5-piece necks - Why?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by matt.larson@excite.com, Jul 18, 2001.

  1. Could someone tell me if 5-piece necks (maple with two walnut stripes) are just for looks or if they serve another purpose? I've heard they make the neck more stable. Is this true? If so, how big a difference do they actually make? Also, would they affect the tone in any way as opposed to a one piece maple neck? Thanks,
  2. Maple is a very stiff, very bright sounding wood. Some people find it a little too bright. Having a neck that's a mixture of say maple and mahogany or maple and wenge would certainly alter the sonic characteristics of an instrument.
  3. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    A multi-piece neck usually is more stable and less weather-sensitive.
  4. A multilaminate neck is much stronger than a single-piece neck using wood of the same quality and type. The reason is that the glue holding the laminates together is stronger than wood, which lends stiffness. Also, the center piece will usually have the grain running in the opposite direction from the outer pieces, resulting in higher warp resistance. This is why good plywood is stiffer than a sheet of solid wood, and thus why plywood can be made from softer woods like birch and poplar. It is also the principle behind Curbow's "Rockwood" and Turner's "Pakkawood" necks.
  5. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    A big advantage of multi-laminates, besides sustain, is stiffness. Neck stiffness raises the resonant frequency to a point that is higher than the instrument by itself porduces, which, as a result, eliminates dead spots/notes.
  6. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Actually folks, it's a little more involved...

    The primary reason for multilaminate necks is for strength and stability. But the glue itself doesn't really have much effect on this, it merely holds the different pieces of wood together. The things that gives the neck the stability are:

    1) The primary sections (largest 2 pieces) are cut from the same board, but then flipped so that the grain is running opposite in each board. The reason for this is that if a board has an innate tendency to warp or twist in a particular direction, placing the two largest pieces in opposition to each other will tend to cancel out this movement.

    2) The contrasting pieces are usually selected for a different set of reactions to temperature and humidity changes. All wood will react to these changes, but different species will react at different rates. Woods that are very stable (wenge and purpleheart are two good examples) are also very dense, making them a bit heavy (if you don't believe it, check out how neck-heavy a Warwick or a Conklin GT is). So, a builder will use a smaller piece of wood to get the chacteristics of the wood without all of it's weight. The same technique is applied to this smaller piece as above for the same reason.

    Obviously, cosmetics is a concern also, but happily most of the woods are pretty pleasant to look at. The reason for the extra center piece in a 5 piece neck is primarily cosmetic, it provides visual balance to the blend of colors in the neck, and is usually made out of the same wood as the two larger pieces. 7 piece necks are out there as well, and are based on similar ideals, just taken to a further extreme. Also, there are some 3 and 2 piece necks that are built for the same reason, and variations on the above formulae (for example, Roscoe) that are done for either differences in asthetic or design philosophy purposes.

    Rockwood and Pakkawood are stiff from an entirely different set of paramaters. What gives them their stiffness is the combination of a rosin the woods are soaked in and a heat treatment that is done to it. There is obviously some added stability from the lamination, but those laminations are done at a 90 degree angle from the above methods, and are not as stable without the addition of the rosin/heat treatment. These materials are a compromise between a natural wood and a full-on graphite (or carbon fiber if you prefer) neck, and have some of the qualities of both.
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    I'm in the resonant frequency camp, Gard. (I know, "So what?"). If the primary reasons were strength and stability, we wouldn't bother with wood laminates at all. Kramer would still be at it, making aluminum necks for the industry.

    The reason trees are still cut to make multi-laminates is to raise the resonant frequency to a point where it doesn't match any of the notes on the neck, (like the classic Fender Precis dead spots). Modulus ensures it's neck's resonant peak is way above bass notes and why they are so emphatic in their ads about the lack of dead spots on their instruments.

    When you laminate woods, each with it's own resonant peak, you create a system of several resonant peaks with different frequencies. The resonant peak of the entire neck should be the average, (ideally), of these various frequencies so that it won't favor one peak and will give a more even response. If I recall correctly, they call this average resonant peak "the Q factor."

    Well, not to get into a pointless pissing contest about who knows the most about neck construction, but that's the dogma I adhere to about necks, as well as Mike Tobias and the boys at Modulus.
  8. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    Hey Rick, no urination competetion here ;). We're both right actually. I left out the fact that woods are also chosen for their tonal chacteristics and resonant qualities. Stability and strength is a HUGE part of both of those qualities though, it's all sort of a big mish-mash of things that makes a neck do it's job. Everything is intertwined to make it all happen. I wasn't ignoring it, but I'd gotten so involved in the stability/strength aspect I neglected to mention the impact those things had on the other qualities. By the way, I have played graphite neck basses with dead spots, so it's not a guaranteed cure-all, it's more effective at eliminating them than wood, but not 100%.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Actually the dead spot thing is interesting - I never found a 5 piece or 7 piece neck bass with dead spots and all the ones with them, have been one piece slab construction and bolt-on - thats out of several hundred I've tried and played!

    But I bet somebody will come back and say they've found a multi-laminate neck with dead spots now! ;)
  10. Wow guys, thanks for all the info! It seems that everyone agrees that the multi-laminate is the way to go. My question now would be which of the following combinations would you prefer and why? All of them would have an ebony fingerboard, alder body, and neck-thru construction. Also, how would each of these affect the tone/weight of the bass? Here they are:

    5-piece maple neck with two koa strips
    5-piece maple neck with two walnut strips
    5-piece mahagony neck with two maple strips
    5-piece koa neck with two maple strips

    Thanks again for any and all opinions. By the way the reason I'm asking is because I'm thinking of buying a bass from Carvin and these are the combinations they offer.
  11. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Weight - Your ebony is easily the stone heaviest of all of those.
    - Koa, walnut, and mahogany are moderately heavy
    - Maple is heavy

    Tone will be how you mix your "ingredients."

    - Maple is bright, has bite, and a lot of sustain. It will give you harmonics, it cuts through, and never gets muddy. Some luthiers talk about its "spankin' sweet high end." It's popular because it gives very balanced lows/mids/highs
    - Walnut is warm and sweet with a good fundamental. It's similar to maple without the brightness.
    - Mahogany isn't as dense or strong as maple but it is warmer, fatter, and fuller with its pronounced mids,
    - Koa is warm like mahogany but with more brightness, not to be confused with treble (it has less treble to it than mahogany). It has more mids than maple but retains focus and crispness. Like maple, it is very balanced across the tone range.

    I got a Carvin last fall with a maple neck w/koa stringers. Part of that decision was influenced by luthier Chris Stambaugh who says that, unlike guitars which focus on warmth and sweetness, for the low frequencies of bass, you want to focus on achieving a clear, transparent effect. He mentions a maple/predominantly maple neck as a component to achieve that result.
    My koa choice was based on an article I read that mentioned how compatible the wood is, soncially, with an ebony board. Another factor is plain, old, snob appeal - it has a very pretty golden brown color and the wood is becoming increasingly rare since the only place in the world it is grown is on private Hawaiian land with little/no new growth. However, some land owners are hip to this and are planting koa so that it continues to be available in the future.
  12. I just got my Carvin, and it's Maple and Walnut. I've had a couple of really seasoned players check it out, and they told me it's one of the best sounding Carvins they've heard. Don't know if that was much help, but I really like the sound.

    As soon as I dig out the digital camera, I'll snap a picture. They did a great job.

  13. cole


    Sep 14, 2000
    then there's the obvious reason: so bass makers can charge more.
  14. That would be great Lisa, if you could send me a couple pics of that bass I would appreciate it very much. Thank you all for the responses, you've been very helpful.
  15. Well, I'm the first to admit being wrong about stuff like this--I had figured that it was the higher proportion of resins in a multilaminate neck that increases stiffness.

    I remember Mike Tobias saying that using a lot of different types of wood in a neck pretty much eliminates any single resonance, as the different woods have different resonant frequencies. This can be a good thing in a bolt-on instrument (fewer dead spots) and a prescription for sterile tone in a neck-through, but that's just IMO.

    Also, the Kramer/Travis Bean aluminum necks had a tendency to warp with severe temperature changes. Mick Karn mentioned in his BP interview that he could never get his Travis Bean to stay in tune, and that's one of the reasons he defretted it.
  16. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Gard - I've seen a couple of completely honest places that sell graphite, phenolic boards, and the other composites, who will only go as far as saying they HELP keep dead spots to a minimum. So, you're in good company.

    Plus, one thing wood does that the composites can't -> improve with age.
  17. jasonbraatz


    Oct 18, 2000
    Oakland, CA
    i think i'd have a 7 piece with 4 pieces of maple and 3 smaller pieces of wenge.

    hey - it'd be lighter than my 4 wenge/3 bubinga neck i currently have! :eek:

  18. AAA

    AAA Guest

    Jun 4, 2002
    One question then... considering neck-thru construction for this hypothetical bass...

    If acheiving some warm fat and full lows is important to me, then how would a maple/koa 5-piece neck with koa body vs. full maple neck (maybe 2-piece) with a mahogany body compare? Or would you recommend something else altogether?

    Is mahogany that much fuller and fatter than koa?

    And how does an ebony fingerboard factor in to this equation? Does it make the tone brighter or just more clear or crisp?
  19. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    uhuhuhuhuhuh... he said "wood".... :D
  20. 2 alembic examples :

    One 5 piece neck : 3 maple + 2 purpleheart laminates

    One 7 piece neck : 4 maple + 3 purpleheart laminates