What You guys Think about basses Made of basswood ?
it’s cheap but it sounds ok, very close to alder with a little bit less attack
If you ever watch Phil McKnights YouTube channel ‘Know your Gear’ this kind of thing comes up all the time. The bottom line is that wood will affect the tone of the bass. However so do the strings, pickups, how you play, your amp blah blah blah. Yes it’s part of the sound but what percentage is it? It’s used because it’s relatively cheap and here’s the thing I like; it’s quite light. You literally couldn’t give me a 12lb 1970’s bass.
Here’s an article that is quite clear on the different types of wood.
So much this. I’d argue wood and body design are probably the least impactful portion of the sound (except for acoustic or semi-hollow designs) of a bass.
Something in the past…there just wasn’t the amount of technology that was available today. There were only a few ways to achieve certain tones, and the kind of bass you had was one of them.
The Ernie Ball Bongo basses are made from basswood. They go for around $2700+ new so I’m guessing it must be okay.
Lighter woods like that often give a nice bright tone that I actually prefer over the heavier ones. And I always prefer a lighter bass over a heavier one.
Expensive materials are not necessarily better
In the end though I would be surprised if the tonewood was more than 10% of the tone on a solid body.
seeing as how i own, and my favorite bass, is made of basswood (the above mentioned bongo) i took an immediate interest in this thread. if you look around the interwebs, the general consensus is yes, wood choice affects tone (moreso on accoustics then electrics), and the degree it affects it is not a huge difference in most people’s opinions. please also remember that these are opinions. no wood “sounds good” or “sounds bad”. it is the overall design of a bass that really results in it’s tone, from string choice, to pickups, to wood type, etc. this was interesting:
If I like the look, the feel, and the sound of an instrument, I could care less what wood it is made from to be honest. If you are a professional bassist then maybe that’s a bit different, but for most of us, it’s not really going to be noticeable. Our lack of playing at a highly skilled level has a lot more impact than what wood choice it is.
Here is Fender’s summary, but I bet in a blind test most of us wouldn’t be able to tell these apart, or at least not be able to tell which wood is which.
- Alder: full and rich, with fat low-end, nice cutting mids, and good overall warmth and sustain. Alder is generally considered to be one of the “traditional” Stratocaster body woods.
- Ash: exhibits a “snappier” tone with a bright edge, but with a warm bass and long sustain. It is often considered as the other “traditional” Stratocaster body wood.
- Poplar: one of the softer hardwoods, nicely resonant with a meaty tone. Many guitar manufacturers as a substitute for alder are using this wood, as it is quite similar in tone.
- Basswood: the principal wood used on many Japanese made instruments. This is due both to its tonal response, (once again, very similar to Alder) as well as the fact that Basswood is much more readily available to the manufacturers in Asia.
- Mahogany: deep warm mids, good sustain and nice “bite”
- Maple: punchy, bright, and has a nice bite on the high end. Often used only as a laminated top instead of an entire body, as it tends to be a particularly heavy wood.
Now if we are talking acoustic instruments (or semi-hollow to some degree), that’s a different thing entirely where wood choices matter quite a bit. I’ve just never found it does much for electric solid bodies.
I’d put it like this. If you put cheap pickups in the “best” tone wood and put high end pickups into a cheap bass with “low end” wood, the cheap bass would sound way better than the good one.
I have a Fender P Bass w/ alder body, and a Squire VM Jazz w/ a maple body, and I can definitely tell the difference in tone between those 2 when playing unplugged (the Squire is about 3 pounds heavier also) – they are kind of on opposite ends of the spectrum so it’s pretty clearly audible. TBH I’m not a huge fan of how bright and punchy the Squire sounds but it definitely has its place. I don’t notice differences between other woods so much.
My Squier VM 70’s Jazz Bass has both a maple body and a maple neck . . .
I can attest that it is quite heavy (10.2 pounds), but it does sound bright and punchy, so I agree with what Fender says in their wood summary. . . .
I also agree with your assertion that (except for the weight) most of us wouldn’t be able to tell which wood was which . . . so I wouldn’t bet against you, @JT!
Thanks for your post.
also maple as a body wood tends to bring a very focused, very compact punch in the midrange. an alder body or even an ash body definitly don’t do that.
Agree completely, Laurent @terb . . .
Together with my maple bodied Squier, I have found that turning UP both the midrange knobs, and turning OFF any other effects on my Rumble 100, makes me sound a lot more like you-know-WHO . .
Not apples to apples unfortunately. A Fender P Bass and a Squire VM Jazz are different beasts entirely. If you had a Fender P Bass with Alder and a matching one with same electronics that was Maple then that’s more like it. Something like this Strat video. You might hear a difference, but it is really subtle…
He was playing them unplugged. But yeah, other differences too, like a lot more mass in the J body.
Ah, yes, didn’t catch that, sorry. But yeah, they are not the same body shape, will likely have different nuts, bridges, etc.
Anyway, fascinating topic.
Same electronics is the key here, that is really where some difference can be identified…even so some EQ adjustments, pedals, amps (or plugin versions of that) could tweak the tone enough to get something pretty much identical to each other. It just seems like such an inconsequential decision with today’s technology. I’d say your preference of light or heavy is probably more important than the sound difference.
Are we starting TONEWOOD wars here?
I used to obssess over tonewood and reading people fight over this on every forum really got me nowhere until I started to watch actual tests performed on it.
My conclusion is that every piece of wood will sound different because of it’s properties. You can have two planks of mahogany (one older and one younger) and they’ll sound different due to aging process stripping the said wood of water and introducing “wrinkles” to it.
Tone of the instrument is sum of all of it’s parts and when it comes to solid body basses the type of wood is the last thing I care about. Does it affect sound? Sure, but the percentage is so minuscule and no one should really bang their heads on the wall over this. Acoustic instruments are completely different story and there’s nothing to debate about this.
All I care is that my instrument is made well, has quality wood (not some plank half eaten by maggots), quality electronics, nicely finished comfortable neck, properly leveled frets with no sharp edges and that is relatively light.
Things that will actually audibly change the tone of your bass is type of strings you are using, followed by electronics, cabs, mics, amps and the way you play it. You should take all of that into consideration before even thinking about wood (which you shouldn’t really).
As far as the basswood goes, it’s light wood, very easy on tools and easy to work with so you can expect light instrument. Problem is if your basswood bass falls down it’s going to get dents much easier then something made of alder for example.
Excellent points. Each tree is unique even amongst the same species. Each cut of that specific tree is different too! Even slight differences in the thickness of the coating (unless they have really precise processes!).
I agree, and you can even multiply that by the sub-varieties of mahogany (there are mahogany sorts of tree all around the world with a lot of differences), the condition the tree had to grow (sun, temperature, water, wind, space between other trees, nutrients in the ground …), its age when it has been cut, etc etc etc
that’s a big part of why each instrument is kinda unique. you can try 5 Fender Precision and I bet you will feel some differences : sound but also the resonnance of the instrument, and the feel you have with it.
that’s a part of the magic, I think, and a (big) part of the satisfaction we can have when we find an instrument that we REALLY like. love, maybe.
it’s not just about tone, really.