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Why is/was rosewood used in fretboards?

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

  1. gweeterman1

    gweeterman1 Supporting Member

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    If someone can notice a sound difference between rosewood and maple, we’ll he or she might be a dog. Because it’s virtually unnoticeable in the same style guitar. Now if we’re talking feel, yes there is a slight difference .
     
  2. musekatcher

    musekatcher Member

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    Same reason beaver fur was desirable for hats, diamonds are desirable for jewelry, Coach is desirable for ladies purses, etc. Rosewood at one time was considered rare and exotic in Europe, after discovery in the New World. Conspicuous consumption:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicuous_consumption

    The difference in structural performance is different, for materials with different modulus and density. Take Spruce versus Maple for violin tops and backs for instance. And yes, a neck is a structural part of the guitar[violin/instrument] system.
     
  3. Secret Ingredient

    Secret Ingredient Member

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    My inexpensive Gretsch g5220 uses walnut for the fretboard and it looks , feels and sounds just fine.
     
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  4. haryb

    haryb Member

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    I honestly think there is a difference. I have two completely same guitars, all specs 100% equal, except the fingerboard.
    One rosewood the other maple. I bought the maple afterwards, for the exact reason to have a bit different sound. And I am a hobby musician, and have no trained ears. What's interesting even my father who has a quite hearing loss and has never played an instrument noticed a difference when I played him the two guitars, one shortly after the other. He liked the maple one more.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2019
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  5. NamaEnsou

    NamaEnsou Supporting Member

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    But the question in the OP is "Why is/was rosewood used in fretboards?", so that means that any answer pertaining to that question would be what the OP was looking for. :)
     
  6. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    Here we go with, this sounds this way, that sounds another way.... Yo .. wake up... here's a fact I don't think you guys can argue about.... I might be wrong, but here goes...

    there is more than just the fingerboard woods that are contributing to the tone.... I know, that's a shock.. but it's true.

    just consider .. if the ebony as an example, is making it brighter... it's doing so in a very subtle way .... now... what happens if the pickup or bridge, or anything else you "tone chasers" accuse of impacting the tone dramatically, is implemented, and you have chosen a component a crack darker in that very range? well for those that can't figure that one.. it returns ya to a zero null .. relatively.... thus the ebony would be doing nothing. relative to a desired flat sonic baseline..

    Guys think like it was sonic "checkers" when it's actually like Chess, 3d Chess at that. . . while you're blind-folded .. wearing welders gloves... and one hand tied behind your back... :eek: it keeps ya busy...

    r
     
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  7. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    But, in my experience, 2 identical guitars with the same fretboard type can sound different...so you don't know for sure if the fretboard made for the difference in the sound.
     
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  8. paulbearer

    paulbearer Member

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  9. haryb

    haryb Member

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    Also true.
     
  10. Tona Fide

    Tona Fide Member

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  11. Mikhael

    Mikhael Member

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    Rosewood is a naturally oily wood. It is not as susceptible to cracking as some others, and can survive without a finish.

    That's why *I* like it. So there.
     
  12. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    Well, there's actually something to be said, using an oil based grain filler and fill those pores, then seal with a couple super thin coats of Minwax Tung Oil Finish. The idea is to keep dirt and grime out. They're the enemies of any wood surface and if you leave the filth embedded there, it really speeds up the degradation of the wood. It is this naturally oily character that compels me to choose an oil based filler over a water based one.

    Everyone assumes because you CAN employ rosewood without any protection of the surface, that you should never apply any finish. I know it can be fashionable to fake wear and accelerate wear, but wear on something like a fretboard means a shorter use life. No way that's a good thing.
     
  13. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    With kindest regards, I believe you misread those posts.

    I didn't necessarily agree with everything I saw, but I didn't see anything close to laughable.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2019 at 5:40 PM
  14. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Member

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    I found that rosewood boards tended to get dry and parched in climates where forced air heating was king. I'd pick up a friend's guitar or a guitar in a shop that really needed playing, and the bone dry rosewood would chap my fingers even if the fret sprout had been addressed. And you bet your life the sounds you heard were not up to par.

    But conversely, in the sweltering funk of a late afternoon, August in New Orleans, playing in direct sunlight and sweating like a pork roast, I could navigate on a somewhat porous unfinished rosewood board. I'd be drowning on a maple fretboard and the sounds you heard (mistakes!) would be too obvious not to hear. To me, these are the real tonal distinctions and I promise they are noticeable.
     
  15. aiq

    aiq Supporting Member

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    I give thanks!
     
  16. SK Auto

    SK Auto Member

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    Rosewood has 12 tones per square inch where as ebony only as 10.3 tones per square inch.
     
  17. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

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    To my ears, it's not that maple is brighter or rosewood is darker, it's that the notes snap off a maple fretboard more than with a rosie -- the attack seems quicker.

    I prefer rosewood over maple or ebony, but it's not a big thing for me.
     
  18. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Member

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    This is nothing that an occasional cleaning can't accomplish.
     
  19. tea312

    tea312 Member

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    Rosewood is susceptible to cracking- ask any luthiers who build acoustics or classical guitars. Vintage Martin’s with Bz. Rosewood back and side are susceptible to grain separation and season checking- that is with a finish. Most disclosed repairs primarily happens back and sides made out of Brazilian rosewood. Just cruise around vintage guitar sites and you’ll get enough adds with repair disclosures.

    Not all woods that are oily can survive with a finish- Lignum vitae is prone to cracking and it’s is one of the densest, hardest and has serious oil content.

    Ebony is notorious for checking- don’t feed it enough water and you will not like the end results.
     
  20. handyman

    handyman Member

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    Yup. Most solid black ebony is streaky stuff that's been dyed. Solid black ebony without lighter colored streaks generally costs an unholy fortune.
     
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