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everogere

Finish - Is it important ?

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have purchased a very nice Fender Jazz bass which is finished in nitrocellulose lacquer and has a road worn finish. Unfortunately 'road worn' is not really for me, if I have the body resprayed in something other than nitrocellulose would it effect the tone/sound of the bass ? I guess what Im asking is, does the type of finish effect the sound. 

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Yes, but not much at all. 

A thick finish (e.g. poly) it will make a small different to the resonation of the wood. 

 

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Posted (edited)

I was thinking more of 2 pack paint ?

Water based.

 

Edited by everogere
addition

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I think there's a list here somewhere of what affects your tone.

Top of the list is electronics, types of timber somewhere below this. I would think that a coat of "lacquer" will make little difference in comparison...

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I don't think it would make any difference at all. The people who claim they can hear these types of things must have incredibly sensitive hearing and must have their ears professionally cleaned out on a regular basis.

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It would affect the acoustic sound far more than what you get through an amp as your ears hear the reflected sound waves off the front face of the body, but even then probably unnoticeable. The pickups work on magnetism so the effect of different paint is going to be negligible. 

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I'd do a little more research before going ahead. All I can say from experience is that all the fenders I've liked best have been Nitro finished and all have had a slightly livelier sound than those with the heavier poly finishes. That may be coincidence but I was sceptical about how a thin layer of paint might affect something as heavy as a bass body or even that the type of wood would affect the sound, but bass bodies do vibrate a lot when you hit the strings and you can feel it as well as hear it. If the body is vibrating then some of that must feed back into the strings via the bridge. I don't suppose the effect is huge but I might contact a friendly luthier or one of the small boutique guitar builders the post in the build diaries and see what they say.

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Hi

Following on from @Phil Starr 's post, I'm one of the regular forum modder / builders he refers to and certainly my personal view is that for a 'standard' 2k finish there would be no perceptable sound difference (assuming the finisher put the pickups back at exactly the same heights as before).

There would, however, be a change in the value - modding guitars and basses almost always result in a drop of value even when the mods are clearly improvements.  I say that not to put you off doing it, but it needs to be a keeper to warrant making the change. 

Hope this helps.

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I'm currently working on two guitar projects. One had its polyurethane removed and sprayed over the other sprayed onto polyurethane. I believe that  it's all psychological. BUT I read somewhere as mentioned above that nitrocellulose finish sounds different to polyurethane finish. Whether it sounds better is a personal preference. 

I think it's important to visually like your instruments but a minor aesthetics change may have a minor impact on the sound.

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My 70s P with heavy poly finish sounded amazing. As did my Road Worn P with thin nitro finish. IMHO, finish makes NO difference to tone. How can it?

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The wood would make a difference, but I removed thick poly  back to bare wood, added a few coats of tru oil and there was a difference in sound, after removing the poly i got a much warmer and woody sound which was what I wanted.

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19 minutes ago, hooky_lowdown said:

The wood would make a difference, but I removed thick poly  back to bare wood, added a few coats of tru oil and there was a difference in sound, after removing the poly i got a much warmer and woody sound which was what I wanted.

I just don't see how type of body wood or finish can possibly affect your signal at the output jack. The difference in sound between a Ray and a P Bass (for example) is largely in the design and position of the pickup and how the electrics are configured. This being my opinion based on 40 years of listening - I'm no audio scientist and I could be wrong. Not saying you didn't perceive a difference in your own mind after all that work, but Confirmation Bias can be extremely powerful! :)

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I`m not sure on this one, as I`ve never had a nitro finished bass, but I did have a Precision where the poly had been removed to bare wood, and then oiled and it did seem to have a more resonant sound than my others. but as I bought it like that I can`t really say if this was down to the removal of the poly, or the bass was like that all along. I do know that from having read about the RWs people seem to rave about the resonance of them so maybe this is a factor, though I`m not sure how - something to do with the slightly thinner bodies maybe?

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Posted (edited)
5 minutes ago, Lozz196 said:

I`m not sure on this one, as I`ve never had a nitro finished bass, but I did have a Precision where the poly had been removed to bare wood, and then oiled and it did seem to have a more resonant sound than my others. but as I bought it like that I can`t really say if this was down to the removal of the poly, or the bass was like that all along. I do know that from having read about the RWs people seem to rave about the resonance of them so maybe this is a factor, though I`m not sure how - something to do with the slightly thinner bodies maybe?

Before I very stupidly sold my Road Worn P, I did notice that it was physically lighter than most other Ps I've had, and played acoustically was very loud. In fact, if you held it forward there was an astonishing amount of sound coming out of the back of it! This is a 'real' phenomena I'm sure, but whether or not that translates into any difference whatsoever at the pickup..? I'm still sceptical. :)

Edited by discreet
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42 minutes ago, discreet said:

Before I very stupidly sold my Road Worn P, I did notice that it was physically lighter than most other Ps I've had, and played acoustically was very loud. In fact, if you held it forward there was an astonishing amount of sound coming out of the back of it! This is a 'real' phenomena I'm sure, but whether or not that translates into any difference whatsoever at the pickup..? I'm still sceptical. :)

In my humble opinion :ph34r: anything that affects the way that the string responds will be transferred to the pickup. Attack, decay release, etc. will be affected by the bridge, tuners, body and neck resonance. That is the basis for the instrument's core tone. After that strings and pickup choice and placement will be a big factor.  Whether the effect is better with different woods and finishes is subjective but scientifically it makes perfect sense to me.

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14 minutes ago, Opticaleye said:

In my humble opinion :ph34r: anything that affects the way that the string responds will be transferred to the pickup. Attack, decay release, etc. will be affected by the bridge, tuners, body and neck resonance. That is the basis for the instrument's core tone. After that strings and pickup choice and placement will be a big factor.  Whether the effect is better with different woods and finishes is subjective but scientifically it makes perfect sense to me.

Either it's your opinion or it's scientifically sensible... ;) Claiming body wood or finish affects tone is extraordinary in my view, so I'll need to see some extraordinary evidence to support that view before I change my mind. I've certainly never heard any difference in tone after refinishing a bass.

Saying body and neck resonance comes before pickup choice and placement in the production of tone is risible.

Simply changing strings will have a much more pronounced effect on tone than any wood or finish choice. In my humble opinion. Which in this case I'm posting as fact. :D

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4 minutes ago, discreet said:

Either it's your opinion or it's scientifically sensible... ;) Claiming body wood or finish affects tone is extraordinary in my view, so I'll need to see some extraordinary evidence to support that view before I change my mind. I've certainly never heard any difference in tone after refinishing a bass.

Saying body and neck resonance comes before pickup choice and placement in the production of tone is risible.

Simply changing strings will have a much more pronounced effect on tone than any wood or finish choice. In my humble opinion. Which in this case I'm posting as fact. :D

Well, where do I start! 

I've never read a paper on bass guitar physics but it is my opinion that if one existed it would support my opinion. Scientifically.

"Saying body and neck resonance comes before pickup choice and placement in the production of tone is risible."

Chronologically how could it be otherwise?

Simply changing strings will have a much more pronounced effect on tone than any wood or finish choice. In my humble opinion. Which in this case I'm posting as fact. :D 

Agreed. And you can polish a turd too. The result might not be agreeable that's all.

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1 minute ago, Opticaleye said:

I've never read a paper on bass guitar physics but it is my opinion that if one existed it would support my opinion. Scientifically.

"Saying body and neck resonance comes before pickup choice and placement in the production of tone is risible."

Chronologically how could it be otherwise?

Er... clearly you can't say that your opinion would be supported scientifically until it has actually been supported scientifically. Which, as far as I know, it has not. It is still just your opinion. But if any actual 'science' has been done, I'd be happy to see a link. :)

On the 'chronology' point, what I meant was that pickup design and placement has much more bearing on tone than neck and body 'resonance'.

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36 minutes ago, Opticaleye said:

Agreed. And you can polish a turd too. The result might not be agreeable that's all.

Better to roll it in glitter.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, discreet said:

 

On the 'chronology' point, what I meant was that pickup design and placement has much more bearing on tone than neck and body 'resonance'.

A point you refuted despite me not saying that it didn't. I suppose this confirms confirmation bias in that you wanted to read something because I disagreed with you :D

2 hours ago, discreet said:

Er... clearly you can't say that your opinion would be supported scientifically until it has actually been supported scientifically. Which, as far as I know, it has not. It is still just your opinion. But if any actual 'science' has been done, I'd be happy to see a link. :)

Well I come from an engineering background (mechanical and electronic) and the science is so obvious that I guess no-one thought it worthwhile. Anyway your pedantry is a bit tortuous.

There are a number of aspects to a bass guitar's tone. The mechanical aspects include strings and all mechanical components including body and neck. The electrical aspects including pickups have the possibility to change the sound more radically (as indeed does an amplifier) but in a different way. Not everyone,for instance, compensates for the (mechanical) loss of string brightness through age by turning their treble up on the amp. It's not the same thing.

I owned a fantastic 1976 Precision 18 years ago, lightweight and resonant but sadly with an unstable neck. I bought a replacement neck. Everything good about that bass disappeared along with the faulty neck.

I have 2 Sandberg Umbos one rosewood necked and one maple. The maple fingerboard Umbo is considerably quieter than the rosewood and by your logic swapping the pickups and electronics over from one to the other should have resulted in the rosewood bass having the lower output. It didn't. The maple one was still by far the quieter bass. My conclusion was that the mechanical side of the tone had a big impact. It seems logical and many bass/guitar builders seem to think so too.

 

Edited by Opticaleye
bad writing

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5 minutes ago, Opticaleye said:

...your pedantry is a bit tortuous.

My pedantry!? Bwa-ha-ha-haaaah!!! xD

Let's go back to basics. The title of this thread is, 'Finish - Is It Important?' To which my answer is, 'No, it isn't'. I'm done.

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5 hours ago, discreet said:

I just don't see how type of body wood or finish can possibly affect your signal at the output jack. The difference in sound between a Ray and a P Bass (for example) is largely in the design and position of the pickup and how the electrics are configured. This being my opinion based on 40 years of listening - I'm no audio scientist and I could be wrong. 

I must admit as a scientist I was originally sceptical about some of the claims made during basschat debates about tone, and it is true that in many areas there is a general lack of data from properly controlled experiments. In particular I found it hard to believe that the amount of energy transmitted from a string would move a relatively massive bass body enough to feed back to the string and modify the original signal. I own four basses, a Fender P American Deluxe, a Highway One J, a Burny T'bird and my starter bass a Cort Action Bass. The only other bass I've owned was a Gibson T'bird. The J,P and Cort all have J style necks, all with maple/rosewood necks and all the basses are 34" scale. The Burny is a pretty faithful copy of the Gibson, certainly in physical shape and pickup placement. They are all currently strung with Dean Markley Blue Steels 

The Cort has had a series of pup replacements, it plays great but sounds completely dead, both acoustically and through the pups. All of the others sing acoustically, sustain better than the Cort and the acoustic sound is reflected in the sound I get through an amp or through headphones. The two T'birds sound fairly similar acoustically, both have remarkable sustain too but the Gibson had a lovely rough edge to it which the Burny lacks, I have that down to the pickups in all probability.

Now you are right that strings, pup's and their placement all make a difference but pups aren't going to make much of a difference to the acoustic sound. The bodies of the two Fenders vibrate enough for me to be able to feel them through my stomach never mind my fingers and lets face it, if basses didn't vibrate clip on tuners wouldn't work. So I'd say it is certainly plausible that the nature of the body would affect the sound and that some energy is transmitted to the strings. I'm not hazarding a guess as to how important each factor is but I certainly no longer believe a bass body or neck is an inert part of the system.

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Whilst I am not sure about finish, construction obviously makes a huge difference to tone. I have a bare wood Jazz-alike here that is significantly louder acoustically than most of my other 18 or so bass guitars, my 80s MIJ Fender is similarly loud, but has a Nitro finish.

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8 hours ago, hooky_lowdown said:

The wood would make a difference, but I removed thick poly  back to bare wood, added a few coats of tru oil and there was a difference in sound, after removing the poly i got a much warmer and woody sound which was what I wanted.

I would imagine that in order to do this, you would have had to strip down the bass and if the bass had a bolt-on neck you probably also removed that for the finishing process.

Can you categorically say that simply the action of disassembling and reassembling the bass didn't contribute to the change in sound?

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Aside of all the tonewood science, a change in the finish of the bass will change how the OP feels about the bass and so this could create a change in his attack with the fingers. 

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