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Username: jaysimon

Post Number: 1
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 8:40 am:   Edit Post

What exactly are the tonal qualities of zebrawood? Is it a heavier sound, or more bright?
Im debating a zebrawood topped skylark and am wondering how zebrawood sounds in comparison to other woods.

Secondly, how much would a skylark body with further guts run?
Username: valvil

Post Number: 836
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 4:27 pm:   Edit Post

Hello Jason,

welcome to the club.

I'd say that Zebrawood has a very nice balanced tone. I consider it one of the better sounding woods, for either bass or guitar.
We have made several Skylarks in Zebrawood and they all sounded very good.
Upgrading a Skylark to Tribute/Further electronics is a 700$ upcharge.

Username: jaysimon

Post Number: 2
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 9:18 am:   Edit Post

Well that was quick, thanks very much.

I've been very intreged (and i can't spell) about a zebrawood skylark with further/tribute electronics, it would just be too excellent for words.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3086
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 9:52 am:   Edit Post

Sounds like a nice project! Intriguing!
Username: george_wright

Post Number: 59
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 10:02 am:   Edit Post

I'm starting to feel really inadequate here. These differences in wood REALLY produce a detectable difference?

As some of you know, I've played mainly saxophone these many years. That means I've read mucho 'net traffic about tonal differences due to construction: plated brass warmer than bare brass, gold-plated sweeter than silver-plated, wide-bore better gutsier than narrow-bore, etc.---all vague claims that mix sensory metaphors. About the most far-fetched claim I've ever heard is that post-war Selmer saxes (French-made) sound better because they were made from recycled brass artillery shells, now no longer available, gathered from the battlefields. Maybe so, but personally I can't even detect any difference in tone between a brass Selmer and a plastic Grafton. (Of course, several hundred hours seated in a cockpit a few feet away from a Pratt and Whitney J57 probably hasn't enhanced my auditory sensibilities.)

Now I can't assert that wood makes NO difference in instrument tone, but I'll go out on a limb and bet (with no evidence whatsoever) that it doesn't make all that much. Not compared to string construction/gauge, filter/pup setting, cord capacitance, speaker size, room acoustics, etc. And I put my money where my mouth is. I spec'ed out wood choices on a custom bass, now a-building, solely on how I thought it would look. As for tone subtleties, I'll twiddle knobs. And after the result passes through massive amps and multiple speakers, who's gonna know :-)?
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 915
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 10:32 am:   Edit Post

I think the woods used in the neck on a neck through do have a perceivable effect on sound. Hard woods like ebony & purpleheart do add sustain, for example. I also agree that all the variables George mentions have effect on the ultimate tone. Still, IMHO all of these things add up to maybe 20% of the equation. The other 80% of the variables upon which tone relies are fingers, brain, heart and soul. Just my $.02.

Bill, tgo
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3089
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:27 am:   Edit Post

George; a fellow club member dropped by a club where my band was playing. I was switching back and forth between two basses. At the break the club member remarked how very different the two basses sounded, to which I agreed.

The similarities: same rig, both were Alembic Series I basses, both had standard point bodies with Mahogany cores, both had Maple and Purpleheart necks. Both had TI Jazz Rounds, both sets of strings had high mileage.

The differences: one bass is a 34" scale, the other is 32". One set of TI's is 34" scale, the other is 32". One bass is tuned to E, the other is tuned to E flat. One bass has a Maple top and back, the other has what I think is Walnut.

It seems to me that the difference in top and back woods must be the main factor in the significant difference in these two basses. When I tune the second bass up to E and it doesn't change the tone all that much, no where near enough to account for the main difference. The Maple bass has a much more pronounced high end; much brighter. The Walnut(?) bass is darker with no where near the high end of the Maple.

I also have an all Maple Essence; Maple neck, Maple body, Maple top. Very bright and aggressive bass. I have a Spoiler with a Mahogany body and Koa top; no where near as bright, much darker. I have a six string Essence with Mahogany body and Walnut top; also no where near as bright as the Maple basses. (The fretless basses are of course fretless, which is a big difference in itself, so I won't mention them.)

My limited experience with Alembics suggest that there is indeed a significant difference in tone even when everything is the same except the top and back body woods. Now I may be wrong in my conclusions, I certainly don't have the experience of Mica and Val or some of the other club members like Rami or Steve. Mica and Val both have stated that having Coco Bolo tops and backs makes a significant difference in tone. My Maple Essence does not have a huge bottom end. If I could change the body from Maple to Mahogany, I'm sure it would change the tone immensely, adding more bottom and low-mid. If I could change the body of my Spoiler from Mahogany to Maple, I'm sure it would brighten that bass up.

Now admittedly I play with a lot of high end in my tone and I spend a lot of time high up on the neck; and perhaps a lot of high end accentuates the differences in tone that different woods contribute. Perhaps players that roll off the filter and have a tone more in the low-mid frequencies, perhaps the differences in wood are less apparent to them.

When I first joined this forum, and my Alembic experience was just one bass, it was stated here that the neck woods contribute the most to tone, then the body wood, then the top and back laminates. It was even stated that the contribution of the top and back laminates was small enough that the choice of those woods could be primarily made based on appearance. However, Mica's remarks at that time concerning Coco Bolo seemed to contradict the statements about top and back laminates. My own experience, limited as it is, seems to suggest that even the top and back laminates can contribute significantly to the overall tone. And of course much has been said in this forum about how Ebony neck laminates affect the fundamental; but I don't have a bass with Ebony neck lams, so I can't personally address that.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3090
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:29 am:   Edit Post

Having just read Bill's post, for completeness I have to add that in the example of the two S1's, I was using the same "fingers, brain, heart and soul". <g>
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 571
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 12:07 pm:   Edit Post

Dave - I think your comments above deserve a reference in the FAQ section. There has been a ton of discussion here, but rarely with such direct and relevant comparisons. Nice summary.

George - no reason to feel inadequate. Any one of the aspects you mentioned could be at least as significant as a change in wood (well, the cord is sort of borderline, though they do matter). But all else being equal, the wood matters.

And of course, so does appearance, and how you feel about the bass somehow feeds back into that "brain, heart, and soul" stuff, so it's not to be discounted.

I haven't had the opportunity to become that familiar with saxes, but I'm also quite convinced that the people making such claims are not all simply delusional. I recall reading about an even more extreme example, where someone experimented with changing only the end plug in a flute, and came up with a variety of differences.

Depending on how much you want to know, you might consider having a good hearing test done. It might be helpful to know whether there are particular ranges that are no longer very accessible to you.
Advanced Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 319
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 1:40 pm:   Edit Post

Dave beat me to the punch. ;-)

I was very surprised when I went to hear his band. It was the first time I was able to have an A/B comparison of the same basic model instruments. As Dave quoted I was quite surprised at how different the two sounded. I never thought the difference would be that noticable based on the things I've read here. Both were very clear and had the Alembic sound but the maple faced bass is definitely brighter. The walnut faced bass has a more mellow and rounded sound. I would be happy to own either of them (and the skilled fingers that played them :-)).

Username: george_wright

Post Number: 61
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 1:41 pm:   Edit Post

Bob, I know there are real differences among sax sounds, but they're due, IMHO, mainly to mouthpiece differences (tip opening, ramp schedule, chamber volume, baffling). My point, WRT both saxes and basses: some things may make a difference, but other things make so much MORE difference.

As for a hearing check, well, I already know the awful truth. My ears are a low-pass filter from the world to my brain. Lot o' high-freq roll-off :-)! And sitting in front of a trumpet section on weekends doesn't help much either!

Remember, folks, earplugs are your friends!
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 600
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 9:52 pm:   Edit Post


There's a considerable school of thought vis-a-vis 'tuning' the tone of a solid body bass via wood selection. On laminated basses, ALEMBICs in particular, once you skip the 'big' tone shapers (coco tops, ebony neck lams), I really think it becomes a crapshoot. On a really serious body sandwich (matching top and bottom lams, pinstripe separators, core) the variablity of wood from piece to piece MUST introduce a lot of variables. I'd think 5 identical basses, carefully segregated in construction to be built from five entirely separate batches of the same woods would sound similar but hardly identical.

Yet I KNOW you can tune them to a point: Imagine two PBasses, VERY simple instruments relative to our viewpoint in this Club. Build the first from the typical menu: Rock Maple neck/fingerboard, Ash body. Build #2 with, say, a wenge neck, ebony fingerboard, and a padauk body (bring a REAL good strap!). Identical pickup and hardware for each. The first would sound like most P's you've heard. Number 2 would be a different animal: The heavier, more dense African woods would push the fundamental and first several harmonics more to the foreground, the sound would be tighter but lack that upper end 'kwaack'(as Mica calls it) you're used to. This is an extreme, simplified example, but maybe gives the example I'm trying to conjure here.

Having said that . . .

In my experience, without the right pickups/electronics, you're dead. Would you rather have a Mexican Jazz with J Activators and one of Ron's circuits, or take the East Meets West Featured Custom with Fender pickups? Not hard to decide that one, eh?

And ultimately, give most of us 'old hands' here ANY bass and amp you could think of and give us 5 or 10 minutes, and we'll sound like we always sound . . . it really is based in your mind and your hands. But we REALLY deserve the best tools, and I truly sound best on my ALEMBIC.

I wonder if it likes me as much as I like it . . .

J o e y
Username: jaysimon

Post Number: 3
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Saturday, January 28, 2006 - 1:32 am:   Edit Post

so lets imagine no "hippy sandwhich". i mean, im pretty much hoping on the wood itself to help along with the sound im looking for.
naturally, i would want ebony neck laminates, matched with purpleheart in the center. Im sorry, i should have taken this to the dreaming for now section, but here we are
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 731
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 1:34 am:   Edit Post


Nice to hear the differences discussed with the hands-on experience over a longer period of time to back it up. I was a little surprised though that you didn't really discuss 32" vs 34".

If we can assume that strings are slightly floppier on the 32" (but -1- you didn't say which bass was detuned to E flat, and -2- the TIs for 32" are probably slightly heavier than the 34" - so it's not at all obvious) they'll sound somewhat less bright. Now how much of that will come through on high-mileage strings is another question ...

I'm a little surprised that you find the koa topped Spoiler dark sounding - I have one that I find bright enough, but then I can't compare it to an all-maple Essence. Flick the Q switch, and the highs can get pretty mean.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3115
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 9:01 am:   Edit Post

Adriaan; I don't think you can assume that the strings are "slighly floppier" on a 32" bass. It depends on the strings. Also, tuning down to E flat wasn't a significant factor since when I tuned it back up to E, the difference was primarily still there. (The 32" bass was tuned down.) Sitting here just thinking about it, it seems to me that the TI 32" JR's actually feel a little stiffer than the TI 34" JR's.

I am planning to put new strings on the 32" bass before the next gig, which should put things in a "new" light.

Bob; I still think there is a possibility that I'm completely wrong about this. <g>
Username: peever

Post Number: 8
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Saturday, February 18, 2006 - 6:20 pm:   Edit Post

Zebrano,or zebrawood as its commonly referred to hides alot of overtones, so it gets a nice dark sound. i would suggest a maple core if you dont want the sound too dark, or put ebony laminations in the neck.
Username: evt

Post Number: 19
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Sunday, April 02, 2006 - 5:56 pm:   Edit Post

I love my zebrawood skylark!
It has a nice balanced tone. I am able to get different sounds from the filters. Wherever I go, I am always able to get a great sound from it. Any amp etc.

I am very into recording and have been getting really nice results with the skylark.
You can hear some of the recordings here:

EV's Alembic Skylark pic

EV's Pedalboard:


Corrientes Website: http://www.corrientesmusic.com
EVT Productions: http://corrientesmusic.com/EVT_open.html
EVT's Studio Journal:
Intermediate Member
Username: hydrargyrum

Post Number: 197
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Monday, April 03, 2006 - 2:10 pm:   Edit Post

Correct me if I am wrong, but is it not true that any resonation of body woods is in essence a dampening of the sustain of the instrument (in effect, a transfer of energy from the strings). Of course, not all woods resonate at the same frequency as others, and the resulting frequencies that are transmitted are in a way, filtered. "Dark" woods must absorb those higher frequencies, whereas "bright" sounding woods may be less selective, or adsorb bassier frequencies. Following this line of thought, it would seem that an incredibly rigid, dense material would make the best body (like aluminum, or a brass sustain block), because it would be harder to transfer string energy to these materials, and the widest range of frequencies would be preserved. However, as we are all aware from the use of our low/band/high pass filters, the tone often sounds a lot better when you do cut out a bunch of the frequencies.

Oh well, just a thoughts on how wood choice could matter.

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