil double pick-up. PJ guitars have both, and you can toggle between them or blend them. Non-magnetic pick-ups might use infra-red optical transducers or electrical piezo style bridges and non-metallic strings that convert physical guitar vibrations into reverb.

Active or Passive

Size and weight are big factors for short-scale bass guitars. Apart from shorter physical lengths, the best short-scale bass guitar is lighter and more portable. That’s why kids and beginners love them so much. You can carry it around and play longer sessions so you’re likely to practice more. And of course the more you rehearse the quicker you improve, so it’s a ‘top trick’ for teachers.

Physically, short-scale guitars are smaller, so they may feel crowded by the extra knobs and dials on active guitar. But if you’re a seasoned player with a slight frame (as opposed to a beginning bassist or a gangly tween) you may want access to the versatility and flair of an active bass. Active bass guitars do need a 9V to 12V battery, so they’ll be a tad heavier than passive ones.

Short And Sweet

Given our research, we believe the best short-scale bass guitar is the Ibanez Mikro. Here’s why:

  • The broad color selection matches your personality and mood.
  • It has a lightweight body that perfect for begpacking gigs and extended practice.
  • The guitar has dynamic PJ styling and its mikro scale is great for storage.
  • The slender neck on the Ibanez is helpful for beginners (and arthritic players too!).
  • This guitar comes with the round-wound strings that many modern players prefer.

Are you playing a short-scale bass guitar at the moment? Show us a photo in the comments!

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