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Influence on sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 62Walnut, Jun 23, 2007.

  1. Before anyone goes off on a tirade about searching, I already did. But without the benefit of subscription, which I will soon have, my search options were limited.

    So now to my question.

    Which has the greater influence over the sound of a bass, the body or the fingerboard? I'm thinking in particular about Ash bodies and maple necks, both bright, as far as my knowledge goes, and Rosewood, heavier and dark, although not seen on bodies often.

    Would an ash body and rosewood neck have a 'balanced' voice or how would it be described?

    Yours, in grateful appreciation of education

  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Neither. It's all about pickup placement and the neck joint. This business about "tonewoods" and rosewood vs maple is a lot of hoo-ha fed to us by luthiers in the 70's who had a lot of exotic woods they wanted to sell.

    I've got 4 Precisions made by different companies with different woods and different parts, and they all sound identical on tape except the fretless. Also, I've got two custom basses made by the same company with different FB woods (rosewood/pau ferro), drastically different body/neck shapes (one is a 5, one is a 4), drastically different hardware, and neck-thru-body construction with pickups in the exact same spot on each, and they sound identical on tape.

    Even the pickup itself isn't extremely important. Some are made differently to accent certain frequencies when they're set flat, but the bass still sounds the same, just with different EQ points.
  3. Thanks for the response., Jimmy. It's easy to get confused about all the hoo-ha as you call it, because so many people believe it and go spreading their own take on it thus muddying the waters further.

    It's reassuring to know that the variety of different woods in your various basses still give a similar sound. This leads me to the thought that it's your individual sound, regardless of the tonewood. As we're often told, the sound and style is in the fingers

  4. For the love of Pete, I think there is a thread on this every week where someone says wood has no affect on tone.

    Does a Jazz bass with a maple fingerboard and a maple fingerboard sound the same as a rosewood board on an alder body? Heck no.

    Yes, wood has some impact in the overal scheme of tone. Construction, electronics, strings, and technique all influence the tone as well.
  5. 3NotesAbar


    Jul 3, 2005
    Some bass designs probably allow more of wood choice to be a factor, others less, who knows? Personally, I think pickup placement is #1, followed by a myriad of other factors.
  6. Dee_01


    May 19, 2007
  7. I think that they both have a moderate influence on the attack, timber, and sustain of an electric bass. With fingerboards I've noticed that maple and rosewood both have a distinct sound that they impart reguardless of the eletronics and so does alder and poplar. But, given that fact that it is and ELECTRIC instrument, the electronics are going to have a much bigger influence over a basses attack and timber. However, sustain is controlled mostly by the overall design and construction of the bass and not the pups or choice of woods.
  8. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    So you're telling me that you can tell a maple fingerboard from a rosewood fingerboard just by hearing it? I'd like to see that.

    Acoustically, there's a world of difference. Plugged in, there's so little difference that it's imperceptible. And if anyone can prove to me that there's a difference, I'll send them $20.
  9. On my basses, I can tell the difference between my Millennium with a maple fingerboard and one with a pao fero fingerboard. I also have 2 Kramer guitars, one with a rw fingerboard and one with maple. I can tell the difference between 'em. All other things on these instruments are the same.
  10. Oh yeah, and I also have 2 Cirrus 5ers with an ebony fb and a pao fero fb. Guess what?! They sound different enough that my band and I a/b'd them and went with the one with the pao fero fb. My drummer and guitarist could hear the difference, too.
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That proves nothing. No $20 for you.
  12. When ya have 20 some odd guitars and basses in your collection, it gives you the opportunity to A/B a lot of stuff, especially when ya order the same model in slightly different configurations.
  13. Plus that a maple board and a rosewood board feel totally diffrent.
  14. r379


    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Since no two pieces of wood are alike even if both pieces came off the same tree, all we can do is generalize. I happen to like an old school tone so you are likely to find me playing an alder-bodied Fender with a rosewood board. Having said that, I own an ash-bodied P Bass (nickel strings) with a maple board that does not sound harsh at all.

    I would, generally, say that you are on the right track with your ash/rosewood idea but play anything that you even think might fill the bill 'cause you might be surprised.

    Don't forget that your choice of strings (stainless steel? nickel?) will make a difference.

    Edit: I didn't mention pickups or their placement because I am making the assumption that you have a particular bass (Fender?) in mind.
  15. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    So record a few of them and see if people on here can tell what's what.
  16. I'll get right on that......if I ever get free time again. The hospital is short and I'm doing 60 hour work weeks, in 2 bands, just closed on a house, trying to train for some bike races, etc. Trying to record my basses for a few naysayers....not exactly high on my priorities list.

    Here's a guy who a/b'd some Cirrus basses made from different body and neck woods.

    Dude, I don't know what your problem is, but just because you can't hear the difference, doesn't mean that other people can't.
  17. birminghambass

    birminghambass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2002
    Birmingham, AL
    Interesting topic.
    On the subject of body woods, I used to own 2 Cirri 4 strings: a maple/alder and a walnut/bubinga. Same electronics, even same strings. They sounded very different to me. I sold the bubinga to get a bubinga 5. Sounded just like the four, but still very different than the maple 4.
    As far as maple vs. rw boards, they feel slightly different to me, acoustically they sound slightly different but amplified/recorded they are identicle IMO.
    On the issue of electronics. I've got a stock '72 Jazz and a 2000 MIA Jazz. I've recorded both and the tones are virtually indistinguishable, with only a slight difference when soloing the bridge pickup.
  18. As for recording or amplified, it really depends on your goals. Some guys let their amps really color the bass tone, possibly to the point where their sound is so ______ (certain vibe) heavy that woods may not matter. In certain recordings, if a bass is somewhere back in the mix, sometimes electronics barely matter.

    I am fortunate to be in bands where I get to stand out. :hyper: The goal of my amp rig is to essentially push my bass tone without taking away from the sound of that individual bass and unique tones. In my case, you can hear the difference. When everything is 100% cranked at the club, maybe not. Recording and jamming, they can tell.

    Ask any luthier, and they'll tell ya that everything you do influences tone. Certain woods do certain things. Working with Rob Allen, Bill Conklin, and Cliff Bordwell has been neat in the sense that they pay so much attention because they know how to manipulate the bass to do what YOU want it to do.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You can't seriously tell me that you thought those basses sounded different. I could take those two tracks and edit them together and you'd never be able to tell where the splice point is.
  20. actually, trying to be completely objective here....the bubinga bass has slightly more focused highs...

    on the scales, it's hardly noticeable, but the difference is there....on the slap, the sound is quite dramatic...but then, the strings on the maple sound half-dead too, so how good is this A/B comparison? I don't really know. How identical are the strings?

    But on the subject of what contributes to the tone

    in order of most influence, to least.: IMO, of course

    1...hands and technique (in other words, the player)
    3....pickups and electronics
    4...setup (truss rod, action and tightness of neck-joint and bridge screws)
    5...body and neck wood
    6...bridge type and/or nut material
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    Jan 16, 2021

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