Recorded direct using PreSonus FireStudio and PreSonus Studio One 3.
Clip 1 - Coil tap engaged. Tone dimed.
Clip 2 - Tone dimed.
Clip 3 - Tone dial zeroed out.
Well-built and good-sounding shorty for a wide range of musical styles…
...except for players who like more snap in their tone.
Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute Doublecut
The short-scale bass is one of the secret weapons of studio recording. The power of these little basses has become widely known to players and producers alike, and, lucky for us, we are in the middle of a short-scale-bass revolution. Its latest shot fired is the new Gibson Les Paul Junior Tribute Doublecut, which is a torchbearer to one of the company’s early shorties: the EB-0, which debuted in 1959. The EB-0 was engineered as an answer to the P bass, although it resembled a Les Paul Junior. The original model only had mild success, but nonetheless enjoyed a 20-year run that included refinements in the bridge and body. The vintage market loves the EB-0, with prices in the range of $800 to $7,500, depending on the year and condition. This new model checks in on the low end, with a $999 street price.
Designing a new-old-stock-type short-scale for today’s bassists is a true challenge. The combination of tone, playability, and vibe are paramount to a short-scale bass’ impact. So the goal is to replicate old-school feel while pushing forward with modern, more reliable components and design qualities.
At first glance, it’s obvious the Les Paul Junior Doublecut really embraces its name as a tribute, rather than a reissue. It has familiar lines, with that distinct double-cutaway body, but with modern elements that can keep this bass a reliable and trusted part of a player’s arsenal for years. The bass is rock-solid in its design and assembly, with everything from the neck joint to the frets feeling as they should. The mahogany body on our test model was finished in a pretty worn-ebony hue, but brown, blue, and cherry are also available. The single, big BassBucker pickup that stares you in the face is a modern take on the EB-0 pickups of yore. Its controls are simple volume and tone pots, but the volume control has a push/pull coil-tap switch, which scoops the mids when engaged.
Some of the other features are lightweight Hipshot tuners, a 5-ply pickguard, and a classic 3-point bridge, which, for those not in the know, has three massive bolts that screw directly into the body, as opposed to a typical bridge, which affixes to the body using smaller screws. The jury is out on whether or not this increases sustain, but that’s the intent of this design.
Short Scale, Long Tones
I tested the bass through an Eden Terra Nova head with an Eden 210 cabinet. The EQ on the amp was flat, and there was no compression or additional effects. Just bass. Plugging in and turning up—which is almost all you can do with this simply designed instrument, I was pleasantly surprised by the tone. There’s a hybrid vibe here that mixes a touch of the old and new, and I almost immediately started thinking of studio tracks on which the Les Paul Junior Doublecut could be used.
The tone of the bass is fun, different, and inspiring. And what makes short-scale basses prized in the studio is the fact that the shorter strings require lower string tension to be properly tuned. That gives them a looser feeling and creates fatter, blossoming low notes and sweeter highs. For that reason, the Junior Doublecut seems destined to find its way onto recordings. The dimed tone setting provides a sound that sits just above the frequency of, say, a vintage hollowbody. It’s a robust tone, but not as thick as some similar EB-style basses of the past. Playing a little toward the neck changes this, while playing more on the bridge gives it point. And the shorter scale provides an easy and comfortable range in which to experiment tonally.
The coil-tap on the BassBucker gives some added dimension to the instrument. The mid-scoop gives the sonic illusion of more bass and treble, which takes the LPJT to another, vibey place. With the tone rolled all the way off, your reggae tracks will sound amazing, and with the tone up, you can leave some longer scale basses in their cases.
The tone control is what tone controls should be: subtle and effective. Rarely will I devote a paragraph to a tone control, however, I get a little frustrated at tone controls that simply aren’t usable when they are dimed. The tone control on the Les Paul Junior Tribute gives just enough articulation and presence, with, dare I say, not enough point for those who rely on this control. Typically I have my tone pots around 80 percent when I play and record, so this subtle cut is a breath of fresh air.
What else is cool about a short-scale bass? Well, with a short scale, guitar players with project studios can feel like real bassists. (I had to….) But seriously, if you are used to playing guitar or have smaller hands, short-scale basses are for you. And, if you have a studio, it’s good to have a short-scale bass on the wall. Bigger is not always better.
If you’re gigging three or four sets a night, a short-scale bass can be a life saver, too. I don’t know that players in every genre will dig it. To slap and pop is not impossible, but remember that tone thing? However, there are a lot of styles and approaches in which this bass will be welcomed. So, the Les Paul Junior Tribute could become your go-to, for both live and studio work, and with some downright cool vintage vibe to boot.