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overtones?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by draginon, Dec 22, 2005.


  1. draginon

    draginon

    Oct 4, 2004
    From my understanding pickups detect string vibrations (from strings that are obviously metal). I have read many times that different bodies\necks have different overtones that make them sound the way they do. I understand that sound travels through wood (based on my experiments) but when it comes to amplifying these "overtones" can anyone either explain, link or give me an idea how the pickups amplify the overtones. IT is my understanding that pickups detect strings (metal strings). I don't see how they detect overtones or vibrations in wood.
     
  2. its always been my assumption, that whatever components that make up the body and neck and hardware on a bass ALLOW the string to vibrate with more (or less) overtones and/or fundamental. The electronics then pick up the affected string motion. I have no idea if this is correct or not, but it makes sense to me. :meh:
     
  3. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    You are absolutely correct.
     
  4. draginon

    draginon

    Oct 4, 2004
    so the body\neck affect the way the string vibrates and therefore the pickups detect and amplify that signal?


    Interesting.
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    In a nutshell. Otherwise, you could make basses out of a 2"x4" and it would sound identical to a $5000 bass.
     
  6. Groundloop

    Groundloop

    Jun 21, 2005
    Toronto
    Which would prove my father right. He once told me that the only thing that affects the price of an electric guitar (we can assume basses would be included) is how many pickups it has.

    On the other hand, he couldn't hear the difference between nylon and steel string acoustic guitars either. :meh:
     
  7. jwymore

    jwymore

    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    If that 2x4 is a harder wood with no imperfections and all other factors (electronics, strings, frets, fingerboard) being equal I am betting you could make a good sounding 2x4 bass. :D

    After all, most necks start out as dimensional lumber ...

    I wouldn't recommend a stud from home depot though ... :eek:
     
  8. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    Dude, that's genious. A 2x4 bass! Imagine the guy up on stage, a bass neck bolted onto a plank of maple or something? That would be awesome...
     
  9. jwymore

    jwymore

    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    Maybe I should build one!! Sure would save a lot of time not having to put in all those body countours!! :D
     
  10. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    Wow. All the possibilities. You could make it a little longer on the bottom end to balance against the neck... then you get into details... like a nail sticking haphazardly out of it...

    EDIT: I saw a band whose guitarist had built a gascan guitar... so I've been working on "alternative" instruments ever since.

    My only psuedo success is my infamous duct tape guitar... sigh... but the electronics failed and I didn't build in easy access. One of these days, I'll take an exacto knife to it and see what's going on...
     
  11. jwymore

    jwymore

    Jul 26, 2001
    Portland, OR
    In a local act "Too Slim & the Tail Draggers" the guitarist (Too Slim) uses a guitar made from a log. Sounds damn good too!! :D

    [​IMG]
     
  12. No neck dive on that one!
     
  13. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    That's AWESOME!

    I'd love to see somebody build a washtub bass, only attach a bass neck to a shallow washtub...
     
  14. Techmonkey

    Techmonkey

    Sep 4, 2004
    Wales, UK
    Les Paul built one of his first guitars out of a piece of 2x4 didn't he? To prove a point about using solid bodied guitars instead of hollow bodied guitars to Gibson I think, but I'm not sure... Can anyone confirm this?
     
  15. Dkerwood

    Dkerwood

    Aug 5, 2005
    Midwest
    As I recall, Les showed his original design to Epiphone, but they turned him down. So he took his desgin to Gibson. Now Gibson owns Epiphone. Nuff said.
     
  16. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    In my limited experience the majority of the acoustic properties of a bass are in the neck/neck construction. I ran that by the luthiers forum and that was the concensus.

    Still the body has a noticeable affect and that affect may be a signficant factor along the lines of (a clip from my preamp experiment intro)....But because adding even small amounts of high-order harmonics changes the ratio of harmonics—hence the timbre of the instrument—by a relatively large amount, they will be more audible... But I've switched several necks (one being from a thudder bass to a bright bass - the bodies of which also happen to be made from the same wood) and the tone blatantly followed the neck regardless of the body, but I wouldn't say it sounded exactly the same.

    I'd heard Les Paul used a railroad tie. It was just a one string deal to experiment with magnetic pickups in my recall. Fender made a similar Plank bass (like a 2x10 with one of his necks attached) for experimenting with pickup location. Bo Diddley is known for one of the those box body guitars - still plays it to my knowledge (if he's still alive anyway). Don't know what it's made of.

    It's my understanding the early Dan Electro's WERE made of 2x4s and that's why the synthetic covering was glued to the body. I think retail was like $50 with wholesale price of $25.
     
  17. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I love threads on body woods because in this day and age, so much emphasis (too much IMHO) on electronics is obscuring the real sound of the bass...the strings vibrating on wood.

    I don't know if I totally agree with that neck/construction being the majority of the tone. I've heard so many basses of similar construction but different woods sound completely different. However, I will say I think most Fenders sound pretty close to each other no matter what kind of wood the body is, so there may be some merit to that argument.

    I've also found that the shape of the bass has a tremendous amount of impact, with basses cut into more traditional rounded shapes sounding much better than pointy basses like Explorers, Rich's, and wood Steinbergers.

    Re: Les Paul's "Log," it was actually a 6 string guitar built out of a railroad tie, the neck off an Epiphone hollowbody guitar, and the body halves of the Epiphone attached to the railroad tie for looks. I believe he originally wanted to demonstrate the anti-feedback properties of solid guitars more than the tone, so he just used what he had that he thought would work.

    And as far as the 2x4 thing, it's been done. LaBaye Guitars were a tiny manufacturer that made guitars and basses out of 2x4's in the 70's, with Devo's lead guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh being their best known user. And Steinberger pretty much does it with their Spirit line of stick basses. And to me, they all sound like amplified 2x4's, though my Bradley Steinberger copy gets a pretty good 60's old school trash sound.

    Groundloop, tell your father that the price of electronics can vary, but the main reason some guitars are more expensive than others is because of the wood used and the building methods. Some wood is cheap, and some wood is rare and extremely expensive. And some companies really go the extra mile with building methods, gluing layers of wood on top of others, special finishes, custom hardware, etc. Actually, the electronics are probably the most consistently priced parts on all basses. Sure, more pickups cost more, but those prices are somewhat fixed compared to wood and building methods.
     
  18. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    I've heard mention of pickups that "sound like the bass" but I've never ran across one that even came close to sounding like the acoustic tone of a bass yet - that's like 75 plus different pups so far. They definetly reflect the acoustic properties and there's no pup I've had that sounded the same no matter what bass I stuck them in - probably active EMG's are closest but even they definetly reflect the acoustic properties of the bass.

    My initial experience with acoustic properties of a neck came from defretting what I thought was a disposable bass at the time. Loved the acoustic tone of the bass but unfortunately I didn't have a pup that would even come close to throwing that tone out.

    I realized after the fact that it was the only acoustically bright bass I had and I missed playing it fretted. So I grabbed an "identical" bass that was a thudder that I really didn't play that much - to swap the fretted neck over to it. To my dismay, the thud went with the neck. Confused, I stuck the defretted neck onto the thudder body and - I had a bright fretless bass.

    For some wierd reason within the same period of time I had occassion to swap necks on another identical pair of basses that were both acoustically midrange but noticeably different. Had the same experience swapping those necks.

    I wish I'd had a frequency analyzer at the time. That would have quantified it. I'm amazed there's nothing posted on the net (at least when I went searching) to that effect. With all the engineers involved in music, you'd think someone would have done it.

    Been too long to recall what I actually ran across on Les Paul's railroad tie thing. Can't even remember if I saw a pic. But no doubt, there was a progression in his experience.

    As for price, supply and demand and profit margin, and the factors that go in with that. Something's only worth what it someone's willing to pay for it for whatever reason and what profit margin a maker is willing to work with. Volume sales obviously a major factor and computerized technology has advanced low end gear lightyears in terms of quality control. The exotic wood thing is definitely a major variable for cost there. Qaulity, availablility. Some of the wood's are protected now and not available legally. Quailty goes down as available decreases but demand remains.
     
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well luknfur, you're convincing me of the neck playing a bigger role in tone than I had originally thought. I never really thought about it before, but probably because I never changed necks like you did.
     
  20. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    That's just been my experience and until I run across a different one that's all I've got to go on first hand. Somebody elses experience may be different. I keep an eye on TB for such posts but guys apparently rarely swap necks, or post about it if they do.

    Even my experience came about from a wierd series of events and nothing I would normally have done by choice or probably even extended myself for curiosities sake for that matter. If the two necks hadn't been so different combined with my anticipation they'd sound the same, it's possible I may not have noticed or been able to attribute so much to the neck. But this was like pup bridge position versus the same pup neck position. It wasn't subtle.

    But I definitely look at something like buying a used neck (or body for that matter), bolt-on versus neckthrough/set neck, or having a custom bass built differently now. A bass that is up and running and complete that can be listened to before any cash commitment to me has a major edge - or one that can be returned without taking a hit of consequence.