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What wood to bring out the "Fundamental"?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by syisrad, Mar 16, 2014.

  1. syisrad


    Oct 28, 2008
    Hi guys,

    Sy here from Australia,

    I've got a question for the serious luthiers or wood nuts out there.

    I've made 6 solid body basses to date. Some I'm more happy with than others. Some 4, some 5's, all the same scale, similar shape with good hardware and electronics (ETS, gohtoh, Delano, Bassxx...)

    My drama is I have to force myself to play the 5 string I've held onto. It's set up fine, plays well, perfectly intonated.. but something about the sound grates on me both amped and not.

    It's harsh on the highs and lacks general warmth. Changing to a different string type didn't help much either (currently DR Fat Beams)

    The wood break down is a 5 piece Padouk/Wenge neck, Indian Rosewood FB, Light colour rosewood body (firing blanks at the moment to remember which rosewood but its pretty heavy) and a She-Oak top (Australian wood similar to Silky Oak, with the appearance of "snake scales" and likened to Mahogany re weight and sound). The bass overall is heavy but acceptable.

    It wasn't until the other night when I was reading a thread here about wood choices that it dawned on me I was hearing a crap-load of overtones in the bass. I understand this can be sort after but it's over the top on this bass.

    I'm pretty certain the choice of wood has let me down with this one and I'm contemplating stripping it for parts for another project which leads me to my question;

    What wood's and in what combination will give me a solid fundamental cutting out the overtones?

    I've got some hands on knowledge regarding fundamentals and over tones. I'm currently making a Marimba and am having the joy (stress) of tuning the fundamental + 2 overtones on each bar.

    I'm also bringing this question to the forum as there's allot of gobblygook out there around tone-woods and their characteristics.

    By that I refer to the custom shop sites that use different language to describe each wood but basically say they've all got "deep bottom, full mids and sparkling highs" and the tone-wood debaters with polar opinions (and the geese that jump on and claim the choice of wood makes no difference).

    Thanks for reading and your time.

    I hope someone can bring me some clarity.


  2. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Banned

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
  3. Igor Porto

    Igor Porto Commercial User

    Mar 6, 2013
    Master Luthier
    Your bass is made predominantly of very hard and dense woods.

    Maybe you can try maple for the main neck wood and/or mahogany or alder for the body.

    Ebony laminates on the neck can also bring out the fundamentals.
  4. pasco jacorius

    pasco jacorius

    Jan 4, 2010
    Mahogany body , maple neck , ebony fretboard...and pickups placement/magnets (alnico 2 is warmer than 5 etc) .IMO
  5. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Have you considered making a mahogany based neck for it? Of a Mahogany based body for that neck?

    Or a Swamp Ash body for that neck?
  6. abemo


    Feb 27, 2012
    Arvada, co
    Agreed on the overall sentiment of using some softer woods. Mahogany, especially in the neck, ash, alder, etc, can help with that. Also, from my experience, a high mass bridge reduces the amount of vibration transferred to the body, which could help. That said, imho, the neck wood has a far greater impact on tone than the body wood, especially in a bolt on.
  7. syisrad


    Oct 28, 2008
    Thanks for the replies guys.

    I have Mahogany and maple ready to go. As far as the FB goes, any opinions between purple heart V birds-eye maple re tone?

    I do have a macassar ebony board ready to go but have used them on a few basses now and was thinking of branching out.

    Also what's the current thought on about body caps? between 5-10mm. Do they have any great effect on the tone? or just for show. I'm contemplating putting a Padouk cap on the mahogany body to get the right thickness. (the Mahogany boards are a little thin at 35mm)

    (excuse metric)


  8. Igor Porto

    Igor Porto Commercial User

    Mar 6, 2013
    Master Luthier
    Purpleheart fingerboards do sound great, I have built a few instruments with it. But thet will not sound like what you're looking for. They're snappy, has great sustain, is percussive and balanced.

    Maple is also percussive and snappy, with great definition. But at the same time it's also warm.

    If you have access to indian rosewood, it's the best choice between the three, to achieve what you're looking for.