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ash or alder?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by E=Fb, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. E=Fb

    E=Fb Guest

    Jan 28, 2006
    Melbourne, Australia
    What sort of tonal benefits do the combination of an ash body and a maple fingerboard give as opposed to the alder body and rosewood fingerboard?
  2. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Brighter,more open top end, clearer highs, great for slapping, a bit of a natural mid-scoop in my experience due to the wood properties.
  3. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    Lots of people with lots of ideas on the subject. I will say that your hands, the pickups and/or electronics, strings and amp all contribute more that the wook in an electric instrument. Sure the wood 'flavors' the tone slightly, but even tree to tree each sample can behave slightly different.

    in a nutshell to my mind and ears:

    Ash = deeper lows, brighter highs with a breathiness to the mids
    Alder = even and smooth with a nice punch to the mids.
    Maple = quicker, snappier
    Rosewood = richer, rounder
  4. heat@500Hz

    heat@500Hz Guest

    Jun 11, 2005
    Lago Blanco de la Roca
    my understanding is that you'd need to specify swamp ash or 'hard' ash before you could study the question, as the species are a bit different

    i'm by no means an expert, but i understand hard ash to have the snappier highs mentioned...swamp ash may indeed have the snap to the highs as well, but i imagine that the density variation will contribute much to the sound characteristics beyond that

    i have a very light swamp ash jazz body that i intend to use for a fretless in the future, so i'd be interested in some expert opinion as well:)
  5. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Swamp ash doesnt mean soft, just light.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I think electronics, construction type (neck-thru, bolt-on), and amp rig are all far more important in determining tone than body and neck woods. And there's lots of variety in the tone of wood: no guarantee that alder will sound like (X) and ash will sound like (Y).

    I tend to prefer alder basses, but I've played sweet basses made of ash, mahogany, poplar, etc.

    My standard advice: if you're going to a store to audition basses first-hand, don't even bother to ask what woods the bass is made of: that'll only cloud your objectivity. Let your ears and fingers decide what's best for you.
  7. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    If I remember right, and I often don't...
    One of the books I read about the history of the Fender bass, Leo used whatever was cheap and easy at the time, and thus the switch from alder to ash. He felt electronincs and fingerboard material were more relevant than body wood...
  8. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    I believe Fender also used Basswood and Poplar at times.
  9. bazzanderson


    Oct 7, 2002
    Austin, TX
    What about alder and maple?
  10. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC Music. Warwick U.S. distribution
    +1. There's a thread about my two Lulls...one ash the other alder. This is exactly the difference played un-plugged. Plugged in it shifts a bit but the electronics between the two is different....different pres and pups.

    I also agree with Fuzzbass. You know, I've been buying basses for over thirty years and I've never cared what the wood is. I play it and it either works or it doesn't. Even with my newest Lull- Mike asked me "what do you want". I replied "any 4 string Jazz with active electronics". I didn't specify fingerboard, body material or color. Eventually, after playing the bass for a bit I find technique gets out of it what you need to for the most part.
  11. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ

    I agree 100%
  12. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine