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Rosewood vs. Maple fret boards

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by in limbo, Oct 6, 2005.

  1. in limbo

    in limbo

    Oct 6, 2005
    I'm buying a Fender Jazz soon and get to choose between a rosewood and maple fret board.
    Any major differences?
    What would you choose?
  2. I've always had rosewood fingerboards until recently with my new MM Sterling. I find the Maple definately feels different, almost like its tougher. But, I find that it plays better than any of my rosewood basses - but I'm not so sure you can attribute that to the wood.

    - Andrew
  3. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    In the archives you'll find huge debates about the topic. Some players and luthiers insist that fretboard wood makes a big difference in the overall tone of the bass, while other players and luthiers believe it doesn't... or that it only affects fretless basses.

    I once subscribed to the "maple bright/rosewood warm" theory... until I noticed that this seemed to be true only half the time! I personally believe that fretboard wood makes little if any difference in the tone of a fretted bass. That is my opinion... it's all a matter of opinion. There's no scientific evidence to support either side. So, I select fretboard wood based on appearance alone.
  4. dgce


    Jun 17, 2001
    Massachusetts, USA
    I think the whole maple/rosewood board thing is really more about esthetics rather than tonal quality. Yes, generally speaking the maple will likely be brighter while the rosewood may be warmer. However, the difference will likely be so subtle that it would hardly be worth the debate at all if you could a/b test identical models with different boards. And consider that every guitar/bass will be slightly different tonally anyway because even if it’s made of the same wood, it’s not necessarily from the same source (tree). You could a/b test two Fender Js; same make and year, alder bodies, maple necks and boards, exactly same electronics and hardware YET they may still sound different.

    I say get yr hands on as many J basses you can and see and hear what works best for you. Me? I'm more of an ash body, maple neck and board man myself. But I could easily pickup an alder/rosewood J and fall in love. Only you can figure this one out for sure, bro.

  5. bassjigga


    Aug 6, 2003
    Stop wasting time with either and get ebony! See, that was easy. :D
  6. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    I believe all things being equal, maple is snappier for sure. I notice the difference on my Sadowsky's. Both have ash bodies and weight less than 8.5lbs. Both have the same hardware, pickups, etc. The maple board seems to have more of a "snap" I seldom have to boost the treble pot, even when the strings are losing their life. I also notice that strings on my maple boards die faster. Dont know why. All I can figure is that the rosewood seems to soak my my sweat and grime while the maple board doesnt. It seems to stay on the strings and they quickly die on me. Who knows. LOL

  7. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    I have two maples and a rosewood. IMHO< if there was a difference in tone at all, it would be so subtle that it would be buried by the effects on tone of the pups and strings.
  8. My vote is "what he said".

    Although some folks will swear there is a big difference in sound, I suspect that the pickups and strings have a great deal more to do with the sound than the fretboard wood.

    It is true that the fretboard is part of the entire system that makes up the bass, and its wood type therefore impacts the resonance of the total unit and thus the sound it produces. But IMHO it's more about which one you would rather look at.

    Maybe too much significance is placed on the sound qualities of wood types in general since it is after all an electric instument. The sound comes from metal strings vibrating in a magnetic field which induces electric currents. Those currents get amplified.

    How much can the type of wood on the fretboard impact the nature of those vibrations and the resulting sound, as opposed to the strings, the pickups, the amplifier, its settings, and your style of play?

    Maybe some. Of course some would say a great deal. Some people also say there is a big difference between the gas at Exxon and the gas at Shell.
  9. Johnny Mac

    Johnny Mac Riff-finder General Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2005
    Springfield, MA
    In case you're wondering about the feel of rosewood/maple fretboards, I have played both and noticed no difference.
  10. resol

    resol Guest

    Feb 21, 2005
    apart from sound difference, which appears to be minimal anyway, aren't maple 'boards harder to keep clean than rosewood?

    and if you sweat alot when you play, doesn't maple leave 'grime' marks behind?
  11. MikeM


    Apr 21, 2004
    Most maple boards are coated
  12. Scissor Man

    Scissor Man

    May 7, 2005
    Rosewood or maple? I'd choose ebony.
  13. SlavaF


    Jul 31, 2002
    Edmonton AB
    i prefer maple by far, I've never played a sticky maple board, whereas most rosewood boards I've played have been really dirty and sticky. not the most scientific answer, but it's been my personal experience...
  14. John Coxtosen

    John Coxtosen Music Geek/Bass Nerd

    May 25, 2005
    Duluth, MN
    I have two alder bodied basses. Same model. Same pickups. Same bridge. Roughly the same weight. One with a birdseye maple board and one with rosewood. When played hard or slapped/popped the percussive sound of each has its own character. The rosewood has more of a midrange bark and the maple is more of a higher frequency snap and even seems more immediate to my ears. I guess it could be something else, but we are talking about two completely different peices of wood and one is even finished! The strings are bouncing off the frets which are imbedded into it. Its gotta sound different. It certainly does to me even though its not a HUGE difference. It might depend on your technique, EQing, speakers, etc.

    As far as feel goes, my fingers barely touch the fretboard wood. Just the strings. Is that odd?
  15. Stox


    Mar 18, 2005
    London UK
    Playing either type in a band on a gig and the microscopic tonal differences are lost. Go with aesthetics.
  16. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I prefer rosewood for two reasons...

    1. Rosewood is dark and unfinished and I prefer unfinished, dark fingerboards. Unfinished rosewood is also easier to take care of, and there's no finish to chip off or scratch.

    B. I absolutely hear a difference between the warmth of rosewood and the snappiness of maple. Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it stands out like a sore thumb. But I always hear at least a little bit of a difference. Yes, in a live setting, the differences get pretty well lost, but if you're like me, you believe that the sound of the bass unplugged is the sound you're going to get plugged no matter what electronics you have, so I figure I might as well get what I like to hear, and that's rosewood.

    Also, Fender doesn't offer ebony as a stock option. Hell, I don't even know if they offer it all. But unless you're playing fretless, rosewood or maple is just fine. Yes, ebony is harder, but I don't think sounds all that great as opposed to rosewood, and it's more expensive.
  17. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    I tend to agree - sound differences between maple and rosewood are pretty tiny or non-existent IME, and likely to be swamped by the effects of strings/pups/EQ etc etc.

    Same applies to feel, most of the time your fingers aren't touching the board anyway (at least for my playing style). So John C... no, it doesn't seem odd to me.

    Mainly down to looks, then?
  18. in limbo

    in limbo

    Oct 6, 2005
    Thanks so much for the help!
    I think i'll choose rosewood. It will suit the colors of the bass i'm getting and i think if there is any sound difference i'd prefer warmer tones.
    Wow, My First Fender. What an exciting event!