basswood vs. poplar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by fretter, Jul 23, 2016.

  1. Basswood

  2. Poplar

  3. Plywood

  4. Particle board

  5. Carrots

  6. Broccoli

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. fretter


    May 24, 2012
    Basswood seems to be a very popular choice of tone wood for budget basses nowadays. Most older budget basses used poplar wood. Are they comparable? Why don't they use poplar anymore? Any ideas?
  2. Flaked Beans

    Flaked Beans

    Sep 9, 2005
    Poplar. but i love my baked zucchini so much!

  3. 58kites

    58kites Save a life....adopt a Pitbull

    Oct 21, 2014
    Austin Texas
    From the Warmoth website are descriptions of three woods for comparison:

    Alder is used extensively for bodies because of its lighter weight (about four pounds for a Strat body) and its full sound.
    Its closed grain makes this wood easy to finish.
    Alder's natural color is a light tan with little or no distinct grain lines. It looks good with a sunburst or a solid color finish.
    Because of its fine characteristics and lower price, Alder is our most popular wood and it grows all around us here in Washington State.
    The tone is reputed to be most balanced with equal doses of lows, mids and highs.
    Alder has been the mainstay for Fender bodies for many years and its characteristic tone has been a part of some of the most enduring pieces of modern day contemporary music.

    Poplar is another standard body wood having been used by many companies over the years.
    Due to the grey/green color, this wood is used mostly when solid color finishes are to be applied.
    Poplar is a closed grain wood that accepts finish well.
    Its weight generally runs about one half pound more than Alder.
    Tonally, it is similar to Alder as well.

    Basswood is a lighter weight wood normally producing Strat bodies under 4 lbs.
    The color is white, but often has nasty green mineral streaks in it.
    This is a closed-grain wood, but it can absorb a lot of finish.
    This is not a good wood for clear finishes since there is little figure. It is quite soft, and does not take abuse well.
    Sound-wise, Basswood has a nice, growley, warm tone with good mids.
    A favorite tone wood for guitar shredders in the 80s since its defined sound cuts through a mix well.
  4. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Magnatone Hurricane basses, the closest thing in the sixties you were going to get to a P-bass Lyte, had bodies of Appalachian poplar, IMO a decent (at the very least) tonewood. I personally would get skittish with a basswood body -- next step down might be balsa. This being said, I believe Squier bodies are made of basswood.
    fretter likes this.
  5. What tree does basswood come from? Is there a basswood tree? :confused:
  6. The cheapest, most stable, easiest to machine timber all the multinationals can find. ;)

    There is no "best". You could build a decent bass body out of anything as long as it's stable. "Tonal" is totally subjective.
  7. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i voted basswood, but would like to see alder on the poll, and actually one of my lightest basses is mahogany.

    btw, i don't think broccoli has the tonal depth of carrots.

    agreed that there is no "best".
  8. Actually, yeah. Shame Mahogany wasn't mentioned. It's not as often used these days, but I'd love to have a go at building something with it. Light, stable, easy to work and well recognized. Good call. :)
    RedVee likes this.
  9. Poplar
    Actually it is Poplar, Walnut and Alder with a maple neck.
  10. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks I build Grosbeak Guitars and Basses Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    Grosbeak Guitars
    I've built a few basses from poplar, I wouldnt shy away from it.

    It's similar to alder tone wise. Makes a great p-bass.
    ScottTunes likes this.
  11. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Soooooo basswood is more poplar than it used to be? You would think with alder choices they could branch out some. I've been pining for a new bass build. Maybe after I spruce up my shop. When it's all said and done I bet I willow more than the bass is worth. My aspen putn this off for too long though.

  12. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Basswood is very poplar but I prefer Paulownia.

  13. Yes.. "You" might prefer that.. but that isn't a choice in this thread..
    Rip Van Dan likes this.
  14. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
  15. What!
  16. radioface


    May 2, 2013
    MM Bongos are budget basses?
  17. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    I believe basswood comes from linden trees, and I'm not sure why it's not just called linden.

    Personally, I can't discern the difference in tone between poplar and alder, but I can hear the difference between those woods and basswood. I don't care much for the tone of basswood, myself, but that;s just one man's opinion.
    RedVee, fretter and 39-Bassist like this.
  18. Nic.


    Aug 28, 2009
    I guess poplar is just not.... Popular.

    I'm sorry I'll see myself out now.
  19. Bass_Thumper


    Oct 20, 2009
    Madison, MS
    I voted basswood since my MM Bongo is made from it. Also many EVH's are made from it I wouldn't define it as something used for budget guitars. My Bongo has a nice warm but cutting tone. I believe my StingRay 5 is probably made of poplar and it sounds like you would expect a StingRay to sounds. I believe the electronics in those basses have more impact on the tone rather than what wood they used (I am a tone wood believer to a degree so no flaming needed) :)

    I would approach it with relation to your priorities. If you want a lighter wood and you normally take care of your basses, basswood is a good choice. It's nothing like balsa wood so no worries there but it will ding just like any other bass, just a little easier. If you want more ding resistance and don't mind the weight, go with poplar. They'll both sound good.
  20. AdamR

    AdamR Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Bethel CT
    2 of the best sounding basses ive owned are/were basswood. A 80s fender jazz special and ny jackson kellybird v. Those mids !
    kodiakblair and fretter like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Sep 16, 2021

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