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Are plywood bodies necessarily a bad thing

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I had a feeling recently that, since selling my Camel Journey Bass, I was missing a P-bass in my life. A Vester Stage Series P-bass came up for sale locally and I impulsively went and bought it. One could limbo under the action when I got it. The relief in the neck was almost spot on for me and the truss rod worked, so I removed the neck to fit a shim under the heel. It was at this point that I found that the body was made of plywood. My heart sank. I decided to set it up the best I could and sell it on. I got the action down low and swapped the generic cheap pickups for a Warman Stealth pickup I had in my parts case. Plugged it in and it sang. Sounded like a proper P-bass with great sustain. I've decided to hang onto now. Swapped out the Stealth pups for Wilkinson Alnico V pups and changed the pots for CTS 250k with a Sprague Orange Drop capacitor. I was ready to right this off as a piece of junk as soon as I saw the plywood but it's turned out to be a very nice instrument

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My first bass had a plywood body and it sounded great. Also, all those 60's and 70's basses where the black part of the sunburst covers every contoured surface, they're plywood too and the price of those is continually creeping up. Age defeats wood snobbery 🙂

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Considering Alembics are really plywood I'm going to say no - not a bad thing. If it's built right, then it's built right.

 

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Some woods are better tonewoods than others

Good wood is good wood no matter the make

Bad wood is bad wood no matter the make

Construction should marry it all together if done right

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14 minutes ago, Cuzzie said:

Some woods are better tonewoods than others

Good wood is good wood no matter the make

Bad wood is bad wood no matter the make

Construction should marry it all together if done right

This, right here. I read recently that Fender used alder and ash because there was a cheap local supply available, not because of any particular tone consideration. As @Cuzzie says, it’s the ultimately the construction and that extends to the construction of the ply. If your bass works, it’s all good.

 

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I have a couple of mid-80s Washburn ABT bass guitars with plywood bodies. They are excellent. 

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Gibson ES guitars are laminate and therefore ply. Still making them that way 50 odd years later.

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I’ve had a couple of Korean Squiers which were ply and they were great basses, didn’t notice any issues with them at all.

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Ply usually enhances the properties of a piece of wood. Less torque, warping, tougher, stronger etc. Especially when you set these against weight, price or reliability plied wood can be amazing.

Because it's used in building materials we tend to think of it as cheap or basic but it really makes sense.

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I'm very much a believer that in terms of tone, pickup position is the number 1 factor, followed by pickup type and electronics.

Everything else, including body and neck materials has far less impact on overall tone than those three.

I strongly suspect that you could mold a P bass out of concrete and as long as it had the split P pickup in the correct place and the usual passive tone and volume it would still sound very much like a P Bass.

Might weigh less than plywood too.

Edited by Cato
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1 minute ago, Cato said:

I'm very much a believer that in terms of tone pickup position is the number 1 factor, followed by pickup type and electronics.

Everything else, including body and neck materials has far less impact on overall tone than those three.

I strongly suspect that you could mold a P bass out of concrete and as long as it had the split P pickup in the correct place and the usual passive tone and volume it would still sound very much like a P Bass.

Might weigh less than plywood too.

Agree and disagree (only slightly) - it will sound like a P of course - I would pop the importance of the neck/fretboard pretty high along the list.

All things being equal when I exchange a graphite neck for a wooden one on what is exactly the same bass there is a difference for sure

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Exhibit 1

Guitar body apparently made from Cotswold stone.

Sounds like any other distorted guitar.

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20 minutes ago, Cato said:

Sounds like any other distorted guitar

And it's not even in the mix yet...…...

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Yet another hangover from thinking that solid electric instruments have tonal properties in common with acoustic instruments. They don't.

As other have said for a solid electric instrument it's all about construction. There's nothing wrong with using plywood so long as it has the required strength for the job.

Here are two contemporary plywood instruments:

0457-4.jpg

That's by Jens Ritter. I doubt anyone would disagree that he knows more than a thing or two about making a decent sounding and playing instrument.

25-Bassen-B25-Multiplex-01.jpg

And this one is by Bas Extravaganza. Apparently made from of-the-shelf plywood from his local DIY superstore for the purposes of showing that plywood is just as acceptable a material for making solid electric basses as any other "tone wood".

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I've said this before but I have an old Kay (yep, the ones we all threw away) with a ply neck and body which I've done some work to. Out of about 25 I own the Kay has the longest, brightest sustain, acoustically so no electrickery. I can only put this down to the ply being harder and more rigid than 'normal' wood. It's still not a great bass but not because it's ply. 

I also have an old Hohner Arbor P bass which is ply and is great bass. 

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It's snobbery based on the fact budget instruments were typically plywood. Curiously, it's much less common now, your £100-odd (well, pre Br*x*t they were) Harley Bentons & such will tend to have solid timber bodies.

On the whole your neck, pickups, bridge & strings don't give a stuffed rat what the plank underneath them's made of.

'Tonewood' zealot outrage incoming... :ph34r: :D

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I dont think anyone would complain if the ply was made up of  Walnut/Ash/Walnut /Ash/Walnut  etc etc.

 

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The late Greg Curbow used plywood in necks (rockwood), that strange Aussie has also plywood neck. Many double basses are plywood, wooden aeroplanes are mostly plywood.

Guns... https://cwp.fi/en/

Edited by itu

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Just now, itu said:

wooden aeroplanes are mostly plywood.

Yeah but they sound sh*t don't they.

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2 minutes ago, Bolo said:

Yeah but they sound sh*t don't they.

You should ask Flea, he certainly knows:

 

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6 minutes ago, itu said:

wooden aeroplanes are mostly plywood.

Bolo : Yeah but they sound sh*t don't they.

 

Not really.  They do sound like aeroplanes though

Edited by fleabag

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Plywood = Heavy 

Heavy = Heft 

Heft = Good 

Good = End of thread. 

 

Job done 😄

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