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Alder and Ash bodies: Is there a difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MOTORHEADBANGER, Mar 21, 2009.


    MOTORHEADBANGER Spud-boy looking for a real tomato

    Dec 23, 2008
    Sidney, Indiana
    I was offered a very nice used Fender precision bass the other day that had an ash body. Now I do not have much experience with ash, so I was wondering is there a difference between ash and alder bodies?
  2. Helluvatim


    Sep 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    obvious diffrence is wieght, along with tone and resonance, so I've heard
  3. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Ash (with maybe the exception of swamp ash) is typically significantly heavier.
  4. I don't think ash resonates as well as alder. I've had several ash basses but none of them sounded that good to me.
  5. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    :confused: Wow, that's not my experience at all.

    Anyway, to the OP, do a search on this forum with the key words ash, alder, and tonewoods. You'll get lots of hits and plenty of info.

    Check out this info on the Warmoth site on woods:

    IMO, the differences in various woods are pretty subtle.
  6. bdgotoh

    bdgotoh Supporting Member

    Aug 6, 2002
    Pacific NW
    Either wood can sound great or bad and be heavy or light. I've had basses with both woods that sounded horrible and right now have basses that have one or the other and they sound amazing and are quite lightweight (7.25 - 8.5 lbs).

    I don't think the differences are subtle in most cases, but I agree they can sometimes be. Each piece of wood is unique and the best way to know if it's the right bass for you is to hear what it sounds like while you're playing it.
  7. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Yeah, ash looks better.
  8. iammr2


    Jun 10, 2002
    I wouldn't say ash resonates better, just differently.

    Also, as a general rule of thumb, ash IMO has a brighter tone with more highs and tighter bass. Alder seems to have a warmer tone. These differences can be quite subtle.

    Your mileage may vary but that's what my odometer says.
  9. Deaj


    Aug 15, 2004
    Kingston, WA
    I've owned several ash basses and each seemed ever so slightly deficient in the lower mids as compared to alder which sounds a bit more neutral to my ears. As has been stated already each piece of wood sounds unique. The above observations are based on my own personal experiences. YMMV :)
  10. HammerSmashBASS


    Mar 22, 2009
    Essentially what you'll find nowadays is that tonewoods can almost exclusively be classified as irrelevant. modern pickups, bridges, measures, chambering techniques, glues, materials, string design, amplification, speaker designs, emulation and effects have almost single handedly eradicated the necessity of choosing choice wood types/grades. however depending on the age of the instrument and your personal style this may be essential if you have a more distinguished taste. personally ive found that in most solid body electrics that the harder grained wood tends to provide better tone and resonance. hardened swamp ash is one of my personal favourites. the thing to consider is the overall build of the instrument and the way it sounds to you and how it fits in with your routine and style. i would research the manner in which fender has manufactured the wood itself and therein you will find the effect that the particular wood will have on your sound. the manufacturing and selection process used by a company is the best way to distinguish the who's who of tonewoods. because in this design era almost any material can be made to sound like another.
  11. mattygbass

    mattygbass Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Stafford Springs, CT
    Both of my U.S. laklands use swamp ash. they are both very resonant, and articulate.
    my 3 skyline series laklands all use ash as well, and sound great.
  12. olistorck


    Sep 16, 2007
    I did a tour of a small shop that builds violins and cellos of reputation. Als the warwick tour, where you can look at raw bodies before shaping. Knocking on the raw blocks of wood opens up the whole spectrum of sounds... so , every wood body sound different to start out with. Ash sounds completely different from alder or maple. the lighter the wood the more air is inclosed, thus the tone stands longer, other woods have more harmonics, and so on... electronics, laquer, etc. will change the tone again, but the original character remains.
  13. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I like alder for Its tone ( the evenness it seems to display over the frequency spectrum without a lack of character and complexity).
    its weight is also a benefit to me.
    I also prefer the looks.
  14. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Man you just took the words right out of my mouth..... I'm one of those weird tonewood agnostics also and can't agree more.

    It's really true - it's not the type of wood used (unless you do something really extreme like build it out of balsa wood or something) but the manner of construction and electronics primarily.

    Michael Tobias always says that even a solid electric bass is foremost an acoustic instrument. The acoustics are primarily determined by the construction and only to a minor degree by the type of wood used. There may be a little bit of difference between say hard rock maple and, like, mahogany, but the lions share of the tone is determined by construction and electronics.

    I.e. the typical bolt-on Fender-like design (the Fender, MM, G&L) has a kind of organic sound to it no matter what it's built out of. Tap the back of any Fender or G&L and you get a nice acousticey "tonk" out of it. And that's how they sound through the amp - a kind of organic acoustic like tone. My G&L's are maple neck/ash bodies and sound a lot like a typical Fender when tapped on the back of the body no matter what the Fender may be made out of.

    Tap the back of a rick, similar kind of acoustic sound from the wood. Sure enough, there's an acoustic like quality to its sound through the amp, but with a lot of clank added due to the electronics.

    Tap the back of my (gibson) tobias and you get a very flat "whack" with hardly any acoustic like resonance. It's neck through and built like a Sherman tank where even the open B hardly causes any vibration in it. It's got a pair of Barts in it, lo and behold you plug it in and you get a very smooth but powerful boutique-sounding pop to the tone with lots of "whack" to it. Nothing organic about it and very hi-fi.

    In fact, my rick and tobias are made of virtually the same woods - maple on the neck in neck-through construction - but the sounds of each couldn't be more different. The construction and electronics, tho, are very different on each.

    So look for the type of construction you like to get your tone. Then look at electronics and hardware, then look at woods.....

  15. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I partly agree, but not all the way.
    I find every part of the instrument makes a difference and body-wood too.
    It is part of the puzzle.
  16. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000

    Try them both, see what you like better.
  17. UncleBalsamic


    Jul 8, 2007
    Alder is pretty light.
  18. John Wentzien

    John Wentzien

    Jun 25, 2007
    Elberta, AL
    Artist:TC Electronic RH450 bass system (original test-pilot)
    Mine Too.
  19. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    I'm going to suggest a pizza analogy. Insofar as the crust, sauce, cheese (or lack of) &
    the toppings all add up to more than the sum of it's ingredients, as it were.
    So, do you want thin crust, hand tossed or thick, pan-style?
    Whole wheat, white, sourdough, pesto, garlic, cornmeal, basil, rosemary parmesan etc.
    Lot's of variables in a pizza.
    I like alder.
  20. maxbass


    May 22, 2002
    Milano Italy
    Alder: strong low midrange, quiet highs
    Ash: Deeper lows, much hi-mids, brighter highs

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