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Cocobolo top vs. Maple top

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Basso Gruvitas, Jun 3, 2002.

  1. This may have been discussed before, but I want to be very specific in how I word my question....

    I'm thinking about having a 5-string fretless built. The body would most likely be mahogany. I'm torn between a maple top and a cocobolo top. What do you hear as the difference between the two? If you were me, which of these two tops would you put on -- AND WHY?!

    P.S. I would play jazz, latin, fusion, and Christian music with this instrument.

    Thanks for your input.
  2. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Pretty much a cosmetic difference, IMO. I like the way both look and have basses with both, in fact. You can get a nice variation with maple by either going flame or quilted.
  3. I'm not certain exactly what the sonic differences would be, but, cocobolo is one of the most beautiful woods you can use for a bass, IMHO. I would choose it on that quality alone. I love dark woods with wide grain lines. Yum!

    Mike J.
  4. John Davis

    John Davis Guest

    Mar 27, 2001
    Houston, Texas
    Cocobolo....IMO, of course. :D
  5. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I have a cocobolo/maple/mahogany/maple/cocobolo 5 string and a maple on alder 6 string.

    The cocobolo/mahogany bass has a very full, rather complex sound with all sorts of undertones and stuff goin' on. I can get bright sounds out of it or lows that are downright sinister.

    The maple/alder bass is punchy as all get out. I think the alder is the overriding factor here. It's a straight up slap monster. The low action and wide string spacing make it easy to slap, but the maple/alder body with pau ferro fretboard accentuate the sound.

    If I were ordering a fretless today I'd want something more along the lines of a deeper, fuller sound and would go with cocobolo/mahogany. I had a maple on mahogany bass a few years ago and remember that it was a tad on the punchy side, too, but not to the extent of the maple/alder I have now.


  6. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    "Not quite apples to apples" is right. Cocobolo is from the rosewood family, whereas maple is obviously not. Maple will give you a bit of snap and brightness to your tone, where rosewood is more dark and dense. Examples of wood from the rosewood family are usually heavier and tend to have more resin/oil in them, which can dampen the highs that resonate so well with maple. The thickness and individual piece of wood will be the primary determining factor, though, as to the tonal influences the top will have on the overall bass, as light/heavy and bright/dark are just broad generalizations. Cost and availability may also be something to consider.
  7. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Funny you should pick this combo! I'm in the process of saving for a custom 6'er by Elrick. The woods I've chosen are cocobolo for the top and mahogany for the core.

    To me, there's no wood that's prettier than cocobolo, and from what I've heard from many is that it's one of the premier tonewoods!:D The mahogany core should match well with cocobolo since it's a softer wood, which may result in a punchier sound with some good low mids.

    If you get it before me, let me know how yours turns out;)
  8. JPJ,
    You would think that since cocobolo is from the rosewood family, it would have a warmer sound. However, EVERY person I talk to says it has a bright tone with some complex overtone characteristics. Strange, isn't it?

    Thanks for the input. BTW, in your profile picture, what wood top is on that Alembic? Is that cocobolo or morado perhaps?

    I have a fretted Zon 5 that's all curly maple and it gives me all the top end I need and then some. I'm looking for a slight contrast to that -- a wood that has top end, but not like a buzzsaw.
  9. gmann


    Mar 1, 2001
    I'm in the process of saving up for my DP single cutaway w/ a cocobolo top but I'm going the way of a claro walnut body.
  10. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    Because part of the purpose of this forum is to educate, I want to clarify my statement above for others who may be thinking about using Cocobolo as a top wood. I'm not sure if I disagree with you in your reply about the tonal properties of Cocobolo, but wanted to follow up to my original message.
    Cocobolo is used my many lutheirs in the acoustic guitar industry as a substitute for Brazilian Rosewood. They do so not because it is "bright", with a "zingy" top end, but because the wood resenbles the "clarity" of Brazilian. It also resembles the wood asthetically and had similar overtones, tonal complexity, etc. You're correct in stating that the wood does produce complex and pleasing over/under tones, but I'm not sure about it being a "bright" wood. When I think of a bright wood, I think of maple, ebony (for fretboards), and maybe ash or walnut.
  11. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Cocobolo. This bass turned out to be a bright reddish-orange tone with black figuring. I also have a walnut bass and when the two are side by side you see just how orange this one is.

    As far as bright sounding, not this one. IT has a predominantly low dark sound. I can get "bright" out of the A,D, and G strings, especially in the mid to high registers, but the B & E are heavy on the foundation. Imagine playing a Fender fingerstyle with chorus cranked up on the low registers. That's how my B & E strings sound.


  12. pd_5string

    pd_5string Admin: Accnt Disabled

    Jan 23, 2002
    Actually, Mahogany will produce a nice even tone with not much emphasis anywhere in particular, as compared to ash which is more complex in it's contributions harmonically (Mahogany is a denser wood than ash, and thus doesn't resonate as much as ash) Sounds like an interesting combo Zon4John!


  13. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Okay, Peter, for your edification, I'll clarify myself. I suppose I wasn't clear enough for you the first time.

    Mahogany is not a soft wood. It is softer than cocobolo. Many luthiers have found it matches well with cocobolo because it is softer. It complements cocobolo's hardness, adding some punch to the sound, over what would otherwise be there in a solid cocobolo bass (if that's even ever been done before).

    Now, if you want to compare mahogany to ash, go ahead. My beliefs are different. But, there's a caveat: you have to specify if you're talking about northern hard ash or swamp ash.;)