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Even though I don't have a single completed build of my own done yet, I'm naturally thinking about the next dozen or so builds that I'd like to do. Anyhow, I had this idea to build a bass for my wife (who has never really played but can pick up a bass and knock out a decent bassline like a pro). The problem is, she's on the smaller side and has small hands and short arms and the like, and my 34" scale bass is bigger than she is. I'm thinking a 30" scale bass would probably be a good match for her.

That said, I know that the shorter scale bass is reputed to have "dull and lifeless" tone. I've been thinking of ways to get around that and I'd like to know what everyones thoughts are. The idea I have is a Maple/Walnut/Maple neck through with possibly maple wings. That would make it rather heavy, but chances are she'd be playing it seated anyhow.

For pickups, I was looking at a P style neck pickup with a Stingray style humbucker in the bridge, reason being that both she and I are a fan of the Stingray sound, and the P bass sound, so why not combine the two? I'm looking to get something with a relatively bright and punchy tone. Does anyone have any ideas for what might help in this with regards to hardware and electronics? I'm considering hotter versions of the pickups as one option that I think might work, but beyond that, I'm not sure what to do.

Another consideration are the body wings, I was thinking possibly silver maple for the wings, since it is easier to work, slightly lighter and readily available at low prices to me. Problem is, I'm not really sure how that sounds as a tone wood, specifically for bass. I could go with hard maple for the wings, like I am doing for the neck, but I dont know if the difference is really worthwhile. More importantly though, I could be overlooking some other wood for the body wing that may be better suited that I'm not thinking of. I am trying to keep most of the construction being north american hardwoods, since I have an abundant supply of those at the sawmill that's 10 miles down the road from me.

I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts and suggestions.

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What a coincidence. I just finished slotting a 30" scale for my next guitar, a short scale bass. Its going to be a neckthru mahogany with holly laminates on either side of the neck and a holly fretboard. I haven't decided on a body shape but am considering a non-reverse explorer. I did a little research and found that Gibson actually made non-reverse explorer short scale basses at one time, go figure. They were considered a "student" model and didn't take off all that well. But I haven't even been looking at hardware yet, I hope to find used parts pickup(s), bridge etc. locally and might even consider making my own truss rod.

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In my experience, the neck wood gives the most impact when it comes to a guitar's tone, especially if it is a neckthru. Chances are, even if silver maple isn't a good tone wood, it won't make much of a difference in a neckthru. That's just my opinion based on my observations.

BTW, I hope the saw mill you are getting your wood from has a kiln, or the wood has been sufficiently air-dried. Otherwise, you will have to dry it yourself (IIRC, 1 year per inch of wood thickness).

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The sawmill I get the wood from kiln dries everything, and so far I've had pretty good luck with them. While they sell alot of green lumber to pallet makers and barn builders, they do a decent amount of business with musical instrument makers, boat builders and furniture builders, and have higher standard lumber for higher quality demands. I've gotten some 8/4 sugar maple, sycamore and cherry from them and had no problems with warps or cracks at all.

If the neck through construction is going to have more effect than anything on the tone, do you think I would gain a brighter tone from acquiring something more dense than walnut to use as a contrasting neck laminate, such as ebony, rosewood or purpleheart etc...?

Southpa, I have to say, I'm intrigued with your use of holly. Personally, I have no experience with it, but I've been told it's like "white ebony". I'd be really interested in seeing some pictures of that project of yours when you get it closer to completion. So far, I've been purchasing pre-radiused and slotted fretboards, but eventually, I'd like to try that myself with some less than typical woods. I've heard of people using holly fretboards, but I've never seen one.

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Have you used holly before, Southpa? what is it like? Cos I've got some and been thinking of using it for fingerboards, as it is very hard, so I thought it would be pretty good, I've never heard of it being used before though.

Edited by Masina
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sounds good

with the pickups i"d look at placment, im sure that would effect the sound that you like alot

as for the bridge the bigger(great surface area) then the more contact/vibrations/tone(but that fits into the whole "tone wood" argument)

just whats ever u do just the frets and stuff right because there a small scale at my school and the D string is a good tone out and it it hurts to play haha

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I've never heard of holly being used either so thats why I'm doing it. :D I will take pics later when I get some hardware and can put my project into full gear. Making a build thread in the "In Progress and Finished Work" section is a project unto itself. You get so caught up in doing things that you forget to take pictures of some important areas. Then having to explain and organize everything can be a real pain in the butt.

Clear holly is hard to find and hard to keep straight when curing. It can be very knotty wood. I acquired a log a few years ago and got someone who runs a Woodmizer to cut it up into as many 2X4 sized quartersawn sections as possible. Some of the pieces actually split open while drying, others warped slightly and I had to plane them flat once they were totally dried which resulted in a near broken nose (thats in another thread :D ). Fresh cut holly results in green streaks in the grain when in contact with air. But otherwise its on a par with eastern hard rock maple as far as density and weight goes. It planes well and sands easily and will also readily absorb dye. I have another piece that will be made into a 1-piece strat style neck w/ skunkstripe. I have offcut strips from forming my fb and neck block which can be used as binding strips etc. Its widely used with ebony for contrast in inlays, rosettes etc.

The fretboard slotting went very well and was very easy to do. I got the numbers from the Stewmac fret calculator, 30" scale and 22 frets. Then I fired up Autocad and drew the blank to scale, printed it out on 3 separate pages, cut the sections and taped them onto the blank that I previously radiused to 12". Then I took a sharp exacto knife and cut each individual fret through the paper with a ruler as a guide. When all the frets had been scored I removed the paper and rubbed graphite into all the cuts so they were clearly visible. Then I slotted the frets with a flush cut pull saw using a straight edge as a guide. I used a piece of tape on the saw about 3 mm from the tooth points to get the proper depth.

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Well, I purchased the fretboard today. I decided to go with a slotted/radiused madagascar ebony board from LMI. I got it slotted for 30" scale with a 16" radius. I went with the "2nd grade" board because it's on a discount, and from what I've seen of the LMI 2nds, they seem to have a pretty interesting grain to them, if they arent very dark. My wife is a fan of the way they look, so I decided to go with that. She and I were contemplating purpleheart, but LMI doesnt have it available, and I wanted to get something pre radiused and slotted. I'm thinking that using an ebony board should help to brighten the tone as a counter to the shorter scale.

I'm trying to figure out if I should look into getting something like ebony (or another very hard/dense and dark colored wood)as a center/wing border laminate to contrast with the maple. I was going to use walnut, but I'm thinking maybe something denser to brighten the tone might not be a bad idea. That said, i'm not really sure of walnut's tonal properties, particularly how it would affect the sound being used just as a 1/4 or 1/2" contrast laminate in the neck. Of course, if I use something very dense and hard as the contrast laminate, I'm going to run into workability problems. Trade offs...

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Just a note on pickups: generally the "hotter" overwound pickups have more mids and less highs, which is probably not what you want for this bass. I would look for ceramic magnet pickups that aren't significantly overwound if it was my build. I used to have a ceramic MM pickup by Carvin, and it was very bright. Also, if you haven't tried the P/MM combo yet, you're in for a treat... it's awesome! The P and MM pickups overlap slightly in their traditional positions, but there are a couple ways around that. My favorite is the "reverse P" configuration, but moving the MM pickup towards the bridge works, too.

Good luck with the build!

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