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Is there a difference in tone between a solid/semi-hollow bass?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Float on man, Jun 16, 2018.


  1. Float on man

    Float on man

    Mar 10, 2018
    Will a two basses built practically the same with the same pickups with the only differences between them are the woods and one of them are semi-hollow and solid-body have any real discernible difference in the tone? Like, would the solid-body bass have less warmth to the tone or something?
     
  2. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Yes, there will be a difference.

    1. Even when spec’ed the same, two basses that appear identical on paper will be different in reality, because no two pieces of wood are exactly the same.
    2. Semi-hollow instruments, depending on exactly how they’re constructed, will sound different because the stiffness of the structure holding the strings between their anchor points (nut and bridge) will be slightly weakened.
    Whether the difference is detectable or desirable is up to your ears, and your ears only.
     
    Float on man likes this.
  3. Float on man

    Float on man

    Mar 10, 2018
    So, like, the anchor points will be closer together ‘cuz the points are weakened, causin’ a basser sound, if I’m guessin’ correctly, right?
     
  4. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    No, it has to do with how the structure, not being completely rigid, absorbs a bit of the energy of the vibrating string. What energy doesn’t get absorbed is what the pickup senses, and becomes the first stage of “tone” (which is then shaped by pickups, electronics, effects, amp, cabinet, room...).
     
    Float on man likes this.
  5. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Many semi hollow have a solid center block running from pocket to tail. Only the wings are hollow. If you built a solid bass and then cut off the upper and lower sides and put on hollow wings, I’ll bet a million, the sound would change so little, you wouldn’t notice

    My semi hollow Ibanez sounds like a solid bass. Has no feedback issues

    My Jack Casady which is actually about 75-80% hollow with only top and bottom wood stiffeners joining the solid neck and tail blocks sounds nothing like a solid or semi hollow full block bass. You have to be aware of feedback and keep strings muted when not playing or letting a last note ring out.

    If you want hollow sound A Casady or a Gretsch will get you there where solid block semis miss the target.
     
    ELynx and Float on man like this.
  6. Aidil

    Aidil

    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    These 2 SoundGear basses share some specification similarities with main difference of one being a solid body and the other being a semi-hollow body:

    IMG_20180618_0624095.jpg

    Sure it can be noticed that the solid body one is a fretless, strung with tape wound strings and has two magnetic pickups, while the one with semi-hollow body has fretted board, non-tape wound strings and non-magnetic pickups. But both came with the same D'Addario Chromes flatwounds and they have same under saddles piezo pickups which both magnetics could be turned off completely to use only the piezo on the solid body one, so they could be compared with almost the same specs to accentuate the main difference of solid body vs. semi-hollow body.

    My answer to OP's question is, yes there's real tone difference between both. The semi-hollow body has inherent warm and woody tone (without having to shape the tone) with given fact that it is still using the Chromes which are relatively bright for flatwound strings. While with the solid body, I need to dial the preamp to get only almost similar tone, which then I even strung it with tapes to make it mellower than the bright sounding Chromes.
     
    Float on man likes this.
  7. Float on man

    Float on man

    Mar 10, 2018
    So, what if I turned my solid-body into a semi-hollow by adding a Rickenbacker style f-hole? Would that give me the nice warmth of a semi-hollow?
     
  8. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    Not as easy as it sounds.

    Just cutting a hole the shape of an f-hole would have very little effect on the tone. Less than cutting a hole for an extra pickup.

    To get the full effect of a semi-hollow, you would have to rout out a hollow chamber, going in through the back or front of the body. Then cover the hole, presumably with a thin piece of wood, and refinish.

    I don’t know that I would characterize the difference as “warmer”.

    There’s a difference in the sustain, which is a little shorter. Because the notes don’t overlap as much, a semi hollow can sound a little punchier.

    If the cavity is large enough, there may be a touch of ringing, almost feedback, which makes some notes “bloom” more than others as they sustain when the band is fairly loud..

    The body may flex a little when you reef on the neck, making tuning less stable, but offering an interesting vibrato effect.

    Short version: it depends.
     
    ctmullins likes this.
  9. soulman969

    soulman969 Inactive

    Oct 6, 2011
    Englewood, Colorado
    No. If you want a bass that sounds like a hollow or semi-hollow bass buy one that's designed and made that way.
     
    96tbird likes this.
  10. Aidil

    Aidil

    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    Not that simple.

    In my case, the semi-hollow one were built with thicker body, so they've created chambers with some adequate volume, not just what's directly beneath the f-shape.

    2218.jpg

    Second, this bass is using piezo pickups, which I think best "to capture the hollowness" than magnetic pickups. I'm not saying magnetics couldn't do it... Lots of semi-hollows were equipped with magnetic pickups. I just don't have experiences with semi-hollow and magnetic pickups. So, in case yours were only equipped with magnetic pickups, the result would not be the same.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
    soulman969 likes this.
  11. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    This is the only picture I have of the chambering inside my semi-hollow. Definitely more than a single F-hole.

    DSC00141.jpg
     
    soulman969 likes this.
  12. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    That's a good description.

    It's almost (but not quite) like having a bit of built-in reverb. Of course, all depending on how hollow the semi-hollow is.
     
  13. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    Nov 29, 2020

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