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Mahogany/koa basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by supermetroid, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. If you own a bass made mostly or entirely out of mahogany or koa, please give your comments on how your bass sounds as compared to "standards" like the Fender Jazz, Precision, etc. Try to make your responses as anecdotal as possible; I've already read up on the properties of these woods, so I'm more interested in your personal experiences with their tone.
  2. For my own personal tastes, those combinations of woods are too "mushy", subdued attack wise and generally soft/tubby.

    I like a very defined attack and a little bounce to my sound even on a neck through bass.

    Lots and lots of players like koa and mahogany so it's just a personal/subjective choice. To compare them to a Fender Jazz or P. bass-well, you can't. I would compare them to some Gibson basses, especially the Les Pauls.

    Jack Bruce of Cream played a mahogany bass. It's definitely "mushier" than most Fenders or any bass made of alder, ash, maple, and other harder woods.

    Lincoln Goines plays a koa and mahogany bass in Latin music and is an extremely successful performing and session player.

    I played the bass featured in the "Fodera in the House" thread and was sorely tempted, but the sound wasn't for me. It's new owner if very happy with it.

    If your concept for bass in a group to to blend in more homogenously than to provide definition and bounce then koa/mahogany might be for you.

    Hope that helps you...
  3. Do you think that "mushiness" would occur even with a powerful set of passive pickups -- DiMarzio Model J's, perhaps?

    Here's another thought: how about a mahogany body with a maple neck?
  4. I recently got an MTD 535 fretless made with a mahogany blank with koa front and rear and a curly koa neck with ebony lined board. This koa was from a unique tree that was a huge monster and has big birds eyes as well as deep flame or fuddleback. It has been aged over 50 years since it was cut, and it's very hard.


    It has a very live sound, with a huge amount of harmonic content. Playing the harmonics at the 5th and 7th frets is almost as loud as the corresponding notes. This makes it very hairy, growly and "wide". I love this sound, and I augment it by keeping the action low so there is even more "hair" from the stainless steel strings vibrating against ebony. It also is voiced deep, and I usually have to cut the bass.

    All of the other basses I have really liked were alder.

    Surprisingly, one band leader I play with keeps asking me to "refine" my tone, and he prefers the tone of my more cleaner sounding basses. Everyone else who has heard it has fallen in love and I've gotten great coments on the interesting tine.


  5. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    If you have any of Anthony Vitti instrutionals
    You'd hear a great example of a jazz bass with a mahogany body. Now one persons mush is anothers bliss but I will agree its a little softer than alder.

    I will be getting a fodera someday thats just like lincolns bass. Ive played his axe and thought it sounded great.

  6. There are at least two very different types of mahogany. Honduran mahogany is an excellent, dense wood that is very stable, predictable and easy to work. It has very straight grain and consistent narrow lines about an eighth or a quarter inch long that run down it's surface.

    The much cheaper and more common Phillipine Mahogany is much lighter, almost like basswood. I think that this is the stuff that has a rep as being "mushy". It is softer, more yellow in color, and the lines are longer and farther apart.

    Koa, like bubinga, cherry, maple and wenge are very different and tend to be very hard and more springy and unpredictable, though more interesting to look at than mahogany.

    I sit here in my house that I built, looking at a container load of these very woods that cover the interior, furniture, floor and trim around me and reminisce about a fun year covered in hardwood sawdust that I spent working with them.


  7. Jonathan, that MTD you've got is a beauty! Two questions about it -- what kind of strings do you have on it; and what effect does the ebony fingerboard seem to have on the tone?
  8. I have two basses with mahogany bodies, and I think that they in fact are quite the opposite of "mushy." Very growly, nice response in the lower mids. Now, I believe that the mahogany is actually Honduran, which as someone mentioned, is much nicer. There really are many more variables in sound than just the body wood. The type of neck, fingerboard, top and back, and even bridge material really all play a big part. I've noticed that a wenge neck with an ebony board can really add some zing to a mahogany body. Likewise, a maple neck and rosewood board can soften the sound and sound smoother. It really all depends. I can't think you'd go wrong with mahogany.
  9. Yet another question: how heavy is mahogany compared to the "Fender woods," alder and ash?
  10. Ones heavy and ones light. So I suppose it has more to do with the type of wood tops that makes the difference. Ones about as light as my fbass which was a light bass. I prefer the sound of mahogany over ash because I prefer more in the low mid range. I haven't owned an alder bass, so I can't make the comparison. Mahogany to me is more throaty sounding than ash or poplar ,which to me, seem a lot more open in sound.

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