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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
what exactly is basswood? ive never heard of it and want to know something about it before i buy a guitar made out of it. one of my friends claims that it is weak, so after a couple of years the trem has dug a hole in the wood, makeing the body unuseable?!!

can anybody enlighten me?
 

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This is only the case if you dont have locking tremolo studs like on all the old japanese ibanez guitars. Second this will happen on any floyd equipped guitar no matter what its made out of if you dont have locking studs. I do beleive that alot of older strats are made out basswood. The cool thing about basswood in general is that it has very little grain and has a fairly unique sound. I really dig my basswood guitars, as they have a tone all their own. Basswood is after all the wood type that Steve Vai requested when the jems were first produced.
 

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I believe that basswood is the best choice of wood for your guitar first of all because it sounds great...the tone is very warm...it is also a lightweight wood...and if it's good enought for Vai and Satriani it must be good enought for us all I think...don't be affraid about any hole-in-the-wood problems...the cance to have a problem with the tremolo itself it's much more real...
 

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Basswood is very similar in stiffness and weight to swamp-ash, which is the wood used on many old [email protected] and t&les. It is relatively soft, when compared to ash or mahogany, but it is strong enough for guitars, plus basswood is a lot lighter.

I guess mahogany is a bit better for furniture and ash is good for baseball bats too.

As far as ripping the tremposts out, you'll break strings way before that when abusing your trem.
 

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Personally, I think basswood has kind of an open sound to it that allows your pickups to really show through. Woods like alder and mahogany have a sound character like this or that which will push the natural tone of the pickups in different directions.
 

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Well, basswood is very balanced - no strong peaks or scoops to it's EQ curve, really. This is both a blessing and a curse - I've always loved the sound of a good strat precisely BECAUSE of it's strong upper mid presence, but at the same time basswood's evenness makes it a great recording guitar, and gives you a blank canvas for coloring your tone in other ways, via EQ's or various effects or whatnot.

I don't see it as at ALL surprising that basswood became the wood of choice in the days of racks that looked as complex as your average nuclear reactor. ;)
 

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for some more info on the wood and the tree (lime, linde) it that supplies it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilia

some figures for comparison, of some woods used in guitar building
all of these are classified as Hardwood;
density of water is approx~1050kg/m3:
density of balsawood (*Not* to be used for guitars) 100 up to 200kg/m3

Ash, American (*NOT* swamp ash)
Density: 675 Kg/m3

Walnut, American
Density: 579 kg/m3

Mahogany, African (IE Korina, Khaya etc. used on original 1950s Fly!ng V)
Density: 550 kg/m3

Mahogany, Central American (Les [email protected], ibz S-series, K7)
Density: 560 Kg/m3

Alder ([email protected], VWH)
Density: 530 kg/m3

Basswood (JEM,RG)
Density: 420 kg/m3
*Note* Jems are American basswood, RGs are Asian basswood, some (European) hybrid species like European Lime have densities up to 560 Kg/m3

Maple, Hard or "Rock" (neck, veneers, tops)
Density: 740 Kg/m3

Ebony (fretboard)
Density: 1100 Kg/m3
 

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I've got alder, mahogany and basswood guitars.

Playing in a band with different guitars I experienced that even with same pickups there is a big difference in how you cut through the other instruments depending on the wood.

Guitars made of basswood need more volume and are in lack of "weight" in front of a band.

Basswood is IMHO ok for recording but absolutely not the best playing in a band.
 

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Basswood was originally chosen because it was cheap, it routed easily so you got a lot more life out of your cutters, and it was fairly consistent from board to board. Also flaws in a basswood blank, like knots or mineral streaks, still cut relatively smoothly with less tearout and finish nicely. Basswood's tight uniform grains also kept fancy finishes staying smoother longer. The grain doesn't tend to telegraph through the finish. The sound of Basswood, as well as many shredders affection for it, came afterwards. And it could be considered a lucky break for all the manufacturers because it's cheap. But it's no different than Leo Fender choosing Alder. There're Poplar tele prototypes from way back. Some people say we like Alder, Swamp Ash, and Mahogany/Maple simply because someone decided to use it back while our opinions were still being formed. So while the classic rock camp can't wean themselves off the vintage teat, perhaps the shredder camp (or "new classic rock?") :) can't get off Basswood. Although the shredder camp is more open. Then there's the kids with their "mall punk" they don't know a dang thing. At least we can all agree that the Variax still sucks no matter what wood it's made out of. :)

You can read about a lot of different tone woods here:

http://jemsite.com/axes/htm_features/wood.htm
 

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sniperfrommars1 said:
I do beleive that alot of older strats are made out basswood.
All the ones from the 50s-70s were mostly Ash or Alder. Starting in the 80s, some strats were being made with basswood.
 

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eviltwin said:
Basswood is very similar in stiffness and weight to swamp-ash, which is the wood used on many old [email protected] and t&les. It is relatively soft, when compared to ash or mahogany, but it is strong enough for guitars, plus basswood is a lot lighter.

I guess mahogany is a bit better for furniture and ash is good for baseball bats too.

As far as ripping the tremposts out, you'll break strings way before that when abusing your trem.
As far as ripping tremposts out, get the locking stud mod (still on my to do list!!!!)....

Different woods have different sounds. Basswood has a fairly balanced tone with a bit of midrange too it. Mahogany has a fair amount of sustain and low end, but nothing like maple. Ash is bright and punchy - my favorite on strats, and Alder is warm sounding.

Using a good combination of woods for the body and neck can result in many really good tones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
great, thanks for your info guys.
dont laugh at me cos im new to the game of trems (haveing only owned fixed bridge guitars before) but what is the locking stud mod?
 

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toma said:
great, thanks for your info guys.
dont laugh at me cos im new to the game of trems (haveing only owned fixed bridge guitars before) but what is the locking stud mod?
The studs (screws that hold the tremolo in) have small screws that run through them to hold them down!
 

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Out of all the guitars I've owned over the years, about 28 years that is, and many many many guitars.. I have to say my favorite wood seems to be mahogany bodies with maple tops and mahogany necks or hard maple necks.. with ebony boards or maple boards.. in a gibson scale or PRS scale.. But that's just a general thing.. I've found since that I loved the Wolfgang USA special guitar I had.. It would sustain as much or more than several Gibson's I've had..and it had stock pickups, basswood body only.. No maple, and a floyd trem which is supposed to kill sustain.. but I think it's the way it was made that made the difference.. and Basswood is a great wood when you're like me and have an illness that wears you out.. It's easy on the back, etc.. for the long jams.. I have found it to be kinda a blurry sounding wood.. I've found Alder to be the wood I don't like that much.. except on some Fenders I've played it on.. It's always so bright.. or at least on some guitars it seems that way, but it could be the pickups and construction too which is usually fender type with bright single coils and longer scales, etc.. But as of late I still like Basswood.. I don't like the trend in guitar making of buying the very cheapest wood found though and then selling it off as some exotic wood.. I think wood does make a difference for sure, and even more so if it's good wood or cheap wood.. You can tell if you've had the guitars to prove it..
Tim

frankfalbo said:
Basswood was originally chosen because it was cheap, it routed easily so you got a lot more life out of your cutters, and it was fairly consistent from board to board. Also flaws in a basswood blank, like knots or mineral streaks, still cut relatively smoothly with less tearout and finish nicely. Basswood's tight uniform grains also kept fancy finishes staying smoother longer. The grain doesn't tend to telegraph through the finish. The sound of Basswood, as well as many shredders affection for it, came afterwards. And it could be considered a lucky break for all the manufacturers because it's cheap. But it's no different than Leo Fender choosing Alder. There're Poplar tele prototypes from way back. Some people say we like Alder, Swamp Ash, and Mahogany/Maple simply because someone decided to use it back while our opinions were still being formed. So while the classic rock camp can't wean themselves off the vintage teat, perhaps the shredder camp (or "new classic rock?") :) can't get off Basswood. Although the shredder camp is more open. Then there's the kids with their "mall punk" they don't know a dang thing. At least we can all agree that the Variax still sucks no matter what wood it's made out of. :)

You can read about a lot of different tone woods here:

http://jemsite.com/axes/htm_features/wood.htm
 
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