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Refinishing instruments: Does it change tonality?


jlrush

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Does anyone know if refinishing a solid body bass will change the tonality? Or an acoustic or semi-hollow body for that matter?

I was once told by a fellow who has been in retail music sales for 30 yrs that it would.

Any opinions or first hand knowledge are appreciated.

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Anything that changes the mass of the instrument or the way the body resonates will change the tone of an instrument. On solidbodies it would be minimal and usually unnoticed; on a hollow/semihollow instrument it changes a lot. Recently I got confirmation of this by an URB luthier with over 30 years in the repair business.

 

I had once removed the finish on a Fender Telecaster bass and replaced it with a few coats of polyurethane finish. After that it seemed to be a little deeper in tone, but that was over 30 years ago and there may have been other factors involved (it was an ash body) that might've contributed to that.

:wave:

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It may. I noticed a pretty substantial difference in removing the thick gloss finish from my Hohner and leaving the wood bare but waxed. But that's as extreme a change as you can make.

 

Basically, thick yet soft finishes will dampen down resonances and make the bass sound darker; thin yet hard finishes will resonate well, especially the higher overtones, and make the bass sound brighter.

 

The more resonant and responsive the basic instrument is, including the transparency of the pickups, the more you'll notice this change. So don't expect much from changing a cheap EB-3 copy's finish whilst messing with Turner Renaissance could make a big difference (though probably not a good one!)

 

Alex

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Yes.

 

Most people who have removed the think polyurethane finishes from inexpensive instruments have commented that the tone seemed to "open up".

 

Some of the difference between the sound of vintage and contemporary instruments can be attributed to the difference between nitro-cellulose lacquer and polyurethane.

 

When you figure out what kind of varnish Stradivarius used, try it out on your hollow-body instrument and let us know what the results are.

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Jlrish,

 

---sorry basic english.

 

 

(there's a difference between tone and tonality.........) Anyway.

 

For brass instrument (I'm playing tbn too), there's a big difference when you remove the lacquer on the bell. On average instruments, it's removing all high frenquencies that classical player hates. On very good instrument, it gives freedom to all harmonics. The quality of the metal used and the tension inside the parts are determinant of a good horn. And sometimes horn dies, like old strings...

 

But I know, we talking about wood... I think it's very diffenrent. More the wood vibrates, more it will "break" and let the vibrations pass trough the piece. Wood quality for an instrument is the most important. In my personnal opinion, don't loose your time and $ on refinishing a bass.

I've no more a guilty conscience, only a stomach.
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A couple of years ago, a guy on the Carvin website posted before and after recordings of a solid body guitar he had refinished. He either removed a gloss finish and applied an oil finish, or vice versa.

 

Unfortunately, that thread was probably deleted when Carvin changed their site's format last year. But I thought it was extremely cool of the guy to take the time and make the recordings for A-B comparison.

 

The amount of difference in the sound was pretty small, and could have been attributed to new strings or a slight difference in the recordings, in my opinion. Of course, opinions being what they are, some posters heard enhanced (or decreased) warmth, harmonics, resonance, etc..

 

Ed

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Years ago, I removed the outer layer of finish from my Ibanez Roadstar II bass. I sanded off the outer poly coat, leaying a thin color layer.

The difference in tone was immediately noticeable.

Clearer, more distinct, and, yes, more open.

 

I have another with the original finish, and the difference in tone is quite amazing.

 

Peace,

 

wraub

 

I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes indeedy.

My buddy bought a Fender "special" P-bass--ya know, the one with the big humbucker? It was an amazing bass, but it was a used one.. and he hated the color (clear-coat blue--sorry Mista Cohen), and he wanted black.

 

So... he stripped it to bare Alder and refinished it in nitrocellulose laquer. 10 coats or something...

 

Holy crap. It went from being a good sounding bass to being an AMAZING sounding bass.

 

I heard later that the Fenders have a coat of polyurethane under the paint because it makes the painting process go faster in the factory, but it makes the instruments sound a little dull.

 

I don't know about all that, but the refinish job made that bass SING.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Interesting indeed! Thanks for the responses guys. Don't know if I'll be doing anything like that yet, but it has been a question since I first asked others about it years ago.

Have a great week! :wave:

Jim

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by jeremy c:

When you figure out what kind of varnish Stradivarius used, try it out on your hollow-body instrument and let us know what the results are.

This makes me think of a movie called "The Red Violin". Very cool movie, especially for a musician. But you don't want to know what's in this violin's finish.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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Originally posted by thanny XIII:

BLOOOD!!! right?

Right. I liked that movie til the freaky-deaky ending. First, since the woman had been dead a while when the guy opened her veins, the blood shouldn't have flowed the way it was portrayed in the movie. Secondly, even if it had it would have been a rust brown at that point rather than red. Thirdly, it was just sick and disgusting. Sorry to be a poop about this; but one of the reasons I like Stephen King novels is because the real-world touches he adds to the story are accurate, in contrast to the weird stuff he makes up. Makes the weird stuff more believable.

 

I asked a similar question on the guitar forum recently about refinishing a Strat. I play lefty, and most of the instruments available to me seem to be either sunburst or black. What I wouldn't give for a nice Seafoam Green or Lake Placid Blue! So I appreciate the insights folks are offering in this thread.

 

 

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I don't think my bass needs refinishing, but it may need refretting. How much of a difference will that make?

 

Also, if I remove the finish on it now (it's a natural finish with what I'm pretty sure is polyurethane), where can I find the nitrocellulose lacquer you mentioned?

Do not be deceived by, nor take lightly, this particular bit of musicianship one simply describes as "bass". - Lowell George

 

"The music moves me, it just moves me ugly." William H. Macy in "Wild Hogs"

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Originally posted by thabottomend:

Also, if I remove the finish on it now (it's a natural finish with what I'm pretty sure is polyurethane), where can I find the nitrocellulose lacquer you mentioned?

The nitrocellulose lacquer is not used as much for a couple of reasons. I think there were environmental issues with it, and it's use is extremely frowned upon. Not sure about the specifics, but it might be worth doing a google. You should also considering setting up a spray booth if you're going to try doing a refinish job.

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"My concern is, and I have to, uh, check with my accountant, that this might bump me into a higher, uh, tax..."

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thabottomend,

I work for the Sherwin Williams paint company and you can find nitrocellulose lacquers at some of their stores. These stores are in the "chemical coatings" (CC) division of the company.

 

Memphis should have a store or two that carries these lacquers. If you call a store and they don't have these products, ask them the phone number of the nearest CC store. You can get a few different kinds of nitrocellulose lacquers there, maybe even tinted ones.

 

Jim

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Originally posted by Nicklab:

Originally posted by jeremy c:

When you figure out what kind of varnish Stradivarius used, try it out on your hollow-body instrument and let us know what the results are.

This makes me think of a movie called "The Red Violin". Very cool movie, especially for a musician. But you don't want to know what's in this violin's finish.
The finish of this amazingly playable guitar:

http://www.ibanezregister.com/images/images-jems/2kdna/139-3909_IMG.jpg

contains Steve Vai's blood.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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You can find Nitrocellulouse lacquer at Stewmac.com, or Luthiers mercantile. Lacquer is not frowned upon in music circles, it is the classic instrument finish. The EPA put restrictions on lacquer finishing because of the Automotive customizing industry. Their lack of filtering the exhaust from spraying Lacquers was the main reason, and health concerns were another. I have been spraying Nitro and Acrylic lacquers for 22 years, and will continue to spray them until they cannot be found. Lacquer is the best finish as far as I am concerned, although the new waterborne finishes(Non Poly) are getting really good too.
I seek knowledge from the winds of destiny , Wisdom from the seas of time, and honor from within myself. Lost in a land where bass and time collide.
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Originally posted by Musiclogic:

 

Lacquer is the best finish as far as I am concerned, although the new waterborne finishes(Non Poly) are getting really good too.

 

I saw in a magazine last year that my company (Sherwin Williams) is supplying the Fender company with Cab Acrylic Lacquers for solid color finshes on their guitars. It is an acrylic modified lacquer, but solvent based, not waterborn.

 

Musiclogic, would you happen to know anything about this, or have you used any products like these? Are you using catalyzed lacquers?

Visit my band's new web site.

 

www.themojoroots.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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