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Bass tone by percentage of parts

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by soaf, Dec 10, 2013.

  1. soaf


    Jul 27, 2013
    In your opinion, what parts make up what percentage of a bass' tonal characteristics... body, neck, fretboard, pickups/electronics, strings.

    Please dierect me to any prior threads on this topic. Thanks!
  2. GregC

    GregC Johnny and Joe Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    33% fingers, 33% pickups/electronics, 33% strings, 1% the other stuff.:bag:
  3. CoarseBass


    Dec 28, 2002
  4. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    I can't think of this in percentages, so I will use a 1 - 5 scale. '1' is "not very much" and '5' is "major influence on tone".

    Electronics - 4 (an active P still sounds like P to me).
    Capacitor construction - 0
    Retail price of potentiometers - 0
    Cloth insulation - 0

    String type- 4 (flats or rounds? quite a big impact here)
    String height - 4 (high and thumpy? Low and buzzy?)

    Pickup placement - 5 (Check out Guy Pratt's custom Warwick with two sliding pickups; moving the pickups whilst holding a chord sounds almost like a wah or filter pedal).
    Pickup construction - 4 (hums or single, series or parallel coils)
    Pickup DC resitance - 3 (not the big deal some people think it is, especially guitarists!!!!)
    Wax potting yes/no - 1 (some enjoy uncontrollable microphonics)
    Pickup colour - 0

    Anodized guard, or metal screening plate - ??? Eddy currents scare me man.

    Wood - 3 (hard to test objectively without other variables having an influence)
    Shape (and therefore mass) - 3
    Number of pieces of wood used, or presence of veneer - ??? who knows man.
    Pre-conditioning the body with loud frequencies the Yamaha way to artificially age the wood - ??? who knows man.

    Neck - 2 (hard to test objectively without other variables having an influence)
    Fretboard - 1 (never bought the whole maple/rosewood day/night stuff).
    Rubber coating on trussrod to stop it rattling - 0
    Brass nut - Yikes! Open strings sound like fretted notes, man.
    Ultralite tuners - 3, you just moved the dead spots two frets south!
  5. Fingers aside (not part of the question):

    75% pickup(s), especially placement, and electronics
    20% strings
    5% rest
  6. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    There is no correct answer as it varies depending in what parts are used. That's one if the reasons these discussions get so rabid and never resolve.


    Some players have such particular technique they can make almost any bass sound the way they want, within limits, of course. So for them, it's all in the fingers.

    Some PUPs give so much colour or limit the bandwith so much the other aspects like wood and hardware have minimal effect on the tone.

    Some strings impart so much tonal flavour they make every bass sound similar. Others let more of the other various parts contribute more to the tone.

    Then you have the fact that they are all in a chain and react differently to each other due to mechanical and electronic relationships, you have further variable complexity, as infinitum.

    So the answer is it depends.
  7. levis76

    levis76 Seconds from getting ba...

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    Regardless if 'fingers' are part of the question, there is no question that the player has the biggest impact on tonal characteristics.

    50% players technique (great players all say it's in the hands and it's how a hack like me can make a handmade Alembic sound like a factory made Ibanez)

    30% electronics (placement, type, and height)

    20% strings (type and height)

    10% everything else (materials)

    I know it adds up to 110%, but I always give 110% :cool:
  8. levis76

    levis76 Seconds from getting ba...

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit

    This is probably the most mature and accurate response this thread will see.
  9. Bassdude15


    Feb 26, 2013
    body wood:33%
    pickups 10%
    pickup placement:20%
    neck wood: 6%
    fretboard wood:1%
  10. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I mostly agree with this. I might have given a tad more to fingers (mainly because I play a little hard) but I can live with this.

    I have a feeling this thread won't go well for the most part but hopefully I'm wrong.
  11. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Pickups/Pre 50%, wood 15%, you 35%.
  12. The body wood has more influence than pickup placement? dude...
  13. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    50% strings

    30% PUP's and electonics

    10% Hardware

    10% Wood

    100% The person playing it.

    I know that's 200%, but that's what I have to work with.
  14. Bassdude15


    Feb 26, 2013
    yep. The difference between an Ibanez SDGR with mahogany body vs a poplar body, for example, (specs sam otherwise) is night and day. Poplar bass had significantly more highs,less lows, and sounded even more scooped, whereas the mahogany bass was deep and warm.
  15. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars

    Pickup placement, will change a basses sound more than body wood by a long shot. In fact it is the biggest factor in the tone of any solid body electric instrument. Its physics, a string vibrating closer to its anchor is going to oscillate in a much tighter pattern than it does at the middle of the string. So the string effects the magnetic field of the pickup in a different manner depending on where the pickup is placed.

    I think even the tonewood truthers would agree with me on this one.
  16. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Strings first. That's where 100% of the available frequencies are produced.

    Wood/structure second. It damps out a certain percentage of those frequencies.

    Whatever frequencies are left, the pickups and pre-amp get to play with.
  17. kohntarkosz

    kohntarkosz Banned

    Oct 29, 2013
    Edinburgh - Scotland
    Looks like mongo2 has a second account. :cool:
  18. MarTONEbass


    Jun 19, 2009
    Norton, MA
    It is unequivocally, 100% carrots.
  19. levis76

    levis76 Seconds from getting ba...

    Apr 14, 2007
    Metro Detroit
    I could be mistaken, but doesn't Ibanez use completely different electronics in their lower cost models, like those made with basswood and poplar, than the more expensive models made of 'tone woods' like mahogany and alder? I think so, which would contribute to the perceived difference in tone. I don't think they make same spec basses with different woods. More expensive woods usually get more expensive electrics.

    The tone wood argument has been beat to death and back to life and back to death again and again and again. There actually is a very informative thread that was done awhile back. A guy made a bass out of scrap lumber and the electronics and neck from a jazz bass. He made some recordings with it and then reassembled the jazz and made some more recordings and challenged TB to identify which was which. End result, very few could tell the difference. With all other things being equal, wood type plays a very small role, just like instrument cable choice, or expensive power cables. It's mostly snake oil.

    My granddaddy taught me that expensive tackle was made to catch fishermen, not fish.
  20. wood - 25%
    pickups - 25%
    strings - 35%
    neck/construction/coatings/age - 15%