What wood do I need?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by RS, Apr 6, 2001.

  1. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I'm thinking of having a custom bass built for me. I want a jazz style bass with the warmth of alder and a little of the bite of ash. My original idea was to have a half ash, half alder body, but is there another wood or wood combination where I could a similar tone? warm and defined.
  2. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    You have to be careful about selecting woods. Wood is a tricky thing on an instrument, because no 2 pieces of even the same tree will sound identical! A popular combination seems to be alder or ash with a maple (usually figured) top.

    The problem is, however, that there are so many possibilities that finding the right combination is still more art than science:eek:. If you're having a custom instrument built for you, have you considered talking to the luthier and asking his/her opinion on the matter? The luthier might be able to provide some good insight as to what's worked well in the past. Perhaps the luthier even has a sample bass for you to play around with!

    Another factor that you'll want to consider is the finish. Michael Tobias has a lot to say about this...check out the article, "Secrets of Tone" from Bass Player Magazine a few years ago to see what I mean.
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    The article RAM suggested is very good for this subject, not only because it gives you ideas, but it clearly demonstrates that one shouldn't make wood choices and instantly expect the bass to sound a particular way. There are too many other factors involved, the principal one being the person in the driver's seat.

    Enough preaching. I think your alder choice is a good one for the tone you describe. My bass that is mostly alder, (wings), can be warm and very defined. Some other components involved are the strings-through-body (warmth needs sustain), the ebony fingerboard on a maple/koa neck (definition), and simply the strings themselves. (I won't even get into the pickup thing).

    However, I don't know about the ash. My Precision with a maple fingerboard/neck is ash and it is the punch king (lots of definition, but not particularly warm). I know some of the old greats used Precisions and had a warm sound, (Jamerson, for example; but how much of it was Jamerson?). However, if those bassists had the array of tone woods currently available, I think they might opt for another wood.

    Good, thumbnail, descriptions of a lot of woods and the tones they are associated with are at www.kensmithbasses.com/woodpages/woodpagecontents.html . When I look there, I always have to remind myself that it refers to the wood KEN SMITH gets into the shop.