The Ernie Ball StingRay bass has been the company’s most iconic and best-selling instrument to date, and it’s now available as a short scale.
Ernie Ball Music Man has a long and rich history in the guitar industry (as mentioned in our review of the St Vincent guitar), and it was their original StingRay bass that put them on the map. Their best selling instrument, the StingRay’s active electronics and other innovations—like its special humbucking pickup—helped cement it in history as one of the most iconic and sought after basses of all time. And so, of course we were psyched to hear the news that the Ernie Ball StingRay bass is now available as a short scale.
The History of the Original StingRay
In the mid 1970s, Leo Fender and other employees at Fender Musical Instruments had moved on after the company was sold, and Music Man was founded by Fender, Forrest White, and Tom Walker. The company decided to set itself apart by only offering the highest quality instruments for professional musicians, skipping the beginner’s market. One of the earliest designs, and one of the last instruments that Fender had a hand in designing, was the StingRay bass, which was considered a spiritual successor to his earlier designs of the 1950s. The StingRay was launched in 1976 and was designed by Leo Fender, Tom Walker, and Sterling Ball, who was a beta tester of the instrument and now serves as the CEO of Ernie Ball Music Man.
Several years later, the Ball family purchased Music Man, (now known as Ernie Ball Music Man) and soon thereafter released the 5-string StingRay bass. The StingRay continues to be one of the most iconic and best-selling Ernie Ball Music Man instruments to date—and now, in 2019, the StingRay bass is offered in short scale for the first time!
Short Scale—Not Just For Kids
The scale refers to the distance from the nut to the bridge, the length of which affects both the feel and timbre of the instrument. The shorter the scale, the less tension that will be felt with the strings at pitch. Many musicians who haven’t played a short scale bass tend to think that the design will inheritably create less low end, but the opposite is in fact true. The lower tension trades a little definition for an extended sub frequency response that has been the secret weapon of many artists in the studio and on stage, but perhaps most famously with artists like Paul McCartney, who frequently used them with The Beatles, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads.
Many short-scale basses were originally marketed as an affordable instrument for children, but that does not mean that high quality examples, such as the new Ernie Ball Short-Scale Stingray, don’t exist for adults. Today, short-scale basses are a product of accessibility and comfortable, so if your chasing a thicker tone than average, or even just looking for something a little more compact, then short scales might be just right for you!
The Ernie Ball Short-Scale StingRay Bass
The Ernie Ball Music Man Short-Scale StingRay Bass is noticeably light and very comfortable, thanks to its contoured ash body. The deep cutaways make it quite easy to access all 22 frets with ease, and the combination of a 30-inch scale with low action on a maple neck (finished in a smooth gunstock oil on the back) creates a nice non-sticky feel. The neck is slightly narrower at the nut and gradually becomes a little wider as it joins the body, and is outfitted with stainless steel frets, which are not nearly as common as the industry standard nickel alloy frets. One clear advantage of stainless steel frets is their resistance to wear, making them likely to last significantly longer than other frets before a level, crown and polish, or refret is needed. In other words, they are built to last!
The most deceptive thing about the short-scale StingRay is just how versatile it is. Despite its minimalist look, featuring only a single pickup and three knobs at first glance, great care was taken in the design and implementation of the special neodymium humbucking pickup. Neodymium is a very efficient magnet that allows the pickup to give a much greater output than traditional pickups. This is most evident by the completely passive electronics, which feature a built-in boost: lightly pressing the volume knob into the body of the bass reveals the hidden boost, which provides a surprising amount of extra gain on tap, perfect for cutting through a mix when it’s time to solo. All three pickup wiring options are available through an easy to reach rotary knob; with each click, the sound of the bass can be radically altered as the pickup enters either the full humbucking mode with both series and parallel options available, or entering a single-coil mode. The tone knob is also quite useful and offers a large amount of tonal variations to each option previously mentioned without getting too muddy. With these options available you’ll find that this bass can cover a lot of ground. The Ernie Ball Music Man Short-Scale StingRay Bass is supplied with a roadworthy hardshell case to help protect your investment.
Overall, the Ernie Ball Music Man Short Scale StingRay looks and feels like one of the highest quality short-scale basses offered on the market. For the first time in history, the iconic StingRay is made more accessible and offered as a short-scale. The smaller size packs quite a punch and offers a unique voicing to an already legendary instrument, ready to be played and enjoyed by all players—regardless of their size.