9 Best Short Scale Bass Guitars (2020) – Mini Basses

Updated on by Ross McLeod | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

Short scale bass guitars have had a resurgence in popularity in recent years, largely due to their playability and unique timbre. Commonly featuring smaller frets than full-sized models, short scale basses are easier to navigate.

Although most of the best short scale basses have similar dimensions, their feel and tone vary widely from model to model. The following list presents the best mini basses that blend amazing sonic qualities with comfortable playing.

The Best Short Scale Bass Guitars

The Fender Mustang is an exquisite bass guitar, with its many incarnations being used by world-renowned bassists for decades. This version features a shortened 30” scale length.

The tone produced by the American Performer Mustang packs a punchy. With a thump mid-range and jazzy, warm treble, it’s well suited to a variety of styles and genres. Additionally, Fender has added some brand new updates to this popular model.

Firstly, there’s the slightly modified appearance. The marble-like scratchplate adds a modern feel to the Mustand, while the rosewood fingerboard makes transitions effortless underhand.

Along with the smooth fretboard, there’s a highly playable neck, constructed of maple. The fret size, unlike some short scale basses, is no different from an average-sized model. With this approach, you get the benefits of a lighter and more mobile instrument whilst having more space on your fretboard.

The warm tonal output of the Mustang is down to the inclusion of versatile split and J-style Yosemite pickups. No matter what style of bass you play, the Mustang is capable of producing it.

In the neck position, you get the classic split single-coil, known for its thumping riff-producing ability. In the bridge, there’s a Jazz Bass pickup. This has flat, staggered pole pieces to throw even more punch into the mix.

  • Lightweight Alder body
  • Smooth maple C neck that is highly playable
  • Yosemite pickups create warm and versatile tones
  • Classic Mustang design with new updates
  • Large frets aren’t ideal for those with smaller hands

The Squier Mini Precision is a short-scale bass that performs to a level that belies its modest price tag. An ideal choice for younger musicians or those just beginning to learn bass, the Mini Precision pays homage to perhaps the most notorious 4-string of all-time, the Fender P-Bass.

The tone of the Mini Precision bears a stark resemblance to its elder sibling, with the legendary P-bass warmth and low-end rumble instantly apparent. The use of a single-coil pickup adds a touch of sharpness to the overall tone.

For such an affordable short-scale bass guitar, the Mini Precision includes some high-end components. The contoured, double-horn body is fitted with chrome volume and tone knobs, a sturdy hardtail bridge, and a single-ply, vintage-styled pickguard. 

With a neck that measures around two inches shorter than your average full-sized bass, the Squier Mini Precision is ideal for those with smaller hands. This is reaffirmed by the smooth satin urethane finish which makes transitions even easier.

The fretboard is made from laurel and dotted with Pearloid inlays for an extra touch of class. Overall, the Mini Precision would make a great first bass for a beginner or someone who finds full-sized necks a little too strenuous.

  • ¾ size Precision style bass
  • Single coil P Bass tone
  • Smooth satin-finished neck
  • Chrome hardware
  • Lacking in tonal versatility

The legendary StingRay bass has a distinctive appearance, and with this short-scale version, Ernie Ball has incorporated its best features into a smaller model. If you want an extra level of comfort or an easy introduction to playing bass, look no further. 

The limited-edition StingRay Short Scale produces a resonant and smooth tone, partly due to its ash body and roasted maple neck. The neck also produces a good level of natural snap, perfect for syncopated grooves.

The reduced-scale design of the StingRay bass makes gliding between the frets much easier than on a full-sized instrument. For vocalists who play bass, this  makes it much easier to find the right notes whilst still focusing on your singing.

The pickup installed by Ernie Ball on the StingRay is a single passive bridge humbucker. This has been chosen for its ability to deliver clear punchy tones, with a strong presence in the low-end. 

With quality components and a 5-bolt neck joint ensuring that the bass is durable and robust, you can guarantee that with the right care, it will stand the test of time.

  • Classic StingRay aesthetics
  • Passive humbucker pickup provides plenty of punch
  • Solid ash body and maple neck
  • Switchable modes
  • None

Gretsch basses are known for their stylish aesthetics and distinctive tone. With the G2220 Junior Jet Bass II, they have transferred these qualities into a short-scale model that makes for fewer stretches between frets. 

With a 30.3-inch scale length, moving around the fretboard of the G2220 requires very little effort. Despite its reduced size, this bass guitar isn't lacking in tonal power and clarity.

The combination of a basswood body and maple neck produces a warm, precise sound that is surprisingly lightweight. The walnut fretboard further enhances the Junior Jet Bass II’s playability.

Gretsch has installed mini-humbucker pickups on the G2220, because of their ability to provide a natural, organic, and deep sounding tone across the frequency range. It's a great choice regardless of the stylistic nature of your playing.

  • Powerful & clear tone
  • Mini humbucker pickups
  • Classy Gretsch aesthetics
  • Lightweight basswood body
  • None

The Epiphone EB-0 oozes elegance, with its classic SG style body shape that pays a fitting tribute to the 1960's models. The short-scale design makes navigating the fretboard a breeze, and also influences the overall tone.

When the fretboard size of the EB-0 is reduced, it impacts the harmonics by making them tighter and more precise. This means that each note is brimming with a character that wouldn't be possible on a full-sized model.

In terms of materials, the EB-0’s neck is constructed of mahogany, as is the body. The choice of wood by Epiphone ensures that the EB-0 isn’t overly heavy, and has a smooth, inviting feel.

Installed in the neck position is a sidewinder humbucker pickup. This does a great job of capturing the natural, vintage tones of the EB-0, and lends itself to a variety of musical genres.

  • Signature SG style body
  • Neck & body made from smooth mahogany
  • Humbucking pickup in the neck position
  • 5-inch short-scale neck
  • Features divisive jagged edge body design

Over the years, Ibanez has emerged as one of the leading producers of innovative guitars and basses, especially in the heavy rock and metal world. With the miKro GRSM20, you get all of the aggression and attitude compacted into a short-scale model. 

Built to provide you with powerful and precise low end whilst keeping weight and size to a minimum, the miKro GSRM20 shares many of the features of its full-sized counterparts.

With a scale size of 28.6, this mini bass is significantly shorter than your average 4-string instrument. The dimensions make it a perfect choice for those who struggle to stretch on the fretboard of a normal-sized bass guitar.

The miKro GSRM20 provides you with a perfect mixture of tones. Thanks to the inclusion of one J-style pickup and one P-style pickup, you can flick between the settings and tailor the output to suit the song or section you are playing.

At such an affordable price, the Ibanez miKro GSRM20 boasts brilliant value for money. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in power, punch, and playability. 

  • Well-balanced poplar body
  • Short scale design is perfect for small hands
  • P and J pickups provide the tonal versatility
  • Sustain-promoting B10 bridge
  • Extra-short scale means that people with average-sized hands may find it a little crowded

The JMJ Mustang was designed in collaboration with distinguished bassist Justin Medal-Johnsen, who has an impressive resume that includes the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Beck.

Designed to resemble the vintage ’67 Mustang Bass that Medal-Johnsen has used for over a decade, the JMJ signature has a road-worn appearance that exerts vintage authenticity.

As with all of Fender’s bass guitars, the choice of woods used to compose the components are of the highest quality. The body is made from resonant alder that feels solid and durable.

The short-scale maple neck features a C design, and it is easy to transition through scales across the fretboard. The fretboard itself is made from rosewood, completing the mixture of top-end tonewoods.

The classic Fender tone is provided by a single custom Seymour Duncan Split single-coil pickup. This focuses especially on the full-bodied, thick low-end, and makes the JMJ a perfect choice for rock bassists.

  • 30-inch maple neck
  • A quality combination of tonewoods
  • Pronounced and powerful bottom-end
  • Single coil pickup provided by Seymour Duncan
  • None

The G&L Tribute Fallout is the latest in the line of exceptional bass guitars by an ever-growing manufacturer. With the inclusion of innovative MFD (Magnetic Field Design) humbucking pickups and contoured body shape, this short-scale bass is a joy to play.

The scale length of the Tribute Fallout spans 30 inches, a perfect middle ground between a full-sized model and some of the extra small offerings out there. Despite its relatively short size, the Fallout still produces a powerful and punchy output.

Perhaps the most notable quality of the Fallout’s tone is its ultra-fast attack. Whether you prefer to play with your fingers or a plectrum, you can get poppy and responsive tones from this G&L bass.

Not only is the Fallout capable of producing high-quality bass tones, but it's also a versatile option. With a three-way pickup selector, you get access to a range of sounds- all with distinctly different characteristics to suit your preferred style.

The highly acclaimed saddle-lock bridge has been installed on the Fallout, giving it a boost in terms of sturdiness and longevity. This design also promotes longer sustain – ideal for ringing out notes in the low-end. With adjustable pickup pole pieces, you can tailor the sound of the Tribute Fallout to suit your requirements.

  • Powerful short-scale bass with depth in the low-end
  • Fast attack
  • Improved resonance thanks to the saddle-lock bridge
  • 3-way tone-shifting toggle-switch
  • None

If you're looking for a quality short-scale bass guitar without having to break the bank, the TMB30 by Ibanez is a good option. With a shorter than usual neck size that is perfect for beginners or smaller bassists and impressive tonal malleability, the TMB30 rivals more expensive options.

Let’s get into the choice of tonewoods used to construct the TMB30. Firstly, we have a mahogany body that promotes power and punch, honing in on the clean mid-tones and helping the low-end to rumble.

The neck is made from maple, known for its smooth feel and unobtrusive nature. Because of the concise size of the neck, it’s ideal for playing bass while performing and interacting with the crowd.

The fingerboard is made from jatoba. This material is unbelievably good for gliding across with your fingers, and to be honest it’s a slight rarity to find it on such a reasonably priced model.

Granted, the combination of woods used to construct the TMB30 plays a large role in determining its sound. But the choice of Dynamix P/J pickups is arguably equally influential.

These pickups have been specifically chosen by Ibanez because the tone they produce is instantly recognizable. Not only are they well suited to thumping rock tones, but they also produce warm, mid-range heavy tones that are perfect for the soul, RnB, and jazz.

  • Affordable short-scale bass guitar
  • Versatile tones thanks to P/J pickups
  • Warm-sounding mahogany body
  • Lacks clarity in the higher registers

Short Scale Basses & the Impact on Tone

Unlike a standard electric guitar that has a scale length of 24-26 inches, most basses have a scale length of around 34 inches. The reason for this is that the scale length has a significant impact on the tension of the strings, and therefore the tone.

Due to most basses being tuned to a lower octave than a guitar, they require strings that have more thickness and a longer scale to accommodate them.

Short scale basses fall somewhere in between an electric guitar and a standard sized bass in terms of scale size. Generally speaking, a bass would be classed as being short-scale if it measured around 30 inches, sometimes dropping as low as 28 inches.

The advantage of this sized bass is that they are easier to navigate and cause less tension to the bassist’s fingers.

Tone

Although playability and comfort are undeniably very important qualities of bass, most musicians would agree that tone is also integral. On most average sized bass guitars, the greater amount of string tension creates a sound that is rich with attack, because there is a shorter range of vibration when the string is played.

A short-scale bass produces less string tension, and some would argue that this compromises the tone a little.

However, the tone is a subjective matter, and many bassists prefer the output of a short-scale model. Generally speaking, shorter scales produce more presence in the low-end and lose some of the mid-range presence that their full-sized counterparts produce.

This might not be ideal for less heavy styles of playing, but it can be rectified with the use of effects pedals, notably EQ and compression. An increased low-end is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means the short scale bass will cut through the mix more effectively.

The choice of pickups also impacts the overall tone. With the right selection, it would be possible to close the gap between a short scale and full-sized bass, purely by installing pickups that promote a little more presence in the mid-tones and focus less on the low-end rumble.

Drop Tuning with a Short Scale Bass

Drop tuning is the act of turning down one or more strings to a lower note than the standard EADG tuning. This is a technique used by many bassists to create thicker, darker low-end.

It's pretty easy to do on a full-sized bass, but when drop-tuning on a short-scale bass, it's important to use thicker strings to compensate for the loss in tension.

Conclusion

I've played a short-scale bass onstage for as long as I can remember. As a bass-playing frontman, I found that the reduced fretboard size allowed me to play without having to focus too much on finger placement so that I could concentrate more on a signing.

They’re also a great solution to the problem of having smaller hands. Whatever you need one for, a short-scale bass is a great addition to your instrument collection. 

Ross McLeod

About Ross McLeod

Ross McLeod is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket, and he is the frontman and bassist of the garage rock band The Blue Dawns with whom he has released 4 EPs and toured extensively.

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