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.

1 comment:

  1. If you are a guitar player, writer, producer (like myself )make note of the comment about the neck through being more forgiving. I agree and that is a GOOD thing. after all if bass is not your main instrument, but you are tired of the same two or three usable sounds in your midi arsenal and you don't have the 10,000 hours or so to become a "bass player" then you want a bass that is comfortable and accommodating. I personally tried out several basses and found the Schecter 5 string elite to be perfect for me. Great sound, easy to play, lots of versatility with just four knobs. The tone is so much more organic and sweet than the bolt ons. I can't wait to get one. In fact it sounded and looked very much like the bass used in this great video which I imagine cost much more than the Schecter (and no I an NOT a dealer). The sound of the bolt on is usually referred to as tight by bassists who prefer it. I describe it as thinner, harsher, and lacking in depth. This video does a great job of showing the difference in sound. I went to the store for tryouts before I did my online research so I was not prejudiced and just found what worked for me. As always use your ears and more importantly go to the store and play a variety and you will know when you have found the right match for you.



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