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Best woods for hollow body fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by rstellar13, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. rstellar13

    rstellar13 Sarcastic Panda

    Sep 2, 2012
    Allentown, PA
    Hey all, so i would like the forums help to answer my question?
    What is the best body, neck, and fretboard for a hollow body or semi hollow bass? I may be ordering one once I get the money. The Specs that are already decided are:
    5-string with high C
    33" scale
    No pickups just piezo and just a volume and kill switch
    I would like a redwood top but I'm not sure that affects the sound if it does i guess decide a better top.

    I prefer a punch but mellow tone, almost a little darker also.
    Ok, Thank you!
  2. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Northern California
    I would go with a maple neck (one piece or three piece) with either a ebony or pau ferro fingerboard. Even though ebony is what is on uprights I feel like pau ferro gives a piezo bass more of an acoustic or upright type tone than ebony and is nearly as hard/durable.

    Redwood is beautiful but it is also not very dense. If you wanted to use it for the top I'd choose a brighter body wood like ash or even maple.

    Otherwise, I'd go for a warm body wood like mahogany and a bright, resonant top like maple or douglas fir.
  3. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    Interesting idea, I'd never heard of anyone using redwood for this kind of thing so I surfed around a little, and sure enough it's apparently similar enough to spruce that it's an option for acoustic guitars.

    But I'd be surprised if electric basses are very often made with spruce, either. Not sure there's any acoustic reason why not, it's more that there just isn't a real need to use a softwood like that, so you see more durable hardwoods, like maple, that aren't going to collect dents as fast. If you decide for a softwood, don't put a thick varnish type finish on it, because dents really mess that stuff up.
  4. Apolicious


    Jan 16, 2014
    If you're looking for something a little mellower/darker, mahogany is the way to go. In my experience it's much warmer than ash or alder, although it may lack some of that initial attack. As for the top, it may seem like splitting hairs, but see if you can find some "sinker" redwood. It's effect may be pretty mitigated by your other wood choices, but it has a quick, clear attack and a gorgeous tone. Expensive as sin, though. But if you find the right piece it's (IMHO) some of the prettiest wood out there. For the neck I'd go with a multi-laminate maple neck with something very stiff (like ebony) as the veneers. The stringers help add a bit more "oomph." As for the fingerboard, I'm all about the ebony. No real reason, other than other woods don't feel "right" to me. Probably my elementary/high school orchestra years betraying me :p

    My question is, why only piezo? If you're looking for an upright tone, forget it. I've heard some incredible sounding instruments with a very similar configuration (notably Villiette) but I'd recommend heading over to the double-bass forum and seeing what they have to say about it - I'm guessing not much. What you're describing sounds like it's going to be a pretty expensive setup. I think it'd be a good idea to add at least one magnetic pickup, if for no other reason than to expand your tonal palette for gigs you may not see coming.
  5. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan. Supporting Member

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
    If you change your mind and decide on having a mag pickup too, see if you can get a floating one like some jazz archtop guitars have.
  6. CHeck out Rob Allen enthusiasts as they will talk about woods I'm sure.

    My advice would be to get a fretless not a fretted. Why? Because the acoustic tone heads towards a more upright sound. That's certainly something to think about.

  7. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    I missed that part, which I suppose means the acoustic properties of the wood really matter here much more than in most electric basses. I think you have to hope that your luthier knows what he's doing and trust him to make it work. (Or her.) Even if redwood's a good option in principle, between any half dozen boards of say redwood and spruce and whatever, the best choice is going to depend on the board.
  8. rstellar13

    rstellar13 Sarcastic Panda

    Sep 2, 2012
    Allentown, PA
    Great opinions and advice guys, my luthier suggested for a much more woody tone basswood body with Douglas fir top or for a more electric tone something like Mahogany and walnut, maple, or myrtle on the top
  9. TapyTap


    Apr 26, 2005
    If you have a volume knob, why do you want a kill switch also?
  10. matthewbrown

    matthewbrown Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Harwich, MA, USA
    I'm a big fan of spruce tops on hollow basses. Cedar has much the same qualities, I'm told. The softness of the wood makes the bass speak a little more slowly, and gives more '"air" to the sound, so it emulates an upright sound better. I'm having one made for me now with a spruce top and a pau ferro fingerboard, but it will have piezo and mag pups. I find that the piezo alone is great, but I think it really helps to have a mag to define the tone in some rooms, especially when there's a drummer on the gig. Maple has a much brighter sound. I had a Yamaha hollowbody BEX4 that had a maple top, and it was a very bright-sounding bass with a definite bite to the attack. I never used the peizo on it, as it just added more treble and bottom to a sound that was already full of both.

    All that said, the design of well-made hollow basses has more room for variation in the sound, I think. I love good hollow basses myself, because they're both light and big-sounding, with lots of individual character. They also look cool, and make a nice statement along the lines of: "Fender Bass"? Nope. I have THIS."
  11. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    My piezo fretless bass is chambered, not fully hollow, and has magnetic pickups as well, but I was going for a similar vibe and (imo) achieved it. It has a mahogany body, mahogany neck, ebony fingerboard, and koa top. The mahogany in the neck is completely different from the body wood; it's harder & denser. I had thought about getting a spruce top, but got the koa just based on looks. Love redwood too!