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Warmoth Project Bass - advice on body wood

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Peter Weil, Aug 27, 2003.

  1. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Hi all,

    I'm planning on building a Fender Jazz copy with a little attitude. I love Fender Jazz basses sound but just want a few little extra features. Current plans for it are:

    Alder body (?with figured maple top)
    24-fret Warmoth Jazz neck (maple neck with pao ferro fretboard)
    Aero type I Jazz pickups
    Hipshot Ultralite tuners
    Gotoh 201 bridge - modded with Graphtech Piezo system (Ghost/FAAS system)

    I just wanted to hear people's thoughts about one detail - the body wood.

    I seem to like the sound of alder very much. I'd quite like a fancy figured maple top though just for looks :D - does anyone think that the maple top will affeect the sound hugely? If it does, is it beneficial? I just like the snarly, snappy, bell-like tones that the Jazz can make and want to reproduce it. If a maple top affects it too much, then I have to put the idea aside.

    I'm going to start a separate thread asking about pickups (specifically aeros vs fender cs 60's).

    Anyone got any bright ideas?

  2. By-Tor


    Apr 13, 2000
    Sacramento, CA
    I plan on doing the samething. A jazz bass body, Swamp Ash w/ a AAAA Quilted Maple (Trans. green finish, no pickguard) top. Neck will be Maple w/ a Ziricote fretboard. Gold hardware, maybe Barts for P/U. Want Active but don't know what yet.
  3. no, the top should not affect the tone
  4. steve-o

    steve-o Guest

    Apr 17, 2002
    i think that the top mmight effect the tone..but its nothing bad...

    i would go with a wenge neck from warmoth...give that nice growly, cutting tone...

  5. Asaf


    Jun 9, 2003
    i have a fender jazzbass which has an alder body and maple top, well...some local luthier told me that it adds some sustain but mostly looks good.

    well...i have to say that this bass has one of the most amazing sustain i have heard on a fender.
  6. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    A couple of thoughts ...

    1. USA Custom vs Warmoth. Tommy at USACG is great and will give you really, really good advice regarding the wood.

    2. I think a think maple cap might brighten things up more than you want. Ask Tommy - he'll tell you ...

    3. If you go with USACG, think about the shaped heel he offers. I did that on the bass desribed below and find it very comfortale when going up high.

    4. Bridge choice. Don't know about the Gotoh tonally. If it uses a more or less traditional shape for the bridge piece, then it's probaly cool. I just did one in Swamp Ash, using a BAII and Rotosounds. Way too bright.

    I think the 'sharper' BAII bridge piece might be part of that sound. I got mine under control by going active. Installed the Pre from a MIA active Jazz. With Duncan SJB1's it is now quite a nice bass both on and off the stand ...

    5. Custom. When you talk with USACG you'll find that they will do just about anything you want then to. That also means that you might have more decisions to make. Ask questions along the way. I learned a bunch that I wouldn't have had I used another body builder ... umm, luthier ...
  7. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I think you're on the right track. I'd consider swamp ash with the figured top. It will probably be a lighter bass for you. I'd check with the staff when ordering.

  8. Not to contradict Bikeplate, but my alder bodied warmoth is very light, Ask Nino. the body alone weighed in at 4 lbs 3 oz. If I were you I'd go to the thrift shop, they tell you the weight of the body, which is very useful. One more thing to think about is if you get the 24 fret extension, you will have a harder time accessing the truss rod, as the extension will cover it slightly. That only holds true if you get the flat headstock though, as the angled ones have the adjustment at the headstock.
  9. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Groovecenter - I did not realise that the 24 fret option would hinder truss rod access so badly. Have you tried out one of the 24 fret necks? The other thing is - what does your bass look like? Do you have a figured maple top?

    Bikeplate - Are you recommending swamp ash for lightness or for a slightly different tone? I haven't heard many basses (J style) with ash - they all seem to be alder.

    4Mal - I guess I'll need to look at USA custom's web page. The Gotoh is a very traditional style of bride, so no big changes there.

    Asaf - what kind of fender bass is it you have? One of the FMTs?

    l0calh0st - how do you know the top doesn't affect the tone? Other here seem to contradict this....Any experience with your own basses?

    Thanks for all your replies so far.
  10. Geoff St. Germaine

    Geoff St. Germaine Commercial User

    Both F Bass and Dingwall both state that the top woods at only 1/4" have a minimal effect on tone when compared to the the body wood. The point of this is that the top can be picked for looks without affecting the sound of the instrument. The swamp ash Dingwall Zebra I played before I got my bass sounded the same as mine, which had a quilted maple top.

    I also noticed that on Michael Tobias' website, when describing tone, he doesn't make reference to the top wood, only to the main body wood, neck wood, and fingerboard wood.




    I would say that yes, the top wood probably has some effect. At only 1/4" thick, it is probably negligable.

  11. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    The top will affect the sound, how much depends on the thickness. I recently had a conversation with Larry at Gallery Hardwoods (great guy, great stuff, has years of experience with numerous luthiers), he is of the opinion that only the top 5/8 (was is 5/16? whatever, about 1/2 inch) of the body wood on top contributes to it's piece of the overall tone. The top may be a significant portion of this. (On a related note, he feels that glue makes no difference/insignificant). There are so many things that contribute to the overall tone (fingers/plucking location, strings, pickups/location, fretboard, neck, body, neck/body joint, on and on...), but plan on a maple top adding some, er, snappiness to the tone.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Just some thing you should think about, the resale on a warmoth parts bass i quite often much lower the the sum of money put into it. So if you want to make the commitment to build one make sure it is something that you would never wont to part with. All the best and i hope you make something that really does it for you.:)
    SherpaKahn likes this.
  13. Asaf


    Jun 9, 2003

    nope. it's the 50th anniversary fender limited edition. only 500 were made.
    it's passive but yet has lots of bright sound.
  14. Ok, i admit that saying that it doesn't affect tone is an oversimplification, but i'd say that the effect on the tone is minimal at the top thickness Warmoth uses (A top to center top would have a far stronger effect)
  15. I have a Yamaha BBN5II, which is essentially a Yamaha Jazz bass 5. It has a alder body*, maple neck and a rosewood board. It has a tone that I just love. It sounds somewhat like a MIM Jazz bass, but, with noticeably more growl. I don't know if it's the alder, the pups (stock Yamaha's) or the combination of both. It's a passive bass, and has excellent low mids, good upper mids, and decent highs; they could be a little brighter, but, I'm not complaining.

    That's my alder story.

    Good luck with your baby.

    * The body looks like 5 pieces of alder glued together.(probably to keep costs down) Is this what they call "butcher block?"
  16. arose11


    Sep 30, 2002
    Kalamazoo, MI
    You know what looks good...
    Mahogany body w/ a flamed/quilted maple top :D
    thats what I would like.
  17. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    All my Sadowsky basses and my Pensa basses(about 10) have been light ash except for one which is alder. I'm having another Sadowsky(vintage 5) made for me as we speak. It is light ash, quilt maple top. Roger indicated that the body weighs about 3.5lbs. This will turn out to be a bass that will weigh in about 8.5lbs when finished, according to his comments. Part of the reason that these companies charge so much is that availability of light ash is tough, almost impossible in Japan(why the Sadowsky Tokyo's weight a bit more). My present basses are all very light. Alot of companies are now offering chambered alder bodies, Sadowsky included. It takes away about 1.5lbs from the weight. Light alder is getting tough to find, also. Alder in general has a nice finger tone, ash a bit brighter, but not much(IMO). Most of the old Fender's were alder. I have a nice '67 jazz that is. I think your bass will be nice whatever you do. You might want to consider a used high bass. It will save you the hassle of putting one together and probably won't be much more after all is said and done. Used Laklands are $1200 to $1500, Sadowsky's a bit more. You can also find Pensa's, A basses, and other makers basses preowned. All are expertly assembled, sound wonderful, etc. Usually when doing your own project, costs never seem to be what you expect. Sort of like building a custom home!! I wish you best of luck either way.:D

  18. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    bikeplate - I know what you mean about keeping an eye on the costs of this project! However I'm doing this to build something for my own tastes EXACTLY how I want it - and I'm aware of the implications for resale value. If I'm ever stupid enough or unfortunate enough to have to sell this bass, then probably it will go componenet-by-component, as that's the only likely way I'd get any kind of decent return.

    Michael Jewels - I remember loving the tone of the first BBN5A's in the late 90's. I haven't tried a BBn5II but I have played the newer bb404's, which looked like a cheap man's Jazz and therefore a great steal. That was my original plan - buy one and not worry! Unfortunately I put it up against a Mexican Jazz which just blew it away in terms of tone - my suspicion is that it may be a pickup thing. The bb404, I think, has had the pu's skimped on, whilst the Mexi Jazz seems to have adequate pickups. Otherwise the two basses seemed to be made similarly.....

    Geoff - thanks for the advice. I'm reasonably sure about going for a 'fancy top' without having a huge impact on tone. I'm waiting for a confirmatory message from Tommy at USACG about his opinions on the matter but the consensus here seems to be that, at the thickness of the top used, there are unlikely to be many tonal effects. Whew!

    Thanks for all the good wishes guys. This is going to be a little pricey and take a while. Now if anyone could please go to my other thread and chip in? (Re: pickups)http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&postid=1118423#post1118423

  19. Nino Valenti

    Nino Valenti Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 2, 2001
    Staten Island NYC
    Builder: Valenti Basses
    Alder body (?with figured maple top)
    24-fret Warmoth Jazz neck (maple neck with pao ferro fretboard)

    Nice choice. My gold Warmoth Jazz has the same wood combos & sounds very nice. The one thing I wouldn't get is the 24 fret extension. Personally, I can barely reach the 21th fret on the regular Warmoth necks so, to me, the 22-24 will be useless to me.
    Aero type I Jazz pickups
    Not familiar with these pickups.
    Hipshot Ultralite tuners
    I like these tining machines. I have them on my Sadowsky 24 fret.
    Gotoh 201 bridge - modded with Graphtech Piezo system (Ghost/FAAS system)
    I have this bridge on my Gold Warmoth jazz & a few other Warmoth's I've built, no complaints.
  20. Peter Weil

    Peter Weil Seeker of The New Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2000
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Thanks for chipping in Nino.

    I know you've owned lots of Warmoth and Sadowsky stuff - I know you've said before that you can get 90% of the sound of the 'super-J' basses from Warmoth parts but not 100%. You've also built a lot of Warmoth basses now if your previous posts and home page are anything to go by.

    Any comments after all of your experiences with Warmoth, apart from the ones you've already made? How do you feel your Warmoth stuff specifically compares to your Sadowsky(s) :) ?

    I think I'm going to have to take the advice of everyone's and go for 22 frets instead, unless I get a USACG body and get the custom heel rout they offer.....

    Anyway, thanks everyone for your input so far.
    Still going with the alder body though unless anyone can offer any benefits of ash/swamp ash over alder for vintage tone.....