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maple v. rosewood fingerboards

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by buldog5151bass, Jan 21, 2004.

  1. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I've been playing mostly the same bass for the last 15yrs - Fender Jazz body/P neck with other goodies. Fingerboard is maple (I've had others as "toys" and also a decent acoustic bass that I like, but the Fender is what I usually play).

    I'm looking to get another good bass, and have been checking my choices. I understand that maple fingerboards tend to yield a brighter sound (although, as everything else, different people say and hear different things). But other than that, what are the relative differences, both sound and playability.

    I'm doing lots of playing on my own - just interested in why others have their own preferences.

    Thanks for any input.
  2. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    When it comes to the differences between maple and rosewood fingerboards, I think that you'll find that virtually everyone will agree on the major difference between the two...which you're already mentioned. Maple is a brighter wood than rosewood and will give you more snap, attack, and clarity to the notes. This is primarily because maple helps to reproduce more highs and gives more of a trebly "zing" to your tone, which is the reason why slappers like maple boards so much. Rosewood, on the other hand, tends to mute these high, giving the overall tone a warmer, fuller, and phatter tone. Because the highs are not so clear and crisp, the ear tends to focus on the mids and lows more and notes tend to have more depth and punch. Other differences include the fact that maple boards need to be finished, whereas rosewood boards do not need a finish (mainly an issue for fretless players).
  3. dmaki


    Apr 29, 2000
    I feel that the difference between maple and rosewood fretboards are more aesthetic than anything. However, maple boards do seem to produce a snappy tone and have a "stickier" feel to them. A maple neck without a separate board has a nice solid, resonant feel to it. Rosewood doesn't have the "stickyness" to it, and seems rolls off the highs a bit while making the mids a little more dominant. While most listeners won't really be able to tell the difference between the two, players and tone freaks will.

    I bought a used G&L with a rosewood board, but had it come with a maple board I wouldn't have thought any differently to buying it.
  4. Hopefully these sound clips will finally put an end to the argument that the fingerboard wood does not change the sound. Compare the clip that says "vintage swamp ash body maple neck" and the clip that's labeled "vintage swamp ash body rosewood neck".


    For some reason the rosewood bass is louder. I have a feeling that had to do with the recording of the bass. Nevertheless, there's still a big difference. the rosewood is fuller and warmer sounding, and the maple is indeed snappier and brighter sounding.
  5. Very interesting discussion..

    I'm wondering how an ebony fingerboard would be considered, compared to rosewood and maple.

    I used to own an Alembic spoiler that had an ebony board, and ebony is quite a bit harder than rosewood.

  6. [​IMG]

    Ebony is a harder wood then Rosewood but to my ears it sounds a bit brighter than Rosewood but not as bright a Maple.

    This is not the first time this has been a topic of heated discussion here at TB either.

    Do a search........

  7. No heated debate happening here.. I was just curious. I tend to prefer non-maple boards, but that's just my personal pref.

    I guess to really hear any differences, you'd have to have the same bass with different boards, setup exactly the same, same amp and settings, same strings..

  8. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Some of us (I know I'm not the *only* one! :D ) don't believe the fretboard makes a significant contribution to the tone of a *fretted* bass.

    Regarding the sound samples: even assuming the basses were recorded exactly the same way, it's not logical to conclude that the difference is due to fingerboard and not some other factor. There is no such thing as an "all else being equal" test. Example: I own two Fender Roscoe Beck 5 basses, both made in 1996. They both have alder bodies, maple necks, and pau ferro fingerboards. The hardware and electronics are identical. However, even when strung with identical string sets, one sounds noticeably brighter than the other. I like to joke that shoreline gold paint provides brighter tone than teal blue metallic, because that is the only apparent difference between these basses! But actually, the difference is most likely due to natural tonal variation in the wood (probably the bodies). Ken Smith has said here in this very forum that two planks of wood cut from the same tree can sound different even when everything else is equal.

    Speaking only of Fenders: in over 25 years, I've played and owned passive Fenders with rosewood boards that had bright tone, and maple boards that had mellow tone... and vice versa of course. I'm not saying anyone else is wrong (it's a big YMMV), but my own observations don't match the "maple bright, rosewood mellow" argument.

    Again, I'm just referring to tone... feel is another matter entirely.
  9. question:

    the original poster said he had a jazz body/p neck configuration? whered you get that? never seen that kind of fender, only the p body/j neck.
  10. I personally don't like rosewood fingerboards that much just cause of the open grain and the fact that is soaks up a lotta sweat and can eveutally feel a lot stickier than a mapel board...

    my personal fav is the Ebony board..very dense and gives strong mids and highs but without the biting tones of mapel but...i lo0ove the appearance of mapel over ebony

    tho to be fair...when your up on stage gigging can u really tell the sound differeance

    and onces you bass has been mixed on a recorded..you cannot tell the differance at all..imho..
  11. I'm not questioning your own experiences, but you have to admit when you hear two sound clips, one of a Jazz style swamp ash body bass with a maple fingerboard, and the other with a Jazz style swamp ash body bass with a rosewood fingerboard, and there's that big a difference, it logically makes sense that the fingerboard has a significant affect on the tone.
  12. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003

    It's kind of a Frankenstein. 70s Jazz body mated to a 70s P neck (ones a 72 and ones a 74 - forgot which was which). The original owner took off the pickguard and filled the holes with wood putty (poorly), stripped the paint and tried (poorly) to do a clear finish. Ugly as all sh*t, but it sounded good, and was only $250. I added a BadAss II bridge, stuck a Dimarzio in the neck pickup slot, and put a Hipshot detuner on the E.

    Probably the world's ugliest bass (if it isn't, I'm not sure I want to see the one that is), but it plays nice.

  13. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Thanks, and again, I'm not trying to question anyone else's experience either! However we're discussing just two basses. The difference in tone could easily be due to differences in the swamp ash bodies, or the wood used in the neck (behind the fingerboard I mean), or the electronics.

    Again, my two Roscoe Becks sound different even though they are identical. I think many of us have noticed tonal differences in basses that are more or less identical. Therefore, if we have two basses that are identical except for just one feature, it isn't possible to know for sure that a difference in tone *must* be because of that particular feature!

    Now, that conclusion would be possible with a larger statistical sample. Some bassists say they've done dozens of all-else-being-equal tests and have found that maple fingerboards are usually brighter than rosewood... I respect that, but again, my own experience differs. Maybe someday someone will come along and get scientific on us, with measurements and charts and graphs and stuff. :)
  14. Arthur Poon

    Arthur Poon

    Jul 13, 2003
    I agree with the opinions in regards to a maple fingerboard being a bit brighter and having a bit more attack vs. a rosewood fingerboard. At one time I had 2 fretted stock P-basses, one w/maple, one w/rosewood. IME/IMHO the bass with the maple board had more attack and was a bit brighter sounding.
  15. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Gee - this is kind of like dropping a bottle of blood in a tank of sharks - although the information is exactly what I was looking for.
  16. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    LOL. There have been more heated debates here @TB... do a topic search for "7 string basses". ;)

    To back up a bit, I completely agree with JP Ferreira's comment in the new TalkBass newsletter: in short, that fingerboard material is low on the list of contributors to the tone of a fretted instrument. If it does make a difference, it's subtle.

    You already realize this. However I've heard bassists say "that one has a rosewood fingerboard, so it'll have mellow tone overall". Those people will often be surprised because other factors determine the overall tone of an instrument.

    So anyway, unless you have a strong preference for feel, I advise you not to worry about fingerboard material until you've selected brand and model and electronics and body and neck woods. And if you're auditioning a bass, it's always best to keep an open mind because expectations will negate objectivity. Good luck, and don't forget to post pics of your bass after you've selected her ... that's the rule around here. :D
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Gracias - right now I'm deciding do I go with an MIA P bass, or splurge and go custom - same idea - not sure if the added money is worth anything - checking and playing lots of um.
  18. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    And I think you know where I stand on 7 string basses based upon what I'm looking to get (but I'll stay out of that one - for now).
  19. After working in a music store for some time I have notice a great difference between two basically identical MM Stingrays. Only difference was one was "broken in" ie played a little more than the other. Both maple necks.

    just 2c
  20. MrBonex


    Jan 2, 2004
    New Hampshire
    To add another POV to this discussion, I think that it is noteworthy that acoustic guitar makers consider maple a mellow wood and rosewood brighter.

    Here's what I think. Guitars have significantly more high harmonic partials than basses. And this is where the "real" high frequency information is. Basses, for the most part, really don't explore that territory as much. Maple has a punchiness to it, but I think those frequencies are really more upper mid-range, not high.

    Another contribution is the thickness of the board. The thicker, the more contribution the wood will have to the sound of the bass. My bass has a very thick rosewood neck and it is very rich sounding. Some fingerboards on some Fender models is almost like a laminate, and not really influencing the tone -- something that Sadowsky talks about concerning his decorative lams on his basses.

    And as a last point, I think that the glue that attaches these fingerboards change the nature of the wood's resonance. Imagine glueing something to a tuning fork. I think it's fair to say that it would alter the tone. Same would be true with laminates.

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