Dismiss Notice

Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

P-Bass Tone - Alder vs. Ash

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by fourstringdrums, Apr 10, 2005.


  1. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    Can anyone explain tell me what the tonal differences between a P-Bass with an Alder body vs. one with an Ash body is? Is it something that is completely noticeable?
     
  2. NOLA Bass

    NOLA Bass Mr. Worst Case Scenario Man Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2005
    New Orleans LA
    I find it very noticeable. I sold my 74 mint P-Bass because the ash body just was too strong in the midrange/highs for me. Alder bodies tend to be a bit darker and warmer. It is certainly personal preference, and the maple vs. rosewood board will also change the sound.
     
  3. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    Yea I forgot to mention that I'm thinking in terms of one with a rosewood board.
     
  4. bazzanderson

    bazzanderson

    Oct 7, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I love the look of Ash and used to tell myself there is no difference between Alder and Ash but there totally is. Even though I love the look of Ash I have to go with Alder or Mahogany for the low mids both provide over Ash. I think a P bass would have more of what's though of as a Traditional P bass tone with an Alder body as opposed to Ash.
    -Bazz-
     
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I agree that alder is generally warmer and rounder whereas ash tends to be sweeter or brighter, but due to the nature of wood, this is not a given.
     
  6. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    When I envision a Pbass, I automaticly assume Alder/Rosewood for the wood combinations.
     
  7. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    If your talking about just the wood in general terms I agree with Fuzz. If your talking in terms of buying a Bass already built, i.e. Fender, etc., I would consider the sound of each particular bass on it's own merrit and not in terms of what wood it is constructed from.
     
  8. r379

    r379

    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Ash with a rosewood board is a nice compromise. I used to own a '69 P with that combination.
     
  9. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Alder: 60's P bass. James Jamerson. Bruce Thomas with Elvis Costello. The "classic" big warm P bass tone. Blends seamlessly with a Kick Drum.

    Ash: 70's P bass. The Clash. Early U2. Snarly, barky bite on the top end, but still lots of solid lows. Has more personality and presense in the mix. Better for modern rock and punk than alder, in my experience.

    We should all have one of each, but having just sold my '95 alder bodied P, I'm left with just a maple '78, and thats just fine with me. My favorite P bass ever was an ash body, rosewood board '78. Presence, punch, warmth, balance ... that bass had it all and must have been under 9lbs.
     
  10. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    This brings up a good point. All this time, I've assumed we were talking about light southern swamp ash. But 70's Fenders were often made with heavy northern ash, which (IME) tends to have a scooped tone (deep and bright).

    I don't know if this is true for r379's P-bass, but it's been true for the heavy ash TV-logo P-basses I've played.
     
  11. r379

    r379

    Jul 28, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Gotta be honest with you. It's been so long since I owned that '69 I'd be hard pressed to describe the tone. I just remember that I liked everything about that bass. I own an ash 2001 P now and love the tone of it (A little more aggresive that the '62 RI USA I used to own.) even though it has a maple board and I'm not really a maple board kind of guy. I've been toying with the idea lately of dropping a rosewood board Allparts neck I've got lying around on it.
     
  12. seansbrew

    seansbrew Supporting Member

    Oct 23, 2000
    Mesa AZ.
    Alder is the choice of woods for me, my p bass is alder, my Modulus is alder, it has a great sound with emphasis on low mids.
     
  13. Bob Rogers

    Bob Rogers Left is Right

    Feb 26, 2005
    Blacksburg, Virginia
    I agree with the general characteriztions of the tone quality of ash vs. alder mentioned so far. But I feel that body and neck woods are way down the list of things that shape tone. In the cases mentioned above, strings, amplification, and eq made far more difference than ash vs. alder. To put it another way, my guess is that if someone did an ABX test between basses with ash and alder bodies with all other variables held the same, I think most people would be able to tell the difference. But if we did a test between basses with different strings, pickups, amps, and eq settings, the guesses on body wood would probably be pretty random.
     
  14. Corwin81

    Corwin81

    Mar 18, 2003
    Ames, IA
    isn't the '57 P-bass ash with maple fretboard? or were they alder at the time?
     
  15. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    San Antonio
    Is Swamp Ash the same as Ash, but just a different name?

    I've been considering a few custom basses, and was looking at Nordstrand, But I've started to realize I love P and P/J tone and have been bitten by the bug really bad. Jack Read offers a custom P and I'm trying to decipher between the Swamp Ash and Alder.
     
  16. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Philadelphia
    Absolutely. I bought an alder American Series P (maple fb) new last year, and it's the brightest sounding bass I've had --even slightly brighter than a '99 ash Am. Deluxe Precision (also maple fb). I figured I could get away with an overwound pickup to increase output and mellow it out. So I installed a DiMarzio Model P, which seemed to triple the output -- and it's STILL incredibly bright, even more than my maple fretboard Jazz. You just never know.
     
  17. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    I think the body wood makes a huge difference, having used the same strings, amps, and eq settings with both.
     
  18. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    +1!!
     
  19. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Generally, no. Swamp ash is much lighter weight, but very rigid, so it's still brighter than alder, but not as bright as (white) ash, which tends to be very heavy... think late 70's Jazz... like 10-12 pounds. I had one of these, and while the dense body gave it incredible clarity, it literally pained me to carry it all night so I sold it.

    Swamp ash is considered a more modern tone and an "upgrade" from alder, but I think it's more subjective than that. Maybe put another way, alder is warmer/vintage while ash is brighter/modern.
     
  20. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    In general, +1 to most all posts here regarding alder (warm/vintage) and ash (brighter/modern). However, I'd like to emphasize fingerboards as well. I'm a firm believer that those poly'd maple boards lend a noticeable brightness to the tone, where the rosewood boards are noticeably warmer. For me, rosewood/alder is just a bit too "soft".

    Personally, I like a little bite to my tone, but I like the warm, even, and "filling" tone of alder, so my perfect P is alder/maple. Guess what I have... ;)