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Does a bass really improve with age??

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by climb, Apr 24, 2009.

  1. climb


    May 1, 2007
    Baltimore, MD
    I've read a lot of posts saying that their basses are "sounding better and better" as they get settled in. This is particularly the case for newer boutiques.

    Now I understand that a bass may feel better as it gets worn in, like a good pair of old jeans or an old Fender jazz etc. But does anybody really think that a new bass' sound actually improves as it gets played more? If so, why might this be the case?
  2. GlennW


    Sep 6, 2006
    Of course they do. That fact that the guy playing the bass has had more time to practice has nothing to do with it. :D
  3. ghiadub

    ghiadub Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2006
    Auburn, CA
    A lot of things happen that can change the tone over time. Finishes age and crack, things oxidize, parts settle in, etc..... strings are one of the easiest things to note and I dont think anyone would argue that their tone changes over time.

    Now, if it improves, that is purely subjectve and has to do with individual taste.
  4. Demanu


    Apr 24, 2009
    Poland, Lublin
    and wood... there are minimal changes of wood structure during playing.
  5. thudstaff23


    Mar 10, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    "Getting to know you, getting to know all about you." Ahh, a nice, aged musical instrument! Like a fine wine it is. It's probably mental as much as anything. Emotion, pride, familiarity, and the fact that an instrument becomes "broke in" according to your style all are factors, IMHO.
  6. I have noticed a change in tone with my Sadowsky after having been played for a few months. Of course I have no scientific data to back this up.
  7. There are changes that occur with age, but a lot of the "good" changes that happen are not directly due to age, but due to the instrument being played.

    I don't remember where I read this, but there was a study done on older acoustic guitars, and they determined that a lot of what made the older instruments sound good was due to the vibrations that occur when they are played. Over time, certain areas of the wood would become more or less dense from the vibrations, and that would cause the tone to change.

    I would imagine that this change would be lessened on a solid body electric instrument, since there is less flexing of the wood going on than on an instrument designed to resonate more, but it should still have an effect.
  8. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Generally, yes. As the wood gradually ages, any excess moisture leaves the instrument, so it becomes more resonant. Through repeated playing (i.e. string vibration), the various components become more "mated" with one another, also contributing to a bit more resonance and sustain.

    It's all good... :cool:

  9. Relic

    Relic Cow are you?

    Sep 12, 2006
    Robbinsville, NJ
    I have no scientific explanation to back it up, but as Demanu and others have stated, the wood changes over time. I'm convinced.
    I've had older ricks vs newer ricks, older Fender P's vs newer Fender P's (all comparable in origin and type) and the older ones always seem to sound just a smidgen better. Maybe not a drastic difference, but a difference just the same.
  10. The only thing I know is that my Squier neck made it to two years old without twisting, I have a lot more confidence in it now. It sounds better but thats because I've learned to play to it's strengths.
  11. BillyRay

    BillyRay Supporting Member

    Jan 20, 2008
    Quite frankly, I'd say no: a lot of "studies" have been published about vibrating wood and such, but it has always been with accoustic instruments. Electric basses and accoustic guitars don't produce their sound in the same way at all.

    But like with any new car, clothes or women, there's always a "get to know you" period, where you get more comfortable around this new item. You learn how the car clutch works, so it drives "better", your jeans get a little worn in the right places and you learn to deal with the woman, so your relationship is definately better.

    I know that I've experienced this with already used instruments (old Fenders) where after getting to know the bass, I can get a better sound out of it. Or at least I think I can.
  12. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Banned Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
    electric? No.
    Acoustic? Yes.

    One theory I heard years ago was that the reason old strats are SO cool is that all the crappy ones have been turned into firewood by then...
  13. I think it's just another excuse to say why boutique basses are junk, much like the guys who play them. :bag:
  14. Crunktacular


    Jun 26, 2008
    Memphis, TN
    I thought the "mojo" aging process only happened to guitars with the nitro finish. I have always heard\read that nitro is the only finish that lets the wood "breathe".

    Or is this a misconception on my part?
  15. Yes, they get better with age. But our ears get worse with age so we never really know :oops:
  16. IBTL :bag:
  17. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I think that good old instruments were good new instruments at one point. I wouldn't buy a '66 Jazz or a '59 P for a bazzilion dollars without playing it. I've played tons of vintage instruments that didn't do it for me, but then you pick up another bass the same model, same year, same color bass and WOW! I once played a vintage Martin acoustic guitar that played and sounded like crap. It was worth THOUSANDS of $$$. But I have also played vintage Martins (and new ones) that vibrated my soul. Again, if it's a great vintage instrument, it was a great new one.
  18. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    That's my guess. The good ones get treated well and they last, but bad ones get beat up and Frankensteined
  19. hentor


    Jan 2, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    My main thing is that I have found that when I pick up a vintage piece that looks unplayed and untouched, there is usually a very good reason for it not being played.

    However if the instrument is beat to all get out and looks well played, it will most likely sound and play like no other...however the owners/players are loathe to let them go...
  20. Buskman


    Apr 13, 2007
    Jersey Shore, USA
    From the Seagull Guitars website:

    How about this? You buy a new TV and it's great but it keeps getting better the more you watch it! Okay, that's not likely to happen with your TV but it will happen with your solid top guitar. A solid top vibrates much more freely than a laminated (plywood) top. This results in richer tone, better dynamic range and better balance of tone. Not only does a solid top sound better initially, over time the vibrations from playing the guitar result in the top vibrating more and more freely. This phenomenon is called 'aging' which means that the more the guitar is played, the better the guitar will sound. It is important to remember in order for a guitar to age it must be played. A guitar left in its case for 5 years will get older, but it will not 'age'."

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