Help me design my MTD 535!!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by fLaT-fIfTh, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. fLaT-fIfTh


    Dec 20, 2004
    Producer: GospelChops Inc.
    Myrtle burl on poplar, Maple burl on Ash, Maple on Koa, Wenge neck, Ash neck, Maple neck, Rosewood fingerboard, Maple fingerboard...

    What the hell is all this?? I just want a quality bass to funk with! :bassist: I'm new to the bass, so I don't understand all the different wood options and how they affect sound. :help:

    Can someone please help me make sense of all these choices?

    If it helps, I want to play funk, R&B, Gospel, and Jazz.
    Thanks in advance!
  2. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004

    If you want the "signature" MTD sound, go for tulipwood body with a wenge neck and board. That's a very modern sounding bright bass that will cut majorly through the mix. You need to love that sound, and it's not traditional. My old MTD was mahogany with a maple neck and ebony board. It was a fantastic bass with a lot of bottom end and a nice open sound, but it lacked some of the punch for heavy rock stuff.

    If I were going to do it again, I'd get a swamp ash body (don't worry too much about the top as it won't affect things sonically as much, so pick what you and Mike like), along with the wenge neck and fingerboard. There will be a bit more midrangey growl associated with wenge, as opposed to a maple neck. If you got a maple neck and fingerboard, along with the swamp ash body, that would be a major funk bass.

    Everyone else, feel free to strongly disagree with me if I'm off base on this.
  3. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004
    One more thing...If you're new to bass, are you sure you want to pull the trigger on a $3K plus bass without spending some time on a lower tier instrument figuring out what you want? While you can't go wrong with an MTD, there are so many high end builders out there. I went through a LOT of basses before getting my MTD. I had it for three years and did sell it, but only for ergonomic issues and not sound issues.
  4. Joelc73

    Joelc73 Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2000
    New York
    I love the Ash body, Wenge neck combo on MTDs. It's a tough one to beat.

  5. McHack


    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!

    +1, but I sure do love the look of the Myrtle tops they find...

    Either way, the Wenge neck is a must...
  6. fLaT-fIfTh


    Dec 20, 2004
    Producer: GospelChops Inc.
    I thought about that point and I've been asking around a lot. I MUST have a quality instrument because a piece of crap would not inspire me to play. I already play keys and I always admired bass. I guess I'm one of those guys that has more gear than skill.

    I also like the Warwicks, personally, but I admire a few pros that play MTD's... When I started playing keys I found that loving my board kept me playing and I advanced quickly because I was always on it. I'm looking for the same results from a quality bass. Thanks for your help :)
  7. I love MTD to death and back......even tho i don't have a 35 Series (Grendel and Saratoga) You should try either a Grendle or Saratoga. You won't outgrow them and they're pretty nice

    EDIT: Forgot to say, Grendel is the discontinued Saratoga but essentially the same. Go with the Saratoga
  8. pdusen


    Aug 18, 2004
    Nobody's asking you to get a peice of crap. For less than $500 you could still get a good-quality instrument.

    I'm currently learning on an Ibanez GSR200 ($209 at Musician's Friend). I couldn't ask for a better starter bass.

    If I were you, I'd get me a standard fender or ibanez, and spend the rest on a rig. :bassist:
  9. Lyle Caldwell

    Lyle Caldwell

    Sep 7, 2004
    No disrespect to Mike Tobias, but you don't have to spend that much to get a high quality bass.

    You really do need to know more about what YOU like to play before spending that much.

    Since you play keys, look at it this way- on paper, Bosendorfer makes the best piano in the world. Yet many professional pianists prefer Yamaha, Steinway, or even Baldwin. Part of it is sound, a lot of it is the feel.

    If you are that serious about having a high quality bass to start out with, and you're already budgeting $3K+, spend $300 on a trip to a store in a major city where you can play examples of MTDs and their competitors' basses.

    Once you get over $1500 or so, it's rare that one bass is out and out "better" than another, in terms of design. At that point, individual basses stand out against other identical models, or one neck just feels more comfortable to the player, or to be honest, at that point it comes down to cosmetics.

    So play some MTDs. But play some Sadowskys, Laklands, Pedullas, Foderas, Benaventes, etc, too.

    And be honest with yourself- also play some Fenders, Lakland Skylines, Sadowsky Metros, etc, the $800-2000 range. Can you even tell the difference between the $1000 basses and the $3000 basses at this point?

    No one would be hindered in learning bass on any of those "cheaper" models. Remember, most guys start out on $300 imports, and getting one of the "cheaper" basses listed is a longterm accomplishment.
  10. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Even longtime players find it a challenge to select a wood combo that will give them exactly what they want, sonically. You've obviously selected MTD for some reason - some player that you admire? Find out what wood combo he/she is using. Norm Stockton's playing could easily fit with your musical direction - funk/gospel/jazz - is THAT the kind of tone you like? IIRC he uses the "signature" wood combo Wasabi mentions.

    If you've got the $$$ to drop on an American MTD, it stands to reason that you could also drop $1k on a great Cirrus, Lakland, etc. instrument and work with that until you have a clearer picture of what you want out of a top-of-the-line custom.

    OTOH, as long as you go with a wood combo that's popular in MTD instruments, or which has been selected with the aid of an experienced MTD dealer or Mike himself, you probably won't go wrong! They are INCREDIBLE sounding, looking and feeling basses!

  11. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004
    Yup...Norm has the tulipwood body, maple burl top (with "Norm Stockton" finish), and the wenge neck and board. His bass sounds fantastic with slap, funk, fusion, etc. I personally don't like his sound for general rock, but it's not's just the other styles work nicer with the combo he selected.

    As Secretdonkey said, Mike is really the guy to ask which wood combo would work for you. He's a wonderful person to have a conversation with, and he won't steer you wrong.

    And my point wasn't that you shouldn't spend $3K on a bass. It's just that until you play bass a while, you won't know what you want sonically.

    I have a Nordstrand on order (which won't even be done for almost a year), but I have no idea what woods I'm going to use! I'm torn between two general sounds, and I'm still trying to figure out which one is "my" sound. I LOVE the F Bass sound of ash and maple, and I love that scooped sound I hear on gospel records, but my Warrior has the kind of extra mid punch and growl I love, with its ash body and wenge neck.
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Just to throw a wrench into the mix: sure, different woods have different tonal *tendencies*, but there's absolutely no guarantee that a bass made with body wood X and neck wood Y will have tone Z even when all else is equal. That's because of the natural variation of wood.

    That said: the MTD 535 might be the most comfortable bass I've ever played, and that remains true regardless of body and neck woods. So if playability is your #1 criteria, well, I'm not about to talk you out of a USA MTD. :)
  13. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    This is exactly my bass, and you pegged the sound exactly. Although, I think it also sounds great for slap. I prefer it to the tulipwood w/ wenge neck for slap as it sounds more traditional. I really like mine, but if I did it again, I'd probably go for ash body w/ wenge neck as well.

    Here's a pic of mine :)

  14. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    An MTD as a first bass is a bit much. Ok not a bit much, a LOT much.
  15. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    I wish my MTD had been my first bass! If you have the money and you love music, go for it.
  16. I don't want to dissuade you from the MTD as they are ~great~ basses. I had a US 535 maple burl\poplar\wenge for many years, but I think for the styles of music you are looking to play, I agree with Wasabi, you might want to go for a more "traditional" sound.

    Of course that's totally up to you, but an MTD with a poplar body and wenge neck has a very distinctive midrangy tone. If that's the route you are interested in pursuing, then I would try to check one out in advance to decide for yourself. Either that, or consider the ash body, maple neck combo for a more rounded out tone.

    For me, at the time I was playing a lot of Funk, Acid-Jazz, Fusion, and Hard Bop Jazz so I traded my MTD in for a US made Lakland 55-94 which seemed more fitting to the sound I was looking for at the time. The ebony fingerboard board on my Lakland is awesome and I would recommend that as option even if you go the MTD route.
  17. Doug Parent

    Doug Parent Supporting Member

    May 31, 2004
    San Diego, Ca.
    Dealer Nordstrand Pickups.
    Mike would be pissed but I'd say try other basses as well. The Saratoga would be a nice jazz style bass. Mikes designs are great, but distinctive.
    I have a 535 and a Grendel, but for awhile my Fender Deluxe jazz 5 was the right call for the funk disco band I was in before I sold it. (crappy B)

    right now I'm looking in the direction of a Sadowsky metro for a more traditional sound. Guess I'm no help whatsoever. never mind, I was never here.
  18. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    My 535 is tulipwood/wenge. Doesn't sound radical to me. I wouldn't hesitate to use it for any style of music.
  19. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    I have a student, a church player, his first bass was an MTD 535. Could he have gotten something less expensive, sure but MTD basses inspire him. The money was not an issue. We should try not to make judgements on how others value the basses they want.

    Now on to the initial question. I have three MTD's; a 435, 435 fretless and a 535 with a high C. I have also owned a Heir and a Saratoga 5. Although all are terrific basses and I would not hesitate to play the Heir on a gig just as soon as I would my American made basses. I would say that the tone of the American basses is MUCH more complex. With much more depth and variation. The detail and nuance of the sound in the American Series is what inspires me. Having a cool top is just a bonus. Here are some of my observations

    My 435 has an Ash body, Myrtle Burl Top, Maple neck and Rosewood board. It has a very detailed sound, very flexible. A great balance between old school warmth and modern, hi-fi detail. I played a gig with the same bass only with a Avadoire body. That bass was much warmer sounding. Big, round, warm notes that filled the room.

    My 435 Fretless has a Ash body, and Wenge/wenge neck. This bass has a lot of bite. It has that fretless "mwah" that everyone is looking for.

    Finally, the absolute, most wonderful sounding/playing bass is my 535C. It is a 535 tuned E,A,D,G,C. It has an Ash body and Rose of The Mountain Top. It has a Ash neck and Maple Fingerboard. This bass has a clarity and richness to the sound that I have never heard before. It is the most touch responsive bass that I have ever played. If I "dig in" it sounds like a heavy Metal Monster, yet if I play with a delicate touch, it sounds like a hollow body jazz guitar. Tapping and chords on this bass ring out so clearly it is scary.

    I almost got a Mahogany body/maple top but found it to be a bit warm for my application. It seems like Ash is my body of choice. I also really like Ash for the neck

    Norm's bas does sound amazing. He and I recently did a workshop and performance in Detrooit (Detroit Bass Fest) and of all the great bassists and basses, the MTD's sounded best. This was not only my opinion but that of the audience and a young and up and coming luthier.

    You can hear samples of my 435 fretless and 435 at:

    you can see my basses at:

    I'll try to get a sample of my 535 up soon

    One more thing - both Ash and Wenge have big grain. If you choose them as a neck wood, you can feel the grain. Some people love this (like me) and some prefer the really smooth feel of maple. Just something to think about


    BTW, I was at Mike's shop on Monday. The stuff he is making for NAMM is truly unbelievable. You can tell he was really having a lot of fun when he built these basses.
  20. GRoberts

    GRoberts Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Tucson, AZ USA
    I played a Korina/Wenge/Wenge and a tulipwood/Wenge and honestly, they did not have the overall Mojo that my F Bass, or a Lakland have. MTD's are beautiful basses, but neither impressed me enough to want a 535. I would however love to hear a Swamp Ash bodied 535. maybe that is the magic ingredient. Dunno.

    I agree it is best to know what sound you're looking for. The Feel of the neck and string spacing are also important. at that level, I'd want to be damn sure I'm getting a bass I'm going to keep for a long time.