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"Perfect" woods for body and neck?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DaveCustomMade, Apr 13, 2005.

  1. Some other threads got me thinking. Functionality, over asthetics.......

    What woods make for the best tones? What body woods and neck woods have the best tonal qualities for producing the sought after bass sound. One that has good low, mid, and high range tonality?

    What is YOUR input? :smug:
  2. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    The problem with a question like this is, there are probably twice as many opinions as there are choices in woods, not to mention the exponential output you should expect if you're looking for "tonal recipes"! :eek:

    Personally, I like wenge for the neck and ebony for the fretboard, but other woods depend on the sound I'm after. For example, I like the sparkle and punch typically seen in swamp ash, but also like the rich low mids typically found in a nice piece of walnut or mahogany.
  3. The general thought is this:

    If a wood is dense or hard, you are going to get more snap and treble out of it. If is a softer wood, you will get more resonannce and harmonics and a more solid low end.

    Most luthiers use a softer body (ash, mohogany) and a harder top (maple walnut). What this does is allow some snap to the note while letting the bass come through. Now the neck woods are exactly the same but define the attack of the note on the bass more than the overall tone and sustain.

    That being said, there are a million combinations out there and that's not to mention how much pups annd preamp can highlight or even change the tone in itself.

    If you look around you will notice thhat there are a lot of basses that are built with the same woods. I think this would indicate what is most popular if not what is best. But it should give you a good idea.
  4. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    If you wade through the countless threads/posts on this topic, you'll soon come to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as "best tone" or "best species of tonal wood".

    However, I think there is such a thing as "well chosen" wood for bass making, i.e. well dried, resonant, stable... you get the idea.

    If we're talking about tasted, I personally like the alder/maple/braz rosewood combo. But, I've got a korina/maple&wenge/braz rosewood bass coming sometime in the next month or so... and I suspect I'll be liking that very much too :D
  5. I agree! I think that the quality of the wood is more important or at least AS important as the type of wood is as long as it is a tonewood and not some weird species you wouldn't normaly use. Structure of the wood is everything.
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    *The* sought after bass sound doesn't exist. Fact is, there are about a bazillion sought after bass sounds.

    Besides, the nature of wood prevents one from saying "a bass made with body wood X and neck wood Y will sound like Z". You just never know for sure. Educated guesses are possible, but don't bet the ranch. :)

    Besides, pickups/electronics, strings, technique, and construction type (neck-thru, hollowbody, etc) have as much effect on tone as wood does.
  7. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    My suggestion is for you to go out and play as many basses as you can, and then decide for yourself. Other than that, it's a pointless question (unless your simply interested in other opinions).
  8. Tumbao


    Nov 10, 2001
    All woods must find Quality Construction and perfect assembling so we can appreciate their best aesthetic and tonal characteristics.
  9. I have a Stambaugh bass on order with a mohogany body and a thuya burl top. The neck is maple and wenge and the finger board is macassar ebony. We'll see how it sounds. I told Chris what I was looking for and this is what he suggested.
  10. I'll narrow down the question. What I like is the sound that you hear from the likes of Gary Willis. Okay, I just about have that sound down with my fretless. Birdseye Maple body, maple neck with Pau Ferro finger board. I can play along with a Tribal Tech CD and the sound is similar.

    But for fretted, I also like the sound from the bass player from Spyro Gyra. Good low and mids. Crips and clean. My current fretted lacks that sound. Perhaps it's the lack of a Mid pot [might have to remedy that with a Bartolini HR-3.4 preamp]. The body is probably some kind of alder, though I'm not exactly sure. Maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. I don't do a lot of slapping at all. More finger stuff. So, if I wanted a new bass, knowing the style of music flare I'm after, what would be good wood combinations?

    I was thinking a Walnut body, Wenge neck, Pau Ferro fingerboard. But I don't know if those would be a wise choice or not.
  11. MrBonex


    Jan 2, 2004
    New Hampshire
    With those guidelines in mind, I would consider:

    Alder or poplar (a greatly underutilized tone wood IMO) body
    Maple neck-thru
    Braz rosewood or cocobolo fretboard

    No additional laminations -- they tend to brighten and stiffen the sound. Glue (again, IMO) is not often considered as a tone-altering component of an instrument -- and multi-lam basses have a lot of glue. I do not believe that "Hard wood + Soft Wood = the best of both." I think there's a LOT more to it than that -- and the better custom makers know that and work with it.

    The neck-thru will give you better lows, fewer dead spots, greater sustain (in most cases).

    Poplar will add the punch and funk.

    Rosewood will warm it up and add a very sweet high end.

    I personally would choose passive jazz-type pickups or J/P combo. But that's just me (I'm sorta tired of batteries -- esp. the dead ones).

  12. Poplar! Hmmmm, . . . really? I always thought that Poplar was a very soft wood.

    I like the Brazilian Rosewood and Cocobolo. I also like the Macassar Ebony.
  13. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    Just get an Ambush bass from Scott Ambush, the bass player of Spyro Gyra.
  14. MrBonex


    Jan 2, 2004
    New Hampshire

    Although not as popular as maple, it has been used by European violin makers for centuries. It's not as pretty -- it can sometimes be sort of greenish, and usually doesn't have much, if any, figure.

    But it's hard and very toneful. Many Home Depot-type stores will have small stocks of hardwood and they usually have some poplar. Not good poplar, mind you, but it can give you an idea of what it looks like and how hard it is.

    Most poplar guitars are painted, not stained. Perhaps the biggest users of poplar in guitar making is Jackson and Fender Mexico. Both use it for different reasons. Jackson because it gives their neck-thru guitars punch -- something that many neck-thrus lack, and Fender Mexico because it's got a great tone-per-dollar value.

    I'm blathering. Sorry.
  15. Heck, . . . . keep blathering. It is interesting reading! :)
  16. Okay, what do you THINK the tonal qualities would be for:

    1. Black Limba solid body - Wenge neck with Pau Ferro fingerboard.

    2. Walnut body - Wenge neck with Pau Ferro Fretboard.

    3. Alder Body with Koa top - Maple neck with Birdseye Maple fingerboard.

  17. Yeah, I'd like to know what the tonal qualities would be for these setups as well. ;)
  18. You don't say!

    Or, rather, you DIDN'T say. I guess I'll go with my plan to use Corrigated Cardboard for my body, and empty egg cartons for the neck. Should be fine. Thanks guys! :p
  19. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Construction methods and electronics have much to do with the end result of any bass. We have all often heard of the stunning contrast in tone between 2 fenders of the same vintage, made from the same materials with the same electronics, that to me is an example of inconsistant construction methods. The fact is, unless you are talking about one specific kind of bass, it is difficult to say what any specific wood combo will sound like, one can only make general comments, (i.e. fretboards:maple=bright and snappy rosewood=warm and smooth). I think talking with someone who has built alot of basses and has had time to experiment under controlled conditions would be most helpfull. Maybe check out Warmoth, because they make alot of the same products out of many materials very consistantly, they probably have a great idea of what sounds like what...
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I suppose that could be true in some cases, but it's also a good example of the natural variety of wood. A better example: Ken Smith himself has said he's built identical basses made with wood taken from the very same planks and noticed a difference in tone. The construction quality and materials used in Ken Smith basses is as good as any out there IMO.

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