12th December 2010 - 02:52 AM
As a layman, I come to you for expert advice. There is an argument raging in the electric bass guitar world as to the contribution of "tone" from the wood used in the electric bass. Some say it is great, other say minimal if at all.
It breaks down into physics from those who put no stock in the tone wood theory. We all recognize that in purely acoustic guitars or violins, etc., the chosen wood can flavor the tone/timbre of the sound produced.
Many posit the following:
1. The wood of the electric bass guitar body cannot possibly contribute to the tone of the instrument because the second the string is plucked/struck, the string vibration in the magnetic field of the pickups produces the electric charge that travels the notes directly to the output amp (barring effects pedals that distort/modulate, etc the freq) AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT.
2. That precludes any "wood contribution" as the vibration would have to travel thru the wood, be altered by the wood (making the"wood tone" so to speak) at the speed of sound and THEN be picked up by the pick ups and sent to the amp output. As the speed of light is so much faster, the string/pickup/output chain precludes "waiting around" for flavoring by the wood.
3.And yes, the settings on the amp, guitar, string types can effect the tone as a matter of fact. But once you have your settings ready, you hit the string and SOL reigns supreme again anyhow.
If this is correct, is there a definitive formula or anything at all that describes/proves it? With references.
I'd greatly appreciate a firm answer to settle the issue in the bass community.
12th December 2010 - 09:14 AM
A firm answer would potentially validate your model of the electric guitar/bass as adequate at the human perceptual level via empirical research, which requires grant funds.
But it is conceivable that the flexing of the neck could alter tension on the strings, or that the strings have some cross-talk modes. Specifically, your argument based on the speed of the pickup "microphone" is not convincing, since the vibration of the plucked string is itself traveling at acoustic speeds through the wire (string).
Your model however, describes the string between the held fret and the fixed end as a nearly isolated system, with drag from the pickup and the air and friction at the fret as being minor effects, so there would have to be a strong resonance in the (solid) body of the guitar/base for one to have the expectation that that guitar/bass would have tonal qualities marketably unique to the body shape.
I'm leaning to agreeing with you, but have not explored the case in detail to call it "firmly."
12th December 2010 - 09:15 AM
I am no expert but I strongly think there will be a contribution from the woodwork but not the way you suggested. The moment the string is plucked its vibration will be modified by the wood's vibration. Remember that the string is connected to the wood somehow otherwise it won't be taut. There is force/energy stored in the system.
16th January 2011 - 06:17 PM
We have no good theory about the perception of musical notes, mainly because the old Helmholtz botched it and nobody dared to contradict for a century.
We have no complete theory about how musical instruments work. Sorry to be positive about that. Lengths and frequencies and pitch and impedance are not the complete picture.
So I wouldn't argue about the influence of wood based on physical reasons. Experiment and listen. Try to add weights to the wood, for instance.
On electric guitars, bass included, wood is meant to have no influence. But I wouldn't exclude it has some, especially because the bass' strings are so heavy.
27th September 2011 - 10:40 PM
Thanks for the input. Anyone else able to chime in?
28th September 2011 - 02:01 AM
I'd also point out that since the pick up is attached to the wood in some way and if the wood is vibrating than the pick up must also be vibrating. So you have potential alteration of the string modes via energy exchange with the wood, you have possible cross talk between the strings, you have possible tension changes in the strings, and you have possible vibrations of the pick up. All of which could be affecting the final sound quality.
28th September 2011 - 04:40 AM
I have to agree with you, of course, as all contributions have to count. I am wondering then HOW MUCH of the tone out of all of that can be validly attributed to the wood. When they do discuss wood in the music forums, you always hear the wood and the TYPE of wood are quite large factors in the tone of an electric bass, sometimes even claimed to be the dominant factor (other than the EQ shaping).
I always hold the electronics with strings are the vast bulk of the tone with ancillary supporting structures contributing minimal input to the tone. Am I way off in that?