low action users: fingerboard wood question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nonsqtr, Apr 21, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    For those of you who use basses with low action, what's your preferred tonewood for the fingerboard? I'm specifically interested in the low B string for the 5-string players. My experience has been that it's typical in most basses for the B to start making some awful strange sounds when it's set real low, and especially when you start digging in or popping it a little hard, but it really depends a lot on the fingerboard. Usually you can find an action setting where the strange overtones aren't so annoying and the grind is "dialed in", so to speak. Generally speaking the ebony fingerboards I've played have been the most precise, but I do love maple for its snappy quality for slapping and tapping. It just seems the maple boards are somehow less precise, they're "squishier" somehow. Plus they're more likely to generate honking sounds on the B when the string is set really low. Has anyone had this experience? What other woods are good to consider for this purpose? Is the general rule for fingerboards "the harder the better", or would you sacrifice some precision for other kinds of playability and responsiveness?
  2. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    Have you considered pau ferro? Or maccassar ebony?
  3. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    If this is something you're having built, you might consider using "stabilized" wood, which is impregnated with an acrylic resin (I think) to make it harder, more wear resistant, and keep it from responding to humidity. The extra stability and hardness would make a big difference if you're going for a really low action, I think.

    Several luthiers here on TB, including Carey Nordstrand and JP, have used stabilized fretboards with good success, and the Rockwood, Phenowood and Diamondwood that Curbow, Zon and Roscoe (respectively) use is very similar.

  4. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Are the impregnated woods used on fretted basses? I've seen them a lot with fretless instruments, but haven't seen very many fretted ones. Is there a reason for that?
  5. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    They're frequently used on fretless basses because they have much better wear characteristics than untreated wood, but they're also used on fretted basses. This is especially true if you want to use a wood that's naturally unstable or sensitive to humidity, like ebony. It worked great with the ebony board I had on my Nordstrand, and of course all my fretted Curbows have had Rockwood fretboards (and necks).

  6. iriegnome

    iriegnome Bassstar style Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2001
    Kenosha, WI 53140
    I prefer a Ebony Fretboard on a Wenge neck. Great tonal quality top to bottom.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Low action is not very compatible to hard playing, you get so much clanking and plopping.

    Otherwise, action and relief makes more of the tone than the wood. At least, it is a lot easier to change!

    I haven't been able to find any tonal differences in woods, that couldn't be achieved with technique or setup.
  8. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    That's what I have on my Jerzy Drozd, and I love it!:D

    You could also look into Bubinga, purple heart, and cocobolo.
  9. Fliptrique


    Jul 22, 2002
    Szczecin, Poland
    Endorsing Artist: Mayones Guitars&Basses, Taurus Amplification
    maybe you should consider a stone fingerboard?
  10. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    I must agree with you Sub', as usual.

    just a note about materials:

    Stabilized or Acrylicized (I prefer this word :D) is somewhat different from rockwood or phenowood Mike.

    Rockwood, to my understanding of course is multi layered birch veeners bonded together with epoxy resin.

    Phenowwod is basically impregnated paper.

    Acrylicized wood is natural wood, impregnated with acrylic resin under heat and pressure. An acrylicized fingerboard adds stability and stiffness to a neck and works for both fretted and fretless boards. It could be a plus gor your project as stifness and stability is what you're after.

    I recommend you check with Larry @ galleryhardwoods if you want to use an acrylicized wood fingerboard. Free your mind as the process allows you to use a lot of new wood options (burls, spalts, softer woods...)

  11. Akito


    Dec 1, 2003
    My bass has a mac ebony board, and when I first got it the action was set incredibly low. I eventually had it raised a bit because it felt more like what I was used to. But I was impressed by how quiet the bass was with the action so low.
    No problems at all with string noise.
  12. If you're concerned about the Low B string buzzing and/or lack of sustain, I recommend setting the B saddle height slightly higher than normal (if you're following the neck radius when setting action); so that the B is higher than the E.
    This allows the B to sound fuller and fatter.
  13. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Someone recently told me that maple is difficult to work with. It has to be pre-dried or something? Is that true? Do you think it would be possible to get a birdseye maple board precise enough for this purpose?

    Edit: and oh yeah, if you impregnated something like that, would it cease to be a birdseye maple board, or would it retain any of the maple-like characteristics?
  14. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    acrylicized birds'eye fingerboard:

    it's still a bird's eye board but if your thinking tonewise (how much a fingerboard can color the tone still needs to be proven) it's probably different as density has changed.

  15. Jonki

    Jonki I will not slap my Bee!

    Oct 14, 2003
    Arendal, Norway
    sorry, I'm dont wanna to hijack this thread but, what is low-action? :confused:
  16. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I guess I'm in the camp that does think the fretboard material can color the tone. I've played basses that have been otherwise identical and believe I've heard a distinct difference between Maple, Rosewood and Ebony for example.

    As far as low action IME you can use any of them, "I" haven't seen a correlation between wood having an adverse effect on tone with low vs. high action... but that all hinges on what you like;). It's about adjusting your technique to better take advantage of whatever bass you're playing. For instance low action with Rosewood may not sound as clanky as Ebony... but it is possible to harness that clank and make it musical. Stanley Clarke and Marcus Miller are great examples of that.

    I've been very happy with basses I own set up low with Birdseye Maple, Spalted Maple, Maple (starting to sound like Bubba Gump;)), Pau Ferro, Rosewood, Wenge, Bubinga, Ebony and composites.

  17. lyle

    lyle Guest

    Jan 10, 2004
    Vernon, B.C. Canada
    the action is basically how far away the strings are from the fret board. raising or lowering the saddles of your bridge change this.
  18. Sammy


    Aug 31, 2000
    I agree with the belief that the fret-board wood does color the tone (along with many other factors). I have seen the stabilized woods running through the forum, and I wondered if all the stabilized woods sound the same, like the Acrylic? Does this sound similar to Modulus, Zon, or something else.

    Another Enquiring Mind,
  19. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    They MIGHT sound close to each other as the resin process should give them an high density

    no to my ears. but bear in mind midulus and zon alo have graphite NECKS.

  20. Jonki

    Jonki I will not slap my Bee!

    Oct 14, 2003
    Arendal, Norway
    thanks alot! :)