Some bass guitars have thin pieces of very figured woods glued to the top of the tone wood(s). This is done to improve the visual appeal of the bass guitar.
Figured means the wood has a very distinct grain pattern. The most popular grain patterns are quilted and curly. Figured woods often lack the desired sonic qualities for bass guitars. By just adding a thin piece, or top, to the body, you get the pretty appearance of the figured wood with the sonic properties of the tone wood underneath. Sometimes they will add a matching piece of figured wood to the headstock called an overlay.
You probably won’t find any beginning bass guitars with figured tops. It’s strictly cosmetic and, therefore, unimportant.
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