Do you find basswood to be tonally inferior to alder or ash?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BusyFingers, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If you need one to take care of your drummer, we can talk. Or it you want a 40" drumstick with his/her name on it, we can talk... :thumbsup:
    two fingers likes this.
  2. rmars


    Jan 2, 2004
    Bettendorf, Ia
    Having a really bad month....that made me laugh out loud for the first time in forever! Thank you!

    I have an SX Jazz that's supposed to be alder but it's REALLY soft when you drill into it and dents easily so I have suspected that's it's actually basswood. It sounds like a really good J Bass whatever it is.
  3. wneff


    May 27, 2003
    Woburn, MA
    I have a 1985 Ibanez RB760 that has a basswood body. Ibanez solved the easy ding issue with a mega thick layer of maint. Bass looks almost new after 32 years. Tone wise I find it less focussed than my ash body basses, but that could be because it appears to have a lot of midrange, which may acoustically overshadow the bass and therefore may create the sensation of less of a focus. Amplified through the original pickups and a preamp i made it sounds good, but not as good as for example my Lakland 44-02. Nice warm finger sound though.
  4. Jonathan A B

    Jonathan A B

    Sep 22, 2017
    I think there are a couple of issues with basswood, but that is only with american basswood, european basswood (Linden) on the other is excellent for basses in my opinion.
    For me its the scooped sound and quite muted highs that dont cut it. Basswood is extremely soft, and I think that's probably why it sounds that way. If i were to use a wood that light I'd probably want Red Cedar (which while just as soft is much more resonant), or Sugi (Japanese Cedar) which is lighter, more resonant and quite a bit harder. I imagine they would sound much more vibrant than basswood as a general rule of thumb, but as with all things; it's extremely dependent on the luthier. If Johnny Mørch told me he thought a particular piece of basswood would be the sh*t for me, I would believe him.
  5. Love_Bass


    Sep 5, 2012
    Nope. I'm more into how I play than what I play. One exhausted topic here.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Ok…one mo' time!

    Differences among individual pieces of wood may have a very minor effect on the overall sound quality of a solidbody instrument.

    To date, nobody has shown creditable experimentally based proof for a direct correlation between the overall "tone" (more correctly the timbre) of a solidbody instrument and the species of wood used in its construction.

    So whereas one individual piece of wood may display better timbral characteristics than another piece of wood, there is (to date) absolutely no justification for making the sweeping assertion that certain species of wood are inherently and uniformly better for solidbody instrument building purely from a "tone" perspective. The large number of excellent sounding instruments with similar sonic qualities (i.e. warmer, brighter, mellower, darker, etc.) that have been built from a variety of wood species (and other materials) bears that out.


    1. No two pieces of wood are identical.

    2. Different individual pieces of wood will display differing sonic charateristics which may or may not have a minor impact on the overall tone of a given solidbody instrument.

    3. Those differences are not determined solely by the species of wood being used.
  7. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    I'm not a fan of basswood because it's soft and easy to strip screws in if you aren't careful. However my main bass is made of basswood. Any tonal deficiencies in the body (which I don't believe exist) are completely compensated for in the graphite neck, screw inserts and high mass bridge. It is a very bright and harmonically rich sounding instrument.

    But unless you start getting into ultra soft woods like balsa I honestly don't think tonewood matters in the body of a bass because it's not the weakest point structurally in the instrument where wood WOULD matter.
  8. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Nope. I have an MTD Kingston Saratoga DLX5 that is an absolute HiFi Slap Machine with a flame maple top and see through black gloss finish. Sara is a Badd Girl!!!!
    lowdownthump likes this.
  9. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Pianos are the same way. That's why Steinway has a studio near Carnegie Hall so the artist can try several of the same model so they can choose the exact piano they want shipped over for the show.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
    ajkula66 likes this.
  10. TonyP-

    TonyP- Excuse me but you have your I-IV-V in my II-V-I Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2003
    Boston Mass
    A-Designs Mike Lull GK Tsunami Cables GHS Strings RMI Basswitch Nordstrand Pickups Darkglass
    I did not read all the comments, I will just say IMHO that basswood is pretty netural-ish and not that exciting.

    As a result I think that ceramic pickups (louder and/or more personality) tend to shine more with it.
    I think this is why the Bongo uses basswood.

    Just my $.02
    wmmj and ajkula66 like this.


    Feb 10, 2016
    Michigan USA
    This interests me but i don't have the time to read every reply. For what it's worth my Basswood OLP MM is somewhat on the heavy side and does not seem to dent or damage easily. I don't ever think about the type of wood it's made of, and i sure like the tone.
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  12. TinIndian

    TinIndian Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    I've owned a Basswood bodied bass for over 30 years now. I have no issue with the tone from the instrument.
    The only derogatory thing I'll say about it is that it is softer and does ding up easily compared to my Ash and Alder basses.
  13. AcridSaint

    AcridSaint ベーシスト Supporting Member

    Jan 30, 2012
    I don't play well.
  14. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Absolutely +1

    Wood actually has a quite complex microstructure, and you will even find considerable variability within a single tree, depending on location. Reducing the arguments to a species based theory is vastly trivializing the situation. Which is why there is still much art in the construction of instruments with optimal player feel and perception.

    As players, we quite definitely over obsess about instrument characteristics. That's our job. The average listener thinks all basses sound the same, and all they know is there is some cat standing up there holding a big guitar. Perspective. It's only as complicated as we choose to make it.

    Still, the wood in an instrument's body needs to be capable of sustaining healthy threads for the screws involved, or it's not very useful to me.
    Thumb n Fingers likes this.
  15. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I disclose nothing
    The only down side of basswood is that the screw holes get "worn out" because the wood is softer
  16. Tin Cadillac

    Tin Cadillac

    Oct 27, 2011
    Houston, TX
    You would be surprised at how many high-end instruments use basswood. The value of the wood is PERCEIVED so since people will pay extra for swamp ash or alder, a luthier is able to charge extra for these so-caled "Exotic woods." They also factor in how difficult it is to work with certain woods and basswood is one of the easiest. Aesthetics are not that impressive but most are painted anyway so who cares?

    In my opinion, it is more on how it is built rather than the materials used
  17. I don't think I've ever listened to a bass and thought, "Cripes, that basswood/alder/ash body is really making a difference that is definitely noticeable and that cannot be explained by anything that obviously affects tone such as technique, EQ, strings, etc." But maybe that's just me.

    However, I agree with the people above who've noticed that screws in basswood may strip more easily.
    Thumb n Fingers likes this.
  18. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    pomegranesis likes this.
  19. Whil57


    Aug 7, 2013
    Long Island
    Personal experience (and taste), thought basswood would make a nice guitar tone because it sounds so mellow. It didnt. But i do love it on my basses, because i'm always trying to dull down. Got rid of my mahog bass, to bright. Alder, no opinion, seemed kind of the standard. Ash also got very bright, but really thought my ash basses cut the mix better. I would use ash if it wasnt so heavy. Also thought walnut was to bright for me. And as for the denting, or damage issues, i havent had a problem, guess it depends on what kind of damage we're talking about.
    My preference seems to be a basswood body with a big either .68 or 1.00 cap. Like i said-dull.
  20. Honch

    Honch Guest

    Sep 7, 2006
    For bass, I prefer basswood, for guitar, guitarwood, for clarinet, clarinetwood, and so on.
    I thought that all tonewoods were named after were it's supposed to be most fitting ? *

    * which means I couldn't care less about "tonewoods" exotic woods or laminated woods.
    SOUTH PAW likes this.
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