Someone explain to me why people think fretboard material impacts tone.

Messages
885
Seriously. Same goes to the people that claim they can feel the fretboard on bends. Unless you are playing with some microscopic vintage frets your string is never touching the fretboard (which last time I checked are basically on zero modern production guitars)... it is merely resting on the fret behind your finger and the fret ahead of it. So I need an explanation from your fretboard tone wood folks.

Go.
 

tonegangster

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
3,832
The connotative way in which you ask your question leads me to believe you already have your mind made up about the question and just want to argue with someone. These kinds of threads really suck b@lls and nothing positive ever comes out of them. You asked for opinions so I gave you mine. #TROLL
 

Ferg Deluxe

Double Platinum Member
Messages
2,177
I’m not getting into the tone argument. You’ll get plenty of opinions on that if you do even a little digging.

Regarding the feel...the string doesn’t need to touch the fretboard to discuss feel, so I’m not sure what to say on that specific point. The tips of my fingers absolutely touch the fingerboard; the amount varies and is dependent upon the size of the frets. I like higher frets because less of my finger is touching the board, facilitating easier bends since there’s less drag.

I find maple fingerboards to be the “grabbiest”. Rosewood and Pao Ferro are better, but Ebony is the smoothest, to me. Can’t speak to other woods used on fretboards as I haven’t had significant experience with them.
 
Messages
885
The connotative way in which you ask your question leads me to believe you already have your mind made up about the question and just want to argue with someone. These kinds of threads really suck b@lls and nothing positive ever comes out of them. You asked for opinions so I gave you mine. #TROLL
Obviously I've made up my mind, but I'm not here to argue. I'm actually curious to hear peoples logic. If it makes sense, it makes sense. Cool your jets.

I’m not getting into the tone argument. You’ll get plenty of opinions on that if you do even a little digging.

Regarding the feel...the string doesn’t need to touch the fretboard to discuss feel, so I’m not sure what to say on that specific point. The tips of my fingers absolutely touch the fingerboard; the amount varies and is dependent upon the size of the frets. I like higher frets because less of my finger is touching the board, facilitating easier bends since there’s less drag.

I find maple fingerboards to be the “grabbiest”. Rosewood and Pao Ferro are better, but Ebony is the smoothest, to me. Can’t speak to other woods used on fretboards as I haven’t had significant experience with them.
I feel that. You think it's more the finish on the maple than the maple itself?
 

cap10kirk

Member
Messages
8,335
As far as feel goes, I can absolutely feel the fretboard with my fingertips when I'm playing. Especially with bends and vibrato, and I don't have small vintage frets on any of my guitars. Obviously the string itself isn't touching the wood (and if it is you're pressing way too hard), but that doesn't mean I can't feel the board.
 

webs

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,214
The string doesn't directly touch the body, either, but I don't think anyone would claim that there's no difference between a full hollowbody and a solidbody tonally (or if they did, I'd not take them seriously). "I don't hear a difference for a solidbody electric" seems like a perfectly fine opinion to me, but "there's no physical explanation for this phenomenon" is hopefully not a real argument anyone is making, as it's a bad one.

Here is the mechanism I would propose. To what extent this makes any difference is a different conversation (and clearly differs depending on circumstances) but since you asked how it works, here is an explanation. Again, "I don't think it matters" and "I don't care" are reasonable responses, but I am surprised that there's any controversy about there being a plausible mechanism for it. In fact, I don't think there is; I think that people who want to argue against materials making any difference are simply willing to embrace a bad argument because it matches their experience, in the same way that people who argue for it are willing to assert that it is strong enough to be meaningful.

The string vibrates, and the pickup turns that vibration into induced current.

The string vibration is affected, to some small degree, by the dampening/resonating properties of whatever it's attached to.

The vibration is mostly bounded by the body of the guitar. That is, the guitar will absorb/reflect some amount of the string energy.

The contact points of the string to the guitar transfer these vibrations to the body, and the body vibration back to the string.

The body of the guitar at large therefore has some (see above) affect on the vibrating properties of the string.

The absorbing/resonating properties of the fretboard material will cause some frequencies to be reflected, or not, back to the string by way of the frets.

Different materials are known to have different damping/resonant/energy transfer qualities.

The reflected energy from the fretboard may cause the string's vibration to be altered in a way that is audible.


I don't have a strong opinion myself on whether it matters to any notable degree, I think stochastically it's almost certain to have some impact but on an individual basis is likely nearly or completely meaningless. There are good arguments and bad arguments, and I think that almost all the bad arguments appealing to physics have basically the same problem: they hand-wave the subjective experience of "I hear no difference" and try to turn that into "therefore this physical phenomenon can't/doesn't occur." On the other side, people who expect to hear a difference or believe strongly that there is one can make the same bad argument from the opposite side: "I hear it, therefore the mechanism creates the tonal change I describe." The existence of a reasonable mechanism seems to unfairly favor people who argue for a difference, but in reality it just means that everybody focuses on the wrong thing. To me it is obvious that there's a physical mechanism, but it is not obvious how strong it is. At that point, only personal experience separates the camps and that, as we know, is a trainwreck.

If I'm allowed a soapbox, I have to wonder: why do we care so much? People will claim sides and neither will concede; both sides will claim evidence that doesn't exist, or interpret evidence that does not mean what they want it to mean. To me it is quite clear that materials matter to some degree; anyone who's played a guitar made of non-wood materials, or simply a hollowbody, can probably say the same. On the other hand, individual wood species, which is what this is usually about, seems like the silliest hair-splitting and a weird hill for either side to die on. The only people who I think are completely wrong are the camp who claim that electric guitar materials make no difference whatsoever; usually this is done by people who think that magnets are magic and that "electric" means "not subject to various laws of mechanical physics." To them I say, go play a big hollowbody Gretch and bring me the solidbody electric that can make that sound. Of course the resonance matters; beyond that, it seems to vary between "a fair bit" and "none at all." I find that a sufficient answer but clearly it's not universally satisfactory.
 
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Ferg Deluxe

Double Platinum Member
Messages
2,177
I feel that. You think it's more the finish on the maple than the maple itself?
It sure could be a factor. I don’t generally like thick poly on the neck at all for that reason. I prefer satin finishes, and nitro if possible. I stay away from poly/nitro discussions with respect to tone, but I do like the feel of nitro better. Even today’s nitro which many regard as inferior.
 

RRfireblade

Member
Messages
3,052
Well you can definitely feel the fretboard, your finger is not little wooden stick, it has flesh on it and it's pretty damn flexible. How many people complain about their fingers turning black from the dyes and such on fretboards? I say itd be pretty weird if you didn't think you could feel it.
 

PatriotBadger

Senior Member
Messages
1,819
Because they hear with their eyes and fingertips before their ears. Or because it is one tiny element in a tonal soup that sounds best to them and they attribute the final product to the fingerboard. Or because they do actually hear it, or at least perceive they hear it....and perception is reality. Or because the old tricks are getting stale and they trot this argument out again to play special olympics on the internet. Pick your poison.
 

musekatcher

Member
Messages
2,487
Two reasons: fret anchorage, and neck "composite shape" bending stiffness. I've fixed dead spots numerous times, where a fret wasn't squeezed enough in the slot. I either filled and resawed the slot, or glued the fret in.

Some examples of neck wood importance as a spring in the system, are acoustic guitars. Flattops are always Mahogany or cedar. I've never played an flattop with a Maple neck that I liked. Archtops are almost always Maple. The best archtops I've played had Maple necks.
 

dazco

Member
Messages
14,413
Seriously. Same goes to the people that claim they can feel the fretboard on bends. Unless you are playing with some microscopic vintage frets your string is never touching the fretboard (which last time I checked are basically on zero modern production guitars)... it is merely resting on the fret behind your finger and the fret ahead of it. So I need an explanation from your fretboard tone wood folks.

Go.
Problem is, you're using logic with no basis, just what your mind sees as being logical. Guitars just don't work that way. There are tons of things about guitars that affect tone and don't seem to be logical but they do. I however DO see logic in why the board DOES affect tone but rather then spend a long time trying to explain it to you which will not convcince you, i'd say find out for yourself. Swap a ton of necks, build partscasters etc. Once you do that for years like i and many here have then you will know. If you don't wanna do that, thats understandable. But till you do you may never know and asking just creates these never ending useless threads where people just argue about it and nothing comes of it. Do the work then you won't have to ask and reject all answers, and you will reject them till u hear it for yourself. What about LP stop bars? It's widely held here that they affect tone depending on the material they are made of, and It doesn't get debated here because most now realize it's true. But like your example theres a flaw in the logic....it's not part of the vibrating string length. By your logic would dictate that it should not affect tone. This is a great example of why you can't just apply logic to guitars as to what affects tone. Then theres the wood itself....the body, the neck....those by your theory should have no effect, but they do. Build a all mahogany strat and see how it sounds. That will put all your logic in the trash bin. The reason is, the string vibrates in a certain pattern that creates the sound that makes so many guitar types sound so different from each other, even with the same pickups Theres one way to find these things out, and asking people is not the way. If a lot of people here tell you it's true, take that with an open mind and try it yourself or at the very least keep it in mind as you buy and sell guitars over the years and see if you notice a pattern begin to emerge over time. Personally by the way, board wood is a huge difference to me. At least between the 2 types i regularly use....maple and rosewood. I can't think of any part of a fender that make a bigger tonal difference !
 
Messages
2,365
Human belief systems come from a primitive area of the brain. Rationality comes from the cerebral cortex.

The notion that rosewood "sounds" different from maple is a belief, ergo, not based on science or reasoning. That is how these and other myths persist throughout time.
 

middy

Member
Messages
1,328
The string doesn't directly touch the body, either, but I don't think anyone would claim that there's no difference between a full hollowbody and a solidbody tonally (or if they did, I'd not take them seriously). "I don't hear a difference for a solidbody electric" seems like a perfectly fine opinion to me, but "there's no physical explanation for this phenomenon" is hopefully not a real argument anyone is making, as it's a bad one.

Here is the mechanism I would propose. To what extent this makes any difference is a different conversation (and clearly differs depending on circumstances) but since you asked how it works, here is an explanation. Again, "I don't think it matters" and "I don't care" are reasonable responses, but I am surprised that there's any controversy about there being a plausible mechanism for it. In fact, I don't think there is; I think that people who want to argue against materials making any difference are simply willing to embrace a bad argument because it matches their experience, in the same way that people who argue for it are willing to assert that it is strong enough to be meaningful.

The string vibrates, and the pickup turns that vibration into induced current.

The string vibration is affected, to some small degree, by the dampening/resonating properties of whatever it's attached to.

The vibration is mostly bounded by the body of the guitar. That is, the guitar will absorb/reflect some amount of the string energy.

The contact points of the string to the guitar transfer these vibrations to the body, and the body vibration back to the string.

The body of the guitar at large therefore has some (see above) affect on the vibrating properties of the string.

The absorbing/resonating properties of the fretboard material will cause some frequencies to be reflected, or not, back to the string by way of the frets.

Different materials are known to have different damping/resonant/energy transfer qualities.

The reflected energy from the fretboard may cause the string's vibration to be altered in a way that is audible.


I don't have a strong opinion myself on whether it matters to any notable degree, I think stochastically it's almost certain to have some impact but on an individual basis is likely nearly or completely meaningless. There are good arguments and bad arguments, and I think that almost all the bad arguments appealing to physics have basically the same problem: they hand-wave the subjective experience of "I hear no difference" and try to turn that into "therefore this physical phenomenon can't/doesn't occur." On the other side, people who expect to hear a difference or believe strongly that there is one can make the same bad argument from the opposite side: "I hear it, therefore the mechanism creates the tonal change I describe." The existence of a reasonable mechanism seems to unfairly favor people who argue for a difference, but in reality it just means that everybody focuses on the wrong thing. To me it is obvious that there's a physical mechanism, but it is not obvious how strong it is. At that point, only personal experience separates the camps and that, as we know, is a trainwreck.

If I'm allowed a soapbox, I have to wonder: why do we care so much? People will claim sides and neither will concede; both sides will claim evidence that doesn't exist, or interpret evidence that does not mean what they want it to mean. To me it is quite clear that materials matter to some degree; anyone who's played a guitar made of non-wood materials, or simply a hollowbody, can probably say the same. On the other hand, individual wood species, which is what this is usually about, seems like the silliest hair-splitting and a weird hill for either side to die on. The only people who I think are completely wrong are the camp who claim that electric guitar materials make no difference whatsoever; usually this is done by people who think that magnets are magic and that "electric" means "not subject to various laws of mechanical physics." To them I say, go play a big hollowbody Gretch and bring me the solidbody electric that can make that sound. Of course the resonance matters; beyond that, it seems to vary between "a fair bit" and "none at all." I find that a sufficient answer but clearly it's not universally satisfactory.
Tl;dr
 

middy

Member
Messages
1,328
Problem is, you're using logic with no basis, just what your mind sees as being logical. Guitars just don't work that way. There are tons of things about guitars that affect tone and don't seem to be logical but they do. I however DO see logic in why the board DOES affect tone but rather then spend a long time trying to explain it to you which will not convcince you, i'd say find out for yourself. Swap a ton of necks, build partscasters etc. Once you do that for years like i and many here have then you will know. If you don't wanna do that, thats understandable. But till you do you may never know and asking just creates these never ending useless threads where people just argue about it and nothing comes of it. Do the work then you won't have to ask and reject all answers, and you will reject them till u hear it for yourself. What about LP stop bars? It's widely held here that they affect tone depending on the material they are made of, and It doesn't get debated here because most now realize it's true. But like your example theres a flaw in the logic....it's not part of the vibrating string length. By your logic would dictate that it should not affect tone. This is a great example of why you can't just apply logic to guitars as to what affects tone. Then theres the wood itself....the body, the neck....those by your theory should have no effect, but they do. Build a all mahogany strat and see how it sounds. That will put all your logic in the trash bin. The reason is, the string vibrates in a certain pattern that creates the sound that makes so many guitar types sound so different from each other, even with the same pickups Theres one way to find these things out, and asking people is not the way. If a lot of people here tell you it's true, take that with an open mind and try it yourself or at the very least keep it in mind as you buy and sell guitars over the years and see if you notice a pattern begin to emerge over time. Personally by the way, board wood is a huge difference to me. At least between the 2 types i regularly use....maple and rosewood. I can't think of any part of a fender that make a bigger tonal difference !
Paragraphs are our friends
 
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MESA/BUDDA

Member
Messages
3,185
It's like when someone can't identify the subtlety of an ingredient in a recipe or dish...it's there, the person is just incapable of tasting it.
It's too bad, but only for that person...the chef doesn't care about that person's personal shortcoming, and neither do the other diners...
 

Jim85IROC

Member
Messages
2,310
It's like when someone can't identify the subtlety of an ingredient in a recipe or dish...it's there, the person is just incapable of tasting it.
It's too bad, but only for that person...the chef doesn't care about that person's personal shortcoming, and neither do the other diners...
to use a similar analogy, if scientific testing was performed to determine the exact ingredients contained within the dish, and that test determined that the amount of that ingredient within the dish was below the human threshold to taste, would you still insist that it's there because you tasted it, or would you suddenly stop tasting it? Because that's how 99.9% of the "absolutes" in the audiophile and guitar world seem to pan out.
 

somecafone

Member
Messages
4,313
It's like when someone can't identify the subtlety of an ingredient in a recipe or dish...it's there, the person is just incapable of tasting it.
It's too bad, but only for that person...the chef doesn't care about that person's personal shortcoming, and neither do the other diners...
I think this is a good analogy.

Another more gear-centric might be cables. I mean only guitar to amp.
Back in the late 90s when GP did that cable shootout with the cymbal drop, I found it fascinating.
I had some off-brand cable and bought a George L. of similar length.
I did hear quite a difference.

Did I use a scope or meter to measure?
Nope.
But I certainly heard a difference.

And to the point made by MESA/BUDDA, when this is discussed here, guys openly confess “I can’t hear a difference.”

For @Doctor Morbius
If you have an oscilloscope, fire it up.
I’m certainly open to measurable proof of concept.
 




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