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Looking for the best short scale based under $500 that won’t break your budget?
Then you’ve certainly come to the right place.
Whether you’re buying for a child, someone with small hands, or just want to add a fun small bass to your collection, we’ve handpicked the best products available.
So, let’s get to those axes!
Fender FA-450 CE Acoustic Bass Guitar
Although most of this list is made up of electric bass guitars, we thought it would be worth highlighting an acoustic or two as well. And this one, specifically, is an acoustic-electric.
The Fender FA-450CE acoustic bass guitar features a beautiful, eye-catching three-color sunburst design, and it almost looks as though it could play itself.
It comes with a durable, all-laminated construction, flame maple top, mahogany back and sides, nato neck, Viking bridge, Fishman electronics, and cream binding. The electronics (with volume, treble, and bass controls) make it a great choice for jamming, open mics, and even gigs, especially those requiring a more acoustic sound.
The temptation might be to compare this axe to one far superior, made with a larger, solid body. And you shouldn’t. Because you would be priced well out of this range.
For a lack of a better way of articulating it, this bass looks as it sounds. But it provides plenty of attack and low-end thump, so no concerns there.
Most buyers loved this bass, with no major problems to note.
Item weight: 10 lbs.
Package dimensions: 45.1 x 18.5 x 7.4 inches
Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass
Fender’s Squier has come a long way as a beginner to intermediate level brand, and by all appearances, the Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Jaguar Bass doesn’t look as though it could possibly be an inferior product to a higher priced one.
While you can also find it in black, this Jaguar features that famous three-color sunburst finish with a 70s inspired design. It comes with a basswood body, Fender-designed alnico pickups, vintage-tint gloss neck finish, C-shaped neck profile, vintage-style bridge and slotted barrel saddles, and a comfortable 32” scale length.
This bass brings a surprising amount of thump and clang with it. It’s got a round, thick tone that should satisfy even the ear of an experienced player.
Critics agree that this axe has a premium feel with a premium sound, which is about all you can ask for, especially for the price.
Reviewers found this bass to be versatile, great sounding, and good value.
Item weight: 11 lbs.
Package dimensions: 52 x 15.5 x 4 inches
Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Mustang Bass
You can play in style with the surf green Squier By Fender Classic Vibe Mustang Bass. And, as you would expect, it’s quite comparable to the previous entry, the Classic Vibe Jaguar we just looked at. It’s quite similar in specs, too, except that the Mustang has more of a 60s-era vibe, a 30” scale length, and Fender-designed alnico split-coil pickups.
For its size, it has plenty of thump, a warm and throaty attack, and a round tone with great presence.
Mustang basses have a great look to them with a unique body shape, and the split single coil pickup is often a point of attraction as well.
In this case, at least to the ear of more experienced reviewers, the pickup and overall tone of the instrument was the most disappointing aspect of this bass. I still don’t think it sounds that bad, but to each his own.
Most customers agree that this baby boasts excellent value, has great tone, and some even thought it was almost as good as a real 60s Mustang(!).
Item weight: 11 lbs.
Package dimensions: 52 x 15.5 x 4 inches
Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II
The Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet Bass II is a delight. Its dark, Torino green finish is sleek, its electric guitar style body shape is lovable, and it certainly looks as though it could still pound out some mean, heavy notes.
This instrument features a basswood body, a walnut fingerboard, maple neck, two mini humbucking pickups, and a beautiful headstock.
This little bass gives you a satisfying rumble and rattle, along with punchy highs. And it feels a little bit like a guitar to play, which might inspire you to play a little more like a guitarist too.
Critics thought the tuners could be a little better, but fortunately, those wouldn’t be the most expensive parts to replace.
Buyers loved the price of this bass, along with great setup, and build quality.
Some felt that the bass could use a better setup out of the box, and if you do find the same thing, you could always take it to a tech for a quick lookover.
Item weight: 10.13 lbs.
Package dimensions: 42 x 16 x 5 inches
Ibanez SRMD200D Mezzo Short Scale Bass
When it comes to bang for buck, we certainly can’t ignore Ibanez, and the Ibanez SRMD200D Mezzo short scale bass pictured features a gorgeous and attention-grabbing pearl white finish.
It comes with a Jatoba fretboard, which is known for its reddish-brown color, along with a basswood body, B10 bridge (with adjustable intonation), Dynamix pickups, and a 32” scale neck.
With a deep, punchy tone, lightweight body, and striking esthetics, it’s versatile enough to handle most playing situations.
Bass players and guitar players alike found this a pleasurable and fun instrument to play, and for its price, you can’t beg for a whole lot more.
Item weight: Unknown
Package dimensions: 44 x 19 x 5 inches
Luna TAT30 Tattoo Etched Mahogany Short Scale Electric Bass Guitar
The Luna TAT30 electric bass guitar instantly evokes images of a dragon, with its beautiful, sparkly, and bold body design. The laser etched tattoo art (Polynesian ornamentation) was created by Alex Morgan, and the bass features a mahogany body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and die cast covered tuners.
Tone wise, the Luna TAT30 has a bit of high-end clang, but for the most part it’s warm and deep, with a solid low-end thump, just like a bass should.
Buyers thought it was a good bass for the money and enjoyed its solid tone and compactness.
Some gave it a lower rating because the bass required a setup upon arrival. That might be something to look out for.
Item weight: 4 lbs.
Package dimensions: 7 x 15 x 28 inches
Squier By Fender Mini Precision Bass
Most of what you need to know about the Squier By Fender Mini Precision Bass can be gotten just from the picture, especially if you have previous experience with basses.
Either way, the lowdown on this bass is that it has a thin and lightweight basswood body, short-scale neck, a split single-coil Precision Bass pickup, and sealed die-cast tuning machines. In addition to black, you should also be able to find it in the bright, capri orange.
The Mini P Bass has a surprisingly thick, pushy tone with a serious rattle and a bit of boom. Always nice to hear in a bass this size.
The main thing you should keep in mind with this bass is its price, which is remarkably low. So, you shouldn’t expect to have your mind blown, unless you’ve been playing knockoff, off-brand basses that most would eventually discard or sell at a garage sale.
That said, it’s a budget friendly bass, it’s good for kids, and it even sounds good and plays quite well.
Some had issues out of the box with the strings, but keep in mind that strings are easily replaceable.
Item weight: Unknown
Package dimensions: 39.8 x 14.9 x 4 inches
Ibanez GSRM20TR 4 String Bass Guitar
From all appearances, it doesn’t look as though it could possibly be a bargain basement axe. The transparent red pictured here is quite stunning, though you can find it in metallic purple, starlight blue, and weathered black as well (all fun options).
With a fast and slim maple neck, lightweight body, Dynamic P pickup, and a 28.6” scale, it should prove an excellent instrument for kids and complete beginners who aren’t even sure whether they’re committed to being a musician long-term.
Overall, it’s got a punchy, versatile tone with some serious attitude. Not for those who want more boom and thump, but great for those who want some of that bright attack.
This axe is small, fun, straightforward, and boasts a tone befitting a far more expensive instrument.
Most buyers thought it was quite amazing, though some complained of issues with intonation, its size, and even its volume knob.
Item weight: 6.9 lbs.
Package dimensions: 39 x 11.5 x 2.3 inches
What Should I Look For In A Short Scale Bass Under $500?
If you’re looking for a short scale bass, it’s probably for one of four reasons:
- You’re buying for a child, probably a beginner. And a short scale bass is generally a good place to look, as some children might be able to adapt to a full-scale guitar, but a full-scale bass would be a bit much.
- You have small hands, or you’re buying for someone who has small hands. There’s no shame in small hands. Some of the pros and heroes you look up to secretly play short scale instruments too. It’s not cheating. It’s just smart.
- You’re looking for a smaller bass you might be able to travel with. Obviously, a short scale bass would be a little lighter and take up less space overall. The space you save will depend on the bass, but you should be able to find some good options. Just be sure to be mindful of the weight and dimensions of the instrument you’re thinking about purchasing.
- You want to expand your axe collection with a smaller bass. Because it’s fun! Why not? Buying the same bass over and over only makes sense if you need a lot of backups. It’s a lot more fun and interesting to expand your collection in different directions so you have tonal palette available to you that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
With that established, we can go a little deeper into the details.
Shopping for a bass is a lot like shopping for any other instruments. You’re going to be considering tone, playability / comfort level, appearance, and of course, budget.
So, while you are the final decision maker concerning all matters related to your music career, here are a few things to look out for as you’re hunting down your next bass.
Note: Some of the basses featured above are short scale, and some are medium scale (which is still smaller than full scale). Always check dimensions and specs to ensure you're getting exactly what you want.
Does It Sound Good?
Basses featured here are all under $500, with the cheapest one being in the $180 range.
What does this mean? This means we can’t expect too much. A $100 to $500 bass won’t sound like a $3,000 bass, no matter what effects or amp it might be going through. That said, you can still get a great sounding bass in the affordable price range.
We couldn’t find a single bass on the above list that sounded terrible. In most cases, critics were quite sanguine about them, and there was only one instance in which critics complained about pickups and tone. And that was for a $400 and up bass, so it might explain why their expectations are a little higher.
For the most part, you can’t go wrong with any of the above, but sound is ultimately subjective, and you might prefer a certain sound to another. It might be worth watching a few YouTube demos to get an idea, and if that still doesn’t do the trick, go to the guitar store to try out the bass for yourself. That’s a good tip to keep in mind for all factors here.
Do It Feel Good? Does It Play Well?
Playability is quite possibly the most critical factor, especially for beginners. Learning to play an instrument can be a long process requiring patience and tenacity, so you don’t want to make that journey any harder or longer than it must be by buying yourself or your child a bass that’s unusually hard to play.
And it’s usually easy to tell, because the strings on the bass will be a little high off the fretboard, and hard to press down. Or the frets will be a little sharp, and in need of sanding / filing. Nothing a quick setup wouldn’t fix, but if you’re buying a cheap bass in hopes of saving money, you’ll be well over budget with a professional setup.
Again, what feels good and plays well is a little subjective, or at least personal. But we couldn’t find any major issues with the above basses, which is always heartening.
Does It Look Good?
Looks are individual, but it’s always good to know that, even in this price range, you can find basses that don’t look like they are just cheaper imitations of more expensive models.
They aren’t necessarily made of the highest quality materials, but in most cases are still subjected to rigorous standards, such that customers have a consistent experience across the board.
Having colors to choose from might be great for your child, so if you’re buying for your son or daughter, that might be factor.
Other than that, band or brand colors might be something to think about, but it seems like in most bands, the instrument comes first, the color of the instrument comes second.
Either way, the decision is yours to make.
Is It The Right Price?
One last item before we conclude this section. Obviously, you know what to expect in terms of price. All the above basses are under $500 if not exactly $500. Many are significantly cheaper.
But a few hundred dollars is still considerable in the grand scheme of things. So, choose well.
As a note of caution, we always recommend against going into debt to buy a bass. Please spend responsibly.
What Are The Best Short Scale Bass Brands?
There are a lot of brands making bass guitars out there, so by no means should the following list be considered comprehensive.
But here are some of the top brands worth checking out when shopping around for a short scale bass.
With their world-renown Precision and Jazz (P and J basses, affectionately) basses, Fender is far from a one-trick Strat and Tele pony. Their basses often form the foundation and inspiration for other brands and models, which tells you most of what you need to know.
Most of their short scale offerings come from their cheaper, more beginner-oriented brand, Squier, but Squier has only maintained or upped the quality of their instruments through the years, and there are more than a few pros who proudly play Squiers onstage these days.
While they are most known for their legendary hollow body electric guitars, Gretsch Guitars has managed to put itself on the map in the world of short scale basses too.
Some of their other gear offerings include accessories, acoustic guitars, ukuleles, resonator guitars, and more.
It’s no surprise that we should see the Japanese Ibanez on this list. They make quality instruments and sell them at surprisingly low prices, making them a great value buy across the board.
And in case that gives you the mistaken impression that they are a “cheap” brand, virtuosos like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Kiko Loureiro, and many other notable axe men favor their guitars.
Luna Guitars has carved out for itself a strong association with acoustic instruments, and their best products are, indeed, acoustic – mainly guitars and ukuleles.
That said, we do think they’re “one to watch” in the bass space, so we certainly can’t ignore their diverse offerings, which include bluegrass instruments and cajons.
Ready to find your perfect short scale bass under $500? You should be! We wish you all the best on your shopping journey.
When it comes to choosing an instrument, it all comes down to your preference and what works for you, so don’t second guess yourself when you think you’ve found the right fit. Take hold of it!
Last Updated on January 13, 2022.
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