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Sound of willow

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by driedleaves, Feb 11, 2004.


  1. driedleaves

    driedleaves Guest

    Dec 26, 2003
    Italy
    Howdy!

    Could anyone please tell me what to expect from an instrument with solid willow back/ribs? How would it compare to maple?
    Of course I know that every tree is different, I'm just looking for the general tonal characteristics.

    Also, would there be any reason why you wouldn't want your main instrument to be made of willow (apart from the sound)?

    Thanks a lot. I'm just curious (you know how it is when it's 3am and you have nothing to do, erm).
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Ah ...the sound of willow on leather, the polite applause, summer sun on green grass, on a Sunday afternoon in the shade of the village Church...and there are cucumber sandwiches in the old pavilion with tea and cakes.......:)
     
  3. Willow has been used by some of the finest makers in some of the finest sounding basses.
    I'm not aware what the rule book says.
    I have personal experience with two extraordinary basses made from less conventional woods: John Feeney's Toninges, made from birch, and my DeLeone, from sycamore and pine.
    What matters is to me, assuming the bass is properly constructed, is how the bass sounds.
     
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Bruce, our yankee pals might think you're getting all nostalgic over some public S&M ritual.
     
  5. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Why don't you ask Barrie Kolstein? His Fendt model has a Willow back and ribs.
     
  6. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member


    Well, if that's how you define "Cricket", then........ ;)
     
  7. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Shen is also offering a carved bass with a back and sides of willow. Spruce top. It's a gamba-shaped flatback. Perhaps John will sound off on the merits of willow.

    My neighbor's willow tree was blown over in a storm two years ago. Being the nearest suburbiated redneck, (a chainsaw owner) I was asked to cut it up. In exchange, I got to keep the wood for the firewood stack. I have been burning it this winter. It makes great firewood. So, if the bass sounds really bad, it can at least keep you warm. :)

    The only thing I can say about it after cutting and splitting well over a cord of it is that is pretty light weight but a PITA to split.
     
  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    You could have used that for cricket bats - they are pretty expensive!! You could have had a thriving cottage industry!! ;)
     
  9. driedleaves

    driedleaves Guest

    Dec 26, 2003
    Italy
    Well, I had a huge willow tree in my garden that got sick few years ago, we had to cut it (sigh!) and it really made good firewood.
    If I started making cricket bats I would be rich now, damn.

    Anyway, I just saw the new willow 3/4 Shen is offering, the wood looks really nice. It's written: "The tone produced is well-rounded, warm and even".

    Like... warmer than maple? I suppose the fact that it's lighter would suggest that, rather than the opposite; no?
     
  10. When we talk about different woods for making instruments, we need to keep in mind that frequently the common name for a wood in one place is not necessarily the same somewhere else. Willow and sycamore are two that frequently come up. North American and European sycamores are not the same species of trees. Neither is willow. That doesn't mean you can't make fine instruments from either, but I doubt if the North American and European willow sound exactly the same.
     
  11. As far as that goes there are several species of willow growing in North America. I expect that might make a difference as well.
     
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Maybe that explains why Cricket never took off in North America!!!
    There's nothing as satisfying as the sound of an English willow bat on ball, when it has been struck well, i.e. to the boundary!! ;)
     
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Hmmm... I wonder whether Australian willow is the same......
     
  14. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    You can add poplar to that list as well.
     
  15. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    I'm not sure S&M is as cruel to viewers...
     
  16. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    A great DC jazz player, Paul Langosch, used to have a c. 1830 bass by Italian maker Ariente, that was made from pear wood. It had a beautiful sound, and was incredibly light.

    I've been told that Italian makers from a couple of centuries back saved their "choice" wood for fiddles. For basses -- which require so much more wood -- they'd use whatever they could find and get away with.
     
  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    My teacher's IOUO (Italian of unknown origin) is also believed to be made of pearwood. It is of roughly the same vintage as well. His bass sounds very good.
     
  18. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    Personally, I find the rules easier to understand...
     
  19. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    To get back to the original question...
    I have had a bunch of experience with this wood so lemmee throw in my 2cents. Basses made from willow tend to have a very easy response in the low end with a very big "cushy" sound. They are also very light in weight--noticably! That's the good news. I've heard more than a few complaints about a lack of range in the upper register and a general feeling that this wood is a bit more wolfy than others. The dust is also very nasty to work with. My HO is that it is a good choice for an orchestral work horse.
    BTW these opinions are directed towards modern basses made from NA willow.
     
  20. driedleaves

    driedleaves Guest

    Dec 26, 2003
    Italy
    Interesting Jeff,

    that's the kind of reply I was hoping to get (not that I didn't enjoy the cricket digression!), so thanks for taking the time to type it.