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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by JRBrown, May 25, 2003.
What's the best wood combination for maximum unamplified acoustics from a solid-body bass?
What frequency do you want?
What shape is the body?
String anchorages, tuners, bridge, nut?
Oh my, where is the easy answer to this eternal question? Or is it eternal, because of all the parameters???
Hey Suburban, I've seen you write a couple of times on how the shape of the body affects the sound. I have a hard time understanding this, think you could elaborate a little? I can understand size of the body making a difference, but shape? I'd be really interested in a clarification.
shape = size = volume = effect on sound
JR, don't think you can really tell which wood gives more unamplified sound. Shape/voulme has more influence.
Just a very particular example, just for you, my friend (chosen because it's so simple that I (think I) can explain it)
Consider the upper horn.
It is pretty much a beam, that is sticking out of the body, right?
Let's make an experiment: take a ruler and fix it to the edge of your desk, with a clamp or something. "Pluck" it, and note how it vibrates. Then put an eraser at the outer edge, and do the same. Note the difference in behaviour. Place the eraser in different places, and see how the mass distribution alters the response.
Which is actually my point, physically speaking.
Or, you can make yourself a couple of different plates. Same material, same thickness, different contours - make it very different contours, for showing the effect. Do the same clamp and pluck, and compare.
You see that the usual way to distribute mass on a bass body, is by making a certain shape. Because we seldom alter the material or (significantly) the thickness, the countours are most influential.
Frequency respons is all about stiffness distribution and mass distribution.
BTW, re. the horn: yes, when hanging in a strap, the total weight and mass centre of the bass does indeed influence the tonal contribution of the upper body!
-Then playing sitting down will give another tone than standing up? -Yes, that is the case. -
-That's not much influence, is it? -Well, depends on the wood: stiffer wood=less influence, but generally: as much as wood species. -
Remind me not to read your posts after a 14-hour shift in the bar. I'll take a look tomorrow and hopefully understand it better.
Wow, Suburban, that's insane. So, what sort of effect will longer/shorter or wider/narrower horns make? What about a singlecut?
Now, this isn't just Suburban being a nut. Other folks feel this way too (though I'm not sure how much I personally buy in). If you go to the Tom Anderson website, you'll see that they talk about the tonal effect of different bodies as well. www.andersonguitars.com
So if Suburban is insane, at least he's not alone.
I guess that was a poor choice of words. That's just a really interesting (to me) concept that I wouldn't have ever thought of. That's all I meant. It's actually perfectly sane, and quite intelligent, too. I mean, it's not a revelation that body shape will have some effect on sound, but as much as species, that's a pretty mad (in the British sense of the word) concept, that really intrigues me. I would like to know more. I didn't mean you're crazy, Sub!
Well, I'd say the theory is rather sane. Whether I am or not, that is a very different issue
Anyway, Cone, if you reread this part: "Or, you can make yourself a couple of different plates. Same material, same thickness, different contours - make it very different contours, for showing the effect. Do the same clamp and pluck, and compare. " and then do your homework, you'll find out for yourself. Which leads to a better understanding than my telling you.
Just a comment about the singlecut: consider that a really wide horn, with a more rigid fixation.
No!!! Drat, now I have homework...
Again, please read above about my poor choice of words. It makes perfect sense, it's just a radical concept. Sorry for misleading you!
getting back to the original question..
all else being equal , you'd want a wood that has good tonal characteristics over most of the frequency range ..no unusual peaks or dips ... this isn't too hard to identify, since the same requirement goes into making good acoustic instruments. IMO, woods like cocobolo and the other rosewoods are naturally resonant and good for the deep tones of a bass. I also personally like walnut, and feel that padauk is very under-rated (tho it has often been used for acoustic instruments). Hard Maple can work, tho it tends to favor the higher end a bit.
Yes, the effect of the wood can be subtle compared to choice of strings, pickups, and construction. But if given those as defined, then some differences will result from different woods. Whether you hear them or not is very subjective.
I don't know about this - the woods that make good backs/sides for acoustic instruments (stiff, hard, dense woods like maple, cocobolo, and other rosewoods) do so because they a) are strong and stiff enough to be fairly thin, and b) hard enough that they act as good reflectors, helping focus the sound out through the soundhole. It's the hollow body of the instrument that makes for volume.
The loudest, acoustically, of my basses has a poplar body. In the middle is the mahogany body one. Finally, the padauk/ebony bodied one with a bubinga neck-through is quietest. There's really a substantial difference between them, too.
edit: though, I don't know what good more acoustic volume from a solid-body will do - it'll never be loud enough to be heard more than 3 feet away anyway?? And I like the electric tone of my big dense bass the best, by a large margin (totally subjective of course).