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  #21  
Old 03-07-2007, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Gencarelli View Post
Ken,

No, you can stop the D on your extension. I was assuming that Greg did not have one... I stop my extension like that.

I may be up to Philly in the near future, so I will try to get John to take me out to your place. I would love to play that "Storioni". I also want you to take a look at the "Heifetz" up close and personal.

Brian
Great, come on by. John who by the way?

The Storioni is here for a few months 'till Arnold finishes my Hart/Fendt Bass. Then I take one off his bench and put another one on it. I would love to see your Old German as well. Just let me know what your plans are. I go into Philly myself on occasion and there is also a Train that comes within 10 minutes of the shop as well.
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  #22  
Old 03-07-2007, 03:13 PM
Bob Branstetter Bob Branstetter is offline
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Bob? Are we on the same page now? Close maybe buddy?
OK, I think we are fairly close now. The important concept we agree upon is that "breaking in" and "OLD" are two distinctively different things.
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  #23  
Old 03-07-2007, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
Great, come on by. John who by the way?

The Storioni is here for a few months 'till Arnold finishes my Hart/Fendt Bass. Then I take one off his bench and put another one on it. I would love to see your Old German as well. Just let me know what your plans are. I go into Philly myself on occasion and there is also a Train that comes within 10 minutes of the shop as well.
Harrison. I may be making a trek up there in a month or so... I'll keep you posted.
Brian
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  #24  
Old 03-07-2007, 04:11 PM
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OK, I think we are fairly close now. The important concept we agree upon is that "breaking in" and "OLD" are two distinctively different things.
Gotcha.. Now we're cookin..
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  #25  
Old 03-07-2007, 04:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Brian Gencarelli View Post
Harrison. I may be making a trek up there in a month or so... I'll keep you posted.
Brian
Ok, yes. I didn't know you guys knew each other. He knows his way here fairly well. Nice guy and great player as well. My sons name is Jon so it threw me a curve at first..
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  #26  
Old 03-07-2007, 05:54 PM
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Ok, yes. I didn't know you guys knew each other. He knows his way here fairly well. Nice guy and great player as well. My sons name is Jon so it threw me a curve at first..
You can say that again. John is a former student and friend. He has a pretty amazing bass as well...
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  #27  
Old 03-07-2007, 06:55 PM
Greg Clinkingbeard Greg Clinkingbeard is offline
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Originally Posted by Brian Gencarelli View Post
I do this:

Tune your E string down to D. Then hold your finger down on A on the G string. You end up with 4ths, or 5ths (if you are on your head). Then play a series of double stops on the strings D & A, A & D, D & A, etc... if you want to get tricky turn your bow underhanded and play the lowest and highest string at the same time.

You will feel your bass start to open up. Give it a whirl.

Brian
I have been paying attention here, but chose not to jump in; more interesting to watch from afar.

Thank you Brian, but I've got an Obligato E and don't want to kill it buy tuning down. No extension on the bass. I have been dragging the bow to get as much sound out of the bass as possible when nobody else is home and I think it's helping.

FWIW, I don't currently have the means to even consider another bass for probably several years. It's got something to do with being married and soon having two kids in college among other factors. I'm not complaining, it's just the way it is. I suppose I could change my marital status, but I love my wife too much to give it much thought.

My bass will get to listen to some loud music for the foreseeable future and be punished by the bow. This may or may not help, but it can't hurt either. When I can free up some funds, I may take it over to Bob's for some punishment.

Thanks for the advice.
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  #28  
Old 03-08-2007, 02:12 AM
Richard Prowse Richard Prowse is offline
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I'd love to try that cornerless bass, do you stand it in a corner when you're not playing it?
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  #29  
Old 03-08-2007, 04:12 AM
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I'd love to try that cornerless bass, do you stand it in a corner when you're not playing it?
No, it sits in a rack in my office.
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  #30  
Old 03-08-2007, 11:52 AM
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I definitely notice even over a week long period that my bass is more responsive the more I play it. Let it sit a couple of days and it feels stiff at first. It's not a huge difference, but I do notice it. I think doing something to get it vibrating is just getting it warmed up mechanically. Oh, and that low Major 7th interval is just a double stop. I just use the two notes, the open BB and the Bb. You have to play it arco to get the effect. If you have a 4 string, the flat 5th works pretty well and the vibrational deflection in the bass is considerable if you can set up a standing wave at about 2-3 Hz. The dissonance is sort of seizmic. Things will walk off of the shelves....

Overall, my DB does respond much easier than when new. I think the exercise is beneficial. If it is going to get considerably better with age, that will be nice to experience. If not, some day I may resort to Ken's strategy...

Gee for whatever reason I could take up that invitation to come play on his basses, I might have to make the time.
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  #31  
Old 03-16-2007, 09:19 AM
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A few years a go Rick Turner and Steve Rabe (SWR amps) did a similar experiment where they hooked guitar up to a low frequency transducer. They reported similar effects. Interesting. They patented the proces, or the device, but I don't think it ever went anywhere

http://www.acousticguitar.com/gear/a...ibration.shtml

I always assumed that the changes with age are the result of the wood changing character, not viibrations--in grad school I did a fair amount of remodeling work on old rowhouses in San Francisco--old as in 70 years or so. The wood in those houses was hard to work--it was really hard to drive a nail into it compared to new lumber. It could be because they used "old growth" timber, but I doubt it--those were rowhouses that were built after the SF earthquake, in a hurry. My house was built in 1949, a typical DC area postwar brick cape cod, built in a hurry to standard specs, and the floor joists are similarly harder to nail and drill than new timber, and I just can't believe they were using some kind of old growth lumber in 1949. My guess is that the resins in the wood age and grow harder and more brittle. But who knows? I'm not even convinced that old instruments always sound better. I've played plenty of expensive old guitars that sounded blah. But I've never played a really old bass.

Last edited by Mike O'Malley; 03-16-2007 at 09:56 AM.
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  #32  
Old 03-16-2007, 08:43 PM
Bob Branstetter Bob Branstetter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O'Malley View Post
A few years a go Rick Turner and Steve Rabe (SWR amps) did a similar experiment where they hooked guitar up to a low frequency transducer. They reported similar effects. Interesting. They patented the proces, or the device, but I don't think it ever went anywhere

http://www.acousticguitar.com/gear/a...ibration.shtml
That is an interesting article that really points out one of the big differences between guitars and the violin family. Catgut Acoustical Society members have used Chladni patterns in plate tuning for the last 50 years or so as an inexpensive method to visualize the major vibration modes in plate tuning. Christmas "glitter" is placed on a disassembled plate and the plate is vibrated using a sinewave generator driving a small speaker. When the frequency of a particular mode is activated, the distinctive Chladni pattern is formed by the glitter. In violin plate tuning, the patterns (primarily of modes 1, 2 & 5) are used to help determine where or how much wood should be removed from the plate. The Chladni mode patterns have distinctive shapes that are, for lack of better words, the "target" during the graduation/plate tuning. The vibrating frequency of the particular mode changes as a result the plate tuning wood removal. You never know the mode frequency until after the plate tuning is done and there are no consistent mode frequencies between instruments of the same type and style.

Apparently, in flat top guitars, the Chladni modes are at a consistent fixed frequency from one guitar to another. This allows them to vibrate the guitars at known (fixed) frequencies. Violin family instruments could not use this method since the exact mode vibration frequencies would not be known. (Besides, how would you attach a round back bass to the top of the big guitar shaker?)
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  #33  
Old 06-03-2007, 01:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike O'Malley View Post
I always assumed that the changes with age are the result of the wood changing character, not viibrations--in grad school I did a fair amount of remodeling work on old rowhouses in San Francisco--old as in 70 years or so. The wood in those houses was hard to work--it was really hard to drive a nail into it compared to new lumber. It could be because they used "old growth" timber, but I doubt it--those were rowhouses that were built after the SF earthquake, in a hurry. My house was built in 1949, a typical DC area postwar brick cape cod, built in a hurry to standard specs, and the floor joists are similarly harder to nail and drill than new timber, and I just can't believe they were using some kind of old growth lumber in 1949. My guess is that the resins in the wood age and grow harder and more brittle. But who knows? I'm not even convinced that old instruments always sound better. I've played plenty of expensive old guitars that sounded blah. But I've never played a really old bass.
This is something that I have been cogitating on for a while now and thinking about possible links between the aging process, which is bound to be related to chemical / physical changes that occur whether the wood is vibrated or not, and the vibrational process, which while it is something different, may interact with the chemical factor. Some here would warn that me thinking might be a risky undertaking or have even riskier results, but for what it might be worth, two things have occurred to me.

There are definitely chemical changes happening in the wood. Incidentally, the studs in my 1915 heart pine house will break a drill bit unless it is designed to drill through high grade steel, and those will generally burn through more than cut through, so the wood does get harder as observed by others. What has occurred to me lately is that the vibration of the wood may speed up this process. Almost every chemical process is speeded up by agitation of the reactants, and vibrating a piece of wood will certainly cause the components within it to move around, perhaps bringing more of the unstable chemicals into contact with the others that these react with.

The other consideration is that when we play an instrument, much of the energy we introduce to the wood is not converted into sound, but absorbed by the wood. This will be absorbed in the form of heat, a result of the friction between the moving molecules as some of the sound waves are absorbed, just like bending a piece of metal will heat it up. Heat is also known to accelerate chemical reactions. So the agitation and heat effects could be at work in speeding up the aging process and the term "warming up the bass" is more accurate than one might think at first.

Even though these effects are probably quite small, the general perception that there is a difference is considerable.
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  #34  
Old 06-03-2007, 02:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Powell View Post
This is something that I have been cogitating on for a while now and thinking about possible links between the aging process, which is bound to be related to chemical / physical changes that occur whether the wood is vibrated or not, and the vibrational process, which while it is something different, may interact with the chemical factor. Some here would warn that me thinking might be a risky undertaking or have even riskier results, but for what it might be worth, two things have occurred to me.

There are definitely chemical changes happening in the wood. Incidentally, the studs in my 1915 heart pine house will break a drill bit unless it is designed to drill through high grade steel, and those will generally burn through more than cut through, so the wood does get harder as observed by others. What has occurred to me lately is that the vibration of the wood may speed up this process. Almost every chemical process is speeded up by agitation of the reactants, and vibrating a piece of wood will certainly cause the components within it to move around, perhaps bringing more of the unstable chemicals into contact with the others that these react with.

The other consideration is that when we play an instrument, much of the energy we introduce to the wood is not converted into sound, but absorbed by the wood. This will be absorbed in the form of heat, a result of the friction between the moving molecules as some of the sound waves are absorbed, just like bending a piece of metal will heat it up. Heat is also known to accelerate chemical reactions. So the agitation and heat effects could be at work in speeding up the aging process and the term "warming up the bass" is more accurate than one might think at first.

Even though these effects are probably quite small, the general perception that there is a difference is considerable.
Hable engles? ..lol

I have no clue what you just said David!

As far as breaking in a Bass, playing it is the only sensible thing I can think of. If you are looking for that 'old' sound, buy an 'old Bass'!
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  #35  
Old 06-03-2007, 10:52 PM
Greg Clinkingbeard Greg Clinkingbeard is offline
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Question

I understand what David said, but it seems to be an exercise in theoretical physics. Surely anything that gets molecules moving will cause friction which will, in turn, cause heat. I suspect that any increase in temperature on the bass would be only a fraction of a degree. Have basses in warm climates improved more than those in colder climates?
Oxidation of the wood also chemically changes the wood. How would anyone ever set up an experiment on this?
I do agree that old wood is harder, on average, than new wood; I suspect it was also harder when it was new. New pine is a crop grown with the intent to maximize yield. I believe that approach produces softer wood.

David, are there little insects in your house singing to the studs, causing them to vibrate?
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  #36  
Old 06-04-2007, 10:09 AM
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Basically what I'm saying in a nutshell:

Anything that produces vibration in the bass or a small amount of heat could speed up the chemical process that is normally due to aging. It is a reasonable hypothesis considering the proven and known nature of chemical reactions, but probably very difficult to prove.
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  #37  
Old 06-04-2007, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Greg Clinkingbeard View Post
I understand what David said, but it seems to be an exercise in theoretical physics.
Readily conceded. And I guess that is why physicists who are double bassists would carry out the exercise and patent various processes;- without proof. The thermodynamics behind the exercise are well known and in physics these are now called "laws";- meaning that the observed effect of heat and agitation on reactions that would proceed anyway over a long period of time is consistent. There are many plausible reasons why it could happen somewhat differently, though. And this is why it would be difficult to prove anything. Wood is not a consistent material at the molecular level. Because it is the product of a living thing it has all kinds of unstable stuff in it. If wood were crystalline in structure, that sort of structure locks the molecules in a way that agitation's effect would be canceled except at surfaces. But wood cellulose is a long chain sugar molecule held together by hydrogen bonds. It doesn't have a crystalline lattice structure like steel for instance. Steel rusts, but only where it is in contact with oxygen. And given enough time, it will rust no matter what you do. But painting the surface or coating it slows it down considerably. Oxides of iron are favored by thermodynamics over pure iron. It will not rust from the inside out, but it will rust faster at the surface in a warm and humid environment.

In the wood there are unstable chemicals that react with each other that are in close contact in the wood's structure. These are acids and (relatively speaking) bases right next to each other that tend to neutralize over time, a very long time, because the structure of the wood slows down the migration of reactants through the wood. So the reactions that happen within the wood as it ages happen pretty easily, depending on the moisture in the wood (faster if the wood is wet and warm) and other factors like the density and other components of the wood. It isn't necessary for the wood to be exposed to open air for some of these reactions to proceed. Attempting to seal the wood probably wouldn't slow it down much either. If you want to see an example of accelerated degradation of wood due to heat (and not much heat) simply place a freshly cut piece of spruce (2x4 from any hardware store that has a rapid inventory turn over will do) in the sun with part of it covered by something opaque and the other part exposed directly. Within a few days the exposed part will be darkened. The only energy added is light (heat) and the components in the wood react with each other due to the addition of the light (heat). This will happen without the light also, just a lot slower.

One thing is certain: Freshly harvested wood is chemically unstable. Oxidation is one way to describe what is happening during aging, but mostly it is rapid degradation of partially formed cellulose, hemi-cellulose that is being burned up by acidic lignen. When that has happened completely, the remaining acid attacks the complete cellulose but much more slowly. Most of the hemi-cellulose is consumed within 2-5 years. It would not be practical for most builders of wood items to wait for the cellulose reaction to go to equilibrium, as that might take hundreds of years. But it certainly does happen.
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Originally Posted by Greg Clinkingbeard View Post
Surely anything that gets molecules moving will cause friction which will, in turn, cause heat. I suspect that any increase in temperature on the bass would be only a fraction of a degree. Have basses in warm climates improved more than those in colder climates?
Oxidation of the wood also chemically changes the wood. How would anyone ever set up an experiment on this?
I don't think most folks that understand thermodynamics would require proof in every individual case. Enough has been proven that most general cases are predictable. Not everything needs to be that well understood to be put to practical use, either. Take for instance the rather complex engineering of the Roman aqueducts that were built long before Isaac Newton accurately described the forces of gravity. The Romans took their observations as practical fact without any "science". And Ken's experience is that older, well played basses generally sound better. He doesn't need an explanation. So his advice to "play the bass" or to "buy an old one" is pretty solid and well founded. It isn't strange to me that his view is perfectly consistent with what thermodynamics would predict.
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I do agree that old wood is harder, on average, than new wood; I suspect it was also harder when it was new. New pine is a crop grown with the intent to maximize yield. I believe that approach produces softer wood.
Hard to say why the older wood is harder as it appears no one was taking very careful notes. In the case of my house, some think that species of pine is extinct. Some think it was the same as Southern Yellow Pine, just old growth and much larger trees than are currently harvested The boards are definitely nice stuff compared to what you see now. In my hall, which is about 15 feet long, there are only two floor boards that do not span the entire 15 feet. Some of them run past the threshold and go into the foyer all the way to the front door, which is another ten feet. Knots in the wood are extremely rare. I have seen old warehouses along the railway here that have 100+ ft. beams in the rafters that are a single tree. Sadly, in the last few years many of these have burned due to arson with no attempt to salvage the pine. There is no doubt that crop pine trees have been bred to grow extremely fast, and this definitely results in more soft grain and weaker wood. But growth rate and hardness tend to be consistently observable only within a given species. For instance I transplanted two very young Tulip (magnolias that are commonly called yellow poplar) trees when these were under 4 feet tall. One of them was only a few inches tall. These were wild trees. Both are approaching 40 feet tall now and it is less than 15 years ago that these were transplanted. These are averaging an increase in trunk diameter of nearly an inch/year. And I'm sure if these were harvested in a few years that the wood would be consistent in hardness and strength to commercially harvested yellow poplar, which is harder and stronger than spruce 2x4's that even when farmed and bred to grow quickly do not grow at the rate of the wild Tulip trees.

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David, are there little insects in your house singing to the studs, causing them to vibrate?
Probably so, but I thought is was just my ears ringing! The wood in my house is so hard that there are places where years ago the termites gave it a go and gave up! Seriously, the colony would find a run of soft grain and last maybe a few feet in one board and then die out. This was probably more than 75 years ago;- before houses were even treated for bugs. And then there were also powder post beetles. I think they gave up too, or the house would be saw dust by now. But I've often wondered if there might be little creatures in the top wood of the basses dancing around when I start playing it. Possibly gnawing a little here and there to improve the carver's work? Well, I kind of hope not... But seriously, this is factual:

Once when I was bowing some really low notes quite loudly, I looked up to find that several spiders, which I had no idea would be disturbed, had crawled out from behind the woodwork apparently to see what all the commotion was! So at least we know that vibrating the wood will drive the spiders out of hiding.
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  #38  
Old 06-04-2007, 02:24 PM
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Question thermodynamics?

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Originally Posted by David Powell View Post
I don't think most folks that understand thermodynamics would require proof in every individual case. Enough has been proven that most general cases are predictable. Not everything needs to be that well understood to be put to practical use, either. Take for instance the rather complex engineering of the Roman aqueducts that were built long before Isaac Newton accurately described the forces of gravity. The Romans took their observations as practical fact without any "science". And Ken's experience is that older, well played basses generally sound better. He doesn't need an explanation. So his advice to "play the bass" or to "buy an old one" is pretty solid and well founded. It isn't strange to me that his view is perfectly consistent with what thermodynamics would predict.
Speaking of Thermo, my head heats up when I read posts like this, long and Scientific!

So if playing a Bass till it's old makes it sound better, how can you say it's the thermodynamics thingamajig thingy and not just the experience of the harmonics of the wood communicating with itself to sound more mature, seasoned and complex?

On the heat theory, in 1971 shortly after buying a beautiful W.B.Wilfer Bass I got a job for a few weeks on a Cruise Ship. One day while docked in Puerto Rico I took the Bass out in the hot sun and played it for an hour of so in hopes of aging the Bass faster. All it did was make me tired and dehydrated! I don't think that Bass got much from my 'heated' jamming..

If this heat thing is true then I ask you, should one move down South when buying a new Bass and then move up North again after the heat has aged it quicker?

Speaking of time, imagine how much better your own Bass would sound, age and mature if you played it for as long as you spent typing these 'marathon' theoretical posts that most of us get dizzy just trying to read!

Just a thought..lol
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  #39  
Old 06-04-2007, 04:15 PM
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When I posted this, a heated and agitated discussion was not what I had in mind.


Just offering a plausible explanation for what so many of us observe about old and "played-in" instruments. As subtle as the effects would be I don't think one instance of extreme heat exposure or extended playing would mimic true aging. It is possible to add so much heat that the whole natural aging process is wrecked in favor of reactions that only proceed at the higher temperatures. I'd think dehydrating the bass would remove a good deal of the moisture that is one of the necessary vehicles in the wood for acid / base reactions to happen. That is why kiln drying arrests the normal drying / aging process and these woods are not as good for tone wood, but are softer and more desirable for carving into other things that are not musical instruments. Wood carvers prefer kiln dried wood, musical instrument makers usually do not. And the kiln dried stuff is reputedly softer.

I wouldn't recommend any extreme measures to accelerate the aging of an instrument made from relatively new wood. Hooking it up to a jack-hammer or leaving it in the car in full sun are certainly not good ideas.

Normal seasonal changes with the wood taking up moisture and releasing it and regular playing is probably the safest practice. But I do think it is desirable for builders to use wood that is as old as they can possibly obtain because aged wood is aged wood, regardless of when it was carved into a bass. In fact, the heart wood in a live tree is actually dead already, and is much more aged than the outer tree rings even when a tree is harvested. That part of a tree, the old dead wood in the center, is structural support for the living outer part of the tree. It is biologically adaptive for the tree to have stronger aged dead wood in the center. That way it can get taller, withstand the higher winds, and get the best light for photosynthesis.

It is a shame to me that we are losing the best American spruce for future musical instruments to the timber / lumber export market.
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  #40  
Old 06-04-2007, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
Speaking of Thermo, my head heats up when I read posts like this, long and Scientific!

So if playing a Bass till it's old makes it sound better, how can you say it's the thermodynamics thingamajig thingy and not just the experience of the harmonics of the wood communicating with itself to sound more mature, seasoned and complex?
I can't;- I didn't;- and it is plausible that the two things you mention are in fact the same thing, just described differently.
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Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
Speaking of time, imagine how much better your own Bass would sound, age and mature if you played it for as long as you spent typing these 'marathon' theoretical posts that most of us get dizzy just trying to read!

Just a thought..lol
I wrote the post above while I was waiting for my breakfast order to get to my table. I take my laptop there and take advantage of the wifi, not my DB. Believe me, if I could get my DB up to the counter there for some extra time on it, I would.
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