When I first saw my friends playing the bass I thought it sounded really cool!
And then I picked one up.
Needless to say, my initial moments with this behemoth of an instrument didn’t go very well. Within a few minutes, I was back to playing guitar again.
This is my story, but it need not be yours!
What if I tell you that you can get a really good short-scale bass in the market that will:
- Be both smaller in size and relatively lightweight
- Make playing more pleasant rather than uncomfortable
- Cost less than 500 bucks
- And most importantly, will sound JUST AS GOOD as any full-sized bass out there!
If you don’t believe me, check out my roundup of the best short scale bass under $500. I’ve cherry-picked the products with the best features, quality and overall value-for-money, so that you get the most bang for your buck.
5 Best Short-Scale Bass Guitars Under $500
Junior Jet Black II
Pickup: 2 x Mini Humbuckers
|Squier by Fender
|Squier Classic Vibe
Pickup: Alnico Split Single-Coil
Pickup: P/J Style
|Ibanez miKro GSRM20||Top: Poplar
Pickup: P/J Style
Best Overall – Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II
The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II is our pick for the best short scale bass under $500. And that’s not just for its beautiful design. It’s number one on this list for real reasons!
One of the first things you might notice is its mini-humbuckers. You might think that mini-hums are some kind of strange forgotten pickups that just exist, but here’s the thing: they could potentially give you that unique sound you have been hearing in your head.
Because they have all the clarity, dynamic range, and organic sound of a fat single-coil, but free of all hum. To me, that’s just great!
The G2220 has a classic basswood body and maple neck with a very comfy “D” shape, but instead of rosewood, it has a walnut fretboard, which gives a more natural and woodier sound. In general, this bass is very lightweight so it’s super comfortable to play while standing.
Hardware-wise it comes with 4 adjustable saddles standard bridge, beautiful custom knobs, and sealed die-cast tuners. However, the actual special feature in this one is the 3-way pickup switch selector; you don’t see that often on basses.
Most bass players prefer the common volume and EQ bass controls, but hey! There are true tone possibilities unlocked with this control array, you can change pickup positions as fast as you would with a guitar and immediately change your tone even while playing the same song.
For example, you could use the neck pickup for the verse and change to bridge pickup in the chorus to have a more focused sound, that can give you more personality and could make your playing even more striking!
- Mini-hums can set your tone apart from everyone else
- 3-way pickup switch
- Very good setup from the factory
- Comfortable neck shape
- Some customers report issues with tuners
- Switch and knobs come loose from the factory
- The strings that come with it aren’t too good
Most Value for Money – Squier by Fender Bronco Bass
The Squier Bronco Bass has a crazy low price point and yet it still delivers.
It comes with a very beautiful polyurethane finish in Black and a highly vibrant Torino Red.
It’s hard to believe that this Bronco Bass has a very resonant body, it’s loud even when unplugged. Plus with that smooth maple neck, it can rival much more expensive basses in terms of playability. This is the kind of instrument that’ll keep you hooked for long hours.
The Poplar body is weighty and well balanced and the neck has a nice satin finish. Not a single sharp fret and the edges are nice and clean.
Despite its only pickup, it achieves to sound very balanced, so you have a good starting platform to shape your sound. You just dial in your amp, add some pedals and it’ll handle it with no problem.
Also, it comes with easy-to-use mini-tuners which is a plus.
If you’re a simple man you’ll love this one; it is minimalistic, just one special designed single-coil, single volume and tone controls, and there you go, ready to rock!
I would also recommend this guitar to anyone who’s always wanted to learn but doesn’t have a thousand dollars for that dream Fender American Standard Jazz Bass. For a first-time bass buyer, this is a stellar deal.
- Very comfortable
- Good looking
- It won’t hurt in your wallet
- Absolutely needs setup when arrives
- Two-saddle bridge can be tricky to adjust
- Some might prefer a more powerful pickup
Premium Pick – Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Mustang
The Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Mustang Bass is the classiest in this list, with two beautiful finishes that never let down: Olympic White and Surf Green. The finish and style really make it look like the old fenders but with a shorter scale.
The combination of nato body, maple neck, and Indian laurel fretboard turns it into a very unique sounding instrument, while at the same time it’s extremely versatile for most situations. The Fender-designed Alnico Split Single-coil feels and sounds almost as good as its more expensive bigger brother, even to the point that some players simply can’t differentiate them.
Generally, the first thing I inspect in an instrument is fret edges. This beauty has no hard edges, so, I can’t not love it for this.
It comes with a high quality and good for intonation 4-saddle Vintage-style bridge and precisely solid vintage-style tuners.
Everything from the construction, fit & finish, function, and playability is simply top-notch. No sharp fret ends, fret buzz, or louder than normal 60 cycle hum. I would recommend this to any beginner, intermediate, or advanced player.
I sincerely believe that there was a period of time that Squire was really turning out some sketchy guitars but they have really stepped up their game with this one!
- Once setup, if you don’t look at the name on the headstock you could easily mistake it for one that costs 3 times as much
- Real bone nut
- Great sounding pickup
- Factory setup is not the best around there
- It’s better to change strings when arrives
Best 32″ Scale Bass – Ibanez SRMD200 SR Mezzo
The first Ibanez in this list has a distinction over the rest, it’s the only one here that a has 32” scale and 22 frets. That takes it into the middle ground between full scale and short scale, perfect for those who want to feel more comfort and easiness to play but at the same time don’t want to lose all the low end and bite of a full-scale bass.
They made it only in pearl satin finishes, including Black Flat, Seafoam Pearl Green, Candy Apple Matte, Metallic Forest, and Pearl White. That gives you many beauties to choose from, and I won’t judge you if it turns out to be a little difficult task to do.
It comes with a classic tried-and-true and beautifully made maple neck and fingerboard, the other thing that threw me was the very thin and narrow neck profile with a fast feeling satin finish, and by the way, it stays in tune. It has a poplar body, and it has the most precise control layout of this list: 1 x Volume, 1 x Balancer, 1 x Bass, 1 x Treble.
The active Dynamix P split single-coil and Dynamix J single-coil pickups sound just as good as you’d expect from this kind of configuration, providing an exceptionally versatile tone comparable to basses costing much more.
Overall, the Mezzo is a perfect balance of the powerful 34″ bass sound and a convenient design. Functional enough for any gigging pro, and yet fairly comfortable for people with small hands.
- Feels closer to a full-sized bass
- Very comfortable to play
- Delivers a lot for its price point
- Active preamp
- Plastic nut
- Some units come with little sharp fret edges
- The body design might not be for everyone
The Ibanez miKro GSRM20 is a very special bass; it has the shortest scale on this list at only 28.6”, which places it more in the baritone scale territory than in bass scale. This means that anyone can play this bass with absolute comfort, and it feels like your hands fly on this one.
It’s hard to believe how Ibanez managed to achieve this kind of quality for this insane price point. The GSRM20 comes with Ibanez’s Dynamix P and J single-coil pickups, individual volume controls, and a master tone control.
They put here some exotic woods like jatoba for the fretboard and poplar for the body, and they sound really natural. The body is light in weight, easy to manage standing or seated because it’s well balanced with no neck dive whatsoever.
This miKro beast is the perfect gift for kids because it won’t make their hands hurt as playing a 34” scale bass would, and therefore they won’t feel intimidated by the instrument, resulting in a better relationship with playing music!
If you’re a traveler, this is a no-brainer, apart from being totally portable it surprisingly stills sound like a real bass, to me it’s amazing how it maintains a notable low end despite its scale and light body, so you’re going to travel with a friend that won’t let you down.
- Absurdly good quality for the price point
- Extremely easy to play
- Great for guitarists wanting to explore bass territory
- Perfect for kids
- The right one for travelers
- Definitely needs to be set up when arrives
- Tuners aren’t the best
- Needs thicker strings to achieve comfortable tension
Final Thoughts: Best Short Scale Bass Under $500
All the basses in this list are solid products for under 500$, not just as short-scale alternatives but as overall well-rounded bass guitars in general.
For extreme comfort or a guitarist transitioning to bass, go with the Ibanez miKro GSRM20. It’s also the lowest-priced option on the list.
The Squier Bronco Bass is made for those who like things straightforward. Zero complications, just playing!
For those who want a more manageable bass but don’t want to lose all the benefits of a full-scale bass, the Ibanez SRMD200 Mezzo is the proper one.
If you’re willing to spend a little more, you can have the Squier Classic Vibe Mustang, a great bass with a premium retro feeling.
But in the end, I’d personally go with the Gretsch G2220 because it has its own personality and can be upgraded with no difficulty to end up being a great bass.
Are Short-Scale Basses Any Good?
They have proven to be good for more than just practice. Of course, the majority of them are from entry-level to mid-priced level and if you want a high-end short-scale bass there are a few very expensive options, but you can make any of the basses I presented you a real keeper if you’re willing to make a few mods and give them some love!
Some people use short-scale basses in professional gigs and even in the studio, so yes, they can be really good.
Who Are Short-Scale Basses For?
These basses are suitable for a variety of possible scenarios.
If you want to practice for very long hours and need to maintain the endurance until the end of your session, a short-scale bass is an answer.
It’s kind of weird that these babies aren’t more famous, because I believe that every bassist should have one or at least try one to see how comfortable they are for long practice sessions.
These instruments are perfect for kids and beginners too, because they make the learning process easier.
Short-scale basses are a charm when you’re traveling or gigging with several basses because they’re more portable and lighter.
Can You Use Long-Scale Bass Strings on a Short-Scale Bass?
Yes, there’s no problem using normal strings with short-scale basses, the only you have to do is maybe use thicker strings if you like the sensation of more tension.
Another thing you’ll notice is that you will have to cut a longer excess of string when restringing, other than that you’re good to go.