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Why is/was rosewood used in fretboards?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by ivanfoofoo, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. ivanfoofoo

    ivanfoofoo Member

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    Rosewood is irregular, it has a kinda grainy structure. This is a quality that, IMO, is not desirable for a fretboard, where a smooth surface should be preferred for touch and feel and to avoid the string getting "caught" in the irregularities. Both maple and ebony are super smooth woods that provide this. Is there any logical, reasonable explanation why rosewood is/was used in fretboards? Or is it just costs, availability and/or tradition?
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  2. Kurt L

    Kurt L Member

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    Have you ever had a string get caught in the grain of a rosewood fretboard? I have not, and I’ve had a lot of guitars with rosewood boards.

    It feels good, sounds good and looks good. What’s not to like?

    BTW, a lot of ebony looks irregular. Supposedly the solid black stuff is a very small percentage of the wood harvested.

    Don’t get me wrong - I really like maple and ebony but I really like rosewood as well. The logical explanation for its widespread use is that it does an excellent job and a lot of customers like it.

    If you don’t, more power to you. Guitars are a personal thing and you should play what feels right to you. But I have never heard anyone else raise the same concerns.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019 at 2:24 PM
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  3. T00DEEPBLUE

    T00DEEPBLUE Member

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    Because during the dawn of electric guitar it was cheap and readily available. And its widespread use made it become a tradition. It really is that simple.
     
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  4. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    It's also quite resistant to wear and discoloration compared to many other woods. Same goes for Ebony.
     
  5. rowdyyates

    rowdyyates Supporting Member

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    Martin and Gibson always used ebony on their better guitars. I’ve always heard Fender started using them because people liked them on Gibson’s.

    I’ve got guitars with all three, and I don’t really notice any difference when playing them.
     
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  6. Desmosedici

    Desmosedici Member

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  7. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    Ebony was the premiere choice.... since that was about the most expensive lumber around, alternatives were sought... rosewood, being the premier lumber for esoteric furniture, had a reputation for it's appearance... thus it won the number 2 spot... maple was chosen by Leo because he was sourcing neck blanks from a cabinet shop's off-cuts around the corner in the early days...

    Leo finally surrendered and began using Rosewood after Don Randal made him aware on the many musicians "flaming" the guitars for being made of "low rent" woods..

    Back then harvesting dome of the more esoteric, exotic lumber was not practical... for instance Ipe one of the most hard, durable lumbers available today, was damn near impossible to cut with the tools of the 50's..

    today it takes a few minutes to fell a large hardwood tree,, in the 50's it was an all day job...

    rk
     
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  8. fescue

    fescue Member

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    Because it is good looking and gets the job done.
     
  9. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    Well, there's that too.. :p

    r
     
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  10. theroan

    theroan Member

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    None of the above. The initial reason was purely aesthetic. Fenders built in the 50's had maple boards and the company would soon discover that maple was essentially a white background for dirt and wear. This is why rosewood was selected. Not only did it withstand the wear of the average player it also hid the dirt and grime that fretboards inevitably collect.
     
  11. gunslinger

    gunslinger Member

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    I'm too busy playing my guitars to look at the patterns in the rosewood. If I'm not mistaken Stradivari originally used rosewood for his violins. Over time it was replaced by ebony by the repairers. Rosewood is durable. I believe ebony to be less stable and more likely to crack. Rosewood also sounds good. Some ebony is kind of bland looking. I mean it can be solid black with hardly any visible pattern. Some luthiers say rosewood can be re-fretted more times and easier than ebony.
     
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  12. Rhythm Rocker

    Rhythm Rocker Member

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  13. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

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    Roses grow on trees? Who knew?
     
  14. Stike

    Stike Member

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    Rosewood also requires no finish.
     
  15. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    On a Rosewood, if you fret hard and "rub" the string into the grain, you can make the guitar start to sing (like violin bowing), without picking.

    Its not so easy on a maple board.
     
  16. sksmith66

    sksmith66 Member

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    rosewood was used in instrument making for a few hundred years before fender came along.
     
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  17. Bossanova

    Bossanova Silver Supporting Member

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    Cheaper alternative to ebony, which was always first choice, even compared to Brazilian rosewood.
     
  18. Drew816

    Drew816 Supporting Member

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    Seriously? You're going to bring logic and history into a TGP wood discussion, come ON already. Are you new here?!? ;)

    Oh and yeah, what he said as well as Ron.

    I own them all, two vintage with Ebony a ton of Rosewood and now two maple (one skunk stripe and one maple board). Different tones but all fun.
     
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  19. Raymond Lin

    Raymond Lin Member

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    I much prefer ebony and its various colours that it comes in.
     
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  20. dazco

    dazco Member

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    Has a very different sound than ale or ebony. It;s been my fav sound on fenders for many years. I guess it still is tho lately i'm digging my maple board guitars as much. But my #1 has always been rosewood. I find it easier to play than male so not sure why the OP has more issues with it. But mainly for me t's tone, and why some don't seem to hear it floors me because i consider it the #1 detail in a strat or tele as far as making a difference in tone. I like them both a lot but RW is my fav and ebony i'm usually not crazy about.
     

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