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Tonal qualities of zebrawood

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by geshel, Nov 23, 2002.

  1. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I'm curious to hear how zebrawood sounds as a body wood. Not a laminate top, but the main body wood. This would probably be in a bolt-on bass.


  2. I would like to know this too, as I'm considering a bass with a body made of zebrano, which I understand is the same thing as zebrawood. (Or is this wrong?)

    Aside from all the usual (and quite accurate) caveats about all the other factors that affect tone besides body wood, are there any *general* comments that can be made about the tonal tendencies of zebrawood as a body wood?
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    "Clear Mids w/Defined Lows" from :


    But - this is really as applied to body wings on a neck-through - not a bolt-on. But I can't see that comments would be any different?

    The bottom right-hand pic. on that page looks to be solid Zebra ...
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    LonnyBass has buitlt a solid zebra bass. And it is quite nice. He is registered here at TB but I don't think he is active. But a google search on "lonnybass" will turn up a pic of the bass, and discussion of it at TBL.
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Sorry - It just looked like the bass with the most Zebrawood on your site - I meant that the body wings looked like solid zebra - not the neck. Is this the case?

    I thought this might give geshel an idea of the sort of tone he could expect - although I expect the neck laminates add something as well?
  6. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    AFAIK all Ken Smith basses these days have either maple, mahogany, cherry, or walnut cores. Hopefully I'm not speaking too much for Ken if I say I'm pretty sure he meant that the bass has a walnut body core, with zebrawood top and back, and maple accent laminations.
  7. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    This is what I get from the Wal basses website:

    "It gives a nice warm bottom end with nice, punchy highs and cutting mids. "

    Sounds about exactly the opposite of what the KSB web site says. :)

    I think the context there is as a top/back wood as well, as most all Wals have mahogany cores.

  8. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Well, it looks like Wal covered all the bases (no pun intended) with their description. Almost every description on the Wal page says something complimentary about what the wood does for each of the frequencies.

    Contradictory information abounds on the web. Often the terms used to describe tone are meaningless. What does "sharp low end" sound like?

    In the end, I think (and I speak only for myself here) the customer is often the one that gets left holding the red herring, worrying too much about engineering a "sound" through wood selection.

    I imagine I might take a beating about this philosophy.
  9. neptoon

    neptoon Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2000
    Melbourne, FL
    wasn't it carl thompson that said that the sound comes from the player and not the woods used in the bass? *hides*
  10. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    No, I see what you mean. I've found the tone descriptions on most websites to be only slightly useful, if not downright vague. What's the difference between "smooth" and "clear" midrange? It's a tough thing to describe, certainly.

    The jury's out for me on exactly how much wood affects the tone. I'd say stiffness of the neck and fb wood, and mass of the body wood (stiffness too for bolt-ons) probably play a pretty big role.

    I know the end result will be a unique thing depending on woods, construction, and electronics. But I'd like to know first if I make a zebrawood-bodied bolt-on if it's going to have nasty honking midrange (which I've heard one person say abou it, if I recall). :)

    Thanks for your help, Matt, Ken, and everybody.

    P.S. What got me thinking about it was the zebra / wenge Tobias fretless for sale at BassCentral. It looks so sweet! I may have to ask around in the other forums if anyone has played it.
  11. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Well I have a zebra/maple pre-Gibson Tobias Classic V - which is my favourite tone ever - and why I bought it! ;)
  12. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    I completly agree. Tone is to difficult to describe and to relate to a particular wood.

    Larry from Gallery Hardwoods once came up with this formula I really love : "...folks think they can order wood for tone like they
    can order a sandwitch for taste."

    BTW, here are some pics of a solid zebrano bodied bass I buil this year.


    Zebrano is a great wood to work with. It finishes well with oil, it's not too heavy and gives a pretty distinguished look.

    Peace, JP
  13. Nice work, JP, and I think you're right about the complexities of tones. For my part, I've just never been quite sure about *how much* weight to give the wood in the tonal equation. Obviously, wood choices have to mean *something*, or else any wood would be equally usable for musical instruments, and I don't think many people feel that way. But it seems you can't just say, for example, an alder bass is going to sound this way, or a walnut bass that way, without factoring in other components.
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    For those who didn't look it up, I'l post the pic of Lonny White's bass. I just think it's a unique and very attractive way of using the zebrawood, in harmony with the shape of the bass.
  15. Very nice.
  16. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    No Matt I agree with you completely there. I think its almost a pointless excersize to try to quantify what a new bass design is going to sound like through unsubstantiated "sound of this wood versus that" claims. By unsubstantiated I mean that to say "maple is brighter than rosewood" is not useful because it depends on the context in which the woods are used and other factors that we all know about. The difference between a maple and rosewood board Jazz bass is quantifiable because there are thousands of them out there to reference against each other.
  17. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Bruce, what was it about the tone you loved so much? How much zebrawood is in the bass? Laminate top? Body wings? Thanks.
  18. hujo


    Apr 18, 2001
    Stockholm, Sweden
    When I was discussing a custom bass with a brittish luthier, this is what he said about zebrano. The main body wood was supposed to be swamp ash, so that's what he compares it to.

    "Zebrano is a great tonewood, personally I think it's the best for fretless, every fretless bass I've made using this wood sounds great, gives that middle growl you get from an worn f/board with old strings. So adding it to a fretted woul only serve to improve the sound. It's much denser than swamp ash so more sustain and a more solid bass response."

    "The sound would be much more defined in the bass frequency, more sustain. It has a tendancy to add to the lower midrange giving the sound a plummy edge. As with most dense hardwoods the treble gets a bit more seperation."

    "I've not experienced a harsh upper mid from this wood, far from it. Zebrano gives a wonderful tone with a smooth bottom end. By plummy I mean compressed and thick in harmonics."
  19. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    Thanks, hujo. Sounds good.

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