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TONE IN THE NECK?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by luknfur, Nov 21, 2004.


  1. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    I've swapped necks on basses with different acoustic properties and found that probably 90% (or better) of the tone of the bass followed the neck. Both strung with TI flats. One bass was a thudder and the other midrange. I did this on another pair of basses with more similar acoustic properties but it was apparent the same thing happened. Bit of a small sample to jump to conclusions so was wanting feedback from what others have experienced (as opposed to read about) along these lines.

    Did a search but kept coming up with web site doesn't respond.
     
  2. Nick man

    Nick man

    Apr 7, 2002
    Tampa Bay
    SMASH has apparently tried the same neck wood, but with different fingerboards (maple and rosewood) and says that the difference was barely noticeable if noticeable at all.

    Id like to try and see for myself since Ive noticed a significant difference with basses Ive played. It could have been different bodies for all I know. Id have to make sure its just the neck to say for sure.
     
  3. Without actually stating it, this has been the centerpiece of my thinking for some time now. My approach is a little different though, in that I believe that there is more to be gained tonally from creating a superior connection between the neck and the body than from a particular fretboard wood. That's why I've been a big proponent of neck inserts and machine bolts. Additionally, I've been working on a theory involving the creation of a tension sitiuation with the trussrod inside the neck that is similar to and transfers sound like the system of the nut/strings/bridge. At the least, it has yielded a neat trussrod assembly that I'll use even if increased sonic results aren't realized.

    I don't know if any of this is going to go anywhere :meh:
     
  4. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE

    Yeh, actually Smash inspired the neck swap in the first place and when I did it and got the results I inquired further. He said that actually the two necks he swapped were very similar in tone despite the material variation. Which is to say, they were similar in tone to begin with - which is to say, like necks. Akin to swapping the same neck for itself. Mine were miles apart in the first case and probably more similar to Smashs in the second, but still enough to tell the tone followed the neck.

    Also, the necks I swapped were identical material and construction, so just like "exact" models of the same bass, "identical" necks can have very different acoustic properties - probably as much or even more so than necks of different materials/construction.
     
  5. Phil Mastro

    Phil Mastro

    Nov 18, 2004
    Montréal
    I've done similar tests with a maple and a walnut neck, both with pau ferro fretboards. There was a major difference in tone between both. I've also come to a similar conclusion about tone being in the neck. I'm building a bunch of necks now for one of my basses, I've got a padouk neck with bloodwood fingerboard, and wenge/bloodwood, wenge/purpleheart and purpleheart/bloodwood necks in the works. I'll get back to you guys with the results.

    oh and Hambone, machine bolts and inserts kick ass.
     
  6. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I put a Chandler P-bass replacement neck on a FrankenFender Jazz bass I put together. The neck was really chunky and the bass had a much fatter tone than any of my other jazz basses. I shaved some of the material off the back of the neck 'cause it was too thick for me. There was a significant change in tone when I got everything back together. It was more mellow but still fatter than my other jazz basses. I eventually sold it because I just couldn't get comfortable with the P-bass width nut. IMHO when you're talking tone and necks mass has a lot to do with the it. I too think that a lot of the tone comes from the neck.
     
  7. McHack

    McHack

    Jul 29, 2003
    Central Ohio!
    This doesn't surprize me...

    That wenge jazz neck I put on my PJ, has that thing sounding REALLY burpy. Much more so than my Skyline. The skyline is tame by comparision.
     
  8. Hmmm.

    It does make sense after all.

    The body of a bass isn't going to flex all that much in comparison to the neck. The neck is where all the resonances are going to come from, or be dampened.
     
  9. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Actually it does fit cause if nothing else I don't recall the ebony swap.

    What I had done was defret a bright bass I thought was expendable. Then I missed playing it fretted. I was debating about refretting and I had another bass of the same make so I thought I'd swap the neck on it before deciding. The other bass was a thumper. When I did, the bright bass became a thumper, all else unchanged.

    Agree, definetly more feasible to swap other elements to obtain a change in tone. However, in this case at least, I don't think it would be possible to alter all the other properties and come up with the tone from the bright neck. To date, it's been my experience the inherent acoustic properties of a bass will show through anything short of a midi connect where you're simply using the the bass as a trigger.
     
  10. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    Were the necks in both cases made out of the same wood?

    I did a swap where the FBs were both rosewood but the necks were made completely different: one was a warmoth maple [birds eye] and the one I swapped it for was a 5 piece cherry / padauk neck that I built. The bass is a mahogany T-bird-ish bass with a Pbass pickup; with the warmoth the bass sounded very direct and a little tight, with the neck I made the bass almost sound like a hollowbody on the top-end and overtones. Now the other bass in the swap was a alder P/Tele II ish bass, The neck I made [for this bass] on this bass was too Hollow sounding and when I made the swap it sounded... like a fender, which is what I was after in the first place.

    Necks have a sound as well as the bodies themselves, it might not always make that much of a difference but sometimes it will.
     
  11. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Who is surprised?
    Not me, for sure.

    The neck is the singlemost important part for the tone of a stringed instrument - acoustically. Second comes the string material and build. Fretboard comes last.

    Then, for an electrified instrument, electronics will add some exxential influence.
     
  12. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Actually, I'm a bit suprised. I'm not a luthier and my related experience has been minimal - only in passing and out of necessity for the most part. I have done some reading on woods and tone as I've ran across stuff out of curiosity in simply trying to determine where the tone in a bass comes from so I can adjust accordingly simply as a player.

    I've seen consistent and countless posts, comments, and writings talking about assembling various combinations of woods in the body in order to obtain a given tone, which I, in my limited experience (and apparently many others with considerably more experience) have found to be practically irrelevant compared to other factors which bare considerably more impact on producing tone.

    I ruled the body out about a year ago after reading an article with comments from some of the leading bass manufacturers which to me boiled down to saying there is essentially so much variation in a given piece of wood of the same type that you can't really accurately control the outcome in terms of predicting tone - I guess unless maybe you live and breath the stuff for 20 years. Relatedly a neck can't be constructed any more accurately. But at least if you know the overwhelming acoustic properties of a bass are in the neck, that is very useful information that has practical applications.
     
  13. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    You know, I have never had any one type of string "change" the sound of any instrument that I have ever played, bring the sound of the instrument out better yes, but not but really change it. Yes they play a large roll, but, the overall tone will always be there.

    I'm not sure where I stand on this, I have had this go both ways; I have changed out pickups ect and on some instruments it made a big difference but on others [particularly bright ones] it didn't seem to do much.

    There is also bridges and nuts, necks with CF or steel stiffening rods or none at all, headstock size & weight, tuner weight, body width, body weight and density. And somewhere there is someone that will tell you that "this is the defining factor".
     
  14. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    Personally I've sufficiently reached my conclusions for the other factors(subject to change of course). The acoustics of the bass I'd left till last since it was apparently the least controled variable and it's not an area that I'd probably every have a lot of experience with since I'm not a luthier. So this thread was to draw feedback from others to see if they had similar experiences (or disimilar for that matter).

    I changed all my basses to Schaller roller bridges and could tell no difference. I've had a brass nut swapped for a graphite and couldn't tell any difference. I only use TI flats and the only other experience I've had with strings on my own basses were those I've bought that came with rounds. I'm not switching from TI flats so it's a bit of a moot point for me personally to delve into strings, although I've heard from reliable sources that they couldn't get a sound till they got the right strings.

    If I can't tell the difference, to me it's not significant enough for concern. The neck swap was dramatic in my case and so far from feedback, if there's not a concensus regarding the necks, it's close to it. But it's definetly useful to me to know that, for all intents and pursposes, the acoustic tone of the wood in a bass is in the neck and not the body.
     
  15. Mudfuzz

    Mudfuzz

    Apr 3, 2004
    WA...
    Swap bodies using one neck and see what happens. [​IMG]
     
  16. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    That was done on two different basses and stated so in the opening post of this thread.

    While I'm here, another factor I forgot about that supports neck tone is that I routed 5 basses removing 3/4" x 4" x 7" from beneath the strings and it made no difference in the tone of the basses that I could tell - perhaps with the exception of the thumper bass becoming a bit more so.

    They did all weigh at least a pound less afterward.
     
  17. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Aaron:
    Sure you're right! A stringed instrument is a highly composite individual. Or should I say a conglomerat of parts, who all add some flavour to the whole.
    However, acoustic response is a function of weight/stiffness and the distribution of that over the entire, vibrating body. Whether that means the string, the neck or the whole instrument.
    The main part of the vibrating body called "instrument" is, in this case, the neck. It is also the weakest, i.e. least stiff, in most cases. That is why the weght/stiffness ratio and distribution in the neck alters the tone so tangibly, while other changes alters tone more subtly (sp?).
    With added electronics, the coloring of the electronics, and more, the adjustability of the electronics, adds flavour in heaps - or not too much. Just refer to Line6 in the 1st category and upright pups in the other end.

    luk:
    I also thought the body would have more influence, from what I read. But then I started to experiment, and found the opposite! And from that point, I also found the theory of vibration, which backed up the experience, esp after a few FEM simulations...
    But of course, if the neck is a given one-pice flatsawn maple, variations in the body material AND SHAPE, will noticably change the sound.

    The END... :(
     
  18. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Sweet.

    FEM = Frequency Analyzer, yaw?

    It's been a while.

    Given as much, out of curiosity, what would you estimate to be the percentage of tone relative to neck (and whatever factors associated with it) and body, ballpark.

    A bit out of context but while we're here: Also out of curiosity, along these lines have you messed around with various neck/body connections - NT, bolt-on, set, whatever - with FEM. You can't do an A/B comparison with an NT but I've had two NT's and there seemed to be a similarity with a compressed-like tone quality to them that was noticeably different from a bolt-on tone. I've read about the NT's having more sustain and bolt-on's being brighter (which is not to say a given NT could not be brighter than a given bolt-on) and can't say as I experienced anything that would actually contradict that. Not being able to A/B makes it tough to tell but thought something more concrete may show up with FEM.
     
  19. Suburban

    Suburban

    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    NT: about 80% ! Yeah, ballpark it is, but that's it.
    Set: depends on how deep set, and also on body stiffness, but 50% neck and the other 50% somehow distributed on all other features...
    Bolt-on: 50% neck, 15% joint and the rest distributed as above.

    None of the figures are strictly correct, but good indicators.

    FEM is Finite Element Analysis, where modal analysis will geive a lot of nice, animated pictures on how an instrument (e.g.) vibrates.
     
  20. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Not to beat this in the ground but out of curiosity, I've seen frequency response - seismograph (sp?) looking - charts of basses before that represent the frequency response of a given bass when a note is plucked. Which can actually be used to distinguish a given instrument as a fingerprint can a human.

    I did a search on TB for FEM analyzer and only came up with one, ours. Did a google search and they were using FEM in part for foundation analysis (as in house). Apparently this gadget will reflect the information you've provided above but what applications do you actually use it for?