The Gibson Logo
The most innovative and revolutionary stringed instruments of all time have carried the name Gibson—the Les Paul, the ES-335, the Explorer, the Flying V, the SG, the Thunderbird IV. The list goes on and on. There is no mistaking the classic Gibson logo, pressed into the Thunderbird’s curvy truss rod cover using a gold stamp. It is the most recognizable logo in all of music, representing more than a century of originality and excellence. There is simply no equal.
- The Gibson Logo
The Thunderbird’s distinct headstock stays true to Gibson’s industry-changing way of thinking. Like every Gibson headstock, the angled Thunderbird headstock is carved out of the same piece of mahogany as the neck. The angle is carefully set to 14 degrees—instead of the traditional 17 degrees—to accommodate the headstock’s radical contour and to keep pressure on the strings. The headstock’s form ensures straight string pull, which, when combined with the increased string pressure, means there is no loss of string vibration between the corian nut and the tuners, equaling better sustain. Black chrome-plated Grover bass tuners provide the necessary clearance between tuner buttons, allowing for comfortable access and uncomplicated tuning.
- Angled Headstock
Adjustable Truss Rod
The adjustable truss rod is a Gibson innovation that revolutionized the guitar. Before this ground-breaking discovery in the early 1920s, the truss rod was used only to strengthen and stabilize the neck. By making it adjustable, the truss rod now allows a guitar to be set up using a variety of string gauges, as well as string heights. This easily accommodates any style of playing, and allows a limitless range of set-up options. And by placing it at the base of the headstock, the adjustable nut is easily accessible, even while the strings are still on the guitar.
- Adjustable Truss Rod
’60s Rounded Bass Neck Profile
No guitar neck profiles are more distinguishable than the neck profiles on the Gibson models of today. The ’60s rounded bass neck profile on the Thunderbird IV is based on the more modern, slim-tapered necks most commonly associated with the Les Paul and SG models of the early 1960s. The neck is machined in Gibson’s rough mill using wood shapers to make the initial cuts. But once the fingerboard gets glued on, the rest—including the final sanding—is done by hand. That means there are no two necks with the exact same dimensions. So while it still has the basic characteristics of its respective profile, each neck will be slightly different, with a distinct but traditional feel.
- ’60s Rounded Bass Neck Profile
20-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
Rosewood has always graced the fingerboards of the world’s finest stringed instruments, including many of today’s Gibsons. The fingerboard on the Gibson Thunderbird IV bass is constructed from the highest grade rosewood on the planet. The rosewood is personally inspected and qualified by Gibson’s team of skilled wood experts before it enters the factories to be fitted onto the neck of the Thunderbird IV. The resilience of this dense and durable wood makes these fingerboards extremely balanced and stable, and gives each chord and note unparalleled clarity and bite. The 12-inch radius of the fingerboard provides smooth note bending capabilities and eliminates “dead” or “choked out” notes, common occurrences on fingerboards with lesser radiuses.
- 20-Fret Rosewood Fingerboard
Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
The fret wire on the Gibson models is a combination nickel and silver alloy (approximately 80 percent nickel and 20 percent silver) specifically designed for long life and superior wear. Gibson’s traditional “medium/jumbo” fret wire is first shaped by hand, then cut to an exact 12-inch radius. After hand pressing it into the fingerboard, a machine press finishes the job to eliminate the gap between the bottom of the fret wire and the fingerboard.
- Nickel and Silver Alloy Fret Wire
The classic dot inlays is one of the most distinguishable features of many traditional Gibson models, including the ES-335 and the Explorer. A figured, swirl acrylic gives these inlays that classic “pearl” look. They are inserted into the fingerboard using a process that eliminates gaps and doesn’t require the use of fillers.
- Dot Inlays
TB Plus Ceramic Magnet Humbuckers
The pickups on the early Gibson basses of the 1960s remained unchanged for many years, undergoing only minor cosmetic modifications from time to time, but staying true to the originals’ sonic characteristics. The pickups in today’s Thunderbird IV—two vintage-style TB Plus humbuckers—both capture and recreate the classic attributes of those early Gibson basses. The TB plus humbuckers are traditional hum-cancelling bass pickups with ceramic magnets. They are wax potted then filled with epoxy, producing a full frequency, heavy-bottom sound similar to pickups with a passive EQ, and delivering the huge, powerful bass tone the Thunderbird IV is renowned for.
- TB Plus Ceramic Magnet Humbuckers
Three-Way Adjustable Bridge and Tailpiece
Gibson’s innovative three-way adjustable bridge and tailpiece combo is the standard for simplicity and functionality. It provides players with the ability to adjust and fine-tune the height of the Thunderbird IV’s bass strings in all directions—front, back, and side-to-side—which gives the bridge a “floating” feature, thus allowing the bass to be equipped with a variety of string gauges and multiple set-up options. The Thunderbird IV’s legendary resonance, tone, and sustain is the result of anchoring the bridge directly into the body at its three adjustable points, which provides a firm seating for the strings and yields a strong union between the strings and body. Readily accessible screws make setting the intonation simple and unproblematic. To this day, Gibson’s three-way adjustable bridge remains an industry standard. It is the epitome of form and function in bass guitar bridge design.
- Three-Way Adjustable Bridge and Tailpiece
Applying a nitrocellulose finish to any Gibson guitar is one of the most labor-intensive elements of the guitar-making process. A properly applied nitro finish requires extensive man hours, several evenly applied coats, and an exorbitant amount of drying time. But this fact has never swayed Gibson into changing this time-tested method, employed ever since the first guitar was swathed with lacquer back in 1894. Why? For starters, a nitro finish dries to a much thinner coat than a polyurethane finish, which means there is less interference with the natural vibration of the instrument, allowing for a purer tone. A nitro finish is also a softer finish, which makes it easily repairable. You can touch up a scratch or ding on a nitro finish, but you can’t do the same on a poly finish. In addition, a nitro finish is very porous in nature, and actually gets thinner over time. It does not “seal” wood in an airtight shell—as a poly finish does—and allows the wood to breathe and age properly.
- Nitrocellulose Finish
The Thunderbird IV’s multiple-wood-ply construction is as structurally and aesthetically innovative as any Gibson feature. The neck and center piece of the body are constructed from solid mahogany, as are the two wings that are glued on to each side to form the Thunderbird’s distinct outline. Gluing all the pieces together ensures maximum “wood-to-wood” contact, and allows the neck and body to function as a single unit. This neck-through-body construction results in better tone and unsurpassed sustain, and no loose or misaligned necks.
- Neck-Through-Body Construction