Maple/wenge sound, but without the weight.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Dominic Heynderickx, Jun 20, 2019.

  1. Goo'day all.

    Can somebody please advice me on the woods I would need to create the sound from a custom made bass I once had: it was a bass with the following specs:
    - maple body
    - maple neck - wenge fretboard
    - EMG electronics
    (no it wasn't a WarWick)

    As you can see form the wood selection, that was a bass that had a sound but as well a weight to be considered. What woods would I need to recreate the sound but not the weight?
    I am fully aware that the full 100% match won't probably be possible, but I will settle for anything close.

    (my thoughts would be ash and maple/rosewood neck).
  2. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Have you played:

    1) Other basses with the same design/construction and wood choices, but different pickups?
    2) Other basses with the same electronics and pickups, but different wood or different designs?

    I'm wondering if you may be attributing things to the wood choices that should be attributed to the other elements. Wood choice is just one of many variables. And at the end of the day, wood choice is really just a weak proxy for stiffness, which is also affected by other design choices (i.e. neck reinforcements, neck through vs bolt on, etc).
    Monterey Bay-ss, Luigir and ctmullins like this.
  3. I did, never close enough to be fully satisfied.
    (neck was a bolt-on)
  4. I agree - EMGs have a pretty distinct sound. Also EMG has a pretty wide range of preamps, I would get the same preamp that was on the bass you liked as well.
  5. That is the plan, however, I do believe in the fact that all materials work together to give the bass it's voice or character (no need to discuss).
    The wenge did something to the sound of the maple that helped balancing the treble and brittleness of the maple and gave the bass a nice midbump that me other basses sporting EMG electronics don't have (not even by changing the strings). The sustain of this beasty was too die for (but so was the weight).

    I have played maple/maple/maple basses before, but they were too bright, regardless of electronics/strings.
    Jisch likes this.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I think it's actually quite relevant to discuss the belief that "all materials work together", but at the same time believing that the "wenge did something to the sound". Frankly, there is no way to tell if it did or didn't, and that assertion can't be supported by any evidence, just speculation. Sticking to it as a "guide" might not be as fruitful as working with the whole system.

    Regardless of the tonewood beliefs, if you want to try to duplicate what you had before, I'd go with as much of a duplication as you can get, and then work with that design to reduce the weight. So, same dimensions on the neck, same construction (including truss rod, nut, tuners, location of same on headstock, same frets - wire size and composition, etc.).

    Then with the body, make it the same length and keep the center solid (assuming that was the original design), but chamber the wings of the bass, which will remove weight. As long as the center block is solid, the chambering will do little to alter the tonality. Use the identical bridge (not just similar, same design, brand and mounting).

    Very important is to use the identical electronics and pickups. Not just "EMG", as they produce several different pickups and electronic circuits, and they don't all sound the same in the least - use the exact same circuit and pickups. Ensure the pickup location is identical to what you want.

    This approach is more likely to produce a similar sounding instrument than just chalking it all up to maple and wenge doing something to the sound. :)
  7. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    most of that weight is from the maple body. consider chambering it or going multi-piece with wings of a lighter wood. fwiw, maple isn't a brittle tone wood. it's claim to fame is it's tonal dampening and compression and it's structural strength.

    ditto on electronics, hardware, -already noted above.

    what was this bass anyway?
  8. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon Supporting Member

    Jul 17, 2018
    I have one bass with a Wenge fingerboard and it's fretless. I've never heard another wood which sounds quite like fretless Wenge.
    Dark Horse and The Nameless like this.
  9. the_home


    Jul 14, 2005
    Pensacola, FL
    Given your disclaimer above you are undoubtedly aware your wood recipe is a Warwick Fortress (I've had one with MEC pickups and one with EMGs).
    MattZilla likes this.
  10. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    In my experience; As soon as you drop emg in a bass it'll sound like EMG.
    If that's the tone yopu're after, I can't see it being all too dificult!
    Brother Goose and blindrabbit like this.
  11. Adienn7


    Jan 26, 2007
    Smaller skinner ergonomic body and good balance is what you need. And a stiff neo strap..
    mikezimmerman likes this.
  12. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    The neck on a bass is the part which vibrates the most. As such, it affects how the strings move (and the resulatnat sond though the pickups) more than the body. So, my suggestion:

    Same neck materials, cross section, etc. Lighter body (maybe a combo of smaller size and less dense wood), but....same pickups and (very important) pickup locations. Identical electronics. That should get you close. Good luck.
  13. ctmullins

    ctmullins Dominated Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    I agree with @dwizum and @Beej . Consider a thinner (front to back) and/or smaller (top to bottom) body. As long as the stiffness of the central core, bridge to nut, is as similar as possible, and the exact same EMG electronics used, the new instrument should sound like the original.

    (Same strings too, obviously!)
  14. Chrisk-K


    Jan 20, 2010
    Scottsdale, AZ
    The wood selection’s contribution to the tone was less than 1%.
  15. ...and that’s being awfully generous.

    To get a bass sounding like one that had EMG electronics in it, then:

    - find the exact same preamp
    - find the exact same pickups
    - make sure the bass has the exact same scale
    - make sure the pickups are in exactly the same location
    - make sure you have the exact same strings on the bass
    - make sure the rest of your chain (amp, pedals, etc) are exactly the same as when you heard the other bass

    ...and voila, it’ll sound exactly the same. Exactly. The. Same.
    Scoops and Beej like this.
  16. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Whatever you decide, post up the build here or start a new thread. Your concept does sound Warwick-ish and I'm planning a Warwick-style bass as my next build, it would be good to compare notes.
  17. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    Wenge fretboards weigh a bit less than rosewood, I've handled enough of both to know. So you might as well stick with that.

    Maple body and neck is rough. Light maple can be found, but not easily (roasting seems to knock a few ounces off). I can't really recommend woods for you, not having ever heard the bass in question.
  18. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Roasted maple and roasted wenge? Not being a smartalec. An ounce is an ounce.

    Ditto on a compact longhorn body (like the Fortress, but thinner) to lessen weight at the body but keep balance. Also consider using a headless system and thinning the neck to Ibanez SR levels and reinforcing it with some steel or CF beams.
  19. mikewalker

    mikewalker Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2017
    Canada, Eh!
    Just get a Line6 Variaxe bass, and run it through a HELIX (or a Kemper?). It will sound like ANYTHING YOU WANT... :)
  20. PeaveyPlayer

    PeaveyPlayer Supporting Member

    Jul 15, 2014
    Winnipeg, Manitoba

    If I wanted it to sound like a fortress which is super similar I’d do a warmoth build

    Roasted swamp ash body PJ. WITH 70s position route

    EMG JAX AND PAX with emg Pre

    Maple neck, wenge board
    Stainless steel frets and with rotosounds