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Does the tone of a bass change with time?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Oliver, Oct 14, 2005.

  1. Oliver


    Jun 21, 2003
    Perth, Australia
    Does this happen, anyone experienced this? where you've had a bass for say 10+ years and when played either acoustically or plugged in its sounds a little "older" i guess?
    I guess what im trying to say is..do the tonal properties of woods change with time?

    Cheers :bassist:
  2. Unchain

    Unchain I've seen footage.

    Jun 20, 2005
    Tucson, AZ
    I dunno. I suppose it may get a tad warmer.
  3. 6-3-2


    Sep 20, 2003
    I may be wrong, but I don't think so. I think older woods sound "better" because the wood was taken from trees that grew at a slower rate, this wood has a better structure tonally. I think the tone would change a bit because of general wear, but I don't think that change involves the wood. Feel free to correct me on this if I'm wrong.
  4. Wood is supposed to cure and settle with time, which probably would alter the tone a little bit. Pickups tend to lose output with age and wear, which also probably mellows out the tone.
  5. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I read it somewhere ... (I think Dave Pomeroy's column about his '60s P-Bass, current BP magazine, Nov 2005).

    Wood dries with time and as the water content gets reduced the wood has more resonance, and becomes lighter.

    That is also why many vintage Fenders are so light (I mean pre-mid '70s)
  6. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    It is well known that with acoustic string instruments time aged, as well as time played, makes a very distinct difference. As wood seasons it does change. I have also heard that when a string instument is played the vibrations resonate through areas of the wood over and over and create "pathways" so to speak, much like synapses in the brain, admittingly this sounds pretty "deep" and I don't know that it is a proven fact or just somebodies wierd idea.
    I don't think an electric guitar's(bass or otherwise) tone will significantly change too much over the years. What may be more important is the fact that it DOES NOT change. If I could choose a 60's Jazz or Precision purely to keep and not to sell I would choose a NOS(new old stock, not they even exist or anything) Fender over a fine condition but well played Fender. I think they would both sound much as they did when new provided they were in original condition. It's the fact that they sound like they were supposed to sound which makes them desirable in my mind. I think guitars wear-out more than they wear-in unless you're the one wearing it.
  7. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I don't think any one can compare a memory of a sound from a decade ago and compare it to a new sound through ears with 10 more years of age on them. Especially using different, strings, amps, tubes etc...

    I'd also wager that any aging changes in the wood could never be detected by someone not aware of what to look for and the huge change in strings over time will mask any possible wood changes.


    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY
    ...honestly, I think the mechanical properties & "wearing in" have a lot less of an effect over the years than the beholders ears over the "sands of time"...

  9. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
  10. Hiya,

    I'm going to risk ruffling a few feathers in this thread and share the experience I've had with my Yamaha BB5000A.

    I've been using this bass for 16 years and have to say that its tone (particularly in the bridge pickup position) has become noticeably more nasal over the years. It could be just my perception that had changed in retrospect; but I'm willing to bet otherwise... ;)

    Just my twist to the responses we've had so far.

    Kind regards,
  11. rluk


    Nov 4, 2004
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Dont forget that we, the players are getting older aswell, and
    (rock)musicians and hearing :cool:
    If after 10 years the bass is "mellow", it is most
    probably because you don't hear the highs anymore :D
  12. audiotom


    May 31, 2005
    new orleans
    the aging of the wood or the electronics
    I'd say for an electric bass the electronics would show more change over time

    now the fact that the older and more 'quality' woods and processes to carve these woods probably reflects in the sound

    I would think that an acoustic bass - the wood aging issue would be a huge one, but then the sound of the wood in the chamber is a distinct property that would only mellow with time, can any upright players chime in
  13. in upright the age of the wood certianly does effect the tone to a high degree, as had been speculated early in the thread, the wood "learns" where to resonate at certain pitches and the older the wood the more this memory is there and the bass will resonate more with certain notes, not just a theory as far as i know this is certianly true and is why older uprights are so much more desirable than brand new ones despite the build quiality. i can tell you that even my cheaply made german upright resonates more now at around 10 to 15 years old than a comparable model would that was made today, it's all about the age. in electric bass i have sincere doubts that the properties of the wood changing over time effect the overall sound to much of a noticable degree and i would think that the aging of the elctronics would have a much more noticable effect. just my 2 cents on the topic
  14. MikeM


    Apr 21, 2004

    The amount of water in a bass body would not add up to a few grams unless it was dripping green when painted.

    The reason some basses are lighter is because they are made from lighter wood.
  15. daofktr

    daofktr irritating, yet surly

    Feb 15, 2005
    aurora, IN

    duuuude...you honestly expect that crowd to come down from their ivory tower and slum with us mere mortals?
  16. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    My theory, for electric basses, is that older basses that where played a lot sound better because they where better basses to begin with.

    From any given year there are going to be a certain number of instruments where everything came togeather. The neck is perfect, the body is just right, the weight is good, the fit is above par. When a musician gets ahold of this instrument, he will hang on to it. So it gets played a lot.

    The "lesser" instruments get weeded out. So that today, a well worn instrument is probably one of the better ones and the "in new condition" ones are either the weeded out ones or a truely great instrument that for some reason was never played.

    But the old worn instruments are more likely to be the great ones and therefore people attribute it to the aging, not to the fact that the original instrument was just better.
  17. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Tough call...do older pickups sound better?!?

    They tended to be hand wound, and the materials could vary depending upon Leo's supplier at the time...but magnetic fields and metal do some interesting stuff when they're in close proximity over a long period of time. I tend to think that you can hear a difference. Fortunately we have a bunch of great specialists these days who have perfected the art of making great pickups, many of which sound pretty close to vintage.
  18. MikeM


    Apr 21, 2004
    I had to read that 3 times before i got what you ment (not enough sleep i guess) But i agree with that totally 100%. But the ooh aah factor is real big. How many times has someone handed you an old bass that sounds like water logged dog crap wrapped in cotton then remarked on the great "vintage" tone.
  19. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses

    I never thought of this aspect, but IMO it's a very valid point.

    Huh,..... what? :D
  20. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    This is a fascinating topic, and I'm not sure where I come down on the issue when it comes to electric instruments. As wood ages and is exposed to vibrations from strings, it should become more resonant. That might change the acoustic tone, but because pickups aren't as sensitive as our ears, only some of that difference will be audible through an amp.

    Here's a very interesting article about a vibration machine developed by Steve Rabe and others that can duplicate the aging process in acoustic guitars. This expands on some of the points others have raised in this thread: