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Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by HTP-5, Dec 10, 2000.
The New Guy
Swamp Ash + Quilted Maple top. = Full tone with lots of attack.
Alder = Nice Growl. (That Fender P Sound.)
Figured Maple Body = Slap Heaven
Mahogany-Bubinga with Wenge Neck = Britle Highs and lows, less midrange.
Alder. Great all-around body wood. Even response across the tonal spectrum, so EQ can be used to subtract, rather than add. Can get "woody" or "thumpy" when required. Mahogany gets thumpier; bubinga and wenge get woodier, but they all weigh a ton compared to alder. Brightness and attack isn't as good as ash, swamp ash or maple, but this isn't a concern for non-slap applications.
I like alder, cuz it sounds cool
I really like the tone of my new P bass with its alder body and rosewood f/b.but since my other bass is a J with ash and maple,I can't tell whether its the body or the f/b that gives it that warm tone.FWIW,the P seems to have a softer attack.I suspect it's due to the rosewood.
I have an alder Jazz Deluxe V, and it sounds a bit warmer than all the swamp ash basses I have, some with maple top, some without. I agree, the swamp ash/maple top thing (like my 55-94) is brighter. That's the tone I like, but I have to switch over to the J-bass to get the warmer sound.
The Ernie Ball Stingray 5 is more brittle sounding in solid swamp ash. Pedulla 5 fretless is in between, with a maple body and flame maple top. That's all.
I prefer as much Maple in the bass as possible - all the basses where I have really liked the tone and picked them just for this, have been mostly maple - with some additions like Mahogany or Purpleheart stringers.
Alder is the classic Fender sound, but to me maple is like this but more so - I don't know how you describe this tone and I think that Alder is probably better for slap - but for all-round tone, useful in more situations I always seem to find that maple basses sound like I want a bass to sound!
My favorite combo of woods for a body are soft maple with koa top. Warm but defined at the same time. I should add that the basses I'm referring to are both also semi-hollow bodies with neck-thru (rock maple w/wenge stringers, pau ferro fingerboard) construction. Great tone all around, for everything from imitating (well trying to imitate) an upright (palm muting) to slap-happy funk to pick grinding metal, all while maintaining a terrific fingerstyle tone (to my ears at least).
You can't just pick out a body wood when you're looking at tone, you also have to consider neck woods, fingerboard woods, and construction methods. Another important factor is that my idea of "good tone" may be your idea of a well executed fart, and vice-versa .
Western Red Cedar for warmth of tone and a certain "acoustic" kind of resonance. The sound of the cedar by itself has proven a little unfocused though and sandwiching it with a thick veneer of figured maple helps as well as protects the soft cedar. Cedar is also light which makes it more comfortable.
For "off the rack" instruments I usually prefer light alder for the same reasons I like the cedar. Neck and fingerboard wood (or whatever) also makes a huge difference in how an instrument sounds. In general with lighter, more resonant bodies I like harder, brighter sounding fingerboards like maple or ebony.
Bruce, your going to love the new fretless bass I'm building. It's a 2 piece flame maple jazz body with a birdseye maple/ebony Warmoth neck. Seymour Duncan Basslines Vintage pickups and a Fender pre-amp. To go along with your "more maple the better" theme, I just decided tonight to try making some maple knobs for it.
Ash, Maple over ash, and Koa.
Sounds a bit like the combinations in my Tobias Classic 5, which has quilt maple body + zebrano top, with a birdseye maple though-neck, with purpleheart stringers.
I also had a TRB6P which was all maple with an ebony board.
Maple just sounds so "woody" - sort of like the opposite to all-graphite instruments that I have played in shops, which just sound so sterile and artificial - no character.
PS I would be interested in knowing why maple sounds so good or what it would be described as in terms of a "tone" wood. I just know from trying hundreds of basses that I like it, but don't know exactly how to express this.
In my experience maple has a very "direct" sound that accentuates the fundamental rather than the overtones. While I have tended over the years to go with lighter, more overtoney woods it's interesting that the ABG that is my main bass now has maple back and sides and my workhorse electric is a maple body. With both my sound seems more consistent from room to room than with my softer bodied instruments. Wood kinda sounds like it looks and feels doesn't it?
The observation I'm about to make may seem simplistic but since this luthiery/wood selection thing is still pretty new to me, it's a way I use to tell if I like a wood or not:
Wood will actually "sound off" when struck. The actual pitch it makes is dependent on the size and shape of the specimen but you can hear a tone. If you take a piece of 4/4 stock about 2 feet long you can strike it to hear the tone. Mape being a very dense wood has a bright tone. If you were to take a mahogany board of the same size, it would sound deeper and "woodier". That's why it's a premium tone wood. There are lots of others and this is kind a subjective test but it works.
just cuz i always wondered:
why aren't other common woods used in making basses. ie, elm, oak, pine, nutwoods (hickory, pecan, etc.), fruitwoods (apple, fig, persimmon, etc.), willow, magnolia, redwood, ad infinitum?
I once saw and tried to lift a bass made from Oak.It was a home made job and it felt like at least 20 lbs.!
Pierce, I can answer some of those questions...
In actuality a bass could be made from any wood on the planet. Some of the ones you mentioned would make good instruments but sometimes it's not the wood per se that's the problem. It could be that a particular type of tree doesn't yield board dimensions that lend themselves to a bass body. Another problem could be that a wood is too "sappy" to be dry enough to keep from curling or checking. Another problem is machinability. Cypress, for example, has some great properties but is very, very tough to cut and shape. Your suggestion of pecan is a good one. I can only guess that you don't see more of this because of limited availability.
As I write this I've thought of another determining factor - it's subjective at best but might be a good answer. I think that popularity and familiarity could play a big role. If you take a look at current high end instruments nowadays, you see a lot of koa, bubinga, purpleheart, cocobolo, etc. mixed in with some more common instrument woods like maple, alder, ash, and mahogany. I think these have taken on a certain mistique when it comes to their use in an instrument. Guys see a $4000 bass with the exotic woods and make the leap that it's better than a $1000 bass because of wood alone. That just feeds the market for this type of wood. Now, I'm NOT saying that there is anything wrong with any wood at all being used for a bass. It's just a human nature thing that something more rare or exotic will be thought of as better than something more common. The familiarity issue might come into play also. Going back to the pecan - Southern furniture craftsman know and understand the beauty and strength of this wood, but a boutique guitar maker elsewhere, that hasn't tried it, won't have clue. It could be the best tone wood available but without enough of it in the hands of the guys that build'em, it won't get noticed.
If you want an education on woods just get on Yahoo and type in the phrase "exotic wood" and follow the links provided. There are probably 50 or more excellent sites from suppliers of all of the species mentioned and hundreds more. A lot of the sites go to a great extent to explain the characteristics and merits of different woods. From that you might gain some specific answers to your question.
I think there is probably another reason, which I got from reading the Warwick site. The manufacturers are going to want a steady supply of wood of a similar quality. If it starts to vary or "dries up" , then they are going to be in trouble! They need to know that they can be gauranteed a steady supply and I presume that only certain woods are available in these quantities and with consistent quality.
My ideal bass is maple, with maple neck and maple fingerboard.
I will settle for a coated rosewood or an uncoated ebony, purpleheart or wenge board if maple is not available.
Maple is bright and defined, yields a strong, articulate fundamental.
My 2 main basses have maple bodies, and the PentaBuzz that I am getting next is maple bodied as well.
I have loved the acoustic tone of every maple bass I have ever played, from Spectors to Pedullas to maple Ibanez' to Ken Smiths to Tobias'.
I played a (OMG!) solid lacewood Tobias yesterday with maple neck and birdseye maple board, man! You could hear the fundamental of the open B 5 feet away, unamplified. Sounded even better plugged in.
Lacewood is part of the maple family too.