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Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Aroneng, Nov 2, 2002.
What is the more commonly used species of spruce used for the top of a double bass?
Luckily, the bass seems to seem to work with a number of woods. Violins and violas are almost always European spruce[also known as Norway pine]. Some makers are using Engleman and Sitka spruce for cellos as well. Basses are commonly made from these and more-doug fir, white pine, and western red cedar. Cedar and engleman are my favorites.
That's ENGELMANN, Bud...also my favorite top wood. I have not worked with red cedar, but I bet it makes the shop smell good. Tom Martin in England uses a lot of silver fir, which I've also never tried. It has very wide grain and seems very workable. I've made several basses with sitka, and they sound good, but that wood is a chore to work with. I built one with european spruce, but now I'm an ENGELMANN convert.
My bad Bud. I mean-my bad, Bud.
Don't let the bed bugs bad. Or bad bugs bed. Or bed bad bugs...
Englemann's the man for me. Montana grows some of the "kind"... Sitka isn't as much fun, and bending Sitka for linings is a drag.
Thanks for the replies.
What is your opinion with using cedar. I haven't heard a bass made with a cedar top, and it doesn't seem to be widely used by makers.
Sorry, I forgot to respond to this question.
First of all, we are talking about western red cedar-not the deep red, aromatic and heavy eastern red cedar. This is the same stuff you'll see cedar shingles made from. I became interested in this wood in my kayak making days. I used to make Greenland style kayaks and paddles. I made a bunch of paddles all of the same dimension out of EngelMAN, sitka, and cedar-so I was able to accurately compare their properties. The cedar is much lighter and significantly stiffer that the spruces. It also produced a much clearer bell like taptone. This was many years ago and I thought at the time that it might make a great instrument wood. Eventually I found out that many classical and flattop guitars have cedar tops. I managed to find a piece big enough for a bass and was happy with the result. I got to compare that bass side by side with one of Ahhnolds. To my ear my bass had a more cello like tone and his had a deeper bass fundamental and was louder. Was this the wood or the maker-or just my tin ear? I dunno. The bass I'm making now is engelman and the next will be cedar. I'll let you know what I think then.
That's ENGELMANN, Bud...
In the guitar world, the rap is that Cedar instruments arrive "broken in." On the one hand, you don't go through xx years breaking in your guitar; on the other hand, there is much less change or improvement in the sound of your git over the years. Jeff & Nick, how has this worked for you?
I was reading up on materials used for guitars and found the same that red cedar is quite popular for classical guitars. Interesting when you compared your bass with a cedar top to one of Arnold Schnitzer's basses. Maybe I was expecting the opposite results, but there are too many variables involved. I would be quite interested in hearing about your results when you finish with your new basses.
I use Englemannn because my teachers use/d Englemannnn. I don't buy the idea that cedar arrives "broken in". Wood is an organic material, and although it isn't growing anymore, it is still a living thing. Wood responds to the weather and your playing. Over the years, the sound changes, bit by bit. My goal, as a maker, is to produce an instrument that sounds good from the get-go. Few players will spend $10,000+ on something that might "sound good down the road." Cedar is a great wood for instruments. However, I don't know of any tonewood dealers that keep bass-sized cedar in stock...
Jeff, do you still go out 'yakkin? I'm a sea-kayaking junky!
Sure, Nick! I have dedicated boats for sea/whitewater/ocean surf. Just so I don't get too far off topic I'll connect it with the bass. I made a replica of a Greenland boat in the Museum of Natural History with a lashed frame and sewn on skin. The woods I used were ash-ribs/sitka-gunwhales/cedar-bowandstern endpieces. When I finished it and it actually floated I immediately realized that I could make a bass. Why I don't know but for some reason I had to make something big first before I thought I could make a bass.
I own one bass made of calantas (top, back and ribs). Calantas is a kind of cedar which grows in Malaysia/Indonesia/Philippines, sometimes called Malaysian Red Cedar.
Not much more than a year old, this bass has a truly gorgeous tone, both arco and pizz, rich harmonics all over the place, and window-shaking power. The Moscow Symphony came through town recently, and found themselves a bass or two short, so I rented this to them. The principal chose to play my bass, it sounded fantastic in his hands, and its distinctive, lovely tone came through clearly, esp in div passages. When the instrument was returned, I received a hand-written note which went on for a whole page in slavic-tinged English praising the sound of this wonderful bass.
Just goes to show that great sound can gotten out of materials other than the standard woods.
Are any of the afore-mentioned woods significantly less expensive that the standard spruce?