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woods for bass bodies

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by roberacer, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. roberacer


    May 30, 2012
    Hey Folks. I want to pick your brains. I have an old Washburn B-2 (86) which every has deemed a piece of firewood. I actually always liked it. That said it was the first bass I ever owned. I recently took it off of the wall where it has stayed for oh probably 10 years, put new strings on it, got annoyed that I can't play any more and reminissed about liking it so much compared to many others I had played. Years ago my little bro took his Fender squire strat and turned it into a really great guitar just by changing the bridge and the pickups. I was always a little bumbed that my bass wasn't so great at bottom end but loved the growl it would create. In fact it was the growl machine. Enter a new set of Basslines 1/4 pounders. Presto bass and even more growl. Another thing I realised that I like about it is the fact that it has about the thinnest neck I have ever seen. With that it is really easy to play. I decided I am going to turn this into a really cool machine but the body is poplar ply. I didn't mind spending the money on the pickups as they will fit in any p-style bass but wasn't sure if I was going to end up with a crap bass unless I got a new body for it. Yes, I know many if not all of you folks can make said thing but I realised something after I put the pickups in it. I took it to one of my bands rehearsals (I am a talent developer/manager) and let the bass player have at it. He has an American Fender P that is all done up. He loved his bass. He played mine for a few minutes and decided he would keep using it for a bit. Acutally he never put it down after that. I brought it back to another rehearsal and he played it again. At one point he did a direct swap (same song) and tried the Fender again. He then said "I can't deal with the Fender anymore". It was just muddy and didn't have the drive (growl) the Washburn had. Also the Washburn seemed to have almost as much bottom as the Fender (BTW vintage p pickup with aguilar bridge pickup) but with massively better mid. Yes, less sustain but that was the marked difference. Control. The Washburn has a tight very articulate sound. I am guessing a lot of that growl is owed to that fact that the bridge saddles are brass but poplar being a "Hardwood" is going to resonate at a higher frequency, yes? Being Plywood that is going to change the resonant as well but in what way? Could it be that the ply poplar body is adding to the so loved growl tone that we are getting? Is it possible that if I went to a solid maple or ash body I might screw up what is working? I was of the mindset that I might have a body made for it but I am starting to reconsider. Also active electronics? Thoughts???
  2. my thoughts: if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

    Seriously, leave well enough alone - and don't sweat the details. If you've already got a bass that you (and others) love to play and hear, you've already got the end purpose that modding a bass would hope to yield, so from a practical standpoint you've already got it made. Changing the wood of the body COULD change the tone of your bass, but by how much many people can't agree. If you already love the tone of the current wood and electronics, why bother with trying to change it?
  3. Davidmh


    Jul 12, 2012
    Wales, UK
    I'll let you know my experience with a ply strat body I got from ebay.

    I bought a nice 2nd-hand neck. I bought a ready-rigged scratchguard, and later changed the bridge pup for a bladed humbucker for a rounder tone. I play through a little 5-watt valve amp. It sounds and plays great. I love this guitar!

    As long as it's a solid colour and you don't mind the weight a ply body is fine.

    Won't break into three bits if you drop it either:D.
  4. Please don't take this as a criticism of your post in general, but I've never had that happen with any of my basses, and none of them have been plywood.

    I've got no real problems with plywood instruments, for christmas I got a mak APB-1 bass from my girlfriend, her friend found it in a dumpster, and the nut was broken, so she just gave it to me. I made a nut for it out of a piece of birch, then gave it to a local "instruments for kids" charity, that I think was associated with big-brothers-big-sisters, or something. It was a damn nice bass, if I didn't have enough already, I would have kept it - but I'm sure whoever has it now is happier with it than I would have been.

    While I'm not going to say that changing the body wood won't (or will) change the tone (that's a whole can of worms I'm not going to touch), I WILL say that if you already like the bass THIS much, there isn't much point in changing it.
  5. roberacer


    May 30, 2012
    I guess that was my thoughts too. I guess I am also looking at how I can improve it too though.
  6. Another vote for "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

    Are there any hardware issues? Is the intonation good and/or adjustable? I could see switching out the tuners if the bass doesn't stay in tune.

    From your original post, it sounds like you and the bass player mentioned above like the bass as is. I would be leery of any changes would ruin what you like about the bass...
  7. Davidmh


    Jul 12, 2012
    Wales, UK
    Misplaced joke - sorry:oops:.
  8. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2012
    If I made you a bass out of MDF without telling you what material it was made from, and you really loved the sound the bass produced. Would it then sound worse when I told you it was made from MDF?

    No, it wouldn't.

    If you like the sound of the bass, then don't change anything. Some people may say that the wood in inferior to another type of wood because it doesn't sound like a Fender (or whatever) bass. If that isn't your goal then the wood doesn't matter as long as it works for you.

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