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Experiences with Body Finish Affecting Tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tapp, Sep 16, 2002.

  1. Tapp


    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    I've heard pros and cons that the type of body finish on a bass can affect the tonality of the instrument. I've got a '73 Fender Jazz that has had the body (BEFORE I got it) stripped and refinished with what looks like Poly and it looks like whoever did it used a broom (ha ha).

    Anyway, I've been thinking of having it redone by totally stripping the existing finish and going back with a nitro finish like a pre-cbs Jazz. Do you think this would affect the tone and how so??

    Also, does anyone recommend a finisher? I'm thinking of going 3 tone sunburst.


  2. Tapp


    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi

  3. iplaybass


    Feb 13, 2000
    Houston, TX
    Try the luthier's corner. I'm sure they can help.
  4. IMO if the tone isn't there as a raw piece of wood, then the tone won't be there after finishing no matter what finish you've got on it. Likewise, I also believe that solidbodies are affected by the selection of the finish a lot less than acoustics or chambered instruments. Also IMO, there is more tone to be gained from a good, tight, neck joint than any finish.

    Most people can't detect the difference anyway.

    I really like oil finishes since they are the least "encasing" of any of the coatings. They seem to really work with the wood rather than blanket it. They are also the easiest to apply, are nearly idiot proof, don't cost much and look mahvelous!

    That "idiot proof" thing is really important to me:rolleyes:
  5. kboyd


    Jul 6, 2002
    I second Hambone. I like the oil finish too. It lets the instrument attain a vintage feel and sound (which still takes time and is hard to hear the difference unless you record the instrument brand new and again a few years down the road). Most other thick finishes don't let the wood act resonate naturally and tend to hide their natural tone affecting qualities. Not to mention easy to repair!!!http://www.boydbasses.com
  6. Tapp


    Aug 29, 2001
    USA, Mississippi
    Thanks guys

    Hambone, I wouldn't say the tone is "not there" because it really is a great bass. I'm just wondering if the nitro finish on the 60's Jazz's seem to "help" with that "extra special" something many of them have.

  7. narud

    narud Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2001
    santa maria,california
    leave it unless you really want that sunburst. otherwise, getting that nitro refin isnt going to enhance the sound if its already there. i havent even noticed a super tight neck pocket to be that important. my 78 jazz that i sold a year ago had a super thick poly finish and a huge pocket gap and guess what, it sounded amazing. rick turner in bass player a while back even mentioned that an air tight neck pocket isnt that important but placed the importance on the neck bolts being securely tightened.

    if anyone is hearing differences in finishes you have WAAAAY better ears than i do. my 62 jazz doesnt sound any different with the nitro finish than it did stripped. you can also fit around 2 business cards in the treble side of the neck pocket.
  8. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    A fellow bassist had his pre-CBS Precis stripped down to the bare wood in/about 1971. It "opened up" the entire bass, tonally. It sounded wonderful - IF YOU LIKE MELLOWNESS - after years of sounding like most other pre-CBS Precis's when it was sunburst, (which means it was already in good company!).

    On the other hand, that isn't a sure fire recipe for tonal success. I've played other stripped down basses that still sounded like the same P.O.S. they were before being sanded down.

    Moreover, I recently lost a pre-CBS Precis with a red sparkle finish I would never have wanted sanded down to the wood. It had the most aggressive, stinging, P-tone I've heard, (Rays even sounded "behaved" next to it).

    I don't think you'll gain much, tonally, from a nitro finish. The amount of vibrations transmitted through the wood over the years is a much more decisive factor from what I know, (re: Chladni patterns). There was a company, Timbre Tech, which developed a machine to "instantly improve/age" the tones of instruments by sending vibrations mechanically through the instruments. People such as Eddie Van Halen and Joe Perry took advantage of this tech. But, the process was discontinued when it didn't prove to pay off financially for the owners, one of whom was Steve Rabe of SWR.

    But nitro does develop a nice mellowness over the years and cracks over time to accomodate those vibrational patterns.
  9. SoulEyes


    Sep 1, 2002
    Hey Tapp the finsih does affect the tone on a bass. A bass with a polyurethane finsih tends to sound brighter with more bite to me. I have(had) a natural oil Spector NS5CRFM and I found that I did not like it as much as the urethaned Spectors. When I first bought the natural oil, I was not aware of that. I had a refinish done and it was much better.........more towards the bright tone that I wanted. Pat Wilkins of Wilkins Guitars does great work. Check out his web site. Peace.

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