Fretless Body Wood

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ytsebri, Nov 18, 2001.

  1. Alder

    13 vote(s)
  2. Ash

    10 vote(s)
  3. Maple

    5 vote(s)
  4. Mahogany

    11 vote(s)
  1. ytsebri


    Sep 1, 2000
    What would you guys recommend for a back body wood for a fretless and why? Please give reasons.

    Note: It'll have a Zebrawood Top
  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    That depends entirely on the top wood.

    I know, definitely not the answer you want. Okay, without that info - alder. Reasons:

    - singing, clear, highs
    - articulate, strong, lows
    - balance across the tonal range. No extra emphasis in any extremes.

    Only downside is it's homely without some cosmetic help.
  3. I choose Alder.

    Simply because I think it sounded muddy....well maybe that's not a good word to describe it. But you know what I mean.

    For a fretless sound, I was thinking more like Jaco. And Jaco's sound do not have strong highs or lows(quite the opposite of Rickbass's reason huh?:p )

    I mellower in my ear.
  4. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Seems to me like it really depends on what kind of sound you want. The Ibanez Gary Willis sig is swamp ash. Most Alembics are mahogany. I've seen some alder Fodera fretlesses. Pedulla Buzz basses, which a lot of people praise, are all maple. I also think neck wood and construction play a bigger part in overall sound (especially for neck-throughs).

    I don't have any personal experience with any of these woods either (fretted is padauk, fretless is koa), so I can't offer any real advice as to how they sound different. But the words I hear often around here are: mahogany is warm with strong low-end; alder has a "bite"; ash has a "sweet" high end; maple has strong lows and highs.
  5. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    Alder is a good choice for the classic Jaco fretless tone. It sounds a little dead acoustically, but like Rickbass says, when amplified it's balanced pretty evenly across the tonal spectrum.

    Ash is a good choice if you prefer a more modern sound with emphatic high-frequencies and a very clear sounding low end. It also seems to be a little more resonant acoustically than alder. It doesn't have the midrange punch of alder to my ears, though.
  6. neptoon


    Jul 25, 2000
    summerville, sc
    i think lacewood also has an awesome has almost a singing quality to it. really vocal sounding with sweet highs and a strong midrange. something else to think about...also, unless you're dead set on zebrawood for a top, lacewood is beautifully figured as well...and with a dark :D just my opinion...or you could throw a korina top on some mahogany...i think that's awesome, but a close second to the lacewood...
  7. I love the sound of my alder winged BB1200 yamaha. It's a 5 piece maple/mahogany neckthrough that I put an emg p in. Big, round bottom with clear highs and super sweet mids. I have to eq the hell out of it to get anything close to an edgy "jazz" sound.
  8. SRSiegel

    SRSiegel Guest

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    i chose maple/walnut for my fretless. it has a very dark earthy tone, which is what i prefer. for evenness and predictablility, id second the alder reccomendation.
  9. Steve Mosher

    Steve Mosher

    Oct 23, 2001
    I have been an upright player since 1975 and an electric fretless only player since 1980. I fall into the SRSeigel camp; either solid Black Walnut or B.W. with a Maple top. This is in relation to use with a graphite neck. Another great choice is Swamp Ash, like the Willis sig. Although somewhat different, they basically both provide a rich, warm, full tone with complex harmonic content, and a great deal of sustain, swell and growl.:D
  10. Gard

    Gard Commercial User

    Mar 31, 2000
    Greensboro, NC, USA
    General Manager, Roscoe Guitars
    ...I'm partial to bubinga over ash myself...

    Good combination of warmth and mid-range punch. All bubinga (i.e. Warwick Thumb) is too middy and HEAVY (for me). The ash gives it a nice tonal balance and makes the weight more reasonable. My Zon Sonus Special 5 fretless is a killer live, cuts through the mix but sounds nice and warm, plus it doesn't leave a dent in my shoulder.

    I've also got a fretless 6 that's koa over maple (semi-hollow bodied) that has a wonderful sound. It's a bit mellower, and tends to get hidden in a live mix, but goes on tape beautifully. There's a picture of it just to the left... :)
  11. Jerry J

    Jerry J Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2000
    P-town, OR
    Neptoon's got the right idea with Lacewood. It is very hard but yet very lightweight. The photo doesn't even begin to do this bass justice.

    Otherwise I voted for Alder for the reason's Rickbass cited.
  12. Showdown

    Showdown Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2002
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    My Warwick Thumb is Bubinga, and I think it sounds great.
  13. progplayer


    Nov 7, 2001
    I think swamp ash might be the best bet for a fretless. I own a Pentabuzz that is an all maple bass and I do feel that the tones from the penta sound really good. But I also feel that the barts/preamp makes up part of that tone. Also the coated ebony board. Pentabuzz just has a different "fretless tone" than a traditional non-coated board.

    But I did get a chance to try out a used Ibanez GWB1. And the thing was in fair condition (whoever had it before really abused the crap out of it). All that aside (cutting in and out and the various chunks missing from the body) that fretless sounded sweet. Very natural sounding. A lot (I mean lots) of mwha when plucked hard. I would have bought it but the thing had some problems with the electronics. I think the previous owner did something to the preamp because the backplate was missing a few screws and the input was not working. They still wanted $950 for it. yeah right.

    Bubinga to my ears doesn't sound good for a fretless. I owned a Warwick Corvette Standard (passive) for a bit and I did not like its tone. Dark, heavy, not a lot of mwha, and to me its not as responsive as a ash or maple. Better for fretted.

    I tried out a used Carvin BB75F in Koa. Same deal. Very dark sounding. Not really bright. I'd stay away from them.

    Ebony is the best for the fretboard on a fretless. IMO. So, that's my -0.02 worth.
  14. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Hmm... Well, bassed;) on my experience with fretless, I think that swamp ash makes an excellent tone wood, with whatever top that you like. I happen to be partial to redwood burl, for some strange reason.:D
  15. I'm partial to Ash as well. Every fretless I've owned has had an ash body (with different tops)
  16. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Of the Fretli that I've played, I think I've favored Alder myself...pretty even response, and you wouldn't have to worry about the cosmetics if you slapped that Zebrawood top on it...
  17. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Voted alder, 'cause of the even range. Might as well have chosen mahogany, but it does have a slight emphasis on low mids (my tone:D )

    BTW, I've seen a lot of alder planks lately, and though definitely not spectacular, they were all beautiful!
  18. beermonkey


    Sep 26, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    My Mike Lull M4V fretless has a maple body with a AAAAA maple top.. the flame is amazing. The sound is amazing. I absolutely love this bass.
  19. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Monkey - not to get off the path here, but just so no one gives you grief possibly down the road;

    - all these multiple "A AA AAA AAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" ratings are marketing devices/hogwash. There is no industry standard. Anyone can set up their own ratings and they do. It means about as much as "deluxe" or "select grade."

    I'm sure Lull is very finicky about the maple tops he uses, though.
  20. I went with mahogany for my fretless. I'm still not sure what top I want, or if I want it to be solid mahogany. I haven't gotten that far into the process yet.