What happens when a bass gets old?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Michael Jewels, Mar 6, 2002.

  1. Two Questions:
    1) What actually happens to a bass/guitar when it gets old? By old, I mean 10 years or more.

    2) Do you think the average bass sounds better as it gets older, worse or is there no difference?

    My Ibanez Musician is 23 yrs old, and I bought it brand new, but, I honestly can't tell if it sounds any better than the day I bought it. It still sounds great, but, I can't tell if there's been any change in its sound.

    What do you think?

    Mike J.
  2. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    ciao Mike!

    i think:
    if a bass is good it becomes better, if it's bad it becomes worse
  3. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    There is a theory that woods warm up over time. Upright basses are said to get better with time, as are violins, and so forth. Why are bass guitars no different?

    I do think, however, that if a bass guitar is painted, it's less likely to reap the benefits of time than an unpainted bass.
  4. FalsehoodBass


    Jul 22, 2001
    Denver, CO
    barroso, that quote is awesome.... you hear about a year or 2 ago, we lost a mars lander because some guy at the JPL at caltech was using american units when the programs were written for metric ones?

    and keeping w/ the subject, i'd be worried about the magnets in the pickups changing over time more than the tonal quality of the wood.
  5. bassmanjones


    Feb 23, 2002
    Boston, MA
    I've heard over time that the wood 'settles' (I'm still not sure exactly what that means) and becomes more stable. Everyone says this is a good thing as it adds to the character of the bass's sound. Yours may have changed but you probably didn't notice it. Kinda like when somebody loses weight over a long period of time- they just look up one day and realize they're thinner than they remembered.
  6. Funkster

    Funkster Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Wormtown, MA
    I think over time a bass developes a certain Mojo with age and how much it's played! I don't think that a bass changes tone (for the better) as it gets older but I think it does change (for the better) over time with heavy playing..
  7. i have a warwick, some one told me they dont have a finsh on them is it true.i was thinking i sweat alot and it gets on my bass and i know it goes in to the wood.does this change the sound after awhile. talking about mojo

    when i frist posted this i wasnt in the right frame of mine.
  8. There are things that happen to the wood as any instrument ages. Perhaps someone knowledgeable like Ken Smith or another builder could elaborate.

    As for other aspects of the intrument, the neck will wear so that it will feel more comfortable. As well, things like refretting can change the radius of the fingerboard.

    There are likely things that happen to the electronics as age, sweat and fatigue affect the various metals involved but like wood I am not an authority on this.

    I think that the more time you spend with an instrument the more comfortable you become with it and as a result, the better you will play and sound. You learn to exploit the strenghts of a given instrument and either compensate or weed-out it's shortcomings like replacing pickups for a slightly different sound for instance.
  9. i always thought they moved to florida...
  10. Wasn't it James Jamerson that said the grime that builds up on the fretboard over time stores up the funk in a bass. Therefore you should never clean it! I hope this really works otherwise I will just be 'the dude with the filthy bass that cannot play'. :( Fingers crossed.
  11. Intrepid


    Oct 15, 2001
    God damn it, I didn't vote for the Warwick, I voted for the Fender...its a god damn conspiriacy....look how confusing the ballet is...
  12. LowEndRider

    LowEndRider Guest

    Mar 4, 2002
    Clean.....a Bass?.......this must be one of those strange rituals people with not enough gigs do....everyone knows a grimy Bass is a happy one!
  13. Ha!

    They also trade in their hardware for the equivalent to white shoes and belt.

    What's the equivalent of jacking your pants up to your chest?

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    As a bass(wether it be an upright or electric) ages, especially if it is played alot, the wood fibers open up, and the instrument speaks more freely and louder. The acoustic sound of a vintage instrument tends to be much more mellow, and darker than a new one. With the electric bass, there are other variables...
    Older pickups tend to sound much more mellow than new ones, because the pole pieces lose some of there magnetism over time. Ususally, the wood in an older bass is much "cleaner". It hasn't been exposed to as much polution as new wood. Old Fender basses have a Nitrocellulose laquer finish, which allows the wood to breath much better(though it is partially because the finish cracks). And a heavily played bass will have a smooth worn neck that tends to feel a lot more comfortable than SOME new electric basses. So you can see how a bass will improve with age!:)
  15. ok, lets see if I got this right...

    you have a warwick and someone told you that they don't have a finish. You think that when you sweat it goes into the wood. This will change the sound, right? You can't wait until you're warwick becomes 40 years old.

    was that it?

    sorry ben, but I spent several minutes trying to figure out what you meant.
  16. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    When a bass gets old...it becomes a "vintage instrument". :)

  17. yeah man..then it can get the special liscense plate and insurance discounts if you store it during the winter.
  18. reminder dont have any drugs in you when you post stuff. just kidding
  19. Brendan


    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX

    Back up son. You know not where you tread!

    ...or don't care.
  20. Your bass can be as old as dirt, but it won't necessarily improve with age. Two major factors that affect improvement;

    - If your wood/woods aren't resinous, they peak out in terms of tone quality relatively soon. More resinous woods may not sound as good when the instrument is new but as time goes on, the resins dry and crack within the wood fibers. The wood "opens up" tonally, and continues to improve.

    - How much the instrument is played is the major determinant. Even if the wood(s) is/are resinous, it won't "open up" if it only gets played a couple times a week.

    There was a company, Timbre Tech, that involved Steve Rabe and Mike Tobias. They used a machine to accelerate the "aging" and responsiveness of instruments by sending vibrations through the instrument constantly. Here's an excerpt from an article about what the company was doing, -

    "...So what would happen to a brand-new guitar if you did the equivalent of playing it for 24 hours a day for weeks or even several months? Could you accelerate the aging process in just the right ways and get a broken-in guitar right out of the box, so to speak? I have known several guitar makers who have put new instruments next to stereo speakers, playing music into the soundboxes for a week or two before shipping the guitars to customers. Now there is an industrial-strength version of this technique being used by Timbre Technologies, a company founded by luthier Michael Tobias and SWR amplifier builder Steve Rabe.

    Timbre Tech’s patented process involves clamping the guitar to a shaker table, a kind of super–heavy-duty loudspeaker with a 7,500-watt amplifier and a three-inch magnesium plate instead of a speaker cone, and vibrating the whole thing at much higher forces than ordinary playing would produce. The process takes about 45 minutes and is carefully monitored by acceleration sensors attached to several points on the guitar. The strength of the vibration is intense, much greater than that produced by playing the guitar, and so the theory goes that 45 minutes on the table is equivalent to several years of normal playing."
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