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Scale length and muscle memory


scyzoryk

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I own two 24-fret basses, one of them being a fretless. Recently I've been practicing my fretless intonation and muscle memory by doing scales and other exercises on both basses.

 

However, I absolute love the Fender Jazz sound and can see myself playing a Jazz for years into the future (once I buy one, of course).

 

The problem is the scale length between regular Fender Jazz and P-Basses compared to 24-fret basses. All of my muscle memory doesn't work when I pick up these Fenders, since the spacing between the frets is different.

 

What should I do? Should it be seen as a problem? Or should I learn "muscle memory" for both types of basses?

 

I also notice soloing is a bit harder on 24-fret basses with typical scale length, since the frets get really narrow above the 12th fret.

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What they said. If your basses are 35", just practice going back and forth. My 3 main basses are a 20 fret 34", a 24 fret 35" and a Dingwall which is 24 frets but varies from 34" to 37" on the low B string. You'll get used to it.
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Ok now I feel really stupid, maybe I'm not using the term "scale length" appropriately... but isn't the distance between frets different?

 

Ever Fender Jazz/PBass I pickup at music stores has more room inbetween frets, so I find it harder to adjust after playing my 24-fret basses.

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The number of frets on a neck does not affect the distance between the frets.

 

The only thing that will change the distance between the frets is changing the length of the whole neck.

 

Get out a yardstick and measure your bass from the nut to the bridge. I'm pretty sure it will be 34"....the same as a Fender. I really doubt that it is shorter.

 

The Fender bass may very well have wider spacing between the strings....that will affect how the bass feels to you.

 

The neck may also feel longer on your bass, but only because the body is cut away further from the neck.

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Ah, ok, forgive me for being ignorant of that fact. What I meant to say is just that, the wider spacing between frets.

 

Is that considered a problem for those playing with narrower frets? I'm just concerned about "wasting my time", so to speak, with narrower fretted basses, when I would eventually like a Fender Jazz to be my main axe in the future. Any thoughts?

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Scyzoryk

 

Maybe this will help. The distance between frets on a 34" scale 20 fret bass and 24 fret bass will be identical for fret's 1-20. So if each bass you play has a 34" scale your muscle memory will cross over between the two basses.

 

The fret's may seem closer together for the last 4 frets of your 24 fret bass because the distance between frets get's smaller as you get nearer the bridge (ie distance from nut to fret 1 is a lot more than 12th fret to 13th).

 

The only time your muscle memory will be affected is when you're swapping between differnt scale length's like 34" and 35".

 

I hope this was some help to you. CYa

 

Ben

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

Get out a yardstick and measure your bass from the nut to the bridge.

For those of us that grew up in a time when school houses had more than one room and were separated into grades, a yardstick is like a tape measure but only 3 feet long (a yard) and typically made out of wood. You can still occasionally see this elusive beast in its natural habitat being used as a device of torture on inattentive children by crotchety old nuns in catholic schools. :D

 

But seriously, scyzoryk, measure from the nut to the bridge on your bass and report back to us. Again, my guess is that you have 35" basses currently. But as Jeremy said, the string spacing (distance between strings) can vary quite a bit between basses and can, thus, make two basses feel completely different.

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You haven't specified what type of basses you have (the two 24-fret instruments). Since you start by talking about the scale length of Fender J and P basses, I'm assuming they are not Fenders. Can you elaborate?

 

You've gotten good information above. 34" scale forces the builder into a very specific algorithm for fret distances to keep the intonation right (or close enough - it's never exact) down the length of the neck.

 

I see a few possibilities here. One is what J said - other aspects about the bass may make you hold your hand differently, so it feels like the spacing is different, when it really isn't. And you bass may have been made in correctly. That's why I'm curious about what bass you have. If it's a boutique model, I'll figure it's made right. If it's an inexpensive mass-produced model, they may have cut corners. Or your basses may not be 34" scale (get out the tape measure). There are some basses made with smaller scale lengths, and an inch smaller would be significant when you go to a fretless.

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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For those wondering where I've been lately, I've spent the past couple of months practicing and teaching my hands to handle a 3/4-scale upright bass (41" scale). Been through a few instructonal videos and played for a couple of people, and I'm currently shopping around for a good local teacher (I'd rather wait until it stops snowing so it'd be easier to drive with my URB) but the bottom line is that the only way I'm going to master a longer scale is to JUST DO IT!

 

Like walking, aerobics, bike riding, driving and a hundred other physical activities, the more you do it, the more automatic the body responds to what the brain tells it to do. A good teacher will make it comfortable to learn and steer you away from doing things you shouldn't be doing.

 

All this is a roundabout way of saying that neck scales and incremental differences in neck geometry are irrelevant to your mastery of the instrument.

:wave:

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Originally posted by scyzoryk:

Ah, ok, forgive me for being ignorant of that fact. What I meant to say is just that, the wider spacing between frets.

 

Is that considered a problem for those playing with narrower frets? I'm just concerned about "wasting my time", so to speak, with narrower fretted basses, when I would eventually like a Fender Jazz to be my main axe in the future. Any thoughts?

Any bass with a 34" scale will have frets the exact same distance apart, although some basses will have more frets added for the higher notes. While you may have more frets closer to the pickups, the frets that two 34" basses have in common (1st 20, for example) are exactly the same distance apart.

 

Based on previous responses, it sounds like you have 2 34" scale basses, but I may be wrong.

 

Assuming both of your basses are 34" scale, rather than the distance between frets, might it be the distance between strings that is giving you the trouble?

 

On my Ibanez 6-string, the string spacing is very close. When I first switched from a Squier P (and having learned on a Fender J years back), all with 34" scale, the string spacing was a big problem for me; more so than the additional strings. Now, I can't stand the more conventional P/J string-spacing; but then, I don't slap...

 

The "muscle memory" problem for me was the string spacing. When I pick-up a 35" scale bass in the music store, the scale-length seems to be insignificant to me, as compared with the spacing between strings.

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I don't see how the spacing between frets would be different on two basses with identical scale lengths. To play an E2 on the E string in tune, the distance between the nut and the 12th fret would be 17" no matter whether the bass has 24 frets, 22 frets, or 12 frets. It's simple math.

 

I have 3 electric basses with a 34" scale. One has 20 frets, one has 22 frets, and one has a two octave fretless fingerboard. I have no trouble switching between them.

 

scyzoryk, are you sure you're not talking about differences in string spacing or neck shape? Or difference in fretwire size?

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