Woods explained

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by kevindahl, Sep 15, 2021.

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  1. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    Hey all, I first thought that I should post this in the Dingwall thread but I thought I might get more opinions here.

    Can anybody share their thoughts on body woods. Alder vs. Swamp Ash and fretboards: Wenge, Maple, Pau Ferro, Macassar Ebony, and Ziricote, necks: maple, 5 piece laminated maple and wenge.

    The only fretboard material that I am familiar with is Maple from the above list. I am not a fan usually because I don't like any coating on the fretboard or the neck. I have never played a maple fingerboard with no lacquer on it. However I have played non laminated maple necks(which are Ok) I would be interested in hearing about the wenge neck as well.

    Currently I play a rosewood fretboard and a bird's eye maple body.

    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
  2. LetItGrowTone


    Apr 2, 2019
    No difference between an 8" speaker and a 18" speaker.
    Oh, sorry, wrong thread.
  3. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    Fialka, Rezdog, landrybass and 13 others like this.
  4. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Assuming a type of wood is good for building a thing with, it’s like a color. Balsa wood wouldn’t be good for building a bass right? So assuming it’s structurally sound, wood choice is like paint choice, IMO.

    I suppose weight is also a consideration.

    What I’m trying to say is the concept of tone wood is nonsense.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
  5. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    Well people have preferences. I was just curious why they prefer certain fingerboards. I didn't realize asking others for advice, that's what people do when needing help, was such a problem.

    Mods can delete the thread, sorry my intentions were not to offend anyone.
    S-Bigbottom and 21DaHoagie12 like this.
  6. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    What ever happened to the Grainiax?
  7. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Nicely figured woods take stain & poly well. Less pretty grains take paint awesome.

    I heard the tone is in yer handz & stuff.
    96tbird and instrumentalist like this.
  8. Lo-E


    Dec 19, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    The main reasons that rosewood and ebony became the defacto fingerboard woods was because they were attractive and they wore extremely well. Any dense hardwood will likely make a good fingerboard, provided it can take glue well. There may be subtle differences in sound but they probably won’t be differences you’ll hear on the bandstand.

    Alder and ash were chosen by Leo Fender because they were plentiful and cheap and because they were reasonably easy to machine. Gibson chose mahogany for similar reasons.

    The idea of a “tonewood” is based more on tradition than anything else. Any wood with a medium density should work (and sound) fine as a body wood. Musicman frequently uses poplar, which many people would scoff at because it’s cheap.

    The sound of an instrument is always based upon a sum of its parts. Body and fingerboard woods will be part of the recipe, for sure, but it’s hard to predict exactly what the effects will be until you start combining them with all the other factors: hardware, electronics, strings, action, amplification, etc…. That’s why people tend to describe these things with such broad strokes.

    RE: wenge necks, I don’t care for them, personally. I find the very open grain feels weird to me and it’s so dense the necks tend to be heavy. Lots of people love ‘em, though….
  9. B-Mac

    B-Mac Just like Aretha Sang... R-E-S-P-E-C-T Supporting Member

    PRS is big on the tone of wood
  10. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug

    I've seen functional and decent sounding guitars/basses made from colored pencils, Legos, animal skulls, granite, fiberglass, acrylic, polystyrene, concrete, stainless steel, bamboo, and other materials. Someone mentioned balsa. While it sounds ridiculous, there is no technical reason reinforced balsa couldn't be used.

    Body material means very little in a solid body electric stringed instrument. (In a hollow body acoustic stringed instrument, tonewood is an entirely different kettle of fish, and matters greatly.)
  11. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    The wenge comment was exactly what I was looking for. I am not really looking for "tone" comments although I believe the body does make a difference. Weight certainly will play a factor in my decision. I have only played rosewood and if I could get that I would.
  12. LetItGrowTone


    Apr 2, 2019
    When I ordered a neck at Warmoth I chose bubinga/bubinga instead of wenge because the density and hardness were about the same, but bubinga's grain is closed (fine).
    I can tell you that it's very hard and smooth, and heavy, so I recommend graphite rods instead of steel.
    Never felt wenge.

    I was motivated by the idea of eliminating dead spots as much as possible. It's probably pretty solid but I haven't mounted it yet because it's so heavy.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
  13. ShawnG

    ShawnG Gold Supporting Member

    May 2, 2020
    Ft Worth, TX
    Michael Tobias uses all kind of wood combos in his basses and the guys who play them say it makes a lot of difference. You might want to check in at the USA MTD thread and see if there’s someone that would be willing to help you out, I’m pretty sure there would be.
    I can’t speak intelligently to tone woods and their effect or non-effect, but I can tell you my favorite two basses tone-wise have alder bodies and maple necks/fretboards. Don’t know why, but that combo works for my ear.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
  14. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    What??? If weight is a factor why choose Rosewood for a body? It's heavy.
    bass nitro and amper like this.
  15. kevindahl


    Aug 21, 2006
    Vancouver, BC
    Sorry fingerboard
  16. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Fingerboards should be black. The rest is optional.
    DustyBottom and ctmullins like this.
  17. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    While I find it hard to believe that builders like MTD, Fodera, Alembic, Dingwall, Wal etc. know nothing about wood, I think it’s funny that so many people (on TB) think it’s all snake oil. I suspect this thread won’t last long so I’ll leave you with this…

  18. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician
    Body wood, neck wood, fretboard wood, and overall mass have can a significant impact on the sound of solid body instruments. All of those element affect how the string vibrates. You can limit those effects by using a high-mass bridge which will tend to isolate the string vibrations from the body. Don't confuse the sound created by a hollow body with the effects damping characteristics of the coupled system of strings, body, neck, fretboard, hardware etc. all of which contribute to the way the instrument as a whole responds to vibrations. Those system vibrations affect the way the strings vibrate, which in turn is transmitted to the pickups.
  19. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    just like folks prefer/have favorite colors --- we like what we like. my fingerboards run the gamut: ebony, rosewood, maple, ebonol, 'composites'. i like 'em all! :laugh: my latest body wood preference is paulownia/empress because it's so lightweight. historically, most of my axes have had ash bodies.

    i'm not in the 'tonewood' camp for EBs, but 'artwood' is cool! most folks choose a certain wood(s) for the look-of-it, i'm sure.
    i wood. :D
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
    Esteban Garcia and kevindahl like this.
  20. ShawnG

    ShawnG Gold Supporting Member

    May 2, 2020
    Ft Worth, TX
    I have a Hollowbody bass and wondered how the body transmitted its unique tone to an electromagnetic pickup which is transmitting the vibration of the metal strings to the amp.
    If I understand you correctly, you are saying the body’s interactions with the vibration of the strings further re-acts with the strings to change their vibrations and that is picked up by the pickups?
    If so, that’s very cool! Thx!
    If so, it also adds fuel to the argument that body wood would have some affect on the tone transmitted by the strings as it is pretty easy to imagine that ash would resonate differently than alder or mahogany, etc. Different blanks of the same wood would even resonate differently leading to the whole “play more than just one of the bass you are considering” thing.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Oct 28, 2021

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