wood choices

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by McBass, May 13, 2004.

  1. McBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    In old Italian basses, when tops are made out of pine or fir, are the blocks and linings also made out of the same pine or fir?
    What would the effect be on the tone of the bass to make a neck block out of maple instead of spruce? Wouldn't it be stronger? Would it be significantly heavier?
  2. The linings were likely made from whatever wood was available to the maker of sufficient size.

    Spruce or willow or other light wood is just fine for a neck block. There are some German bases with integral neck/neck block that is all maple, and they are not necessarily better in any way to one made with a regular neck block. They are much harder to repair though.

    A maple neck block would not likely improve or make the sound worse. There is a possibility that the sound could be altered if the block was changed solely, however since it is a fairly "non-vibrating" part of the violin, there could be no difference at all.

    There would be a net gain in weight but again this would not likely change the vibrating modal frequencies of the violin much since it is in the center of the body where there is not much vibration. If the bass bar or sound post were changed to maple, however, now this would very likely change the sound in a big (negative) way.
  3. I've experimented over the years with soundposts made of many different woods. In carved basses, soft spruce seems to work best in most basses, although a hard spruce will sometimes brighten up a really dark sounding bass. In plywood, it's a different story. I've seen many old Kay basses that still had their original MAPLE soundpost. Former NY City luthier Charles Traeger wrote a paper on this subject many years ago. His conclusion was that changing the post in many Kays to the more traditional soft spruce post often resulted in a tonal loss. Traeger referred to this as "impedance matching". I don't think this is correct in all cases, but it is in some. It may have something to do with the fact that Kay changed the compostion (number and thickness) of the laminates several times over the years. Finding the best soundpost for a bass often requires trying different posts with different density woods. I've had good luck using basswood posts in some laminated basses. Every bass is different - even in factory produced basses.
  4. McBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thanks for the replies. I guess I'm still wondering about the old italian basses and if the block wood matches the top wood when the top is made of something other than spruce.
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA