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It appears wood has little to no effect on tone.


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This popped up in my YouTube feed & although it’s a guitar, I don’t see why bass would be any different.

 

So are expensive basses really about a more comfortable neck & visual appeal?
 

 

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Oh, I hadn’t seen the previous ones & they didn’t appear in my (admittedly short) search. 
 

Gonna have a look for them, as I like to hear others’ opinions. 

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I completely understand this. However, how does this work in the context of a Les Paul, 335 and big bodied 175, all with the same pickups, controls etc. They don't appear to sound the same but maybe there's something else at play.

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Did another search & I found the last one, but there’s not much discussion really. 
Tried looking for the ones buried in a Tonewoods thread, but no joy. 
 

I had planned on saving a couple of £k & getting a nice bass, but it would seem money would be better spent finding an inexpensive comfortable bass & then upgrading the pickups & electrics?

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35 minutes ago, Steve Browning said:

I completely understand this. However, how does this work in the context of a Les Paul, 335 and big bodied 175, all with the same pickups, controls etc. They don't appear to sound the same but maybe there's something else at play.


Surely that’s less about the wood and more about the construction?

 

I really don’t get the whole tonewood thing to be honest, but I am a Luddite.

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How there can be any debate after this video beggars belief.

I guess if people have a lot of money and credibility invested in the tonewood myth they feel they have to keep digging.

More dignified to admit they've been wrong all along.

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46 minutes ago, xgsjx said:

Did another search & I found the last one, but there’s not much discussion really. 
Tried looking for the ones buried in a Tonewoods thread, but no joy. 
 

I had planned on saving a couple of £k & getting a nice bass, but it would seem money would be better spent finding an inexpensive comfortable bass & then upgrading the pickups & electrics?

 

It depends really. There's some logic to that, but if / when it comes to resale, an upgraded cheap bass will still be a cheap bass, whereas a high quality bass may eventually be worth even more than you paid for it. 

 

If it's just a tool for the job and you're not worried about value down the line, then upgrading a cheapy is a perfectly viable option as far as I'm concerned. Especially considering the quality of "budget" instruments these days by the likes of Harley Benton and co. 

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3 minutes ago, stewblack said:

How there can be any debate after this video beggars belief.

I guess if people have a lot of money and credibility invested in the tonewood myth they feel they have to keep digging.

More dignified to admit they've been wrong all along.

 

I've always thought the whole tone wood thing was a bit silly to be honest. Possibly justifiable in an acoustic instrument, but as far as I'm concerned makes absolutely no difference in fully electric instruments. It's all a bit emperor's new clothes. 

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Uncanny I was about to start another thread on this, fortunately we are all spared this :) To state my position I'm agnostic about this and a You Tube video isn't really evidence, however interesting. For me it's about physics and the amount of energy involved in picking or plucking a string is limited and the mass of a bass large so if it does make a difference then that needs some explaining.

 

So the reason I came here to post was some evidence/research on decay time in pianos using a single string on a soundboard, certainly analogous to a guitar if not a bass. Lots of interesting (to me) data but one graph stood out.

 

image.png.742bd7129764232d51c8ef3dca8117c8.png

So the plots of the decay times of each note on the piano and the time it took for a 20db decay. You can see there is a general trend for the bass notes to decay slowly and the treble notes quickly. What's interesting though are the differences between adjacent notes. In the middle of the graph Gb4 sustains way longer than G4. playing that piano Gb4 would really jump out at you and if held would colour subsequent notes very differently toa transposition up a semitone. 

 

The research went on from there and two things were shown to be important. The position of the bridge and the phase of the movement of the soundboard (whether it was moving in time with the string or against it) Klaus Wogram: The strings and the soundboard article here 

 

Now the point is that the bass body of all my basses vibrate all over,I can feel it against my body when I pick a string and when i lightly touch the bass, it's what the clip on tuners detect. We also know that different woods vibrate differently depending upon mass, Young's modulus (springiness), shape and internal damping. The bridge must be moving, and the nut and these must have an effect upon the strings including whether they are moving in phase or out of phase. On my Jazz A and A# on the E string jump out at me if I play evenly, other notes aren't even either but that's the spot I always notice. It doesn't happen on the A string. You know what? It could be the body

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11 minutes ago, Phil Starr said:

Uncanny I was about to start another thread on this, fortunately we are all spared this :) To state my position I'm agnostic about this and a You Tube video isn't really evidence, however interesting. For me it's about physics and the amount of energy involved in picking or plucking a string is limited and the mass of a bass large so if it does make a difference then that needs some explaining.

 

So the reason I came here to post was some evidence/research on decay time in pianos using a single string on a soundboard, certainly analogous to a guitar if not a bass. Lots of interesting (to me) data but one graph stood out.

 

image.png.742bd7129764232d51c8ef3dca8117c8.png

So the plots of the decay times of each note on the piano and the time it took for a 20db decay. You can see there is a general trend for the bass notes to decay slowly and the treble notes quickly. What's interesting though are the differences between adjacent notes. In the middle of the graph Gb4 sustains way longer than G4. playing that piano Gb4 would really jump out at you and if held would colour subsequent notes very differently toa transposition up a semitone. 

 

The research went on from there and two things were shown to be important. The position of the bridge and the phase of the movement of the soundboard (whether it was moving in time with the string or against it) Klaus Wogram: The strings and the soundboard article here 

 

Now the point is that the bass body of all my basses vibrate all over,I can feel it against my body when I pick a string and when i lightly touch the bass, it's what the clip on tuners detect. We also know that different woods vibrate differently depending upon mass, Young's modulus (springiness), shape and internal damping. The bridge must be moving, and the nut and these must have an effect upon the strings including whether they are moving in phase or out of phase. On my Jazz A and A# on the E string jump out at me if I play evenly, other notes aren't even either but that's the spot I always notice. It doesn't happen on the A string. You know what? It could be the body

Nice post, love the fact that people see a YouTube video and think 'argument over'. Years of experimenting with bitsa Fender-alikes has taught me that wooden components explain a lot of the variance, it might be the idea of 'tone wood' per se, but different bodies and different necks can do very different things to the quality and quantity of what comes out of the PUPs 👍

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I don’t know about this but if I’ve got 6 different basses hanging up and all fitted with labella LTFs , and they all sound different when played without the amp then it must be the woods/construction mustn’t it ?, although some strings are older than others, so it’s hard to say really 🤷‍♂️ 

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1 hour ago, Phil Starr said:

 

 

image.png.742bd7129764232d51c8ef3dca8117c8.png

 

 

For me, in addition to the original post, this post is the most interesting. It shows that a musical instrument isn't "perfect", it has imperfections which can scientifically be measured and observed. BUT...that's what gives it its character, its "uniqueness" if you like.

 

The OP is interesting in that.......the body isn't one of those things!

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2 hours ago, Phil Starr said:

Uncanny I was about to start another thread on this, fortunately we are all spared this :) To state my position I'm agnostic about this and a You Tube video isn't really evidence, however interesting. For me it's about physics and the amount of energy involved in picking or plucking a string is limited and the mass of a bass large so if it does make a difference then that needs some explaining.

 

So the reason I came here to post was some evidence/research on decay time in pianos using a single string on a soundboard, certainly analogous to a guitar if not a bass. Lots of interesting (to me) data but one graph stood out.

 

image.png.742bd7129764232d51c8ef3dca8117c8.png

So the plots of the decay times of each note on the piano and the time it took for a 20db decay. You can see there is a general trend for the bass notes to decay slowly and the treble notes quickly. What's interesting though are the differences between adjacent notes. In the middle of the graph Gb4 sustains way longer than G4. playing that piano Gb4 would really jump out at you and if held would colour subsequent notes very differently toa transposition up a semitone. 

 

The research went on from there and two things were shown to be important. The position of the bridge and the phase of the movement of the soundboard (whether it was moving in time with the string or against it) Klaus Wogram: The strings and the soundboard article here 

 

Now the point is that the bass body of all my basses vibrate all over,I can feel it against my body when I pick a string and when i lightly touch the bass, it's what the clip on tuners detect. We also know that different woods vibrate differently depending upon mass, Young's modulus (springiness), shape and internal damping. The bridge must be moving, and the nut and these must have an effect upon the strings including whether they are moving in phase or out of phase. On my Jazz A and A# on the E string jump out at me if I play evenly, other notes aren't even either but that's the spot I always notice. It doesn't happen on the A string. You know what? It could be the body

But does what type of wood it is have anything to do with it?  On the piano, I think the different densities of wood would make a difference, as it’s basically it’s own cabinet. Just like I’d expect different sounds from a speaker cab if you made one out of a hard wood & another out of a softer wood. 
But for the bass, I’d like to see what happens if you take your hardware & neck from one of the basses & put it on a bit of 2x4. See how it compares. 

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1 hour ago, Beedster said:

Nice post, love the fact that people see a YouTube video and think 'argument over'. Years of experimenting with bitsa Fender-alikes has taught me that wooden components explain a lot of the variance, it might be the idea of 'tone wood' per se, but different bodies and different necks can do very different things to the quality and quantity of what comes out of the PUPs 👍

I'm a sceptic on this as so many things. I'm not saying that the tone woods thing is true or false and rather suspect it's a 'bit' true, just one of many things that contribute to tone. I do a lot of carpentry, though cabinets and windows rather than instruments and wood is really variable, not only between species but between planks cut from different parts of the same baulk of timber. You can tap two pieces of timber and they often have a unique sound. I'll bet xylophones aren't just made of any old wood.

 

So yes, I doubt that there is a characteristic that every swamp ash body has and no basswood has, and like you I'm not convinced of 'tone wood' per se but I'm open to the idea the body is more than a dead passive element. I'm guessing that sometimes you strike lucky and the combination of all the factors means you find a good-un.

 

I'm off to look up xylophones :)

 

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Just now, xgsjx said:

But does what type of wood it is have anything to do with it?  On the piano, I think the different densities of wood would make a difference, as it’s basically it’s own cabinet. Just like I’d expect different sounds from a speaker cab if you made one out of a hard wood & another out of a softer wood. 
But for the bass, I’d like to see what happens if you take your hardware & neck from one of the basses & put it on a bit of 2x4. See how it compares. 

Obviously the piano, like an acoustic guitar is a very different case, what you are listening to is the soundboard and the timber is absolutely critical, more so than the strings which are just a way of exciting the sound board. What interested me was that they tried moving the bridge point and investigated the effect of that on the vibration and that they measured the movement of the string and board to the point where they new what the phase relationships were. The article is just a stub from a lecture about the research but I'd imagine they explored a lot of maths to determining how the interaction between moving string and board worked. Apparently the bridge moving out of phase with the string increases sustain which I found counter intuitive. However I suppose if my 75kg walking over a 300ton suspension bridge can make the bridge bounce then a string can make a bass body bounce.

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I could chime in here, as I have in the past, and talk about mechanical to electrical transduction, blah blah blah, but I really can’t bothered again. No one really moves from their entrenched positions. The only thing I will say is that manufacturers and retailers are in the business of making money, so we should certainly regard what they have to say with a modicum of scepticism and trust to our experience. FWIW the video in the OP would certainly persuade me to buy a Seymour Duncan pickup for a cheaper instrument that I was comfortable with (I have in fact done this, just not with an SD).

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The main things I can see as a benefit from more expensive instruments are the “quality” of the components used.

Lighter wood and a more comfortable neck, as well as a good fit & finish to the instrument. It may not affect the tone, but it’s more about comfort & visual appeal. 
 

I have a Sterling Sub Stingray 5. It’s not a bad instrument for the money, but it weighs about twice as much as my Ibanez (& it was about 1/2 the price). 

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I can’t comment on all instruments, only my own. I have 3 US Precisions with maple fretboards and 2 US Precisions with rosewood fretboards, all the same series, with same pickups, same strings (of the same age & gauge) and all set up the same. The rosewood ones sound deeper, the maple ones more twangy. It was especially evident in band practice. Whether that’s the same with all of them I can’t say, only in relation to my 5. And as I’m getting another rosewood one next week I’ll find out if it’s 6 of the best!

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