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Does wood matter?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Brad Johnson, May 22, 2005.

  1. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    From the Gallery Hardwoods forum...


    I got drawn into this because someone mistakenly thought one of my basses was made with acrylicized wood... not that there's anything wrong with that.

    For the sake of clarity, read the linked thread in context:)
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings

    On the one hand I waschastised by Larry (I think we straightened that out) because he thought I was saying acrylicized wood all sounds the same ( I didn't), OTOH Wilser thinks that wood is more about marketing than tone... and disagrees with me.

    Yet Wilser thinks that he and Larry agree.



  3. EricTheEZ1


    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    On what? If we think woods effect the tone of an instrument? Of course they do. This is pretty much a proven fact.

  4. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Interesting discussion. I haven't played bass long enough to tell the difference in tone by the kind of wood the bass is made from.

    Sounds logical to me. But until I can tell for sure, I'll just have to trust you on this one.

  5. I think it does. Why do they offer different body and fingerboard woods?
    To make it look pretty? :D

    Granted I only have experience with alder/rosewood basses, but I have tried ash/maple basses (stingray, sting signiture) and I have to admit, they both seem to sound more gutsy and forward than the alder/rosewood.
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    "IT'S NOT IN THE WOOD MAN!!! IT'S AN ELECTRIC INSTRUMENT AND YOU AMPLIFY THE STRINGS! leave that tap tuning, tone wood blabber to acoustic builders".
  7. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Check out Alder and Ash Fender J or P basses.
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Apparently it's for marketing.

  9. I'm gonna have to say I'm with you on this; that is DOES make a difference. Granted I have not been plaing long, but from MY PERSONAL experience, there is a noticalbe difference.

    One of my guit***st friends has two strats, a 64 and a 2004. The 64 had the sound of a strat, and the newer one had nowhere near as much "strat-tone" as the 04. Proof that wood matters.
  10. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    Alrighty. I currently own an MIA Jazz with an ash body. It sounds great. I'll hunt down one with an alder body and see if I can tell the difference.

  11. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    Wood matters. Not as much as electronics tho. Think about it. From the moment you vibrate the string, the electrical signal generated moves at the speed of light down the cable to whatever preamp/amp awaits. Even if the wood had a huge influence on the sound, it's influence would not be heard until after you heard the electronics. And we all know the initial transient is mostly what your brain relies on to determine the character of a sound.

    I think there are differences between alder/ash/what have you, but these differences are much smaller than electrical ones. Take any bass you want with roundwound strings and put EMG's in it. It'll sound like a bass with EMG's. That's why a P never sounds like a J and vice-versa no matter what woods are used. Take 2 basses that are identical inevery way except one has an alder body and one is swamp ash. Yeah, there will be a difference. Take 2 basses that are identical in every way except electronics. Now put an alnico P pickup in one and a Lane Poor ceramic soapbar in the other. Night and day difference. No comparison.
  12. James Hart

    James Hart

    Feb 1, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: see profile
    well said Marcus! I also think that the different woods make the player react to the instrument differently... that can make for a change in tone as well.
  13. Funnily enough I was having the same argument with a gui***ist a few days ago......
  14. Marcus Willett

    Marcus Willett Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2005
    Palm Bay, FL
    Endorsing Artist: Bag End - Dean Markley - Thunderfunk
    There's a lot of truth in this. If you think there's a difference, there will be because you will unconciously change things to try to keep reality in line with your expectations. The placebo effect is very real and well documented. I experience this every day with my V-Bass; like with the upright models. When I pull up an upright patch, the sound is so different it makes my bass feel as tho the strings are higher and heavier. They aren't of course, but this is the power of your mind to shape what you experience. So I guess in a way, if you think wood makes more of a difference than anything else, then it does....for you. :confused:

    But not really. :smug:
  15. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    For me, the wood is an initial attraction on sight--kind of like physical attraction for a member of the opposite sex. A particular type of wood will draw my eye at first, and I'll be more likely to pick up and try a bass that is made of materials I've previously had good experiences with. I'll be drawn towards a graphite or maple neck, for example, or a really good looking top will make me want to pick it up. As with choosing a mate though, a bass must be judged on an individual basis, and just because I like my Steiny or Fender J doesn't mean I'll like every graphite neck or maple/alder combination, just that I'll be more likely to give it a shot out of a row of other instruments.

    By the same token, some basses look so foreign to me that I can't bring myself try them out. Every NAMM show I see a ton of basses that have wierd (to my eye, anyway) shapes, made out of wierd woods. Some of them look gorgeous, but a lot are so strange they look like they'd stab me somewhere, be out of balance, or feel like a hunk of lumpy melted glass in my hands.

    Does wood affect tone? I'm sure it does, but so many factors contribute to a bass's sound and feel that I can't really use wood as a litmus test. I mean, even two different pieces of maple don't sound identical. So, wood matters to me, but mostly it's just one piece of a puzzle, and a way to limit my selection so that I'm not playing every bass ever made in history to find one I like.
  16. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses
    pickups/placement -> type of tone

    wood/construction -> quality of tone.

    good wood and construction makes string resonate more, and create more detailed "information".
    good pickups...well... pick up the resonating frequencies better - they "read" the given information (sound) more precisely.
    pickup placement/type determines wich of the frequencies are being "read", and the way the frequencies are being processed.

    that`s the way i see it.
  17. Kheos


    Aug 12, 2002
    that's interessting.
    but what if wood would have an influence the moment the string vibrates? I'm no expert on this, but I remember from my physics lessons(or from TV, it's allways hard to keep those apart) that every material blockes certain frequency's and amplifies certain frequency's. that would explain why two pieces of the same wood may still sound different, because no 2 pieces are alike.
    back to the strings. If the string vibrate's, it vibrates at certain frequency's. it alse make the wood vibrate, which may vibrate back on the strings via the bridge and such.

    so this whole package of vibrations travels along the string. wood vibrations, string vibrations, bridge vibrations, finger vibrations... the magnets pick those up(or part of them) and then it goes to the preamp.
    so the material on which the strings are attached would matter, because it would vibrate along with the other vibes. so a material that would suck low tones or a material that sucks midtons would make a huge difference.
  18. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Well said, Kheos.
  19. Brad,

    nice job on gathering the masses to strengthen your argument. Maybe I should re-quote my initial statement:

    Originally Posted by wilser
    Well, I could start yapping like a crazy man about how "wood doesn't matter" (I don't actually believe that, but I do believe that wood has less impact on tone than strings, pickups and electronics do for an electric solid body instrument with magnetic pickups ...there's a reason why they call it electric guitars)

    The capitalized comment that followed that was meant to get you laughing out loud, instead, I must have shorted a circuit inside or something, and that lead you to disregard everything I said initially.

    Also, what I said Larry and I agree with, is that it's all subjective and what sounds one way to you might not sound the same to me.

  20. Dirty Dave

    Dirty Dave Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2004
    Boston, MA
    The wood definitely affects the tone of an instrument.

    Does it matter? I say absolutely NOT. It's way to easy to compensate for the difference in wood tones via active electronics or the amp.

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