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I think we should stop arguing about maple vs rosewood (see inside)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by draginon, Feb 28, 2006.

  1. draginon


    Oct 4, 2004

    An article I found a long while ago
    Are maple necks really always brighter than rosewood necks?
    Wellsir, in an a/b test players were unable to tell a maple neck from rosewood, either playing live or listening to the same necks on a recording.

    And as I've said before:

    (a) Maple just isn't that bright sounding of a wood to start with, (other makers have said similar things). It's actually fairly neutral. Hard ebony, and especially Pau Ferro, can be very bright.
    (b) Most 'bright' Fender guitars remain bright when we swap necks, if they are set-up the same.

    On a Tele, you'll likely find some more twang from shimming the neck and raising the bridge saddles, and using smaller diameter saddles. Those are the kinda things that make more obvious differences in tone, and explain (b) above.

    I think the whole 'maple is brighter' rumor started in the 60's, when there were only rosewood Fender necks available, but mostly for the reasons above, and the fact that most 50's maple necks are about 50% thicker/fatter, used one-piece construction and have the narrow frets 'glued' in place by the lacquer. It's more likely those differences that can make some of necks brighter and not the bit of wood used for the fretboard..
    Over the years I've made quite a few necks and guitars and done quite a bit of work involving electric guitar tone. So while some of this is merely my own opinion (and I could be wrong), it isn't just based on idle speculation either. ;-
  2. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I happen to agree with this guy. I think the effect of fingerboard wood is incredibly overrated, to the point of being an urban legend... particularly on fretted basses. When I was younger I believed otherwise, but that's what I was told. I eventually changed my opinion based on my own experience: yes, some of the time, the bass with the maple board was brighter than the bass with the rosewood board. But I noticed that there were many examples of bright basses with rosewood and warm basses with maple.

    The following comment is often part of the urban legend: "maple basses are brighter because maple is a hard wood". It's true that rock maple is a hard wood, but the common species of rosewood, including pau ferro/morado, are even harder! So, the "harder = brighter" logic (which I don't agree with) actually works against those who think maple is brighter.

    All that said: this guy's comment, and my observations, are simply opinion. I agree with him that they're not simply idle speculation, but as the man says, he could be wrong! That's true for everyone in this debate, because there's no scientific evidence either way that I'm aware of. All of us are entitled to our own opinions based on our own observations. Even luthiers disagree about the effect of fingerboard wood on the tone of an instrument. So, while I agree that we shouldn't *argue* about it ;), the fingerboard debate is legitimate and will continue!
  3. +1
  4. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    Actually, if you look at most of the discussion on many earlier threads about this, the general conclusion is that for the typical thin veneer of fretboard material, it doesn't make a lot of difference.

    However.... since most maple boards are combined with ash bodies (in Fender-type instruments anyway) and most RW boards are combined with alder bodies (again, in many Fender-type instruments), there usually is quite a difference in the sound of those instruments.... just not primarily due to the board IMO
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I think a lot of TBers now believe that the tonal contribution of the fingerboard is negligible, but I wouldn't call it a consensus. The recent thread "Maple board too bright for straightahead gigs?" went nearly two full pages before someone (me, heh) mentioned that it was better to worry about other factors such as amp and strings.

    Plenty of TBers disagree with the above. IIRC, Roger Sadowsky stated that fingerboard wood was the biggest determining factor in the tone of his basses. That doesn't change my opinion, but I wouldn't ever claim that he's wrong and I'm right. Maybe both sides are right... perhaps fingerboard wood affects the tone of some basses more than others? (shrug)
  6. SteveD


    Feb 20, 2006
    Denver, Colorado
    Interesting...I don't know about brightness, but I still wonder why the one Fender Jazz (out of 7 that I have owned) that had a maple fingerboard never felt comfortable to me. It was a '74. I currently have a '64 and a 2001 MIM fretless that are both Rosewood and feel wonderful.

    I know, it was the only maple one I ever played, but I could never figure out why it didn't feel right, it just didn't feel "warm" somehow. I also had one ebony fingerboard, on a fretless '69 Ampeg AUB-1 that felt fantastic.

    As far as tone, it seems to come from my fingers and the string selection and age of the strings more than the amp or the bass. I can plug into any amp and get a sound I like. Of course, I've only owned Fender Jazzes, one Precision, and the Ampeg in 32 years of playing.

  7. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Not the threads I read ;)

    IME most people will say they can hear a difference if they know what difference they are supposed to hear. And while there are tons of examples of great players and builders swearing they can hear a difference if you look at the very very few tests where people try to tell what kind of wood is in a bass without knowing ahead of time the success rate is about the same as pure chance. It's good to hear more people are realizing tone is not based on just what we see.
  8. srxplayer


    May 19, 2004
    Highland, CA
    I could never tell a difference either. I based my wood selection on what wood looked better.
  9. draginon


    Oct 4, 2004
    I have only owned 2 basses both which were alder\maple\rosewood basses so I'm not sure of the differences. I was looking for opinions about the matter and thought I'd post the article. I'm currently doing research and will be for the next year on how to get that crispy, melodic mike tobias tone. I have a friend who has a custom that I believe has a maple neck, pau ferro or some other type of rosewood neck, and what could possibly be a mahoghany core (body). His tone is awesome through any amp and is consistent. He endorses mTD so he gets his basses from tobias for about 1500. I am trying to get his tone in a 4 string model for about $1000 (warmoth, or smalltime luthier).
  10. Sean Baumann

    Sean Baumann Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2000
    Livin' in the USA
    I think you would find that Roscoe Guitars also claims that fingerboards are a big part of the overall tone of one of their basses.

    I've never A/B'd any basses to see if this is true. But whenever I have owned basses with rosewood, I always felt they lacked a certain snap and/or high-end bite. I always assumed that it was the fingerboard, but I guess it could be many other factors. Maybe they just needed MTD strings!
  11. i'll even take it a step further that even the body woods on an electric bass don't have as much of an effect on the tone as most people think it would...if you don't believe me, check out one of my threads in the luthier's corner...i don't remember the title, but i think that i was discussing Jarrah or something and one of the luthiers said that the body wood for an acoustic is important, because of the soundhole being the amplifier, but on an electric bass, it doesn't make a huge difference (although it does make some difference)...so i believe it would be similar for FBs
  12. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Interesting he says Pau Ferro is really bright ... that might explain why the sadowsky RVs are so naturally bright!

    I've never been able to figure it all out, but I have often found maple board basses too bright. Its hard to ever acutally do the A/Bs since most of use don't have identical necks with different fingerboards on hand. So there will always be some voodoo.

    I think maple boards look nice!
  13. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    I think it is whatever pleases you visually and from a tactile experience. I just never liked the feel of Fender necks with maple necks. So color me a rosewood kinda guy. That being said, I once played a Fodera 5 with a birdseye maple board that was outstanding, so what do I know?
  14. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I just like the way the a maple neck looks on a dark bass
  15. KayCee


    Oct 4, 2004
    Shawnee, KS
    Very interesting thread!

    My experience is that maple fingerboards do sound brighter.

    Can't prove it, though! ;)
  16. sync00


    Nov 23, 2005
    I was talking to a guy at The Bass Company and asked how significant the fingerboard wood is. He said their testing showed it is the most significant determinant for tone.
  17. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Did they say what the testing was? I'd love to hear about any real testing.
  18. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    I've had both, in both guitars and basses. I've never been able to tell a difference either. I pick the look I want for the particular bass.
  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Double ditto. The Harmonic Design link above mentions a test where listeners couldn't tell the difference between fingerboards, but offers no real details.

    I'm aware of absolutely no scientific testing on this subject. Testing would be so ridiculously complex as to be impossible on a casual basis. Firstly, any real testing must be double blind. If the listener can see the fingerboards being A/B'd, or can determine what they are from touch or any other way, then the test is worthless. Secondly, you have to set up a situation where only the fingerboards are changed. You can't just swap bolt-on necks, because the non-fingerboard neck wood may sound different even if it's made from the same species. Ken Smith mentioned here that he made identical basses from wood taken from the same planks, and they sounded different.
  20. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    Yeah, but I think we could demonstrate the concept relatively simply.

    I've often thought it would be cool to take a shop like Sadowsky's that has many similar basses, record them all with a studio musician and fresh strings. Then after you get about 10 or 20 instruments recorded build a simple Flash application that will allow you to shuffle and listen to the samples and guess what woods & pickups they have. Then it could display your choices versus reality and do a bit of math and tell you how accurate you where. Not quite double blind but it should make clear we can't tell what wood is in a bass until we see it.