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Ebony fretboards

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Fake Trees, Nov 4, 2003.

  1. Fake Trees

    Fake Trees

    Feb 9, 2003
    What do you guys think of the tone and feel of ebony fretboards? How do they copare to rosewood and pao ferro?
  2. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    They look great, are more expensive. Fingerboard doesn't affect the sound much, but Ebony has a reputation for being bright.
  3. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Don't want to start an argument but I think a lot of people would disagree.
  4. Jim Dombrowski

    Jim Dombrowski Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Fingerboard wood does affect sound, especially if it's a fretless bass. I've read a description somewhere that explains the differences in the woods mentioned, but I can't remember where.
  5. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003
    The Warmouth web site has a nice section on wood.
  6. Depends on how one defines "much." Personally, I think FB wood can definitely affect tone, but not more than PUs, neck wood, and body wood. So is that "much"? I dunno. OTOH, somebody on one of these forums said he thought FB wood was much more important than neck or body wood, but all my own experience says that's way off base--i.e., "too much".
  7. My friend has a 1981 G&L fretless with ebony board, and it produces IMO a beautiful tone and is smooth as glass.
  8. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Exactly. FB wood does affect tone, but the effect is very small when compared to body wood, pickup/eq, string type, and many other factors. Ebony and Maple have about the same sonic character as fingerboard woods.

    Of course, on a fretless the fingerboard wood has a dramatically larger effect on the tone of the bass than on a fretted bass.

    I guess what I'm saying is that fingerboard wood is a complete non-factor for me in purchasing a bass. Any type of wood can sound great, none is "better" than others. However, Ebony is expensive and beautiful when compared to most other fingerboard wood.

    Also, many people are very passionate about Ebony as a tonewood in everything from violin fingerboards to clarinets.

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I have an ebony board on my Benavente. I like ebony. It is a very dense wood, and gives you a a brighter sound. The feel is different from Rosewood, but not much different than Maple.

    The fingerboard and neck affect the tone more than the body. Body tone has a lot to do with density rather than different wood.
  10. metron


    Sep 12, 2003
    Without a doubt FB wood makes a difference in tone for a fretted bass. I was at a GC last week and I played a stingray with a maple neck. I plugged it in and slapped a little. The high end snap was so intense that I actually cringed. Picked up the same bass next to it with a rosewood board and it was way more smooth and subdued on the high end.

    I feel that ebony for a fretless privides a sound I would call "dark" as opposed to bright. I gather this from playing my DB with an ebony board vs a plywood with a rosewood board I tried once. At least I think it was rosewood...

    Either way ebony definitely looks good! :cool:
  11. But different woods often have different densities--as well as different fiber structures, which is possibly more important. Furthermore, why would different woods matter in a neck but not in a body? Whatever physical factors affect propagation of vibration through wood--how would these factors operate any differently in a neck than in a body? Why would the issues be different?

    I would disagree that the FB wood by itself--as distinct from the neck wood--has more effect than the body wood. To me it's the reverse. It does seem, though, that the neck wood(s) (allowing for laminates) may have proportionately more influence on a neck-thru instrument than they would on a bolt-on.
  12. metron


    Sep 12, 2003
    I cant tell the difference in sound between my ash P bass and an alder one (both with rosewood boards) but there is a stark contrast between the sound of one with a maple neck and one with a rosewood neck. IMO...
  13. artistanbul

    artistanbul Nihavend Longa Vita Brevis

    Apr 15, 2003
    ebony really doesn't give much tone. If you claim that black is not a color. Ebony is toneless. It has the best sustain values but no tone effect. Of course it affects the outcome tone because it has none..
  14. NV43345


    Apr 1, 2003
    B.C. Rich used to use this slogan back in the
    mid 80's. "It's all in the neck" My Warlock neck
    is Flamed Maple with a Brazilian Board, with a
    Alder Body, and it has that Piano tone, and the notes come out so clean with almost no effort.
  15. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    As you can tell, there is fair amount of disagreement on the tone issue.

    I have heard from one luthier that they don't like using ebony as a fingerboard wood because its expansion characteristics are very different from the characteristics of the woods that are used in the rest of the neck. This didn't mean that he didn't do ebony fingerboards, but his recommendation was against using them.

    As for me, I think that a dark piece of ebony makes a gorgeous fingerboard. Put some nice white mother of pearl inlays in and you have a beautiful neck. Of course, that is just my personal opinion.
  16. Mileage varies. I'm certainly not questioning what you heard, but I can also say that for my part, I've heard significant differences between basses with the same necks and different bodies, while noting only lesser differences between basses with the same bodies and different FBs.

    We should also keep in mind exactly what we're comparing. Suppose we're comparing the differences between two FB woods that are *very* different with the difference between two body woods that are very similar. In that scenario, it might well appear that FB wood matters more. Or the opposite: compare the difference between two *very* different body woods with the difference between two very similar FB woods, and you might well conclude that body wood matters more.

    For instance: I've A/B'd neck-thru Carvins with the same body wood but maple vs. ebony FBs and heard little difference. On the other hand, I've A/B'd bolt-ons with the same necks and koa vs. alder bodies and heard a perceptibly greater difference. But if the terms of the comparison had been different ... who knows?
  17. Jon Shuker told me something like this when I ordered my basses from him. However, even he admitted it was sometimes possible to find "good" (i.e., stable and good-looking) ebony. He had one ebony board that had been in his shop for > 10 years, and he knew where it came from, who'd supplied it, what conditions it had been stored in--its whole history, IOW. We ended up using that board for my basses, and so far it's been extremely stable. So not all ebony is a horror show by any means.

    It kinda stands to reason that not all ebony is necessarily terrible for FBs--think of all the great violins, violas, cellos, and basses made with ebony FBs over the centuries!

    So if you like ebony, just try to get it from a reputable supplier. Or check out the stabilized option offered by Gallery Hardwoods (and maybe others?).
  18. my bass guitar teacher has a 60's jazz bass. He is not sure on the year as he has not taken the neck off, he seems to think it is one of those last necks to have clay dot inlays (it's definitley genuine, down to the nitro finnish) anyway I am not saying the neck on the bass is ebony but I swear it is jet black...is this just dark rosewood or did Jazz basses ever have ebony fretboards...if they did, anyone got a picture they could post of one?

    and theres another thing, from looking at Jaco playing his fretless, his fretboard looks as black as the night sky too...is that a combination of no frets and all the epoxy he put on? or was that ebony, dark rosewood what?

  19. metron


    Sep 12, 2003
    ROWAN: Its likely dark rosewood. My new Stingray has a very nice piece of rosewood for the fretboard and it almost looks like ebony from a distance. Quality rosewood is very resinous and that makes it dark. I dont think Fender ever used ebony on a typical production bass.
  20. Fo' Shizzle

    Fo' Shizzle

    Aug 28, 2003
    Good thread......
    One of the greatest benefits to ebony FG's is how hard they are. sonically, to my ear it makes the notes more immediate and crisp. As important, ebony boards are hard to tear up. I have a ebony board on my fretless 5 and use DR fat beams. I've only seen very faint checking in the ebony even though I tend to hit very hard. Of all the neck/fretboard combos I've played, I feel ebony over maple gives the most "all things to all people" sound.

    My $ .02

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