Why the long frets!? If you’ve ever seen a guitar or bass with fanned frets (A.K.A. multi-scale neck), you may have wondered something like “what the heck was that!?”
It might look a bit weird, but there are actual benefits to playing a multiscale neck — besides just looking super cool! Let’s take a closer look into the wild and wonderful world of multiscale necks and how it might be able to help with your playing.
What is a multiscale neck?
Identifying a multiscale neck is like picking out someone wearing a wig: It’s pretty obvious. Just look at the frets! In the middle of the neck, they look nice and straight. But as you start to move up or down, it almost looks like someone lost control of the fret machine. The upper and lower frets get kinda wonky and sit at an angle.
These extra-strange necks might seem like a new idea used by companies described with lovely adjectives like “weird” or “innovative” (looking at you Ibanez, ESP, and Schecter), but the concept has actually been around for hundreds of years!
To get an idea of where this multiscale method came from, just look at a grand piano or harp. The shape of the instrument is elongated at the lowest strings to compensate for tension. Longer (lower) strings need more tension to sound good.
If you use the same scale length for the E string as the G string (you know, like a “regular” bass), the low E string could be wigglier than a cooked spaghetti noodle. Just try playing a short-scale bass…
So by elongating the scale of the lower strings and adding a few wonky frets to compensate for the variance, you can create multiple scale lengths on the same neck to maintain the ideal tension across all strings — hence, multi-scale!
The benefits of playing a multiscale bass
The main benefit of playing a multiscale bass is tension. Every string feels good and tight to the touch for lots of lovely playability.
Since the compensated scale length evens out tension from string to string, it’s more comfortable to move across the neck. The shorter scale length on the higher strings helps retain playability and a fuller sound, while the low B on a 5-string will feel much less floppy with way more punch and definition.
A multiscale neck will also help if you’re into downtuning. You can go way lower without losing your tension compared to a single-scale bass.
Downsides of multiscale basses
The only downside to choosing a multiscale bass is that it’s different. I mean, obviously it’s different; look at the thing! It’s going to feel a bit weird under your fingers until you get used to it.
Playing a multi-scale instrument may seem slightly jarring for the first time. Some playing positions may need less reach in some places and more in others.
But after a few minutes of shaking off some muscle memory, it feels just as natural as playing one of their straight-fretted counterparts. You’ll also quickly notice some of the benefits that multi-scale construction brings, both in playability and sound.
What’s the typical scale lengths for a multiscale bass?
Multiscale scale lengths will vary by manufacturer and model. For example, the Ibanez Bass Workshop SRMS806 has a 33.6” scale on the 1st string down to 35.5 for the low B. However, the Ibanez BTB605MS starts at 35” down to 37”.
If you plan on tuning down for some Meshuggah covers, maybe opt for the longer neck. Conversely, shorter multi-scale bass necks are a lot more viable for 5-string players who still want a lot of low end punch without sounding harmonically dull.
What about multiscale guitars!?
Yes, yes, we wouldn’t dream of leaving out the guitarists. Multiscale guitars are totally a thing, and they rock just as hard as the basses.
The benefits of a multiscale guitar are exactly the same as a bass: better playability and tone. This is especially true for seven-, eight-, and nine-string guitars — or more! The lower the strings, the longer the scale should be to maintain proper tension. It also makes downtuning a breeze for those grunge bands and djent-adjacent riffsters.
Is a multiscale bass right for you?
There are plenty of reasons to choose a multiscale guitar or bass: ergonomics, sound, playability, even intonation and tuning stability… But even with these amazing benefits, the only way to really tell if you’ll like the feel of a multiscale neck is to try one for yourself!
At AMS, we can’t keep our sticky fingers off the latest gear, and we know you can’t either! That’s why we offer a 45-day money-back guarantee on almost everything on our site. Grab yourself a multiscale instrument, try it out for a few weeks, and see how you feel. If you love it, keep it. If you don’t, send it back to either try a different brand or go back to a straight-fretted design.
Either way, we want you to have the best gear to suit your playing style. So shop around, and don’t worry about getting stuck with gear that doesn’t feel right under your fingers. We got you!
Most popular multi scale basses
Ready to start your multiscale journey? Here are some of our favorite multiscale basses, chosen by none other than the AMS gear nerds:
Ibanez EHB 1505MS
Oh Ibanez, how we love your crazy designs. This eye-catching bass has way more than a stunning finish and wild shape. The Ibanez EHB1505MS has a scale length of 33-35”, which feels like the sweet spot for many players. The multi-scale construction combined with the headless ergonomics and Nordstrand Big Split pickups strike the perfect balance between playability and huge sound.
If you decide to try out a multiscale bass and choose this as your starting point, it’s entirely likely that you won’t feel the need to try another!
Check out the Ibanez EHB1505MS
Spector NS Dimension 5-string
Enter a new “dimension” of playability with the Spector NS Dimension 5-string bass. Yes, it features a multiscale construction, but this awesome axe also has a lightweight and stunning ash body and burled top with Fishman Fluence electronics for a nice punchy low-end bass sound.
Oh, and did we mention the dot markers glow? Because they totally do! While that’s certainly super cool, it also helps you navigate the fretboard, which can be helpful for multiscale newbies.
Check out the Spector NS Dimension 5-string
Warwick RockBass 5-string
If you’re still not sold on the multiscale life, the Warwick RockBass 5-string features a 34-35.5” scale, which isn’t quite as crazy as some of the other basses on the list. You can get the benefits of a multiscale neck without confusing your fingers too much.
Plus, enjoy the active RockBass electronics and passive MEC Soapbar pickups to get that lovely Warwick growl that bass players all know and love.
Check out the Warwick RockBass 5-string
Popular multiscale guitars
We sent the AMS gear nerds into the warehouse to find some of the best multiscale guitars, and they came back with some real winners. When you’re ready to shred, check out these picks for the most popular multiscale guitars:
Schecter Omen Elite 7
It’s a good thing that looks can’t kill. Because one glimpse of the Schecter Omen Elite 7, and we’d all keel right over! This beauty features a gorgeous maple body carved into a “C” profile for super comfortable playing. And you know the seventh string will always be at the perfect tension with the 25.5-27” multiscale neck.
Pop in the Schecter Heretic-7 humbuckers, master volume and master tone controls, and a 5-way pickup lever, and you have one of the most tonally versatile shredders this side of the Mississippi.
Check out the Schecter Omen Elite 7
Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen
If you’re new to multiscale, the Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen is built for you! It features a unique “infinity radius” fretboard, which is a conical-shaped fretboard that peaks on the high-E side of the fretboard and rolls down to the low side. The benefit is that you can get a complete view of the fretboard from playing position!
Besides the unique fretboard radius, the Kaizen features all the other goodies you know and love from Ernie Ball instruments, including an Ernie Ball tremolo, Steinberger gearless tuners, and Music Man humbuckers.
This awesome guitar comes in both six-, and seven-string variants. Pick the one that fits your style!
See them for yourself:
The more strings, the merrier! The Ibanez RGDMS8 has eight strings for the ultimate shredable guitar. You can reach crazy low chords for even the heaviest musical styles.
But, because of the lower strings, the RGDMS8 features a multiscale neck to keep tension even and your tone incredible, especially when the strings vibrate over the Fishman Fluence Modern humbuckers! Add a simple one push/pull volume knob and a three-way selector switch, and you’re ready to get your metal on!
Check out the Ibanez RGDMS8