Maple vs Ebony

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by count_funkula, May 22, 2002.

  1. What is the difference in maple vs ebony for fretboards? How do they affect your tone?
  2. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Maple and Ebony are both very hard and have a very similar tone. They impart a little brightness. The differences in fingerboards are very subtle.
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Agreed, sonically very close... plus one is dark and the other is light.
  4. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    IME, Maple tends to be a bit more edgy and harsh. Ebony boards are bright and focused, but don't seem nearly as shrill as maple.

    I would readily admit that this could easily be related to the instruments that I have played to make the observation. I have never played otherwise identical instruments and compared.

    It is very difficult to make valuable comparisons of the two, as the sonic differences between any conventional fingerboard material are subtle.

    The nice thing about ebony is that it is virtually indestructable as a fingerboard in its natural state. Maple requires upkeep on the finish to prevent discoloration and blochiness.

    IMO, Ebony is much more attractive on most instruments.

  5. Agreed, sonically they are very similar.

    Some have argued ebony is a little less stable at extreme changes in climate but I don't know if this is theoretical or a consideration for concern.

    I think you should choose your fingerboard in conjunction with the rest of the bass: body wood, neck-body joint construction, etc. I.e., for bolt-on instruments I don't like ebony. For set neck it can be nice; I'd never choose maple fingerboard for a set neck instrument or neck thru.

    Good luck on the bass.
  6. rickreyn

    rickreyn Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2000
    Lutz, Florida
    I've owned basses with ebony, wenge, rosewood, pau ferro and maple fretboards. I could hear no real differences, but they felt and looked different. The maple on some basses is a must for visual effect IMO regardless the sonic differences.
  7. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Stop it, Brad!!! That there kind of profundity hurts mah brain cells! ;)

    Count - While my experience aligns with what everyone else has said, consider another contributing tonal aspect;

    - What that fretboard produces tonally is heavily influenced by the woods that dominate the neck construction and whether the construction is neck-through-body vs. bolt-on. (Set necks are another chapter).

    Maple fretboards have been historically/commonly paired with maple/mostly maple necks. The "snap," "punch", and "bite" of the maple fretboard is enhanced, consequently.

    Gabon ebony can be quite "hard-edged" too, but it gets used with many different neck woods. So, don't be surprised if you get varied opinions.

    FWIW - Gabon ebony, IMO, is more versatile without compromising too much of "hard attack" tone nor "smooth, round" tone. It has an incredible ability to display whatever your technique and strings feed it.
    That doesn't means it "replaces" all the other fretboard woods, by any means. But, if I could only have just one, I'd go for Gabon ebony.