1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Does fretboard wood truly make a difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by EXILE03, Mar 16, 2013.

  1. EXILE03


    Jan 19, 2013
    Vancouver, BC
    (I apologize if this thread is in the wrong place)
    So, my question is, does the type of wood used for the fretboard of a (fretted) bass actually make that much of a difference in a blind test, or is it just another thing for tonewood snobs to obsess over?
  2. styro


    Dec 22, 2011
    It *does* make a huge difference. I do play ebony, pau ferro, rosewood and ebonol ("plastic") fretboards and it really does make a difference in tone (as the quality of the wood for the rest of the neck does).
    But I would not be able to give you a ranking which one is better than the other. They sound different but whether one is better than the other really depends on your taste.

    I happen to like ebony a lot with pau ferro a close second for slap. But I'd rather take rosewood for a fingerstyle and pick work.
  3. Next time your in a store try a Jazz bass with a rosewood board and one with a maple board and then get back to me.
  4. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    I'm not denying that it might make a difference but could someone explain why? Most of the contact between string and neck is on the frets (unless we're talking about fretless). I just checked and I'd have to press down a ridiculous amount to get my strings to touch the fretboard.
  5. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Before this turns into a pissing match, which it will, I'm gonna have my say.

    Why don't we make this one useful and, instead of telling each other how we personally can or can't hear a difference, support our claims with empirical evidence (as opposed to anecdotes, which never, ever, get these threads anywhere).
  6. Wood cellular structure alters the string vibration and cause overtones and undertones to shift. Some are accentuated and other reduced. This change in vibration causes the magnetic field created by the pickups oscillate differently thus making it sound differently to the ear.

    Its no different that the neck wood or the body wood. The denser the wood the more high you hear. Less dense you hear less highs because they are absorbed. If You make a bass out of metal it will be extremely bright sound.

    The is the same reason nickel strings sound different than steel strings.

    "Empirical evidence"? You actually asked for empirical evidence that wood sounds different on a bulletin board. You want a long dissertation? How 'bout you use your ears and save all the reading.
  7. Blue


    Jun 19, 2004
    Central NC
    I think there are some "generalizations" that can be made, e.g., ebony is brighter than xyz, but disagree somewhat, re: Density.
    . if this were totally true, picking a sound would be really easy:


    The beauty of wood, of course, is that each piece is different. Two planks of the same material and density can have opposite acoustics - one a dud, one a tone machine.

    Instead, I sense it is an "interplay between mass, stiffness and damping" where "mass law is affected by resonance at lower frequencies and coincidence at higher frequencies". This is especially evident when we consider wood consists of long fibers held together by sap ... the fibers are cut different ways as the builder balances God-given-grain with the final shape he wants, not to mention cuts for frets ... and the sap will depend a lot on the soil where the original tree was grown, and even for a given species, there is variance from grove to grove. Next time you're at Lowes, tap on some 1x8" and hear the differences.

    Perhaps the attached can be reversed-engineered to infer the complexity of the problem.

  8. Blue


    Jun 19, 2004
    Central NC
    While postulating - I also believe a great difference between instruments is found in the neck wood - again the ability of that sound to harmonize / overtone vs. die as action/reaction occurs between the fretted end of the ringing string and the bridge secured end ... with some credit given to the body properties and also the join design and build integrity.
  9. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    Because ears are subjective. If I said green basses sound more hifi than sunburst ones and that's what my ears hear, you'd accept it?
  10. jazz41


    Nov 4, 2012
    Greensboro, NC
    I have three different fretboards: Rosewood, Maple and Ebony. The rosewood and maple are set up the same so I'll use those for comparsion.

    The rosewood is on my Jazz. The maple is on my Carvin. I notice the most glaring differences between the two when I play slap style. The rosewood doesn't have as strong a "snap" as the maple board. They both sound good, but are very different "slap" sounds. It's hard to put into words, but the Carvin maple board has more of a "plink." Better analogy, I can get the Geddy Lee growl/distortion/buzz/however you want to describe it much better by slapping the Carvin maple neck than the Jazz rosewood.

    Fingerstyle, I don't really see too much tonal difference. My ebony board is strung up with flats and I don't really slap much on it.
  11. Hi.

    Perhaps it's my playing style, perhaps my choice of rigs and instruments, or perhaps it's my only functioning ear, but...

    I'll be damned if I can tell the difference between various species of wood in a given amplified instrument, let alone in the fretboard.

    Save for the weight, I can't/couldn't even tell whether there's a maple top on a solid colour Les Paul or if it sports a solid mahogany body.
    But then again, neither could anybody else either, everyone insisted and argued that my early 70's Custom had a maple top, even though it didn't :).

    So I'll remain in the minority, yet once again, and vote for no difference.

  12. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    Oh dear. This is not going to end well.

    Before it does, tho....

    I haven't heard anyone actually demonstrate a difference attributable to the fingerboard wood alone on a fretted instrument. Or be able to define exactly what the difference is with each wood type, etc. So I have no reason yet to believe the claim that it makes a difference.

    Without the frets, the hardness of the wood seems to make a difference, mainly in the level of muaah and the addition of a higher frequency edge on the tone. The harder the wood, the more pronounced the muaah seems to be and conversely.

    But for fretted basses, no difference has ever been conclusively shown to exist.

    That's about it. Let the thread descend from here on out :)

  13. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    A search would've netted thousands of posts on this worn out subject - just sayin'...

    - georgestrings
  14. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    OP: There are a couple of threads here where the posters provided sound files of different instruments with different tone woods. In one case I believe he uses two necks on the same bass. You can listen and hear for yourself. Here are some threads with clips for FB and Body woods:




  15. jbossolo


    Sep 22, 2011
    This debate will NEVER be settled until someone: takes two IDENTICAL basses (same body wood, same PU configuration, same setup, same strings, etc) differing only in neck/fretboard wood type, and plays them back-to-back, using the same equipment, with the exact same settings, under the same conditions, and uses a spectrum analizer to show empirical differences in the music waves produced. Until then, it's purely an academic discussion. As you can see, it will remain an academic discussion for quite some time. :scowl:
  16. bassbombs84


    Dec 26, 2008
    funny that you never hear guitarists or any other stringed instrumentalists making this argument. Its because if you have an ear it is obvious.

    Does this not apply to basses? I think not.

    I guess if you just thump "smoke on the water" with flats through an ancient 215 you might not hear a difference. But if there is ANY upper harmonic content involved it is PAINFULLY obvious that fingerboard material plays a roll in your sound.
  17. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Yes, no, maybe, a huge difference, a little bit, not enough to notice, carrots.
  18. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    Carrots. You need to adjust EQ from Bass to Bass anyway. Who can really say what is contributing the most to the tone? I A/B'd a boat load of Sadowsky's and USA Laklands once. They were all 5 string Jazz basses with some rosewood and some maple fingerboards. I settled on the Sadowsky MS5(Maple fingerboard) due to playability but tone wise they were all very very similar.
  19. jbossolo


    Sep 22, 2011
    See what I meant?
  20. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I have a jazz bass with a pau ferro fingerboard and another one with a rosewood fingerboard and I can clearly hear a difference between them. Of course one of them is a five string with Barts and Pressure Wound Flats while the other is a P/J with Fender pickups and flat wound strings....

    I have two other jazz basses with rosewood fingerboards. One is a single coil passive fretless with flats the other is a dual coil active with rounds. All four of my basses sound different, yet three of them have rosewood fingerboards. I dunno, the wood species of the fingerboard may make some difference in the sound of a bass under carefully controlled conditions. In the real world where everything else varies too the contribution of the fingerboard gets buried by the contribution of everything else.


Share This Page