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Relation between wood and tone, esp lows.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by suraci, Oct 24, 2017.

  1. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    An experienced player and builder of basses told me something I want to verify.
    He said eg my yamaha basses wood, makes creating low frequency ( a strong fundamental ) impossible. Basically he is saying the amp cannot compensate for the nature of the wood.
    I have left details out, such as the specific woods he mentioned, the age of wood, the dryness. I just wanted an opinion on this smart mans opinions. I always check more than one source with critical issues like bass tone.

    For me, the holy grail is a perfect balance between lows mids and sweet highs.
  2. I don't think it's just a happy coincidence that the range of tones produced is called timbre (very similar to timber).
    LoTone, MobileHolmes, BigKD and 2 others like this.
  3. I've been playing everything from Squiers to Alembics for almost 40 years. Wood(s) ? Good luck.

    I'd only really be prepared to swear to two things:

    For fundamentals and the very first several harmonics, harder, denser woods are better. And to backstop those, a neckthru works better: A separate neck tends to interrupt that very deepest end. But you can't just stop there, so easier woods tend to reign in how raucously those same features can treat your mids and highs. This is why a very meat and potatoes maple over mahogany body is a great all-rounder.

    And by far, pickups make the biggest difference, wood be damned. I can stick Alembic pickups in a Squier and it will sound way more Alembic-like than putting the Squier pickups in the Alembic, and you know just how complex Alembic's wood recipes can be.

    (This is why a lot of designer basses can sound the same: A lot of them use the same off-the-shelf EMG's, Barts, Aguilar preamps, you know the usual suspects in that wonder axe you waited 18 months for . . . . )

    BUT WAIT, there's more . . . .

    Wood from piece to piece is like snowflakes, it's all similar but each is slightly different. So you just never really know. I promise you if you took 10 Martin D35's (or Jazz Basses, or whatever you want to use as an example), brand new with consecutive serial numbers, and very carefully played and listened to them, you'd find 6 or 7 that all sounded fine and identical, and maybe 1 or 2 that were kinda mehhh, and 1 or 2 that just stood out. It's the nature of wood.

    Then you factor in construction methods, how well was the wood aged and assembled, and on and on.

    And then pickups: Active, passive, 1, 2, or 3, single coil, humbucking, and by who?

    Then you MUST remember that with an electric bass, you look at it this way: Your Instrument = (bass guitar + amp +effects). In other words, you have no instrument without the amp, and this introduces all the vagaries intrinsic to that marriage: How do your pickups load the amp, how much headroom, what kind of cabinet, then figure in how the room is treating all this with standing waves and resonances and room bounce, and on and on. The axe exists in the real worlds, not a vacuum, and not without an amp. Or run this up the snake, listen to it on IEM's.

    And then after all this, it really boils down to what do YOU think sounds right to you. It's as individual a choice as how you like your steak or what makes a pretty woman, it's subjective, not empirical, and actually, there's no wrong answer here. We all have different ears.

    Now . . . . . what was that wood question?

    If you think about it, your 'Holy Grail' is dependent on WAY more than the wood. I've heard great expensive basses sound like hell, and basses you'd probably not take for free just roll it out like warm asphalt.

    If you look around, you'll notice that virtually all basses have harder wood necks (the maples or the African darkwoods) and softer bodies. This is not by chance, it's what works.

    So, I wouldn't let what wood your bass does or doesn't have (or if you're having a custom built trying to decide on what to spec) keep me up nights. There's WAY more to it than that.
  4. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    Relation between wood and tone, esp lows. = none.

    At least none that's reliably identifiable and repeatable under scrutiny of proper testing.

    Relation between EQ and tone, esp lows. = EQ, "BASS" knob on amp, strings, pickups, setup and most of all right-hand technique.
  5. suraci


    Apr 11, 2005
    What a thorough answer...I thank you for this... a better answer than my question.

    What is your opinion of a new yamaha trbx305? How would you make a rough guess on its character?
  6. A 305 would be more of a modern tone, with the wide-aperture Music Man type pickups. Active EQ and the five-way switch would hopefully offer a range of tones.

    Interestingly: A softer body (a mahogany body, rarely seen at this price range) and a harder laminate (maple/mahogany) neck.

    Not tried one personally, but on paper looks like a good value in this price range IF you're not after a Fender-ish tone.
  7. nolezmaj

    nolezmaj Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2011
    My take on this is: on a bass guitar in working order, deciding factor is neck (right after pickups and strings). Also, my opinion is that only neck mass and stiffness count.
    Than again, I only consider factors that I can clearly hear in mix. Luthier is a professional and he listens and observes his instruments in different conditions, so we both could be right (or wrong).
  8. I'd say that if you have a wood or combination of woods that absorbs the fundamental,
    then no amount of EQ or amp can bring out what is no longer there.

    For a longer, more detailed answer see JWilson's post above.
    lz4005 likes this.
  9. I beg to differ with the builder. I have a Yamaha longscale 4-string.

    And the one thing it's got is lots of bottom end. I actually have to dial that down a lot of times. Pups are stock too.

    Not sure what type of wood it is though. Except to say its an older RBX170 with the "exotic wood" finish.

    Bought it used with Chromes on it. Those are still on it.
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  10. JIO

    JIO Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    Oceana (Pacifica) CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    An Audere JZ3 9v pre on any J style bass (with at least med gauge strings) will deliver thick, massive lows. The source of tone/sound delivery starts with the pu's/electronics.
  11. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    Don't worry about all that. Just buy a high mass bridge and your playing will improve so dramatically, you'll forget all about wood. Also flats. And tort. You know, all the stuff that unlocks our inner hidden potential as musicians. :whistle:
  12. EMoneySC2

    EMoneySC2 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Minneapolis, MN
    There's likely some relationship, but it's hard (probably imposable) to quantify. I'd say any assertions like "this wood has no lows", are probably not based in fact, but maybe feeling or "prejudice". Some people just don't like less expensive instruments. On here you'll find lots of players who play simple and inexpensive basses that sound great.
  13. AaronVonRock


    Feb 22, 2013
    I wouldn’t give that guy any money to build me a bass if he really believes this.
  14. Dean N

    Dean N

    Jul 4, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Origin of timbre
    1325–75; Middle English tymbre <French: sound (orig. of bell), Middle French: bell, timbrel, drum, Old French:drum < Medieval Greek tímbanon, variant of Greek týmpanon drum

    Origin of timber
    before 900; Middle English, Old English: Orig., house, building material; cognate with German Zimmer room, Old Norsetimbr timber; akin to Gothic timrjan, Greekdémein to build.

    Sorry, bud. Looks like a happy coincidence.

  15. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    Please disclose the name of the builder. I need to know before I spend any more money on custom instruments.
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  16. SJan3

    SJan3 Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    My God, I'm dizzy! But, I absolutely agree with all you say, EXCEPT, IMHO that maple fretboard is a tad brighter sounding than rosewood. (I'm hiding now)..
  17. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    i know a lot of people here disagree, and that's okay, but i believe wood makes a difference to tone. after all, vibration is what causes sound, and different wood densities and other stuff can make a difference in vibrations.

    that being said, there is NO instrument you can't add bass to using an EQ. a good amp with lots of available lows can absolutely compensate - i've heard soprano female voices have lows added to their voices in post.
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Whole lot of “woo” being asserted as established ‘truths’ here.

    Beware of truthiness.
    Pbassmanca and Killed_by_Death like this.
  19. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
  20. There's a signature line, for sure!


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