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Improving the Plywood Bass

Improving the Plywood Bass

by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

Originally published in American Lutherie #10, 1987 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

See also,
Our Great Spherical Friend, Part One by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.
Our Great Spherical Friend, Part Two by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.
Our Great Spherical Friend, Part Three by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

In our quest for a way to build an inexpensive but musically useful string bass instrument, we have gone on a brief detour. We have decided to explore a bit further an area mentioned in previous articles: the plywood bass. Could there be a way to improve an existing bass of this type, to raise it above the barely acceptable level in tonal response and playability?

Our conclusion, after one experiment, is yes and no. Yes, we think that an average Kay bass (the most common brand) can be altered so as to broaden its range of tonal capability and extend its useful register. No, we can’t work a miracle, it remains basically a hunk of plywood. The job we did on it turned out to be quite a lot of trouble, and like many such experiments it suggests further ways to proceed with the quest. But it seems unlikely that we can ever give this fiddle any real quality.

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