The short-scale bass is often misunderstood.
Though the instrument was
originally marketed for beginners, experienced
bassists quickly discovered the ease
of play and huge lows these axes provide.
Guitarists also realized that the feel of a
short-scale bass was similar to that of a
6-string guitar, making it a viable tool for
players who wanted a taste of the low end,
but didn’t like the idea of getting used to
a longer neck. Hot on the heels of their
Thunderbird short-scale model, Gibson
USA has released another short-scale bass,
this one in the form of the famed Les Paul
Junior DC. This Les Paul Junior bass draws
influences from Gibson’s storied EB-0, but
also benefits from the addition of some
The Les Paul Junior DC bass is one of several
Gibson USA basses the company is unveiling
this year. Along with the Thunderbird
short scale (release in March) was an oversized
Les Paul bass. Bassists rejoice—we’ll
be seeing the Explorer and Flying V basses
making their long-overdue return this year
as well. And according to Gibson, 2012 also
promises to be a big year for basses.
Put simply, Gibson’s LP Junior DC bass
is a stunning looker. The mahogany-slab
body is finished in the company’s gorgeous
Pelham Blue nitrocellulose finish with a
deep, baby-blue sparkle and luster. The
instrument’s 30.5" mahogany neck is set
into the body and topped with a rosewood
fretboard housing 20 medium-jumbo frets.
And the large, shamrock-style Grover tuners
work in tandem with an adjustable
3-point bridge that’s also found on Gibson’s
Being a short scale with large tuners, I
assumed immediately that the instrument
would be rather neck heavy, but it wasn’t as
evident as I thought it would be. The neck
only drooped slightly after standing up with
the bass and a nylon strap, and was extremely
comfortable to hold in that position.
The appeal of this bass comes not
only from its simple, classic look, but also
from its no-nonsense electronics layout.
Positioned at the neck is a huge TB Plus
humbucking pickup, which is visually
reminiscent of those giant humbuckers that
sat in the neck position of the company’s
infamous EB-0 bass. Because a muddled
high end is a common issue with neck
humbuckers on basses, Gibson added a
ceramic magnet to bring out more snap and
highs. An alnico magnet-powered TB Mini
humbucker is located in the bridge position
for raunchy midrange and tones with a crisp
upper end. Each pickup has its own Volume
control for various amounts of blending,
along with a single Master Tone control.
Personally, I would have preferred separate
tone controls for further tonal shaping, as
some situations call for less highs on the
bridge, blended with a sharp, neck tone.
Don’t Call Me Junior!
There’s nothing quite like a good short-scale
bass. Even with the incorrect “beginner’s
instrument” moniker, some of the most
famous players in rock, blues, and R&B
have used the super-fat low end these models
deliver to carve out intense grooves—Jack
Bruce being the first that comes to mind.
The downfall to many short-scale basses is
that they aren’t known for having a ton of
upper-end cut. That said, Gibson’s baby-blue
rocker put that assumption to the test, and
won in a landslide.
Running into a TC Electronic Classic
450 head and matching 2x10 cabinet, the
Les Paul Junior DC’s neck humbucker
delivered a surprising amount of meaty high
end—and I do mean surprising. It wasn’t
sharp and bright—it was more of a thick,
rope-like grind that cut through like a
knife. The low end was huge and expansive,
aided by the neck’s short scale, which allows
the strings to vibrate with less tension. I
had to drop the neck pickup’s Volume control
down about 1/4 turn from full-blast
to keep the sound at a manageable volume
level—otherwise, it was just overpowering.
The bridge pickup served up its own
spectrum of tones, leaning towards a rounded
midrange and tighter lows. The output
wasn’t as hot as the neck pickup on its own,
but a slight blend with the neck pickup
poured out some delicious, late-’60s heavy-rock
tones. This is where some of the best
sounds from this bass originate—setting up
the basic tone with the amp and the bridge
pickup alone, and then gradually bringing
in the neck pickup to fill in the extra space.
As I worked through various levels of pickup
mixing, I came across a really cool John
Paul Jones-esque rock tone just by working
with the neck pickup’s volume to get varying
degrees of dynamics. Bringing in the
neck pickup more yielded a fat low end—à
la “Dazed and Confused”—and dropping
it right after the iconic riff transformed the
tone into one that was perfect for the song’s
lead-heavy, driving chorus.
Short-scale basses are instruments that don’t
get nearly enough love from players. And
the Gibson Les Paul Junior DC is one that
deserves some serious attention—whether
you’re an experienced bassist or a guitarist
looking to transition to the 4-string. On a
short-scale model, the low end can be much
wider and stronger than what’s normally
heard from longer-scale basses, so keeping
an eye on your amp’s bass control is a must.
If you’re after a comfortable bass with a cool
look and killer rock tones, it’s a must look.
Watch the video review:
you’re a bassist in need of bigger
lows or a guitarist who wants a bass
with somewhat the same feel as
the high-tension feel and snap of a
long-scale bass is what’s needed.