Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bolt-On Vs. Neck-Thru Tone Difference for Bass

This is a very cool vid that compares the tonal difference between bolt-on and neck-thru basses.  The instruments in question, both by Ken Smith, feature 18-volt BMT (Bass, Middle, Treble) EQ circuits so they are identical electronically.  The neck-thru features a walnut/maple/walnut sandwich body, while the bolt-on is maple/walnut/maple. 

It is immediately apparent that the neck-thru sounds rounder, smoother and more compressed on the slap section (0:07-0:34).  The slap section on the bolt-on (0:35-0:47) on the other hand is very bright with wilder harmonics that seem to jump out from the instrument.  Personally, I prefer the tone of the bolt-on for slapping -- chalk it up to listening to Marcus Miller and his Fender Jazz bass on Miles Davis' We Want Miles in my formative years.

The bolt-on gets my vote as well in the pizzicato section (0:48-1:25).  The notes just have more clarity and definition and react more to the player's touch depending on how hard the string is being played.  The neck-thru again is very smooth and more even dynamically.  One might even say that the neck-thru is more forgiving of flaws or unevenness in a player's right-hand finger technique.

The neck-thru really shines in the chordal section (1:27-2:05) and the tapping section (2:07-2:29) where its natural compression provides a solid platform for the notes, with no interfering harmonic frequencies as on the bolt-on.

SmithGroove's YouTube channel has a bunch of other bass demos and song grooves.  Check it out.

And in case any guitar players reading this are feeling a bit left out -- "Hey, isn't this The Guitar Column, dude?"-- all the principles that apply to bolt-on and neck-thru basses translate to the guitar world just as well.  Something else to think about when deciding on that next guitar purchase.


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