Alder body vs. Swamp Ash body

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by dmaki, Nov 19, 2000.

  1. dmaki


    Apr 29, 2000
    What is the difference between the sounds of alder bodies and swamp ash bodies? I'm thinking of building a bass out of parts and I'm wondering what kind of body to get...

  2. Bernie


    Dec 12, 1999
    The only basses ive had a chance to play where everything else was the same are Fenders.I prefer alder.It has a deeper,warmer sound than the ash versions.Good luck!
  3. Slater

    Slater Bye Millen! Hello?

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Swamp ash is lighter (in weight) and brighter (tonally) than alder. Swamp ash looks better too (IMO).

    (Side note: Other types of ash can be much heavier than swamp ash. I have an a 4-string bass with an ash body that is heavier than my 5-string with a swamp ash body.)
  4. EString


    Nov 20, 2000
    Los Altos, CA
    I'm confused! I always thought that Swamp Ash was heavier than Alder! I know that Norther Hard Ash definately is (the stuff they used on the late 70's Fender basses). The Warmoth home page ( seems to say that Swamp Ash is heavier than Alder. Who is right? I must know!!! I am choosing a new bass soon and this could play a critical role in my decision!
  5. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    The *weight* of the bass has a critical role!? I'd choose tone over weight, but hey, that's me.
    twinjet likes this.
  6. Edgar


    Nov 4, 2000
    Montreal, QC, CA
    Weight = Tone

    [Edited by Edgar on 11-20-2000 at 07:43 AM]
  7. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    I would say, the type of wood (or luthite?) used has a bigger impact on the tone, than the mass of it. Ash and alder bodies of the same weight sound different.
  8. I have a Lakland 55-94 made out of swamp ash and it is pretty light. I'm pretty sure swamp ash weighs less then most alders. It's known for it's tonality and lightness.

    Carvin is now using swamp ash as an option on their basses and I seem to recall that the had a write up on it in their latest catalog. I don't have that catalog anymore but you may be able to get more information from their web site.
  9. TonyS


    Dec 13, 1999
  10. I was just checking out Lakland's new website and the ash vs. alder question was posed in their FAQ section.. here's their answer:

    "Southern Swamp Ash tends to be a little lighter and has a more figured grain that is suitable for translucent and sunburst finishes. It has great full-range tonal characteristics, very balanced. Alder has more of a "midrange punch." It is the type of wood Fender used on many of their early (pre-CBS) Jazz Basses. Alder offers what many consider the "Vintage" tone."

  11. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Swamp ash is definitely lighter from everthing ive seen. My alder-bodied hollow-necked Modulus weighs way more than my swamp ash-bodied thick maple-necked Tobias, by about 2 lbs.
  12. What kind of sound do you want your bass to have? What's it gonna be P or J?

  13. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    Real interesting ...I have heard this exact same describtion of tone , and I have read it many times as well, about Alder...:confused:
  14. zortation


    Dec 26, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    After many years of playing both types, I would say alder is better for low mids and swamp ash is better for high mids.
  15. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    ***Engage Sheldon Cooper Mode:


    Since weight is mass times the local acceleration due to gravity, and an instrument in a weightless environment would still have tone, (how could it not?) gravity can be removed from the equation leaving:

    Mass = Tone

    And since mass is a function of density it can be said:

    Density = Tone

    However, it is still up to the listener where along the range of available densities an instrument sounds, quote, better, unquote.


    ***Disengage Sheldon Cooper Mode.
  16. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Uh oh - the tonewood thread in disguise.... So before it degenerates:

    There won't be any difference in the sound, so it'll boil down to appearance and weight. My L2K has an ash body of some type (not sure if it's swamp ash or not) which weighs 80,000 lbs (which I love) and it's a pretty nice looking piece of wood.

    Alder can look kind of plain, but is a nice lightweight wood.

    If they cost the same, I'd personally go with swamp ash for the appearance. Else, Alder is usually cheaper, so I'd go with that if there's a price difference.

  17. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    IME with many experimental body swaps, there can be a difference in sound when swapping bodies but it's not all that much and there can be much crossover between the different species I tried, alder, ash, swamp ash, maple, poplar, white pine, yellow pine, koa, mahogany, and paulownia.

    I find it usually depends more on the individual body than the species, though I found that the few white pine bodies I made all contribute a somewhat distinctive low end with different necks.

    I also find there is much more tonal variation when swapping different necks on the same body no matter what the species of wood used for the neck or fingerboard (swapped several examples each of maple/maple, maple/rosewood, Maple/ebony, bubinga/ebony, wenge/wenge, wenge/ebony) keeping all else as equal as possible.