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While shopping for my first bass, I came across a combination I've never seen before: a used medium scale bass (32") with slanted pickups. A medium scale bass might be an easier transition for me since I play guitar, so I did some reading (see long, opinionated article) and learned that the shorter scale will affect the tone. I also learned that slanted, skewed, or angled pickups will change the tone of the strings relative to each other. The long scale basses (34") of this model do not have slanted pickups.

Was the slant put in to compensate for tonal changes from the shorter scale/is it likely that all medium scale basses of this model have slanted pickups? I imagine it would have been difficult for the original owner to change the orientation of the pickups. If I buy a medium scale bass, should I look for one with slanted pickups because their tone will be more similar to their long scale versions?

Now that I'm aware pickups can be slanted in either direction, I'll specify that this pickup is farther from the bridge on the E string side, and closer to the bridge on the G string side. Here's an image of one of the pickups, if it makes a difference: Pickup

If you compare the pickup angle with the little bit of the bridge that you can see in the lower left, the slant becomes more clear.

  • If any bass players are willing to glance at some pictures/make sure I'm not being ripped off with a problematic bass (possible rust?), I'd love to hop into a chat. – aeroNotAuto Oct 5 '16 at 23:05
  • Bass guitars are not ordinary guitars that have been adapted.('easier transition'). A full sized bass is a different instrument, purpose built to do a job. It makes sense (to me at least) to get a 'proper' bass, and learn to use it in its own right. Since standard size is far more common, you'll be more comfortable eventually when you use someone else's more than likely standard bass, or trade up to a replacement. This doesn't answer the question, thus it's only a comment. – Tim Oct 6 '16 at 7:20
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The pickups may simply be slanted because the manufacturer designed the instrument with a narrower string spacing, but also designed the instrument to use fairly standard off-the-shelf pickups. The pickups therefore need to be angled to get the pole pieces to match the tighter string spacing. Some manufacturers may adopt slanted pickups for tonal reasons. For example the Scott Whitley SWB-1 (now manufactured by Chowney basses) comes with two Jazz bass-style pickups, slanted so that the pickups sense the E and A strings nearer the bridge and the D and G strings nearer the neck. This will, on paper at least, keep the E and A sounding tighter and the D and G sounding fuller.

I personally think short and medium-scale basses have something of a bad rap for historical reasons. In the '60s and '70s, shorter-scale basses were either sold as budget-priced student/beginner instruments or were large hollow or semi-hollow affairs with idiosyncratic electronics. Combine that with the bass amps available, and the strings available, and you would quickly reach the conclusion that shorter-scale basses produce a muddy, undefined tone. I think that modern amplifier technology and modern bass string technology negate most, if not all, of the criticisms made of shorter-scale basses.

I will admit that I do have a horse in this race; I recently purchased a Fender Mustang bass. I don't consider it a less "proper" bass, simply because of the missing four inches of scale length. With a correctly balanced set of strings the bass is virtually indistinguishable from my Precision bass, but my shoulders, back and hands are a lot happier. For the record I'm just shy of six feet tall and have big hands, but wrestling my Precision bass seems like a lot of unnecessary work at times.

  • Isn't it uncommon for the long scale/medium scale versions of the same model to have different string spacing? The long scale version pickups are not slanted. – aeroNotAuto Oct 6 '16 at 18:12
  • Though I guess it's really the chicken or the egg...were the pickups slanted to match tighter string spacing in the medium scale model, or did they have to tighten the string spacing to match the slanted pickups. Does string spacing affect tone? – aeroNotAuto Oct 6 '16 at 18:19
  • I cannot think of too many production-line basses that are offered in both medium and long scale form. Lakland have done this, and Fender sometimes make medium or short scale Jazz basses. String spacing doesn't affect tone, but it does change the feel of the instrument, which some players prefer. Pickups may be slanted on a shorter-scale version of a full scale instrument to offset perceived tonal issues with shorter scale lengths, such as squeezing more fundamental bass or more bright-sounding harmonic overtones out of the design. It may, finally, just be an aesthetic choice! – ABragg Oct 7 '16 at 9:21

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