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Wood choices for a short scale?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ii7-V7, Jan 8, 2006.


  1. ii7-V7

    ii7-V7

    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I've recently purchased wood to start construction on a bass. However, I've recently decided that I want to go with a short scale (30") bass. I'm not sure that woods I've chosen will be appropriate for a short scale bass. I'm worried that the guitar would be very articulate.

    Right now I'm planning on a five piece neck through with two Cherry pieces, two thin Mahogany strips, and a poplar center strip. At the very least I figure I have to replace the poplar with Maple.

    The body is going to be mahogany. I bought a piece of Birch because I liked the figuring. At first I thought that I would use it as a finger board, but its not quarter sawn. Now I'm thinking that it would make a good top wood.

    I want the advantage of a short scale but to still be able to maintain some articulation of the notes.

    What are others experiences of good wood combo's for a short scale?
     
  2. parttimeluthier

    parttimeluthier

    May 7, 2005
    Chaddukes, I am curious as to why you wanted to use Poplar as the center strip of the neck. I would want to use the most dense type of wood for the truss rod to rest in. Both Cherry and Mahogany are usually denser than Poplar. So I do think Maple(or maybe the Cherry) would be a better choice for the center strip.
    That said I am not opposed to Poplar being used in necks as some 60's manufacturers used it(and I have argued for it's use here at TB) but generally I would think you want your strongest wood in the center so the truss rod can pull against it and not fight against stronger outside laminations. I think just the Cherry and the Mahogany would make a great neck. You've already got the Cherry on hand why bother trying to get the Maple.
    The Birch would probably bring out more snap and articulation if you do use it over the Mahogany for the body.
    Well just my two cents, I will bet it will turn out to be a cool bass though.
     
  3. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Not too sure but I don't think you want to use poplar in a neck. I will be interested to see what others say......t
     
  4. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Yellow poplar, or tuliptree, using average numbers has 86% of the stiffness of hard maple. Not as farfetched as one might think for neck use, and certainly a possibility if used in combination with carbon composite reinforcements. On a short scale, less stiffness is needed than on a long scale. It's got a great stiffness/density ratio.

    I've done some trim work with poplar, and was pretty surprised how stiff it feels.
     
  5. ii7-V7

    ii7-V7

    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Thats good to know. My original thought was to make a longscale (35") five string and I want to go with lighter neck woods to alleviate neckdive, and to keep the tone warm. I always intended to use carbon fiber or steel reinforcement. I chose the pieces that I did because of their grain orientation and their lack of knots, pinholes, and runout. All of the maple that I saw riftsawn, and knotty.

    My thought in asking this question was that every shortscale that I have seen that sounds good uses some really dense woods to keep the sound strong and articulate. Alembic, Warwick, etc. Most of these, despite being short scale, are actually on the heavy side.

    Thanks Pilotjones for letting me know that shortscale basses are going to be naturally stiffer due to the shorter neck. That makes perfect sense.

    Chad
     
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    The other side of the coin is that although a shorter neck is naturally stiffer, short scale bass strings tend to have a less desirable tone (thumpier, muddier), which is probably improved by making the neck as stiff as possible.
     
  7. ii7-V7

    ii7-V7

    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    OK, a curve ball...

    I know that the reduced tension of the shorter strings can lead to a mudier sound. To avoid that I had considered tuning the strings up a bit to increase the string tension. So, I was thinking about a five string set tuned D, G, C, F, Bb. do you think this will work?

    30" Five string, Tuned D through Bb.

    Chad
     
  8. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    woah...wow...that's high! I'm assuming these won't be standard strings then...?? If you're going to raise it up, I'd start at A (like a tenor bass) and go to F. That way you could most likely still use standard strings (tuning E to an A, A to a D, etc., etc.). But then again, I have no experience with this, so correct me if I'm wrong. However, I do like the idea of your shortscale. Good luck!

    -Josh
     
  9. ii7-V7

    ii7-V7

    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    I mean the D a step and a half higher than the standard Low B string. One Step below your standard E string. Yes, I know its still a significant change. I'm sure it can be done... the only question is what guage.


    Chad
     
  10. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Ah...okay, that makes sense. I say go for it, then!

    -Josh
     
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    I see what you're saying, and once again, there are two sides to the coin. By using a 34" B-G set and tuning it up to D-Bb on the 30", you're increasing the tension, maybe to where it would be on a "standard 34" B-E; maybe even higher. (you can use a spreadsheet to figure out exactly). And this would be expected to help the tone. But on the other hand, you've gone to a heavier gauge set while keeping the 30" the same, so you've potentially made the sound muddier on that account (higher string thickness-to-length ratio).

    In the end there's experimentation. That where the fun is!