|Michael DeVincenzo (jlpicard)
Post Number: 54
|Posted on Sunday, December 01, 2002 - 8:31 pm: |
Wow, this should start the tongues wagging! It is not my intention to cause controversy but only to stimulate lively debate. With that caveate let me start by saying I just payed a visit to Michael Tobias's web site and read and article on tone.Mr.Tobias apparently is not very fond of glue joints basically saying that a "hippie sandwich" does nothing positive for a bass other than enhancing its appearance. the idea being the more glue joints, the less tone response. This flies in the face of Alembic construction techniques as well as others. This is not the first time that I have heard that sound does not translate well across a glue joint.To my way of thinking it has to be one way or the other.Obviously there must other factors to consider because both schools of thought produce fine instruments. How then can you make that statement that a glue joint is neccessarily detrimental? Anyone care to comment?
|Matt Bulmer (prime)
Post Number: 29
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 6:42 am: |
I think glueing can have MAJOR effect on tone in set neck and bolt-on basses, but not so much on neck-throughs. Non neckthroughs require the vibrations to travel through the body (Where the glueing typically is) and the body to neck join. Theoretically if the vibrations are deadened by glue, then the tone will be affected. Take set necks. They sound a great deal different from bolt ons, with the primary difference being the neck join.
|Dino Monoxelos (dean_m)
Post Number: 30
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 7:41 am: |
One of the major differences that I have seen between Alembic and other builders is the fact that builders like Tobias, Sadowsky etc rely more on the wood for different tones and such. Alembic on the other hand uses brass nuts, bridges, and especially bridge blocks to isolate the effect of the woods to the strings, keeping the energy of the vibrating string in the string. Of course you are going to have certain degrees of tone variances depending on the woods used but, isolating the string as much as possible makes it possible to use a wider range of woods. Two completely different ways to build and instrument. It seems to me there is neither a right or wrong method though. Obviously Michael and Roger both make wonderful intruments, there is however more than one way to skin a cat. I know that's a bad analogy but...
I'm sure Mica or anyone at Alembic could give more insight on it than I could ever do. It's pretty evident though on the instruments that we prefer due to the posts we see on this site.
Anyway, feel free to chime in or correct me if I'm wrong on this. BTW, great topic Michael!!!!
|Joey Wilson (bigredbass)
Post Number: 29
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 8:51 am: |
As I've often thought. . . maybe it really IS the glue !
I think it's interesting that MTD is now moving in a direction similar to Sadowsky: Bolt-on, more Fender/MusicMan-type instruments. Before Michael sold out his original company to Gibson, he made quite a few 'hippie-sandwich' guitars that ironically are in much higher demand as used basses than new MTD's. As I read the article, I felt he said that you could tune the sound by the laminate, just don't get carried way with too many laminations. I completely disagree with his idea of a solid body being an acoustic instrument. Acoustic instruments are utterly different: They feed the air. Solid bodies feed the pickups.
Alembic's idea of isolating the vibrating string to feed the most info to the pickup is backed up by the idea that the laminations combine to move the resonances outside of audible hearing. Think resonances don't matter? Try to find a ANY bolt-neck bass with out a dead B on the D-string at the 9th fret.
For my own taste, after the neck laminations, I prefer fewer laminations in the body. I agree with Les Paul, maple over mahogany is just fine with me.
|Bob Novy (bob)
Post Number: 5
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 6:44 pm: |
Yes, great topic - I also stumbled onto the same Tobias article Sunday afternoon. I was concerned about this enough a few months ago that for a while I considered not having any accent laminates in the body, and maybe not even a back laminate (though I decided to have both).
I have a hard time believing the glue joint itself is really an issue, unless maybe you get way too many of them. Unless you're using something like rubber cement, a properly executed glue joint (no gaps, minimal glue, lots of clamping pressure, etc.) should mostly just bond the pieces of wood, and not be thick enough to have much in the way of its own characteristics. Besides, you're usually stuck with a bunch of these anyway: multi-piece necks, fretboard glued to neck, body wings to through-neck, etc., and no one seems to be too worried about that.
It seems to me the issue with set necks and bolt-ons is a bit different, not so much a matter of the glue itself but rather the fact that you have a joint there at all, and it just isn't going to be as rigid and consistent as a continuous piece(s) of wood, plus in most cases it's joining different types of woods with different resonant characteristics.
Certainly Alembic works hard to keep the energy in the strings, which is generally good because these things are definitely not acoustic instruments. The thing I'm most curious about is how much vibration manages to make its way from the strings, through the bridge/bridge block into the body, and then back again into the strings. I'm convinced the answer is "some", but it may not be very much (at least with the Alembic approach).
Suppose you took this to an extreme, and built a one piece neck/bridge/nut sculpted out of a piece of polished granite or something similar - extremely massive, almost entirely non-resonant. This would pretty much keep as much energy as possible in the strings, but I have a feeling it wouldn't sound "right". It would probably need some extra flavor, from the body wood either emphasizing, or hiding, some combination of frequencies.
So, let's assume for a moment that some energy goes through the bridge and gets "soaked up" by the body wood (not returned to the strings at all). It seems that the biggest factor here is the mass/density of the wood - really heavy stuff like ebony isn't going to absorb the lows like a lightweight piece of ash, for example. There may be some subtle differences between tone woods of similar weights, possibly due to grain structure or something, but most descriptions I've heard or read generally track pretty well with the density (remember, we're talking about solid bodies here - grain structure is very important in acoustic instruments, but that's a different problem).
An advantage of sandwiching different woods could be that it helps to spread out the absorption characteristics, or equivalently, the resonances of the body - if the body resonates strongly at frequency X, then it saps that frequency from the string (unless it manages to put it back into the string, which I'm ignoring for the moment). Assuming you want a full, even mix of frequencies, or at least no major "gaps", then a variety of woods might be good.
Does the ordering of the layers matter? For the sake of argument, let's assume the bridge block is anchored in the core wood, and that you have fairly thick front and back laminates such that together they add up to the core thickness. My guess is that an ebony core with ash laminates would sound different than an ash core covered in ebony - even though in this model the total mass of the body would be equivalent. (I really don't know, this is just what my gut tells me.)
In other words, I can imagine that each layer of wood would act as a filter for certain frequencies, and might thereby negate the benefits you would expect from some subsequent layer; the more layers you have, the more difficult it would be to predict the outcome (although maybe a bunch of very thin layers would matter less than a few thick ones).
Finally, suppose that some of the body vibrations actually do get returned to the strings. Even on an Alembic, you can feel the body vibrating, and I believe I can distinguish the frequencies (to a limited degree) I feel in the wood when playing different open strings. It seems like some of this is going to continue to affect what the strings are actually doing. If so, then energy at some frequency has to find its way from the string, through the bridge/block, into the core, out through the various laminates, and then all the way through the reverse path to get back to the strings. This is when I would be more worried about the complications of multiple layers, but perhaps this effect is negligible. I sure wish I knew...
I forget which month it was, but as I recall Wayne had a featured custom in which he used coco bolo for accent laminates, just to make sure some of that wood was in the mix - so does it matter in which order you add the ingredients, or is it just the total recipe that counts?
When I eventually get my bass, one of the things I plan to do is experiment with bridge blocks made of a few different types of wood, in addition to the big chunk of brass. Won't really address the hippie sandwich question, and certainly will be a bit of a nuisance, but I expect it to be quite interesting - does anyone else have experience with this?
|Joey Wilson (bigredbass)
Post Number: 30
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 11:14 pm: |
The 'circlular path' of the string energy thru the guitar and back into the string really set off a 'light bulb' for me.
I too can FEEL the difference unplugged between the different strings thru the body against my chest. Obviously this path exists, as the inherent (or unplugged) sustain lengthens once I plug in and play at louder and louder levels.
The types of wood and the order of the laminations' effect on tone/sustain are of course varied by the variations in each piece of wood of the same specie and even the same log: The magic and frustration of wood is that it's NOT a repeatable, engineered material. So all of this is reshuffled and varied a thousand different ways, even on consecutive guitars made of exactly the same lumber.
In my experience, I see this: Build 2 identical basses. #1 is all the 'white' woods (maple, alder, ash, etc.). #2 is all the 'dark' woods
(padauk, wenge, bubinga, ebony, etc.). Play them both on the same amp at the same settings. #1 is more mids, more open highs, less ground-floor fundamentals, a liitle more 'quack'. #2 is firmer in the fundamentals, more compressed, less spread in the ringing harmonics, more focused. Start mixing in the various wood laminations, and it's almost a roulette wheel aside from a few proven recipes: the cocobolo instruments, the ebony neck laminates, the ebony fingerboard. This stuff can really give me a headache, so I'm more than happy to let Alembic work the magic for me.
You always make me think, and I thank you.
|Dave Houck (davehouck)
Post Number: 9
|Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 - 11:16 pm: |
Thanks Bob, that was certainly thought provoking. After I read your post I went and looked at my six string which has a sustain block and my four string which does not and observed how the bridge on each is secured to the body. I then went back and reread some of your points. It's quite interesting to think about.
|Paul Lindemans (palembic)
Post Number: 132
|Posted on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 12:22 am: |
I must say that this discussion is a bit out of my league. There are some points I cannot follow because my not SO good english.
But (again...) anyway.
My two cent.
1. wood types differ. It has to do with mass and grain. I posted a threat some months ago on wood and sound. Although: the info I got there came from builders who use the "pure" wood.
2. use of the wood (changing grain direction) changes the transmitting of vibration. String vibration can "drop dead" just by changin that.
3. When Les Paul was working on his first electric solidbody he experimented around a lot (remember "The Log"??). I read somewhere that he put strings on a steel rail (from the railway). He said; "I could get a cup of coffee and come back and the strings were still vibrating after touching them by my leaving".
4. The fisrt time I tested basses for a new bass-playing restart about 10 years ago. I played the instrument in two ways and WITHOUT amplification: I put the instrument on my knee underside and against my chest upperside (so the guitar was a "leg" with the triangle between my body and upper leg). So I started playing and let my body be something as a resonance "box". You actually can FEEL differences. It was only years later that I learned this "trick" is also commonly used by f.i. Chuck Rainey.
My reasoning was: let the construction be "acoustically" good, the electronics can only help.
The second way was based on the same idea: I put the bass on the desk of the music-store and played the bass as an "upright". The desk became an "acoustic chambre". Beware: any table or surface will do, as long as you keep it identaical doing your tests.
5. I recently got an old Ibanez copy of a Gibson Barney Kessel. It's a hollowbody jazz-guitar. (yes friends - from time to time I get myself lost in the higher sounds). There is very litlle "vibration-transport" from the guitar to my body. The principles are different AND we're not talking "bass" here anymore but just talking about another "extreme" of "non-reasonance".
Just some ideas.
|Paul Lindemans (palembic)
Post Number: 133
|Posted on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 1:00 am: |
Here I am again,
(so now you can understand why I'm an "Intermediate" : i just talk too much).
About those acoustic things.
The strings "Feed" the body, the body "moves" the air and so you actually "hear".
Now follow this one: jazz-guitars (the hollowbody's) have three ways to fix a normal pick-up.
1 - fixed to the body arched top.
2. - fixed to the neck
3 - fixed to the pick-guard plate.
In 1 (most hollowbody's) : the pick-up moves with the body top-plate. Because of this there is a lesser sustain. I guess the pickup moves in another direction than the strings with a "deadening" as result.
In 2 (f.i. the old Charlie Christian model): more or less the same as 1 but the vibrating of the neck is different than the body.
In 3 (f.i. the Ibanez Charles Benson). There is practically no link anymore between moving of acoustic chambre and pick-ups.
What I want to say: from this point of view we bass-players (yes-yes this guitars thing is just to make a point) with a look to full sounding basses with wide tonal range should be looking for the material that immobilise the pickup for the maximum and moves the strings for the maximum.
This idea could be confirmed by the fact that the sustain of the guitar is also very influenced by the type of bridge. More pecisely: a string "rocks" a bridge back and forwards. So, the sharper the angle the strings go down to the string-locks on the body after going over the bridge, the better there is a string/neck (neck-through design) contact, the higher the sustain.
(BTW: this is why "naked core" strings have a better sustain: you have to put your bridge higher for the same action!)
I remember some Guild basses having a bridge of the same design as the Les Paul guitar: string anchorpoitnt and saddle in 1 closely fit construction). I never played them and they were not neck-through anyway.
Well ... I talk too much.
|Michael DeVincenzo (jlpicard)
Post Number: 55
|Posted on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 9:50 am: |
Paul, that brings up an interesting thought. I often wonder about the differences in bridge construction, in particular, the Alembic bridge having only two small contact points into the narrow sustain block or even narrower without the block,into the body, and a more traditional design where the whole bottom plate of the bridge contacts the body. Also with the sustain block being reccesed into the body having contact on all sides ( except the top of course )with not only the neck but a bit of the end grain of the laminates make a difference? Is there better distribution /concentration of energy this way?
|Mark DuFresne (markus)
Post Number: 14
|Posted on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 2:54 pm: |
And, expanding on that thread about the bridge making contact with the body through two screws: I remember one of the rockers of the 70's who used a Les Paul (Joe Walsh?) would put a stack of washers on each screw so that the energy from the bridge would pass through more substantial stacks of metal to the body. What he lost in adjustability he gained in sustain.
|Bob Novy (bob)
Post Number: 7
|Posted on Tuesday, December 03, 2002 - 10:46 pm: |
I'm going to stay away from the points about acoustic instruments - seems like there's more than enough we're not going to figure out even if we stick with solid bodied instruments, of the type we get from Alembic...
However, I will make one more comment regarding grain: aside from the neck (and there mostly for the sake of longitudinal stiffness/stability), I seriously doubt that the orientation matters for much more than looks on a solid bodied instrument of the type we're discussing. If you took the mahogony core on a typical Alembic and rotated it 90 degrees, I'd bet money you couldn't hear the difference. I expect the same would be true for standard 1/4 inch body laminates, especially once they're glued to the core. (Yes, grain is extremely important in acoustic instruments with thin plates - different topic.)
If we really want to get into bridges, I suppose we should fork off a separate thread (but we all seem to wander a bit here, so...). First, I have to qualify my remarks by again noting that I don't yet have one of these things to examine. However, I'm a little surprised by the last few posts, which seem to be expressing possible concern that the bridge design and attachment might be somehow deficient - correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't *incredible sustain* one of the things for which Alembics are famous?
As I understand things, the purpose of the brass block is to increase the "wave impedance" of the bridge by making it more massive, thereby *reducing* the "transfer function" - so that most of the energy is reflected directly back into the string, instead of being transferred through the bridge to the body. (While the strings appear to be moving from side to side, what's really happening is that waves are moving up and down the length of the string, bouncing between the bridge and nut/finger.)
As long as the two height adjustment screws allow a sufficient coupling to the block, it's effectively the same as if the bridge itself were one big piece of metal. Basically what you have here is part of that steel rail Les Paul was experimenting with (I'd forgotten that story), and as long as the block in turn is very securely attached to the body, it mostly behaves as if it was much larger.
(Mark - if I'm reading your comment right, you're suggesting that the stacks of washers were there to help transfer the vibes into the body. In my opinion, it's exactly the opposite. Adding the mass of the washers, and to some extent the body itself by virtue of better coupling to the bridge, would increase the impedance of the bridge, keeping the energy in the strings.)
Paul, I'm going to have to (gently) disagree with you on a couple of small points. "naked core", or taper-core, or piano-wound strings do not behave differently because of increased downforce. First, there isn't enough difference in the angle to significantly change the downward force. As I recall, the set I tried many years ago didn't even bother to taper the G string, and even on the E the saddle height difference was still easily within the normal adjustment range from low to high action. The real point of this design is to get a thinner and more flexible end on the string, closer to the idealized "hinged joint" so that the string vibrates in a better fashion.
I was hoping not to get into this particular rant, but (in my opinion, etc.) "downforce" is grossly overrated, and probably even misguided, for solid bodied electric instruments. In the case where you have an absolutely rigid bridge, firmly anchored to the body and resistant to movement in any direction, downforce is of no benefit whatsoever other than to prevent the string from rattling in the saddle. In fact, in would be better if you could just clamp the string to the saddle and not have to induce any bend in it at all.
I do recognize, however, that with many bridge designs (possibly including Alembic's though I'm not sure yet), you may need some downforce to stabilize the bridge. But once you get just enough to keep the bridge from responding to normal string vibrations, anything more is counterproductive.
All of this is assuming that your goal is to maximize sustain, and personally I'm not convinced that should be the sole objective. But I'll follow up on that in a separate post later (maybe it will look like I don't write so much...).
|Paul Lindemans (palembic)
Post Number: 135
|Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 12:25 am: |
sorry for the bridge mess-up. I cannot always organise my written english in the good way so I express in writing what I wanted to say.
The wood grain.
I remember once played a really old Fender P bass (4 digit serie-number starting with 01) who was very light and had a very (relative of course) high sustain. Examining the wood (it was a natural body), the grains were very thin and straight on the body. I don't know that much of wood-types that I can recognize it but I think it should be take in consideration too.
Also the neck seemed to be with another "grain" structure than the recent P-bass that was aslo owned by my friend.
The bridge thing I will put in another threat so we can keep this "sandwich".
Stay at the low end!
|Bob Novy (bob)
Post Number: 8
|Posted on Wednesday, December 04, 2002 - 1:19 am: |
Hey, Paul - guess you must be up early, and I'm up late from the day before.
I just want to be clear that I'm not trying to criticize either your english (sorry you get stuck having to use it), or your thoughts, and I think I was the first one to mention bridges here anyway...
I also didn't mean to suggest that grain doesn't matter at all. It certainly is part of the reason different woods sound different. I was just making a fairly picky little point, that if the *only* thing you looked at was grain orientation (using the same exact piece of wood), the orientation would probably not matter in a solid body.
Wood types absolutely do make a difference. It just seems to me (and I could be wrong) that grain itself is less important than other factors, such as density. Maybe I made too much of a small point, and I'll try to be more careful in the future (and maybe I need some sleep).