Tones of woods used for bass bodies

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Rockin John, Dec 21, 2000.

  1. I'd like to get a better understanding of what different woods do for the tones of basses.

    Hypothetically, if (say) 5 bases could be made that were absolutely identical except for the wood used to make the body, how would their tones differ :assume identical amps / speakers, method of playing, etc.

    If the one with a Maple body was regarded as the standard instrument, what would the tonal qualities be for the others: Ash; Agathis; Alder; Mahogany ( + any other commonly used woods that anyone knows of?)


  2. I'm wondering who makes bass bodies out of Agathis?? Isn't that a species of pine?
  3. The Peavey Fury II that I know of. And, yes it is pine. It hails from the north island of New Zealand as far as I know.

  4. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
  5. Puts on his Johnny Carson face:

    I did not know that!

    Takes his Johnny Carson face off...:D
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Peavey, DeArmond, Cort, the Samick mega factory among others.
  7. John, Check out Mike Tobias has a post called "The quest for tone A-Z"
  8. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Wow, this thread is old. Any others? is the only one that works anymore. It only explains a few woods, too.
  9. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    From the Ken Smith site:
    "Note: Northern White Ash (Hard Ash) is too heavy & dense to produce guitar grade tone wood."

    Say WHAT? :confused:
  10. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Maybe, they mean in relation to southern swamp ash, Oyster. I can believe that. Northern ash is very bright and has good sustain, but swamp ash is well recognized for being very "musical."
  11. They probably mean with their hippie sandwich configuration.
  12. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    One thing i found. On the tom anderson site, i think they said mahogany had a strong mid range, while the ken smith one said it has an even tone. :confused:
  13. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Don't let it throw you too much, Tracy. Having looked at miles of wood info researching my custom, I found two things;

    1. The tone of the same specie can vary quite a bit depending on the wood source and how they handled it.....for example the drying process, the growing conditions of the tree the boards came from, thickness they are using, et al. In fact, I think Smith's website says something like "this is how they sound as we use them "

    2. Not everyone hears the same thing, luthiers included.

    What I do is look at all I can for a give specie and see what the consensus is. Not to discount the minority opinion on tone, but at some point, you have to generalize or else, we know nuthin.
  14. I like that statement about Northern Ash, my Dingwall 5 is Northern ash with a Quilt top, and non musical is not how I would describe the sound. Piano like, clear, ringing; those are better descriptors. Oh, and for non-musical due to heavy/dense wood, take a piano, the strings are anchored to a giant steel frame, so I can't see how heavy/dense makes for non-musical tone.

    thus I have to agree with Oysterman on this...
    Originally posted by Oysterman
    ...Northern White Ash (Hard Ash) is too heavy & dense to produce guitar grade tone wood."[/i]

    Say WHAT?:confused:
  15. Aaron


    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    Actually it is because all people know that all pianos sound like crap.:rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
  16. Sheldon D.

    Sheldon D.

    Oct 3, 2001
    I don't get a chance to participate in discussions much, but I feel obligated in this case since my website is so out of date that the information is misleading.


    Your bass is actually swamp ash, but not just regular swamp ash, we selected the ash on the bass side to be heavy and dense (almost as much as Northern ash) to solidify the B and E strings. The treble half of the body is extremely light and resonant swamp ash to bring out the resonance of the G and D strings. We used to use Northern ash which has a great B-string tone, but is heavier and less punchy than Swamp. Sorry for the mis-info.


    I can't think of anyone who uses hard maple in a body. It's heavy, dense and short on warmth. This is I think the major reason why neck through instruments are described as generally not being as punchy as bolt-ons.

    Silver maple is much lighter and more resonant, like a punchy alder.

    Eastern soft is between the two, very solid and bright, but with some warmth.

    Western maple is similar to Silver, but maybe a touch warmer and more resonant.

    Northern Ash has solid lows and extended highs, with a slightly scooped mid. It's heavy but has a more vivid grain pattern than swamp.

    Swamp Ash varies a lot, from almost Northern Ash like to extremely light and punchy with a nice airy quality. The lighter softer stuff doesn't support the B as well but works great on 4-strings.

    Mahogany varies greatly as well, the light stuff scares me so I stay away from it. I'm not saying it's bad, it just didn't work with my designs. The heavier is very even overall, but does have strong mids or at least cuts well in the midrange.

    Walnut is very similar to mid-range mahogany and is very consistant.

    Alder is warm, resonant and punchy with good mids, but doesn't have the highs of ash so is smoother and less snappy. I find Alder a little dark for B-strings. Great for 4-strings, or in the case of our Prima series, great for treble strings.

    I have no experience with Agathis.

    All this being said it's difficult to compare one wood to another between different manufacturers since the design of the body has a lot to do with the final outcome (not to mention pickups, electronics, neck construction etc.). Thicker bodies are brighter than thinner bodies. Bodies with a larger face area are more resonant and responsive than smaller ones.

    I hope this is of some help. Take care.
  17. Thanks for the info, Sheldon, good descriptions, usually just see "warm lows, crisp highs" etc.