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Maple vs. Poplar

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by DaveAceofBass, Mar 26, 2006.


  1. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    I'm thinking of buying a Kolstein Guarneri bass. He is making them with either maple or poplar ribs and back. What is your take on what would be better, and what are some differences tonally? This is a smaller bass almost a solo model size (it has the sloping shoulders) so bear in mind volume and projection are a concern. I'm thinking the poplar will give it a very unique sound and the maple will be more bright sounding. What do you think would be best, TBers?
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    I believe I tried one of those models at the last NAMM Show in Ca. I believe it had Popular as I don't recall any figure from the Maple. Either way, with a smaller Bass anything you can do to get it deeper is better. Remember that many of the great Italians used Poplar for the Backs and Sides of the Cellos and Basses. We all know how they turned out.
     
  3. I used to work for an archtop guitar maker who sometimes used poplar for solid color guitars and an occassional solid body because they sounded really nice. The coloration can be from creamy white to nasty green, but shaded or colored it doesn't really matter, and they did sound wonderful.
     
  4. My Chandler flatback has a black poplar back. It's a loud bass; pretty dark but with a strong top end. It's also got very deep ribs (around 9") for a large 3/4, so YMMV.
     
  5. spdrswb

    spdrswb

    May 26, 2005
    I own a poplar base Chinese. As far as I know, it makes the instrument lighter in weight, while keeping the resonance. Some people say it's not so attrative without the nice stripes in the wood, but for me it's equally nice with the nice patches and shades.
    It's interesting that my bass has also an intensive tenor range. Dunno if it's the wood behind. Maybe not. I exploit this property and I use it high C stringed.
     
  6. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    Were looking at domestic Birch for an upcoming project. Properties seem pretty much the same as Maple.

    Ken, are the European varities of Poplar the same as our Domestics? I have not looked into this...but surely will today. I know, for example that what is called Sycamore in Europe and a Sycamore over here are ENTIRELY different things. I can't tell you how many people call us saying they have a Sycamore tree in the yard and would it make a good bass!
     
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    That greenish wood you refer to is Tulipwood, not Poplar. In the U.S. it is often labeled as Poplar, though.
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    No.. There are tons of varieties of Poplar in the world. The European stuff works much like it's Willow. Birch on the other hand is not known to be a stable wood in service. I would stay clear away from it and stick with tradition. No need to experiment when there are available timbers that do work.
     
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Paul Toenniges made a bunch of terrific basses from Canadian-grown Yellow Birch. He started using this wood when European tonewood was difficult to get around WW2. I've worked on one and it seemed both stable and sonorous...
     
  10. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks for the replies. Sounds like poplar might be the way to go. I might like to have mine made from the black poplar. Ken I appreciate your comment that it's a small bass. I'm trying to get something more similar to a Rabbath bass, although this bass is uniquely different, it has small upper shoulders. I recall that it still had a rather full tone, as it's a roundback. If anyone else cares to comment more on the Kolstein Guarneri or any other relevant basses please advise.
     
  11. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    My Loveri Bass has small sloped upper shoulders but they are not original as the Bass was cut back in 1937. The sound is sweet like an Italian should be and the power is amazing along with the thunderous A and E strings. One thing it doesn't have as compared to my Martini or Dodd is that low end spread. The sound at a distance is more direct and penetrating.

    For Orchestra the spread gives a nice soft and plush cushion under the bottom notes. The sound is much 'wider' in this case but not necessarly deeper. The Loveri with it's limited upper bout air space still produces a great deep tone but is also a master solo Bass not to mention a fantastic Jazz Bass. Kolsteins' idea seems to be along those tracks as well. YEARS ago, I owned #2 of his Orchestra Solo Bass made by Pollmann in Germany and finished by Kolstein. I believe it was a 1976 Bass. It had a huge wide bottom bout, deep deep ribs and sloped upper shoulders. The bottom bout was busetto and the upper had violin corners. This was one of the prettiest Basses I had seen to date. It was a 5/8ths Bass with 3/4+ air volume. I wonder how that will sound at 100 years old!
     
  12. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Arnold, I never heard back from you on that Testore copy... Oh well:rollno:
     
  13. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Hey Ken, glad to hear from you. This be the Dave who used to sell your basses at the Sam Ash in Charlotte... Anyway, now I'm in graduate school working on my bass playing some more.:smug:
     
  14. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Hi Dave R., I played the Bass a few weeks ago. It sounds great and feels like an older Bass. It actually sounds too good for a new Bass. Almost scary.... As we compared it to my Martini, we both agreed it had a similar type of sound. I wonder how my Martini sounded new in 1919? I think Arnold has a special touch.. with Basses that is..
     
  15. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Hi Ken...it's Dave V. Guess you remember me though!!!

    Anyway, you tried one of Arnold's Testore basses? Those are German made, no? I can already tell you're partial to Schnitzer's work, but try to put all biases aside and tell me how you think it compares to the Kolstein Guarneri. Rembember, one of the things I like about the Kolstein was the smaller shoulders. Two friends of mine own Kolstein basses and rave about them. I think Barrie is a tremendous person and has some great products for someone like me on a budget, and Arnold was real nice too up until he never emailed me back about this Testore model he has on his website. I seem to hear good and bad about both of them, but I can say that in my experience there probably won't be that much difference in the overall quality of a new bass in this league. What is your opinion?
     
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    I was talking about one of his handmade Basses that he just finished on the Testore pattern. I have played a few of his German/Schnitzer carved Bass and they too sound great. I hear more sweetness on his Bass that Barries. Barries sounded deeper but they both use a completly different set-up so we are at Apples and oranges.

    The best thing you could do is come to NY and go to each shop and then decide for yourself. What you like and hear may be different than me.
     
  17. Dave you are big dork! But i just checked out the basses again today, the poplar sounds great, there's a really good looking maple one, and Barrie showed me a Botti model with all sorts of pretty figuring in the wood.

    So come up and visit and we'll play them all!
     
  18. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    Will do, Brian. Ken, thanks for the advice. I've not played a Schnitzer, but the setup on the Kolsteins seems awesome. It's low enough and smooth enough that I can raise it or lower it to my taste. I'd be interested to hear the German Testore model, but Schnitzer said it's special order and takes several months to get one. Barrie has the Guarneris in stock. Brian, it's going to wait until this summer, but that time is approaching rapidly.
     
  19. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    You're right--I dropped the ball. Too many in the air at once.:meh: Truth is, I won't have one of those basses here assembled and set-up for many months. You sounded ready to go, so I assumed you were going elsewhere...
     
  20. DaveAceofBass

    DaveAceofBass Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2004
    Charlotte, NC
    I'll probably make a purchase over the summer. Most likely it will be one of Barrie's basses. The Guarneri is great, and there are lots of other models in my price range to choose from. Finding a nice vintage bass will probably need restoration and cost more than I can afford. If you do have the Testore when I come up there, I'd like to swing by and try it.
     

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