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Hard Ash vs. Swamp Ash???

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jokerjkny, Feb 2, 2002.

  1. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    Hey all,

    i've heard lots of talk between these two. anyone know what the difference is between the two?
  2. I've got two similar basses- one a Fender Precision Plus with a swamp ash body, one a P bass I built from Warmoth parts with a hard ash body.

    the most obvious difference is weight- the Fender weighs about 10lbs - and that's with heavy cast Schaller machineheads.

    the Warmoth weighs in at 11lbs - and that's with Hipshot Ultralite machineheads.
    so there's well over 1lb difference in the weight of each bass body.

    re. tone, the Fender has a certain snap to the tone from the light swamp ash body resonating more.
    a sort of "acousticness" to it.

    the Warmoth has more sustain, and deeper lows- presumably from the heavy body being inert and resonating less (less energy from the string being dissipated), and clearer harmonics and general metallic clarity from the strings.
  3. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Swamp ash, as I understand it, does not correspond to a particular species of ash, but rather any of the southern ash that grows in swampy land. The trees that grown in the swamp generally have a much lower density due to the high water content which disappears when the lumber is dried.
  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    If you can visualize it, think of a scale where poplar is at one extreme - "Low end, warmth, volume" and birdesye maple is at the other - "High end, brightness, attack, sustain".

    Mahogany would fall right at midpoint between them and swamp ash would be a little closer to poplar than mahogany. N. hard ash would be closer to birdseye maple than mahogany.

    Swamp ash is an open grain wood, so that's one reason for it's warmth (and it needs pore filler).

    Ken Smith flat out dismisses hard ash. He simply says it is too hard and dense for "guitar grade tone." But other luthiers seem to find it worth offering.

    The legendary 1950's Stratocasters were made of swamp ash. To reinforce what Matt says, a hard ash Strat body weighs over 5 lbs. and a swamp ash weighs noticeably under 5 lbs.

    I recently got a Lakland Skyline with a swamp ash body. It's a big, thick, slab but surprisingly light. Tonewise, I like it better than the alder bodied bass it replaced. Alder is just a bit closer to that birdseye maple end of the scale I mentioned. But, that might suit your taste better than mine.

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