Neck thickness affecting tone

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by TyKao, Mar 16, 2004.

  1. TyKao


    Jun 29, 2003
    Does the thickness and width of a neck add to a bass' low end? For instance, does a Precision bass' thicker neck contribute significantly to the thumpier tone of a p-bass as opposed to the thinner and narrower neck of a Jazz? Is it more a function of the pickups and body wood?
  2. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    I for one thing a big thick neck adds considerably to the tone. Much beefier, methinks.

    I also think that bigger necks are easier to play. The space between your thumb and your other fingers is more pronounced, so you are not "sqeezing" all your fingers together.
  3. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    I agree on the easier to play part. I used to think I'd want a neck that is thin thin thin! And stable of course. After playing for awhile I realized I actually prefer a beefier neck. It seems to be more comfortable and faster to me. I certainly won't ever go back.

    As far as the sound goes, I have no idea. I don't think I could prove it scientifically either way so I'll opt out of this one. :p
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Stiffer neck means fuller tone. That is, the resonance frequecy of the neck is higer, thus not cancelling any of the useful overtones.
    OTOH, heavier neck takes the resonance freq down!

    So, for tone, you'd want a stiff but light neck.

    For feel, we can all disagree :D I like both rather thin and pretty thick necks. But I do not like curved neck backs! Parallel with the fingerboard, if you please! :bassist:
  5. dTune


    Feb 28, 2004
    It also adds sustain. Or was it the other way around... :confused: Nope, thicker neck and longer sustain.
  6. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    IMO, the majority of what you hear with your bass has to do with the type of neck and fingerboard you have. I'm sure that thickness would have an effect, probobly adding a bit more bottom to the sound. The only problem is that even if all things considerred are equal, you'd never be able to prove this to be true. You could compare three basses made from the same exact pieces of wood with the exact same options and I'm sure that each bass would sound totally different.
  7. bovinehost


    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    Given that an open string has no contact with the fingerboard and that even a fretted note has minimal contact, how much could this affect the tone?
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Because even on an open note, the fingerboard is a significant portion of the wood making up the neck beam, providing structural rigidity as well as acting as the medium through which the string vibrates.
  9. the nut usually (ie. always on Fenders) rests on the fingerboard.
    I believe a softer fingerboard material eg. rosewood has a noticeable damping effect on high transients in the note, as the point the vibrating string length is stopped at is expected to provide the node of vibration.

    re. neck thickness, thicker neck (front-to-back thickness) = more fundamental and sustain.

    not sure if neck width (P bass vs. J bass) has as much of an effect though.
  10. A thicker neck IMO is only one of many criterias.
    Finger position, thumb position, vibrato, approach, all these
    are very important aspects to solidify a good "tone".
  11. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head Commercial User

    Jul 30, 2002
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    All this assumes as good a connection to the body as possible...

    Thickness and width both equate to more mass. Its as important on the neck side as it is on the body side.

    First benefit is sustain. Tone is most affected by rigidity and that is not a given with a thicker neck but it ought to help.

    Purely MHO.
  12. Not trying to derail the thread, but here's another related question:

    Can a neck's wood be *out of tune* with the wood of the body? :confused:

    I remember having a conversation a long time ago with a friend who said the reason custom builders choose their wood(s) so carefully is precisely for this reason. He went on to say that basses that sound especially sweet (balanced) have the neck and body *in tune.* All other things being equal, of course.

    I myself do not know.

  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    I think that this would be a bit of blind over-application of a principle, beyond the point where it holds true or useful. Because if what we're talking about here is pairing up a neck and a body that have the same free resonant frequency, that frequency goes away anyway once you bolt them together, because they are no longer acting as free bodies, they now have boundary conditions imposed by each other, and resonate differently. The only way they would keep (close to) their resonant frequency would be if the joint were a free swivel, which is of course the opposite of what is desired.

    Further, it may be that rather than having one distinct and strong resonance to the instrument, it may be preferable to have a broad range of smaller ones, otherwise the certain frequencies would be grossly exaggerated while others would be suppressed. Imagine having certain notes speak extra strongly, while many others were dead or produced wolf tones.

    Also, the addition of the hardware, particularly the tuning keys, changes everything as compared to the tone produced by a body or neck without hardware mounted.
  14. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I think everything that Pilot said was dead on. I would add that varience of wood from piece to piece would hardly make it practical to say that this exact wood combination will result in this specific tone. I think it all sounds good in theory that you can match this neck wood with this fingeroard wood and that body wood to get this sound, but the reality is that it's not always the case.
  15. Peter,
    Do you think that a set neck construction/joint would allow the body's frequencies to resonate better than a through neck and allow the body to contribute more harmonic frequencies to the mix? It is supposed to be set neck construction's major advantage, I believe (?) that the body vibrates to contribute tonally. If this is true, it would seem that a thinner neck would allow this to occur better than a thicker neck... :meh:
  16. Thanks a lot Pilot! :)

    That was a very good explanation, and I do understand the theory behind this much better.

    I owe you a beer. ;)

    Thanks to you too, Halftooth.

  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    OK, this will be speculation, and unproven. It is based on what I believe to be on sound and proven principles, and the main question of judgement would be whether I am applying them properly.

    The body/neck can be looked at two ways: as a medium for transmission of vibration, and as a vibrating member.

    As a medium for transmission of vibration, the resulting transmission (assuming the same input in each case) would be affected by the form of the instrument, and the materials and their distributions. One consideration is that different woods will have different transmission and absorbtion properties. Another is that whenever a wave crosses a boundary, a certain amount of energy will be transmitted, and a certain amount reflected.

    In a full neck-thru, the path from the nut or fret to the bridge is more continuous. The transitions (beyond the string itself) are only at the body/neck to bridge, body/neck to fingerboard, fingerboard to fret/nut. In a set-neck or a bolt-on, there is one additional transition in this path, at the neck joint. One might expect this joint to to affect the tone most if the properties of the two adjoining woods are most different, and to have the least affect if they are similar.

    On this account do I "think that a set neck construction/joint would allow the body's frequencies to resonate better than a through neck and allow the body to contribute more harmonic frequencies to the mix?" Sort of. I think that a set neck would allow the body to contribute to a more complex vibration, as opposed to the neck-through. All the harmonic frequencies will be there, to various extents, in both cases; the joint and any wood dissimilarity would contribute to a more complex pattern.

    Looking at the body/neck as a vibrating member, there are similar considerations. Here one is concerned with form, material stiffness, and material density. Varying densities should result in more complex vibrations. It this respect (only), I think a maple neck set into a maple centerblock would sound basically the same as a maple thru-neck. However, here is a situation where a bolt-on might sound different from the other two constructions: on the one hand, a joint with only one plane of contact (the heel/pocket surface) should have a lower stiffness than a three-sided joint (in a set-neck, or the uninterrupted wood of a thru-neck). In addition, the bolts themselves, plus any backplate, add a mass of metal at the joint area. Jens Ritter likes to put a dozen ar so bolts at his neck joints, for tone purposes; while they do make for as stiff a joint as one can get at the one-plane interface, they also add a respectable mass of metal at that joint. This would affect the tone. Imagine twanging a string, and then twanging a string with a split-shot lead ball fishing weight attached partway along its length. The weight will certainly add to the complexity of the vibration!

    Would one or another construction method sound better, worse, clearer, smoother, fatter, thumpier, sustain longer? This is a mixture of fact, perception, and taste. A stiffer body/neck should contribute to longer sustain. A joint, and dissimilarity of materials, should contribute to a more complex vibration, and probably more influence by the body, and potentially quicker decay, although this would be frequency-dependent.
  18. metron

    metron Fluffy does not agree

    Sep 12, 2003
    Lakewood Colorado
    Thickness of the neck will have little to do with the P bass thump. Its ALL pickup. If neck thickness has an effect on anything except stability its minimal IMO. I played a friends Ken Smith 6 string and it was like playing a surf board. Easily twice as wide as my precision but I thought my P had much deeper tone.... because of the pickups.
  19. TyKao


    Jun 29, 2003
    So from the majority of these posts, I gather that a bass like the Fender Geddy Lee Jazz shouldn't suffer from decreased low end, right?