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Because short-scale basses offer benefits such as easy playability, ergonomic benefits, and enriched fundamental tones, they have grown in popularity. Initially marketed toward students, short-scale basses have become a professional instrument for even the most serious players.
In this article, we will cover the best short-scale basses under $500 offering the most value without having to break a budget.
Ibanez SRMD205 – Best Overall
The Ibanez SRMD205 is an excellent bass for those looking for a 5-string medium-scale length instrument. This instrument not only performs well but is also enjoyable to play. The SRMD205 could be an ideal bass for a guitarist looking to transition into playing the bass.
The SRMD205 features a 32” scale bolt-on maple neck with a satin finish, which is fast and smooth to play. The fretboard is also crafted from maple and has a 12” radius, with 22 frets.
The body of the SRMD205 is crafted from poplar and has a very original body shape that helps the visual appeal of this instrument. A gloss polyurethane finish adds to the color shine.
For pickups, the Ibanez SRMD205 features a hum-canceling Dynamix P-Style split single-coil in the neck position, as well as a Dynamix J-Style single-coil at the bridge.
Control knobs are available for master volume and tone control for each pickup. An active 2-band EQ (powered by a 9v battery) is also built-in for further tone control.
The SRDM205 is likely able to accommodate almost any musical style. This bass has a broad range of tonal possibilities ranging from classic R&B-type sounds to punchy and thick.
With an original classic-looking design, the SRDM205 is sure to turn heads and pique the interest of ears. This feature-laden and affordable bass has the most value per cost of any short-scale bass under $500 on the market.
Item Weight: 12 pounds
Package Dimensions: 48 x 18 x 3.5 inches
Squier Classic Vibe Mustang Bass – Premium Option
While this won’t be the only Squier short-scale bass in the list, the Squier Classic Vibe Mustang Bass is perhaps one of the best available for under $500. This vintage-styled bass is modeled after the original Mustang bass released in the 1960s, with modern improvements to suit the styles of today’s bass players.
This bass features a 30” scale C-shaped maple neck with a 9.5” radius. The fretboard is made of Indian laurel and has 20 frets. The bass’s nut is crafted from bone to provide better resonance and stable tuning.
The body of the Classic Vibe Mustang bass is crafted from both basswood and nato.
The Classic Vibe Mustang bass is equipped with an Alnico magnet split single-coil pickup, designed by Fender. The pickup provides a punchy and thick bass response.
Control knobs for both volume and tone are provided for expanded tonal ranges.
This is a hip bass style that will never go out of fashion due to its timeless design. Squier did not cut corners with this model, offering quality craftsmanship at a price that is easy on the pockets. It’s hard to beat this bass built to vintage specifications.
Item Weight: 11.02 pounds
Package Dimensions: 52 x 15.5 x 4 inches
Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 – Best Budget Option
For those looking for an entry-level short-scale bass that doesn’t compromise on playability or sound, the Ibanez Mikro GSRM20 is an excellent option. It is ideal for a beginner as well as the guitarist that occasionally plays bass. The scale is near guitar scale-length territory.
The Mikro GSRM20 has one of the shortest scale necks on this list, with a scale of 28.6”. The neck is crafted from maple and has a 12” radius jatoba fretboard with 22 frets. The body is crafted from poplar, making this bass very light-weighted.
The bass features a split Dynamix P-Style single-coil pickup in the neck position and a Dynamix J-Style single-coil in the bridge. With 2 volume control knobs and a master tone knob, you can effectively dial in the classic bass tones that you know and love.
The Mikro GSRM20 is equipped with die-cast tuners and a B10 bridge for extra sustain and playability.
Item Weight: 6.9 pounds
Package Dimensions: 39 x 11.5 x 2.3 inches
Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass
For those in search of an iconic bass that delivers on both tone, playability, and style, the Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass will have you covered. It is an attractive bass modeled after the original Fender Jaguar bass but priced at a more affordable entry-point.
The Classic Vibe Jaguar features a C-shape maple neck with a scale length of 32”, making this a medium-scale bass. The fretboard is crafted from Indian laurel with a 9.5” radius and 20 frets. The bass is adorned with white Pearloid blocks as fret markers, furthering the visual appeal of this instrument.
The body of the guitar is crafted from both basswood and nato and is built in Indonesia.
Though this bass is modeled after its Fender counterpart, it effectively combines the best of two of Fender’s most well-known bass instruments. It has a Precision bass split single-coil alnico magnet pickup in the neck and a Jazz bass single-coil alnico magnet pickup at the bridge. Volume and tone controls are also available for each pickup.
The Squier Classic Vibe Jaguar bass sports vintage-style hardware and a real bone nut for increased tuning stability and resonance.
Item Weight: 11 pounds
Package Dimensions: 52 x 15.5 x 4 inches
Hofner Ignition Pro Violin Bass
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind bass that has a unique and iconic look, the Hofner Ignition Pro Violin Bass is likely sure to turn heads. Styled after the model made famous by Paul McCartney of the Beatles, this bass offers the same classic look and playability as the original.
This bass is truly unique, having a completely hollow body. This construction can at times provide stand-up bass tones as heard in early jazz recordings. The body is made of basswood.
The neck of the Ignition Pro Violin Bass is crafted from maple with a scale of 30”. The fretboard is crafted from heat-treated jatoba and has 22 frets, making this suitable for guitarists and bassists alike.
The bass features 2 Hofner nickel-plated Ignition Staple pickups, with a volume and tone control knob. A 2-way selector switch is built-in for switching pickups. 2-way selector switches are also available for extra control over the treble and bass EQ levels.
A nickel trapeze tailpiece, wooden bridge, and nickel tuning machines are equipped on this instrument.
Musicians looking for an extremely lightweight and playable bass that has a distinct sound will be pleasantly surprised by the capability of the Hohner Ignition Pro Violin Bass.
Item Weight: 7.19 pounds
Package Dimensions: 35 x 8 x 5 inches
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II
If you’re in search of a sleek-looking short-scale bass that delivers on tone, the Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II is a great option. This bass is ideal for beginners, guitar players, and professional bassists alike.
The Gretsch G2220 features a 30.3” scale bolt-on neck crafted from maple. The fretboard is crafted from walnut with a 12” radius and has 20 frets.
The body of the G2220 is modeled after the famed Gretsch Jet guitar and is crafted from basswood. A gloss finish helps your color choice to stand out.
The bass has 2 x Mini Bass Humbuckers equipped with a 3-way toggle switch and can provide warm and rich bass tones with a sense of depth and clarity.
For hardware, the Gretsch G2220 is equipped with a synthetic bone nut, die-cast tuning machines, and a 4-saddle bridge.
The Gretsch G2220 not only looks fun to play but could become one of your favorite mainstay instruments. Weighing in at 10 pounds, the G2220 can allow for long sessions without fatigue.
Item Weight: 10.13 pounds
Package Dimensions: 42 x 16 x 5 inches
For those looking for a highly playable 5-string short-scale on budget, the Ibanez TMB35 is an impressive option that can deliver on sound.
The TMB35 features a 30” scale maple neck with a 12” radius. The 20-fretted fingerboard is made from jatoba, while the body is crafted from poplar.
This bass also features 2 different pickups for a wider range of tonal possibilities ranging from smooth and rounded, fat and punchy, and everything in between. The neck pickup is stocked with a Dynamix P-Style split single-coil, while the bridge is stocked with a Dynamix J-Style single-coil.
Each pickup has a designated volume control knob, with a single tone control knob for pickup blending and expanded tonal ranges.
The Ibanez TMB35 is a stylish short-scale bass that can fit well with many styles of music. It is rare to find a playable and value-packed bass such as this while remaining extremely budget-friendly.
Item Weight: 12 pounds
Package Dimensions: 45.67 x 18.5 x 3.94 inches
Squier Mini Precision Bass
For the younger bass player with small hands, the Squier Mini Precision Bass is a very competent bass at an entry-level price. The Mini Precision Bass is modeled after the famed Fender Precision bass, with a short-scale neck and budget hardware that still maintains to deliver a punch.
The body of this bass is crafted from poplar and lends itself to be a lightweight instrument. The bass features a signature Fender-style C-shaped neck with a satin finish. The neck is scaled at 28.6” and has a 9.5” radius fretboard made from Indian laurel.
The Squier Mini Precision Bass touts a split Precision bass single-coil pickup with master volume and tone control knobs. The bass is equipped with vintage-style hardware and diecast tuners.
Item Weight: 10 pounds
Package Dimensions: 39.8 x 14.9 x 4 inches
The Squier Bronco is yet another excellent short-scale bass offering that is budget-friendly and also ideal for beginners. This no-frills bass from Squier’s Affinity series is not only sleek and stylish but is also easy to play.
The Bronco features a 30” scale C-shaped maple neck with a satin finish. The fretboard is Indian laurel with a 9.5” radius and 19 frets.
The body of the Squier Bronco is crafted from Agathis and has a smooth and durable urethane finish.
A Special Design single-coil pickup is stocked into the Squier Bronco to provide deep tones and thick tones. A master volume and control knob provides further tone control.
The Bronco also features chrome hardware and a synthetic bone nut.
Overall, this short-scale bass could be an excellent candidate for modifications such as upgraded electronics and hardware.
Item Weight: 11.02 pounds
Package Dimensions: 51.5 x 15.25 x 4 inches
What to Look for in a Short-Scale Bass
The process of buying any instrument involves a good deal of research and first-hand testing to make the most informed purchasing decision possible. As with every musical instrument, there are a few things to keep an eye out for that can ultimately influence your decision.
While initially designed for children and students, the short-scale bass provides a playing experience that can be far more comfortable than playing a regular 34”+ scale bass. Quite often, a short-scale bass will be lighter in weight. The shortened scale also does not require as much of a finger stretch between the frets.
Your shoulders will thank you, not only because of the weight reduction but also because your arms can play the instrument in a more natural position. This benefit is true with both sitting and standing playing styles.
Ultimately, you will want to make sure that the bass is accomodating to your physique and playing style, as any uncomfortable feeling can cause serious fatigue over time.
When purchasing a bass guitar, you will want to ensure that the instrument can produce the tones you desire. You may be able to get away with having one pickup in the bass, but having two pickups with a selector switch and control knobs will give you a far greater palette of sonic possibilities.
Your budget is a factor that many times will determine which instrument you will buy. While it can be easy to justify an expensive purchase, it is important to be realistic in terms of your budget, your playing ability, and how you will be utilizing the instrument.
A beginner does not need to spend too much money to have a competent instrument, especially if they are not performing live frequently. For those that do perform frequently, a higher-quality musical instrument will be more logical.
Do keep in mind that budget basses can make wonderful opportunities for modifications. By saving money upfront on the purchase, you can use your funds for any upgrades you may wish to make later down the road. This practice not only ensures more value for your money but allows you to grow with the instrument and increases the longevity of the instrument’s utility.
Saving money on a budget instrument also allows the budget to be spent in other areas, such as a higher quality bass amp or effects pedals. A decent bass rig will give you extra versatility and aid the overall sound of your tone.
Best Short-Scale Bass Brands
Many different manufacturers produce high-quality short-scale basses under $500. However, the best of these companies have been long-standing outposts within the music industry for decades, building a reputation backed by time-tested experience.
Squier is a subsidiary company of the legendary guitar company Fender. The company was formed in an attempt to battle the invasion of copy-cat Fender guitars that had flooded the market from 1960-1980. While the company did have a rocky reputation for craftsmanship in the early 2000s, Squier has redeemed itself by consistently producing high-quality instruments at a budget-friendly cost.
Ibanez has had a reputation for building superior instruments with a level of playability not seen with other companies. Ibanez is a Japanese company that takes its name from a classical guitar builder whose instruments they imported in the early days of the company’s history. Ibanez rose to prominence in the 1970s and has been a popular choice for technical musicians.
Gretsch is a well-known guitar and bass manufacturing company, originally founded in 1883. The company is perhaps best known for its line of unique-looking and sounding guitars, played by greats such as Chet Atkins, Brian Setzer, and Eddie Cochran. Currently, the company is owned and operated by Fender, who took over the operations at Gretsch in 2002.
Hofner is a German instrument company best known for its iconic Violin bass (which has become synonymous with musician Paul McCartney). Founded in 1887, Hofner was primarily a producer of violins and provided high-quality instruments throughout Europe. The 1960s saw Hofner expand their production into electric guitars and basses and continue to be sought-after for their distinct look and sound.
Top Short-Scale Bass Under $500, Final Thoughts
Whether you’re a beginner, or a professional looking for a lighter-weight bass with playability and a unique tone, a short-scale bass can become your main go-to instrument. Fortunately, a versatile short-scale can be acquired without having to break the bank.
As with all things musical, be sure to try these short-scale basses out to see which one feels comfortable to you and also sounds good to your ears.