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Finish Thickness

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SnakeAnthony, Dec 12, 2005.


  1. Does how thick the finish on a bass or guitar affect its tone? If so, how?
     
  2. mahrous

    mahrous

    Aug 13, 2005
    Egypt
    i doubt it. dont believe it would or at least not in electric solid bodies.

    if you are making electric solidbody guitars/basses, you might want to invest a lot more in electronics and pickups to shape your tone. also wood is important
     
  3. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    The type (mainly oil vs lacquer/paint) and partly the thickness affects the tone IMO, IME and as some reputable luthiers say. Mike Tobias wrote an article about this and many other things, it's on TB somewhere...
    IMO, IME: oil = more "airy", a bit loose, organic lows, less higs
    Lacquer (polyurethane, nitrocellulose) = clearer tones, more highs
    Paint = ? depends on the paint type
    Of course the wood choice greatly influences this. Also the hardware and the strings.
    Electronics surely are important, but IMO they are not the most important part as some put it. To get a good tone from a bass, you need a bass that sounds good acoustically.
     
  4. Unless Mike Tobias can come up with scientific measurements, my opinion is that this is all BS. I'm sure finish has a noticeable effect on soundbox instruments (acoustic guitars), but on an electric bass it don't mean squat for tone.

    The description Frank Martin makes about how different finishes affect tone actually contradicts the beliefs of hundreds of acoustic guitar builders. They say hard finishes dampen the sound and lessen the high freqs and that more flexible finishes allow the wood to vibrate more freely and lets all freqs ring naturally.

    There have been many discussions as to what makes one bass sound different from another. Some say this wood sounds like this, others say these electronics sound like this, some others say hardware and/or construction methods sounds like this. I'm sure all these variables affect the sound of an instrument, but I don't believe there are any hard facts that you can use to try and reproduce a certain sound by choosing a wood species or construction method. I believe that electronics are far more predictable and measurable when trying to achieve a certain sound. Finish? I don't think it makes a difference on electric instruments sonically, and I believe it should be an aesthetic decision.

    How come you can take a crappy $50 instrument and make it sound 10x better by replacing pickups and electronics?
     
  5. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Because the electronics were the weakest link to begin with. However, by adding $1000 worth of electronics to an acoustically bad-sounding instrument, it still won't make up for it, after the strings break in, you'll still have bad tone, but at least now it will be more precisely reproduced with higher shapeability
    I didn't say that it doesn't dampen the tone. It does - it looses a bit of the lows/low mids, which makes it sound a bit more focused, tight vs the airy, loose tone.
    He didn't make scientific measurements, but he did notice the difference in tone after an originally oil-finished bass was refinished with poly. No other components were changed.
     
  6. Hookus

    Hookus

    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    This reminds me of the cable debate. You cannot possibly compare the sound of the same instrument with two different finishes. Your ear is nowhere near that scientifically accurate, and your memory of what it sounded like before that is just that, a memory. You could not even faithfully record it well enough for a head-to-head comparison. Even if you built two guitars with identical everything, they may still sound different.

    I have a guitar finished with snake-oil up for sale....
     
  7. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Okay...I'm gonna go out on a limb here, but...are we dealing tone of a bass when played alone, unplugged in a tiny broom closet, or are we talking about tone of a bass pumping 600 watts into a huge crowd of screaming fans? ....just curious.

    -Josh
     
  8. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    This is not like that.
    Sure, the perception of sound can change even over a day, the ear is not a good measurement, but don't tell me you can't tell the difference between the taste of an orange and a lemon.

    Do you at least know who Michael Tobias is? If he says there was a major difference, then there was.
    Here's the part in question:
    There is a point beyond which natural skepticism becomes obstinate argument, as it often happened with cables.
     
  9. hmmm.
     
  10. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Al Gore invented the internet....

    -Josh

    PS Hehe, but honestly, I don't this is an issue that can be settled by discussion. It seems obvious that this "difference" has to be heard in order to be believed.
     
  11. Hookus

    Hookus

    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    But we are not comparing oranges to lemons, we are comparing the taste of one orange we thought was just okay two months ago, with the taste of an orange we like today.

    And amen to Mr thumbs, I'm bowing out here before it gets too deep.
     
  12. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Setup and repair/KRUTZ Strings
    Wood vibrates.
    Any finish applied to the wood will affect the vibration to a greater or lesser degree.
    Whether or not there is an audible difference would depend on too many variables, I believe, to be definitive.
    Unfortunately, some people are convinced that if you can't prove something with scientific instruments it doesn't exist.
    I believe the human ear can discern subtle differences that may be unmeasurable, but audible. If someone can hear differences between oil and poly or cables, tubes or capacitors, who are we to question their ears.
     
  13. Xanaptabil

    Xanaptabil

    Jul 18, 2005
    Tempe, AZ
    I'm chipping off the finish on my Ibanez right now; this is being done without removing the neck or strings so as to eleminate any change in tone from said factors.

    I haven't noticed anything yet. Best thing so far is feeling the wood of the instrument for the first time. If there is change I think it will take years of the wood breathing to accumulate into an audible tone change. One other possibility is that the wood heats up faster while playing now that it is in direct contact with the player and this may alter the way the wood vibrates.

    What do you guys think?
     
  14. I think that I'd like to see a number of basses finished in oil and then refinished in some hard finish like polyester and in both cases a number of notes plucked by a mechanical finger (so that the plucking can be exactly reproduced) are recorded and sent to me. Then I'll do some wavelet transforms on the data and see if there is any difference in the power spectrum. Then we'd be able to say what the effect of the finish was.
     
  15. Given the bit resolution of modern data acquisition, I find it extraordinarily unlikely that an ear can detect things that top end high-resolution data acquisition system can't. I'm not saying that you can then look at it and see what it sounds like, but the scope is going to see a change before you hear one.
     
  16. Xanaptabil

    Xanaptabil

    Jul 18, 2005
    Tempe, AZ
    I could care less about what a machine can measure or not. The only real judge are the ears. Music, not sound, is one of the most ephemeral things in existence.

    Ears are intuitive. Machines are not. To say it doesn't exist because we can't detect it (yet) on our machines is as rediculous as blind faith.
     
  17. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    So...I think we've deduced that Extra and Juicy Fruit are both long lasting???

    -Josh
     
  18. JAUQO III-X

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    CHICAGO,IL.
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    I'm not here to debate so I will base my comment off of my many years of working close with Luthiers and playing live and in the studio.

    From my ears experience 90% of the electric basses that I've played that had an oil finish on them all sounded a little muddy over all(always have a hard time getting even clear highs and definned mids out of them)and most of the basses that I have played that had a hard clear/color coat finish had a nice even clear/articulated sound,the highs,mids and lows all seem to be well balanced and just about every bass that I have played that had a Lacquered finish had nice mids,clean highs and nice balanced lows.and I have played basses with no satin finishes and they seemed to be overall well balanced in the lows and mids but the highs had a mild level of brightness.woods and electronics do play a part in the mystery of all this and some of these basses were neck thru's,set necks and bolt ons.my first choice is a high gloss hard finish and my second choice is a lacquered finished.
     
  19. Unfortunately I won't buy that one says that this sounds different than something else with things that have such a tiny difference. If there's a double blind comparison that says one sounds this way and another sounds another then that is fine. Otherwise it's the same boat as people telling others how their $4000 speaker cables sound so much better than any other suitable high quality wire that costs 1% as much. I believe they call that a placebo effect, something humans are quite prone to.