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poplar vs. adler: what I recently found

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ToneMonkey, Oct 28, 2013.


  1. ToneMonkey

    ToneMonkey

    Sep 27, 2003
    Newberg, OR
    So I've been playing a MIM J Bass since late 2001. I cherry picked this particular one off the wall at GC. It's been a good friend all this time.

    But I've always felt like the bass was kind of weird somehow. I've always wanted a little attitude on the E string. It always seemed overly warm and rolled off to me. I've gone through a bunch of pickups and bridges, finally settling on a Fralin neck PU, Bart bridge PU, Audere Pre and a Fender vintage style bridge with threaded steel saddles. This is definitely a poplar body. I always wondered if that could be part of the problem.

    So a few weeks back, I'm looking at the Fender web site and I see that they've done a limited run of alder J bodies in White Pearl Chrome. I bit.

    I installed the new body on Saturday and got a chance to play it with the band last night. Just subjectively, I have to say that the difference was beyond minor. It seemed like a whole other (much better) instrument to me. It just seemed to sit in the mix way better than it did with the poplar body.

    I know this is contrary to conventional wisdom. That poplar is supposed to be much like alder. Anyway, my direct personal experience (albeit with one instrument) tells me something else.

    BTW, when I was setting the instrument up with the new body, I could tell it was something special. The intonation, saddle height, everything just seemed to fall right into place. I've done a gazillion setups over the years, and some instruments just fight you the entire time. Not this one, it just came together like the parts had been waiting for each other.

    YMMV. Peace.
     
  2. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Due to the variability of wood, different pieces of wood (even cut from the same plank) can have different characteristics.
     
    bass nitro likes this.
  3. JellinWellen

    JellinWellen

    Oct 18, 2012
    Texas
    Sorry man but to me it just sounds like the placebo effect. Especially with one body taking a setup better than the other, unless your old body was trashed up bad I don't see how that could even be a thing.
     
  4. +1 Body wood definitely matters. The problem is, it is impossible to predict 'how it will matter'. Even the same species of wood can have high variability, per your comment above. Add different weight/mass, and it becomes a random crapshoot as to what the exact impact will be.
     
  5. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    SEPA
    I don't like placebos but they're better than nothing...
     
  6. This is funny, because poplar is touted by luthiers as being VERY close to alder. It just tends to be less expensive and has a greenish tinge to the wood.
     
  7. Deep Cat

    Deep Cat Supporting Member

    Did you install new pots, or use the same old ones?
     
  8. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Exactly, hence the first part of my sig...;)
     
  9. Not really funny. Two virtually identical pieces of alder can sound quite different. Again, every component of a bass has something to do with the sound, just often in not expected ways (i.e., alder always sounds like this and poplar always sounds like this).

    That being said, like in all those other threads, a sample of 1 each of two pieces of wood tells you pretty much nothing that you can use to describe that wood type in general. So, +1 that this would give no guidance to choosing a body wood, only a description of the OP's experience.
     
  10. Congratulations and never mind the comments by those who judge without having heard. BTW, if your neck had dead spots, any observations?
     
  11. xaxxat

    xaxxat Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2008
    Tone is highly visual...
     
    Raulplaysbass likes this.
  12. Bongolation

    Bongolation

    Nov 9, 2001
    California
    No Bogus Endorsements
    R&D guys at FMIC told me personally that there is no (0) tonal difference between poplar and alder bodies of the same approximate density.

    With glued up scrapwood, especially, I should imagine.

    There are numerous possible explanations for the OP's results aside from wood species, all of which are more probable and too numerous to go into here.
     
  13. tr4252

    tr4252

    May 27, 2013
    I've been wondering about something regarding guitar & bass components. Quite by accident I checked the "pitch" of a recently cut alder/maple body with a digital tuner. At first I was surprised that knocking on it produced a note, then thought about all the instruments that produce notes without strings, reeds, etc. The xylophone comes to mind, producing tones from wood blocks.

    Having noted the phenomenon, I wondered if components of a guitar, mainly the neck and body, should be tuned to produce specific pitches to function the best. I know about phase cancellation and harmonics, and am questioning how important this is, if at all.

    Thanks,
    Tom
     
  14. mongo2

    mongo2

    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    It contributes to the timbre of the instrument...hence the second part of my sig...;)
     
  15. 9mmMike

    9mmMike Would you happen to have a cookie for me? Supporting Member

    Concur. No definitive answer to this unless a person has tested every piece of wood on the planet that has been turned into a bass. Different grain, weight, multiple pieces, etc.
    I believe the OP's observations. I have built dozen of basses from parts and 90% of those are alder. They are not the same and I could never make any claims about how all alder-bodied basses sound based on the samples I have at home.

    kurosawa's sig line says it all.

    Now, fingerboards are a horse of a different color......!
     
  16. ToneMonkey

    ToneMonkey

    Sep 27, 2003
    Newberg, OR
    Sheesh, I never intended to this be anything other than one man's experience with two bodies on an otherwise identical bass. Do with that what you will.
     
  17. I believe you. IME, Alder is, in general, more likely to be found on a solid-body guitar that has some "wow-factor" in the outcome than Poplar. Glad you found a good combination.

    Those who disagree, are absolutely, positively, people who have come to a different opinion. ;)
     
    Raulplaysbass likes this.
  18. PaperbackRyder

    PaperbackRyder Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2007
    Maynard, MA
    How is each body finished ???
     
  19. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Poplar is super different than alder in looks, workability, and tone. Great with graphite and wenge necks. I call the sound furry and punchy.

    I disagree with the deconstructionists on this, wood species and weight is a good if imperfect indicator of tone.
     
  20. From personal experience, you're opening a giant can of worms with this topic. You'd be safer debating abortion with Southern Baptists and Code Pink members.
     
    Raulplaysbass likes this.

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