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Does fretboard wood change tone?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by wcraven, Jan 17, 2008.

  1. wcraven

    wcraven Member

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    I've always been picky about fretboard wood, ebony or nothing. But does it change the tone, sustain, etc. if technically the strings aren't touching the wood itself?
     
  2. Johnnytone

    Johnnytone Supporting Member

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    EVERYTHING has an effect on everything else. To what degree is up to the listener.

    You MAY rethink your "ebony or nothing" view.;)
     
  3. PFCG

    PFCG Member

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    yes most definitely.
     
  4. Marty s Horne

    Marty s Horne Member

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    To me, ebony and maple fingerboards seem to add brightness while rosewood adds warmth.
     
  5. devinb

    devinb Member

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    I'm not one to go into a guitar store and play everything on the wall, so I have to admit I don't hear it so much in tone...hard to compare two different guitars...

    I do think that maple boards tend to have a more pure attack, where as rosewood blooms a little.
     
  6. Betos

    Betos Member

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    Ebony has a much sharper attack - IHMO, rosewood much softer. Maple, somewhere in between.



    Betos
     
  7. VH5150

    VH5150 Member

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    mmm i always thought maple on a strat is warmer then rosewood....crazy
     
  8. ARch

    ARch Member

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    This is what I've always heard. I spent a lot of time researching when I was putting together my G&L for order, and found the differences were usually subtle.
     
  9. s2khawk

    s2khawk Member

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    you would think after 22 years of playing rosewood and maple and even a few ebony boards I'd have a definitive 'chime in' on this but it is true, Im not totally positive that maple is lots brighter than rosewood. I look at a fender style guitar and you see most of the scale length of the strings are over the fretboard not the body, yet maple doesn't always seem substantially 'bright' compared to a same body guitar with rosewood. Most players probably base their opinions on how the board looks and feels. Body type seems to make a bigger effect on tone overall than board type, but I am sure there are differences. Its so cold this weekend, besides watching playoffs I may try A/B tests on maple vs rosewood boards to compare....
     
  10. townsend

    townsend Member

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    Why hasn't (or doesn't) someone conduct a "blinded" study of this topic?

    It seems that you could get two Fender strats (or another brand), identical in all respects (same body wood, same pickups, etc. . . . of course, I know that two pieces of swamp ash or alder may differ in tonal qualities, but I assume the differences are minimal when apples are compared to apples), the only difference being a rosewood fingerboard vs. a maple figureboard.

    Have the same guitarist play the same passage, and then say to the "blinded" listeners (who are not allowed to consult with one another): "one has a rosewood fingerboard, the other maple, please record your impressions as to which passage was played on a rosewood fingerboard vs. which was played on a maple fingerboard.

    Correlate the information and see if a pattern emerges. We guitarists are very anal and analytical about sound, but I can't understand why somebody hasn't conducted these listening tests. I know if I mention this about audio cables I'd be hissed at! These questions should be approached with "some sort of" scientific methodology. This test might yield useful information in helping us decide what type of fingerboard we prefer. YMMV.
     
  11. soldano16

    soldano16 Member

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    EXCELLENT point. It's the note attack that is different. Brighter is the quick and easy description and the one I always have used. But it's the attack that is different - thanks for the enlightenment.

    I love the look of customs but really dislike the attack:) of the ebony board.
     
  12. Number8

    Number8 Member

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    With solid body guitars, hardware seems to have a bigger difference than wood. JMHO.
     
  13. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    While a fretboards feel is personal preference (they definitely feel different), a guitars tone will vary from guitar to guitar...so each one needs to be judged on its own merits. I've played rosewood fretboard Strats that were much brighter than maple fretboard Strats...so the fretboard is only one part of the tonal picture.
     
  14. NatDeroxL7

    NatDeroxL7 Member

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    It does, but not a drastic amount I think.

    I recall some article where PRSh was talking about braz. as a fretboard wood, and he said something like "if you take a piece of wood and put 22 slabs of metal through it are its resonance properties really going to make that much of a difference?"

    Not sure if I agree 100% but its pretty logical. I can how a fretboard wood would influence quite a bit how the vibration gets from the point where the string touches the fret, into the neck, and then down into the guitar. If the fretboard was fretless, then the board itself could vibrate along its length and then really add its own flavor into the mix in a very significant way, but I think that the frets reduce, but do not eliminate the effect of the fretboard as a tone factor.

    Feel is probably the biggest difference. I used to think that it was bogus because the fingers don't really "rub" against the board that much, but after trying out more variety of wood, I could really tell the difference....between SS and nickel frets as well.

    I think that some people are more prone to play with their ears, and some play with their fingers...does that make sense lol? What I'm saying is that while everyone both feels themselves playing, and hear themselves, some people have the tone effect their perception of feel, and other have the feel effect their perception of tone. I am more of the latter, so I definitely notice differences in tone but sometimes I wonder if it is because my brain "feels" the sound too much.
     
  15. Balance

    Balance Member

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    This wouldn't account for the difference in the maple the fingerboards are attached to. If you did this test with dozens of necks on the same guitar, maybe you could start to arrive at some conclusions.
     
  16. tonedaddy

    tonedaddy Member

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    I am here as you are here as you are me and we are
    I believe everything affects tone. But as it is with many guitar components, I'd challenge anyone to correctly identify fretboard wood (at say > 75%) in electric guitars in double-blind listening tests. But that's really beside the point.

    Rather, I'm inclined to believe great luthiers use the sum of a guitars' parts (including fretboard wood) to create an end result. Meaning, they take advantage of and compensate for however each component affects tone, in consideration of what their ultimate tonal objectives are for a guitar.

    I use to prefer RW fretboards (for whatever reason.... likely nothing more than my lack of experience in playing maple fretboards).
    The longer I've played a variety of guitars, the less picky I've become about fretboard wood.
    Now all that matters to me is, does the guitar sound/play well?
     
  17. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    Sure it does.
     
  18. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm more positive about the effects on feel than on tone. The feel is real different. Rosewood being a shade softer on the fingers, ebony and maple harder feeling. Tonally, never really sure how big the difference is.
     
  19. TDJMB

    TDJMB Gold Supporting Member

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    The luthiers I've talked to say it makes a difference. They work with wood every day and I acknowledge their expertise. But, along with the effect of dividing the fretboard with a bunch of metal frets, does no one wonder what the effect of inlays is? Especially big, block inlays that take a significant amount of wood out of the fretboard and replace it with plastic or shell and glue?
     
  20. plexirocker 68

    plexirocker 68 Member

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    yes there is a difference. The attack is different. I own maple and rosewood fretboard teles and strats. One rosewood and one maple necked version of each. They are different toned. For some folks they might not hear a difference or had much experience with bunches of guitars. No doubt they are different toned. I like them both. When you play them side by side you'll hear it.


    plexi
     

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