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help on wood tones

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by TheIrishOx, Oct 5, 2008.

  1. TheIrishOx


    Feb 22, 2008
    I want a chimy tone but a nice fat bottom with bright, open, clarity to it and versatility. Does any body know what kind of woods would be best suited for that ? I was thinking maybe a mahogany body, maple top, maple neck thru the body, and ebony fingerboard. Will someone please help me ? I'm so confused about woods:crying:

  2. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    Body woods: http://www.warmoth.com/bass/options/options_bodywoods.cfm

    Neck Woods: http://www.warmoth.com/bass/necks/necks.cfm?fuseaction=guitar_neckwoods

    Open and clear, with a big bottom sounds like it will be an ash body to me.

    IMO, fingerboard wood is the initial attack tone that you will hear. If you like bright and lively, try maple or ebony. If you like a smoother tone, try rosewood. There are others too, like Wenge (growly midsy tone), that folks like too.

    The wood for your neck is going to work with the body to give you and overall tone and resonance, but (again, IMO) the neck wood is all about feel. Do you want one that is grainy, hard and needs no finish, or do you want a traditional feel with a finished, smoother neck?

    Hope that helps. Now it's time to sit tight and wait for the "no-such-thing-as-tonewood-police". :ninja:
  3. If the usual supects haven't gotten tired of hashing this one out (it shows up pretty regularly and I'd suggest doing a search) I think you'll wind up with a general feeling that woods are a pretty small part of what makes the sound of an electric solidbody bass. I've owned and built basses that MIGHT have the sort of sound you're describing (a lot of players with a lot of different sounds would probably agree that your description is the sound they like) with ash, alder, lacewood/mahogany and bloodwood/cherry bodies, and maple, mahogany and wenge necks. I myself would rank the player, the electronics and the scale length as 1, 2 and 3 in importance for the sound. It seems that in previous threads builders view wood selection as less important than some players do. The point has been made here often that while different woods have a big effect in acoustic instruments, it doesn't follow that it's equally important in electric instruments.
  4. T2W


    Feb 24, 2007
    Montreal, Canada.
    yes, yes and no I don't want fries with that. And make sure my eggs are pointing east when serving them on the table.
  5. TheIrishOx


    Feb 22, 2008
    well i have a mahogany body blank. So what am I going to do with it. Cause I been researching for a long time on wood tones, luthiering, etc. and I would like to build my own bass or maybe have someone build me one. Cause right now the bass I am using times about up.
  6. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    If you want a nice piano like tone, use a set of hot wound pickups and quality preamp/EQ with stainless steel strings. I can guarantee you that this setup will work any wood combination. Unless it's purple-ash maplenut wood...... You'll never get any decent tone from purple-ash maplenut wood...........................:p
  7. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
  8. Alternatively, some "piano wood" and "piano strings". Maybe if the body was shaped like a piano and hollowed it would heighten the effect. Could also super glue some piano hammers to the fingers for that paino attack tone.
  9. Sycdan


    Mar 24, 2008
    New Zealand
    That "piano wood" would be spruce, for reference. You might have a bit of difficulty with the whole string thing though: piano strings are made from the highest tensile-strength steel in industrial use, so much so that from an acoustic perspective, the strings act more like metal bars than strings, with their resonances not being harmonics of the fundamental. Also, with an average tension per string of around 110 kg (250 lb) on a concert grand piano (and there are generally 3 strings per key), compared to 7 - 9 kg (15 - 20 lb) on a bass string, you might find that stretching the string enough to fret a note may be a bit of challenge... :smug:

    Seriously, though for acoustic instruments so-called "tone wood" choice is a huge consideration, the actual acoustic properties of a wood is far less important for electric-only instruments, such as the bass. Of course, structural considerations of the wood being used are very important - soft woods are going to dissipate a lot more energy than hard woods will, and hence what wood is used to for the neck and body is going to have an impact on sustain, just as what wood is used for the fingerboard (especially in fretless basses) will affect brightness.

    But this is a completely different phenomena to the soundboard of an acoustic guitar, which creates its distinct sound through the actual resonance of the piece of wood. To create a clear, rich tone with a broad series of harmonics in a bass requires a huge body - the most common size double bass body is over 1 m (43") long, and even then, doesn't have as clear a tone as larger models. The fact is, wood resonance is simply not important in electric instruments, except when it influences energy dissipation from the strings as mentioned above. And really, even if wood resonance did make a difference to the sound produced upon plucking the string, standard magnetic electric bass pickups work by sensing the movement of the strings - there is no absolutely no way an electromagnetic pickup can sense the movement of a bit of wood!

    So if you want a bright tone, the harder wood, the better. But the pickups you use on the bass, the strings you use, whether you use active or passive electronics, and your amp setup are all going to make a huge difference; the brightest wood in it the world will mean nothing unless these factors are considered.

  10. if you want a "nice piano tone" play the piano. a bass will never sound even close to a piano.
  11. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    Much better than that would be if you take a piano (concert kind would be prefered) bolt on 2 straplocks on the sides of it and a bass neck on the back, extend 4 strings from the piano to the neck and then hang it onto your neck :D
  12. wyliee


    Jul 6, 2003
    South Hill, WA
    True, but it does burn well!! Purple takes a while to get lit but burns hot.
  13. scottyd

    scottyd Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2006
    Waco Tx
    Builder/owner Redeemer Basses
    I AGREE! It does make a nice crackle while burning, could that be considered tone?
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    True, but also: "piano wire" and music wire" are synonymous; it is used for guitar strings, and, as far as I know, all steel-core instrument strings.
    Not at all true. The idea of a wound string is that it essentially has the mass of the entire unit, while having the flexibility of the core alone. In this way it maintains normal harmonic response pattern of a string. It is true that the harmonics go a bit sharp as you go up the overtone series, but this is true of all strings, even unwound ones. This is part of real string behavior, as opposed to ideal string behavior.

    If wound piano strings, or wound guitar strings for that matter, were solid steel bars whose OD were the same as the OD of the actual wound string, then they would act as steel bars and vibrate non-harmonically. But this is not the case.

    Also, this relates to one type of defective string: if a string is wound improperly, with the windings too close together, so that they touch, then the string will be insufficiently flexible to act as a string, and will sound all weird.

  15. FunkyLemz


    Oct 17, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    good thread
  16. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars

    Classic. Nice quote CapnSev ;)
  17. TheIrishOx


    Feb 22, 2008
    What i meant was a chimy tone similiar to what a piano has. good grief charlie brown:oops: I changed it to chimy now so maybe that explains better to what I want.:ninja:
  18. But I thought the tone was in your fingers?!?!? Noooooo I've been hoodwinked!!!!11
  19. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - Perú
    Chimy??? Piano??? Hummm you mean youre looking for some well defined low end, slightly pronouced mid hump and punchy with sparkly highs? :eek:
  20. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I get a very open tone with well defined low end, present but not overweight mids and top ( a very coherent tone) from a simple maple neck alder body brazilian rosewood board( however much of a difference the board may make)bass.
    It has one pickup in the P-ish position ( the magnet is not all too strong as to not get "in the way"in terms of muddying up the tone ). strung with open core strings and with a light bridge on.

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