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Ash vs. Swamp Ash

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by agreatheight, Mar 15, 2006.

  1. I'm thinking about building myself a P / J combo bass using some Warmouth parts and realized that I wasn't really sure what the difference between Ash and Swamp Ash is, lol, and which basses (manufacters / models) use which variety of this wood. Can anyone help?

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Check out Ken Smith's website... he talks about the differences among woods in detail.

    From my recollection.... swamp ash is just a very lightweight variety of ash. I have a swamp ash body MTD.. it is super lightweight. My Celinders are made of heavier ash.

    Sound... to my ear, swamp ash is quite warm with a little bit of a 'scooped sound'. Heavier ash can be very aggressive... deep, rumbling lows and very cutting treble.
    bass nitro likes this.
  3. http://www.warmoth.com/bass/options/options_bodywoods.cfm
    That about sums it up.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    Swamp Ash tends to be lighter in weight , you can allways check out their chambered bodys as well.
  5. SoulStabber


    Mar 13, 2006
    Juz to add to all that, I love the grains on a swamp ash!!!
  6. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    i still don't understand how like... the wood REALLY affects the tone of an electric solid body instrument significantly.

    the pickups, electronics, strings. MASSIVE effect. but is there really a noticeable effect from wood, when each piece will have a different density and properties, even in the same species?

    call me a sceptic, but i'm pretty sure that only the un-amplified tone would be affected by the wood.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Supporting Member

    Their is a diffrence, various species of wood sustain diffrently and their is a huge diffrence in tone between instruments with diffrent fingerboard woods.
  8. DavePlaysBass

    DavePlaysBass Supporting Member

    Mar 31, 2004

    That's sort of like saying the PA system has more of an influence on the sound of the voice then the body that projects the voice.

  9. I understand the logic of why you think that, but it's not correct. Playing, for example, MTD basses with identical hardware and electronics but different body woods and neck woods results in sound so different you wouldn't even think they were all in within the same brand of basses. It's amazing.

    However... to your point... different pieces of Mahogany cand sound different from one another, etc. This is especially true of ash IMO... where the lighter pieces sound totally different from the heavier, denser pieces.
  10. instigata


    Feb 24, 2006
    New Jersey
    i don't think so. because the pa speaker is the amplification of the sound. the pickups are integral in the production of the sound, not just the amplification of it.

    the amp affects the tone, but i believe that the SOUND of a bass is just a product of strings, pickups and electronics. the wood itself is minimal.

    think about it. strings vibrate. magnetic coils using inductance are affected by the movement of the strings, which produces an electronic signal which an amplifier can produce into a sound. there is no place for the wood in this combination of a significant quality. so therefore, it is negligible in my opinion.

    hollowed bodies have a more significant affect due to the delay caused in vibrations of the strings or lack of density in the body. so the density impacts it. but as i said, individual woods cannot have a general tone in my opinion.
  11. It has to do with density, which you alluded to. Different species have, in general, a certain range of densities, which contributes to the difference in sound. The pickups do have a significant impact on tone, but the wood has the most effect on the way the strings vibrate, contributing to the differences you hear between instruments with the different woods, and even two of the same instruments.

    Of course you don't have to believe this if you don't want to, just tryin to help you see it my way.

  12. If my Rick was made of Alder, Swamp ash, or basswood, it wouldn't have the "Clank" of Hard Maple,

  13. +1

    I had to learn this the hard way...

    Aria Pro II bass....body - swamp ash or alder(one of the two)

    Wanted sharp attack out of it.....added Barts - nope

    changed from Bartolini pickups to EMG's - I was very happy.

    2 years later, played a Rick...Aria Pro sounded like a soft sponge, with fake-sounding, electronically-boosted treble in comparison.
  14. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    All other things being equal, body wood means everything when it comes to a bass or a guitars tone. All you have to do is try a few. Same goes for fretboards, etc

  15. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    Yes, there is a difference...but I find a greater difference in the heavier woods...not so much between ash and alder. A friend had a bass with a solid walnut body, walnut neck and ebony fingerboard (a Warmoth P to be exact, with a Bart PJ setup and pre and a BadAss). That thing had a sound that was unbelievable...it was tight and cut through his jazz band beautifully. It seemed like the entire sonic range was clear as a bell and present in all frequencies. I am convinced that the wood had a lot to do with the sound. The only problem was...that sucker was heavy!! So, think about your back. This ain't no wimpy 6 pound six string guitar with little bitty strings and a tiny neck. No sir! This is the BASS guitar! Long and sleek, not for the meek!

    What I really believe is this: most of the sound comes from your hands...it is amazing to me that just about every decent bass I have ever played unplugged sounds well, it sounds like me. Which I am hoping is a good thing...
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.


    Several years ago a musician brought a high end handmade Bass to show me. He was having a problem with it. It was made with a regular Northern (hard) Ash Body. The sound was 'dead'. No ring, no volume and no tone. I couldn't bring back the dead! The customer and brand/maker of the Bass shal remain nameless.

    I don't subscribe to the notion that harder or denser woods are brighter or darker woods sound deeper and lighter colored woods sound xxxx or taller people are smarter, etc........

    Every species or variation of wood has it's own texture make-up and weight has nothing to do with it in my opinion. Two very bright woods that come to mind is Swamp Ash and Cocobolo. Cocobolo must be used as a Top and Back layer only as it is too dense for a solid body and will 'suck-up' too much tone and deaden the sound. Alder has about the same weight as Swamp Ash but sounds completely different. This difference goes to the makeup of the woodgrain and fibers etc. and not to how heavy or dence it is or lack thereof.

    I had never considered regular Ash for a body or neck wood before but after hearing a high end Bass made with Ash, my decision was made up for good. Leave that wood for the Furniture and Baseball Bat makers where it is best used...
  17. Hmmm.... isn't medium weight ash one of the key components to 70's style Jazz Bass instruments. I've recently played some 'medium weight' (I assume Northern Ash) MTD's, Celinders, Fodera's, etc. and they are some of the finest sounding versions of those instruments I have heard... huge fundamental, great upper mid grind, crisp treble.

    Aren't your KSD 70's style basses made with medium weight ash bodies:confused:

    And.... your opinion seems to be based on your experience with one high end bass made with ash... to your own point... lots of variation within types of wood... I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this!?!?!?
  18. gruuv


    Jan 23, 2004
    I'm going to watch this thread with bated breath. . . my experience matches KJung's. I shall now go into lurk mode........................

  19. Ha... not trying to pick a fight with Mr. Smith. I just played a couple of his nice basses over at Low Down Sound, and have owned one in the past (and had a very nice time back in the early 90's or late 80's... can't remember exactly.... visiting Ken's shop in NY and picking the woods for my first 'high end' 5 string bass). He also, of course, has a million times more experience than little old me. However, when his comment above is 100% in the opposite direction of my experience, I'm just trying to get some clarification:)

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