When Leo Fender introduced his P bass in 1951, he found 34"to be the optimum scale length, especially for all the upright bassists who suddenly found themselves transitioning to electric. But while a 34"scale length would become the standard in bass design—and still is—many of Fender’s competitors back in the day were content with a shorter string length, as exemplified by the Hofner 500/1 and Gibson EB-0. Fender eventually followed suit, releasing downsized low-enders like the Mustang and Musicmaster, and future builders then took these templates and adventurously sought to build better instruments—assuring the diminutive darlings a place in bass history.

Today, anything less than 31"from nut to bridge is considered “short-scale.” And while some might be tempted to dismiss them as cute instruments that are somehow inferior, informed players know better. But what exactly is it about short-scale basses that makes them so much more than a novelty? Is it playability? Tone? A travel-friendly package? The answer is a resounding yes to allof these. Bassists of all persuasions—from Paul McCartney to Tina Weymouth and Stanley Clarke—have relied on short-scales as their go-to bass. Former Roots bassist Owen Biddle—a fine example of low-end badassery—regularly slayed Late Night with Jimmy Fallon viewers with his CallowHill OBS. What’s more, most studio pros have a short-scale bass in their arsenal because of how well they tend to sit in a mix. And while some poor instruments of yore have inspired naysayers to insist that short-scale basses have floppy string action and inconsistent intonation, many devout, highly experienced players would argue otherwise. That’s largely due to much-improved modern construction techniques.

With both budget and boutique brands introducing instruments that satisfy a wide variety of sonic tastes and looks, it’s an exciting time to be in the market for a short-scale bass. And while there are manyawesome options for the short-scale consumer, the three instruments we’re reviewing here—Fender’s JMJ Road Worn Mustang, Spector’s Bantam 4, and Supro’s Huntington II—are emblematic of the quality and diversity in today’s offerings.

Click to the next page or choose your bass below:
Fender JMJ Road Worn Mustang
Spector Bantam 4
Supro Huntington II