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Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by emjazz, Dec 19, 2005.
What's your personal favorite body wood and why?
my personal favorite depends on the perspective I'm thinking of.
Sonically: I know there are TONS of factors besides just the body wood, so this is not to argue that. To my ears, I really like the sound of Alder far and above all of the other woods I have used and played. There is something about it's 'neutrality' that I really love in combination with a maple neck (regardless of the fretboard wood.) A close second would be Prima Vera.
Aesthetically: This is a tough one here, as I really love so many. My top five in no particular order: wildly figured maple heartwood, wildly figured claro walnut, wildly figured myrtlewood, wildly figured bubinga when it's a mix of heartwood and sapwood, and olivewood.
Workability: There are many highly proclaimed woods I have not yet had the pleasure of working with - butternut is one wood that immediately comes to mind. To date, I think this is also a case where alder wins for workability when making a body. If I am instead thinking of sculpting a neck, then it would be hard and clear maple.
Enough to get the discussion rolling?
All the best,
Personally I like Walnut. I havn't worked with many woods, but Walnut is very dense, holds a great firm and solid tone, and finishes Very nicely. Plus I have a bunch of it as a gift from an art teacher in high school, so I'm forced to like it. hehe.
What is your experience with using a walnut bodied bass live? I have a friend who's a luthier and he made his personal bass out of walnut. I asked him about it the other day and he doesn't like how it came out. He said that there are a lot of frequencies that he has to try to make up for with the eq. The instrument is boomy in a room. There are many factors that could contribute to that like it being a neck through, what pickups he's using, where the pickups are placed, not to mention the piece of walnut that he used (it looks too dark).....I'm just curious of your experience. Thanks.
It depends alot on the neck, electronics, and what I want to use the bass for.
Alder body with maple neck and board. This seems to be the sound closest to what I hear in my head 90% of the time. The warmth of the alder body seems to help tame the maple fb, while still maintaining a very open sound. Ash/maple is too Marcus for me. I like a little more low mid warmth and less high mid presence. Mahogany is just too heavy usually, although I like the amount of "focus" is has when mixed with active electonics like on a Wal.
Ken Lawrence's personal fretted Chamberbrase II with the Spalted spruce top is making a concerted effort to change my inner ears. I think that bass has an alder body as well, but the fretboard is not maple (Katalox, Pau Ferro, Rosewood?? not sure).
I'm not trying to pick on your friend but to attempt to pin all of this down on the wood species used in the body is a pretty far stretch. To say it's "boomy in a room" really doesn't give the room or the amp much credit for the resulting acoustics does it? And the shade of color doesn't have anything to do with it either. I have ways of making walnut look like fine ebony. Does that make it worse than a light colored piece of walnut - hell no. I'm not saying that the bass couldn't have it's own problems- it certainly could but the body wood is definitely not the only thing causing whatever your friend is hearing. To blame the wood is just silly. The number of builders using walnut is vast and their results speak for themselves. No, there's nothing the matter with walnut - just your friends instrument.
Walnut or Maple would have to rank right up there for me. The ease of machining and the range of fabulous grains makes them my choice. The choice would come down to color.
Hey, thanks a lot for this thread, EMjazz. This is really some good info for me. Not meaning to steal the thread or anything, but how would body wood combinations affect the tone? For an example, using alder with a walnut top, or maple body with a purpleheart top. Just curious if you could "blend" attributes or if tops were more of a visual aspect. Thanks...
Overall, it would be walnut. the look is what first turned me on, and then I found out that it's got a killer tone and is pretty good to work with. However, I love the resonance of mahogany, and the lightweightness of poplar. Some bioengineers need to do some splicing and create a hybrid of the three. They can call it it pophoganut.
I would have to go with walnut... Every walnut bass I have played has a beast of a tone.
My current bass I am playing has a walnut body with figured walnut top... and often times when I am just sitting down running through excercies unplugged, I get so many compliments on the tone of the bass. People can't believe how rich and full it sounds.
Live, it can get tiring to wear (heavy wooded bass... wenge neck and walnut body, and it's 5 string adding to the weight with hardware), but I love the sound it puts out, so at the end of the gig I am exhausted, but it is still fun.