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Does wood matter?

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

  1. I would agree that different woods will produce different tones, but I'm more on the belief that no two wood combinations will sound the same even if they are from the same slab of wood. Wood varys so much from piece to piece that there's bound to be a differnce in tone no matter what. I also tend to be from the theory that the electronics selected have the biggest influence on tone. No matter how you slice it though, it's the sum of the parts that give you the tone on any instrument.
  2. paintandsk8

    paintandsk8 Pushin' my soul through the wire...

    May 12, 2003
    West Lafayette, IN

    Ahh, yes. The same conclusion that every thread on this subject comes to. I'm sure we'll come to that conclusion again after another 3 or 4 pages of arguing.
  3. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    I personally thing this arguement should go down with the 34" vs. 35" scale debate.

    Here's the similarities (IMO of course)

    1. There are 2 factions who feel polar opposite on the topic.

    2. They are both not going to change there minds.

    3. There's probably more to it than ANY one person can fully understand and it's way beyond the original topic of discussion (as wilser has alluded to), but the original "x" vs. "y" is still a factor in the discussion, just not the final word.

    That said, I'm sure there are very few people who would argue that the differences between Balsa and Ebony would not have a tonal impact, just as most would say that it's pretty likely that a single passive EMG Select J pickup is certainly going to sound different than a pair of Bart Humbuckers with an Aguilar OBP-3, or that tapewounds will sound different than rounwounds. But there is also a lot of variation within any single species of wood, as well as man of the general varieties of wood ("maple", "ash", etc) that actually can be a number of various species within that family each with varying properties, and if we truely have the choice in these matters (who REALLY has a say in what type of wood their Ibanez is made from other than what GC has in stock or a particular model is made from) then we are probably working with a custom or high end builder who will have more control over the end tone than just wood selection.
  4. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Interesting thread. Here's my bit of experience, with some opinions expressed by folks at Alembic that I mostly, but not totally, agree with.

    IME, bolt-on basses of the same brand and model seem to have more tonal variation than neckthru basses of the same brand and model. For example, an alder MIA Jazz Bass is likely to sound more different from an ash MIA Jazz Bass than a walnut Series I bass would sound different from a maple Series I bass. How much of that is wood differentiation and how much is construction variation? Is the wood the main difference, or the integrity of the neck joint that carries the string vibration that is the real issue here? I couldn't begin to tell you.

    The folks at Alembic tell me that with neckthru basses, most of the contribution is from the electronics, hardware, and strings. The fact that they bury a massive bronze bridge sustain block in the neckthru center portion of the body helps to further isolate the effect of the body woods from the hardware. What contribution is made from the wood tends to come more from the neck woods, so maple/purpleheart neckthrus tend to sound similar whether the body is maple or walnut. They do point out that coco bolo tends to be an exception to this tendency. I can vouch for that piece of it, since my cocobolo neckthru Alembic sounds very different from my walnut neckthru Alembic, even though both have maple/purpleheart neck construction.

    On the other hand, the Peavey Cirrus, like most Alembics, is a neckthru bass. Every time I've A/Bed them, I've gotten significantly different tonal feel from basses with different wood constructions. Maple bodies sound snappier than walnut bodies, even with the same neck construction.

    I guess all this just boils down to the idea that how much body woods contribute to the tone of the bass depends on how the builder chose to construct the bass to either take advantage of the differing wood tones or to isolate them out.


  5. We need someone with 2 of the exact basses, strung the same but with different wood combos to post a recording.
    Maybe even check the sound waves aswell to see what kind of differences show up?

    maybe a good idea?
  6. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings

    I don't give rat's ass what you think anymore.

    If you want to continue this... start your own thread.

  7. next time someone buys a sadowsky, ask for the body to be made from pine. I don't think it is a tone wood, but that shouldn't matter
  8. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings

    So how would you go about making a Jack Cassady sound like a Modulus?
  9. Put it this way: I don't think wood has such a big effect on tone that you'll know beforehand what the bass is going to sound like. I've played basses that are supposedly exactly the same but sound different. Who knows what the magic ingredient is... the density in a particular piece of wood, maybe. And one kind of wood will TEND to be more dense than another... I dunno. I just think you have to take it on a case by case basis.
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings

    It's been done before. It's also been done with different neckjoints... and people noticed a difference there too.

    You would think that some people have never felt the body of a bass vibrate. That the string vibration is somehow isolated and as such what they're mounted to is inconsequential. I don't believe that for a minute. Others do.

    All along I've contended that wood CAN have an effect on tone, sometimes a major one. Unfortunately far too many people can't distinguish CAN from WILL.
  11. slugworth

    slugworth Banned

    Jun 12, 2003
    So. Calif.
    FWIW, I have 2 identical basses made of the same woods and have the same electronics. The only difference is that one is top routed and has a pickguard, and the other is routed from the back and has no pickguard. They sound very, very different..I guess it depends on the physics of the instrument, the electronics, and how the energy is transmitted through the strings. Some instruments sound amplified like they do acoustically, and some don't. Passive basses to me, seem to retain more of their acoustic properties, but I have active basses which also do. This is a tough topic that seems to have no definitive yes or no, right or wrong answer. Maybe it's just my own ears, but I tend to gravitate toward basses that have a good acoustic sound properties, and electronics that faithfully amplify and enhance that sound.

  12. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Were the differences subtle or pronounced?

    Anyone ever play both an Ash w/Maple neck and Ash w/Wenge neck US MTD?

    Not fully knowing what an instrument will sound like until you play it should be a given. Often though, in these conversations, things get taken to extremes. No, no one knows what every Ash-bodied bass will sound like. OTOH Ash DOES have a tap tone that is typically markedly different from Alder. some people obviously don't think so or don't think thatt he way the body vibrates has much if any effect on the sound. Better yet that the wood choice is merely a marketing ploy;)

    Exotic top woods? yes. Tone woods? I doubt it.

    Generally speaking...

    For those that think our instrument isn't acoustic... unless you can show me that there's an absence of sound when electricity is not present, I don't know what you're thinking.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Me too.
  14. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    James, do the bodies of your Alembics vibrate much when you play them? I would think not... I don't recall mine being particularly vibrant.

    Alembics are a good example of basses where wood takes a back seat to hardware, construction and foremost IMO, electronics.

    I've noticed that too with the many Cirrus basses I've checked out over the years. Maple and Walnut sound very different... but they did share a similarity that I found is anchored in the pickups/preamp they use. Change that and neither sound anything like a Cirrus.


    That's it in a nutshell. My contention, again, is that wood CAN make a difference, to varying degrees. I'm being told that it DOESN'T... which is an absolute.

  15. 90k


    May 3, 2005
    Here is my 2 cents!

    After playing for many years on many different instruments with a variety of construction and materials used. FOR ME I have found that an all maple bass with ebony fretboard and a killer fret dress with brass hardware offers me the most versatility. From there I turn and look at the amp for further tone colors and response.

    P.S. Oh ya I almost forgot the Alembic tone filter ( the gift from God)
  16. Carey Nordstrand told me this a while back when I asked him about different wood combinations and achieving certain tones; When he worked at Suhr, they made three different basses that had the exact same wood combinations and specs (possibly from the same piece of wood IIRC), and each of the three basses had a different tone. So what does this tell us...woods does effect tone, so much so that three basses with the exact same combinations and specs sounded different.
  17. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    Does wood affect tone? In a word, YES!

    Everything on the instrument will affect the vibration. Technically, the clothes you are wearing affect the way the string will vibrate. It would be ignorant to say otherwise, as the laws of physics have proven you wrong time and time again.
  18. Rene


    Mar 8, 2004
    If wood doesn't make a difference in tone,
    Then you played the same bass all your life.
    Because what makes the difference in tone is the wood an the strings,the pickups and the amp just amplify it.
    The density of the wood will give you different tone & sound depending on the kind of wood you are using.
    Fender is using Alder so you are gettint the Fender sound
    Ken Smith is using Flame maple/mahogany so your are getting the sound of Ken Smith
    The sound or the tone of a bass is personal and unique, any good bassist doesn't buy a bass for the Name but for the tone or the sound that he wants to create.
    You create music, you don't copy music.
    All the Fender and Sadowsky have a similar tone or sound. So I don't think the creation existe there
    20 years as repair man and a maker
  19. incognito89x

    incognito89x ♪♫♪ ♪ ♪ ♫&#983

    Sep 22, 2002
    Royal Oak, Michigan
    I believe the wood definitely plays a role in the sound.

    If you put the same set of EMG's and an Aggie preamp in a Warwick Thumb and a Fender Jazz you certainly aren't going to hear the same sounds coming from both basses, regardless that they may have the exact same pickups, preamp, strings, etc.

    Same goes for Warwicks in general. The wenge necked basses are so much more sought after because almost everyone agrees they sound growlier.
  20. Wayner


    May 7, 2004
    Maryland, USA
    Blah blah blah.. if it sounds good, who the **** cares what it's made of???

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