Alder body vs. Ash body?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ultramangeos, Apr 12, 2002.

  1. If you have the 2 American Fender Jazz basses with the same strings, and the same Fretboard material, would there be a noticible difference in the sound if the the body was Alder vs. the Ash?
    They do not have any of the Ash versions at my local stores to try out.
    Now I have heard that Ash is supposed to be brighter, or snappier than the alder. Is there really that much of a difference?:)
  2. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    IME, yes, an ash bodied bass or guitar, all else being equal, will be brighter than one exactly the same, other than the alder body.
  3. BFunk

    BFunk Supporting Member

    All else being equal, alder has more punch, while ash has more snap. The traditional Fender sound is Alder. Ash is more popular for the modern bass sound because it has a more scooped mid sound.
  4. So if I were looking for a snappy Slap & Pop wood configuration, an Ash body, with a Maple fingerboard would be the best.
    But on the other hand, if I wanted a mellow Jaco Jazz type of sound (without the fretless), then an Alder with a rosewood FB would be the way to go?
  5. seamus


    Feb 8, 2001
    Given identical basses with the only difference being the woods you described, I'd say that sounds about right.
  6. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    its just not that simple. ash+maple doesnt always=better slap tone than alder. a/b the two yourself and dont take our word on it.
  7. I recently played a 50th anniversary P-bass - Ash/Maple and right after that, a Standard MIA P-bass - Alder/Rosewood. Each bass is truly different, but, I'd have to agree with Seamus here. Going just by the specs, Ash is brighter; Alder more resonant and warmer. Try before you buy.

    Mike J.
  8. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA
    in my experiences, i agree. i'm a funker, slap guy all the way, and love the maple/ash combo. response just feels faster and brighter for slap.

    you could also try an ebony board. some say, it sounds kinda like a mix of rosewood and maple. but IMHO, it sounds steelier and tougher than maple but about as bright.

    IMHO, alder's got a deeper sounding lower midrange that makes it feel more resonant, but not enough high end for a responsive feel and sound for slap.

    Ash comes in two species that i know of. Swamp ash is the tried and true that's got the edgier sound with an almost hollowed out midrange. Northern Ash is mucho heavier and denser which attributes it a cutting high end with a deep immediate low end. its almost like "twin-turbo" version of ash that has exaggerated qualities of swamp ash.

    my descriptions may sound weird, but waddya expect for 4 am? :D
  9. gfab333


    Mar 22, 2000
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    I agree with most of the posts...

    Alder will have a more woodier warm tone; ash will have a little more balls, more snap, and more high end bite.

    the neck also makes a difference. rosewood finger boards will have a warmer woody tone; a solid maple neck will have more high end and more snap.

    the Marcus Miller tone is one of the better examples of an ash body jazz bass with a maple neck, as far as a slap tone.
  10. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA

    marcus' 70s jazz has a heavier than normal Ash body that's prolly Northern Ash, so with all else things equal, its gonna be a "hyper" ash sound than a standard sound.


    i was at Bass Boutique a little while back, and they had a killer Atelier Z jazz bass. its japanese made, and they're notorious Marcus heads. anyways, with its dense Northern Ash body, it had the Marcus sound, and OMG, nearly flipped me out. So, cutting and hammerin' thru a DB359 w/GS210. i woulda gotten it, but i'm a smaller statured guy and it literally dwarfed me with its massive vintage true jazz body. might as well set it upright... :D

    At the time, that particular one impressed me waaaaay more than a jazz on another wall of a certain dood a few blocks away who's name starts with an "S" and ends with a "skee". ducks from the flying flames...
  11. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Just take this a bit further, for my benefit. Where would (wood) the tulipwood (poplar), that Mike Tobias uses on quite a few of his MTD basses fit into this comparison?
  12. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    I wasn't of the thought that an Fender was in the same realm as the MTD and hope that's not what was thought. I was looking, merely for a comparison between the a swamp ash vs. alder vs. tulipwood and tonal properties the tulipwood has.
  13. Jerry, check out the Warmoth site for more info on wood's tonal qualities. :cool:

    Mike J.
  14. Swamp ash is lighter because of all the tiny air pockets. It's sort of naturally hollowed out. this makes it very resonant, (more so than alder).
  15. All the information below is strictly IMO and IME.

    Alder: Very neutral tone-wise. I do feel that Alder has more midrange punch than ash. Less highs IMO than ash, especially northern ash. Sounds poor acoustically but jumps to life plugged in. Looks really crappy but is terriffic for solid color and sunburst finishes. Also is a good body wood for fretlesses too, although it is best mated with a birdseye maple, maple, or ebony fretboard to give more highs.

    Swamp Ash: Bright, sparkling highs that "pop" out. VERY open grain that can look spectacular under a transparent finish. Not as much midrange punch as Alder, although IMO it still retains some warmth. (However, the clear highs are the #1 characteristic of ash). Sounds great unplugged and with fretless basses; quite possibly my #1 body wood on fretlesses.

    Northern (Baseball Bat) Ash: AS people have been saying, Swamp Ash on steroids. VERY hard wood that has INTENSE highs; probably the brightest body wood i've played. Looks similar to Swaph ash although usually a little lighter in color. Very little midrange, although provides a good "thump" in the bass end. THE wood for a slap-exclusive bass.

    :cool: :p :)