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Sonic differences in fretboard woods - MEGATHREAD!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bryan bailey, Apr 26, 2003.


  1. I do not know if fertboards are different for feel, sound, look, or why they can be different. I like rosewood and ebony fretboards, I just don't know if I would like a maple fretboard.
     
  2. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    Every wood has its own look, feel, and sound. Feel and sound make less of a difference on a fretted bass, obviously. Ebony and rosewood are known for their beefier, smoother sound, whereas maple is snappier, with higher midrange.

    Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I think that fretbaord material has the biggest influence on sound, even more than body wood. I definitley not a wood expert, nor claim to be, but from my experiences from just playing many basses with differrent wood combo's, FB materials is what I think I hear.

    As far as your situation, if you like the "darker sound" of Rosewood, you probobly wouldn't like the bright snap of Maple.
     
  4. CS Bass

    CS Bass

    Feb 18, 2003
    To my ears:

    Maple is generally bright.
    Rosewood is generally warm.
    Wenge is generally growly, and in the middle.
    Ebony is similar to rosewood, but sounds more clacky to me.
     
  5. 1964

    1964

    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    Ebony is by far the brightest. Maple must be finished, so it obviously has a finished feel. Rosewood, maple and ebony all have different feels, especially ebony.

    Brightness scale (warm to bright):
    - Rosewood (warm)
    - Maple (bright)
    - Pau Ferro (a little brighter than maple, no dead spots)
    - Ebony (very bright, no dead spots)
     
  6. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Oh boy. Well, there's some disagreement over whether a slim slab of wood makes any difference in the tone of a *fretted* bass.

    After years of believing what I'd been told (rosewood warm, maple bright, etc) I've decided, based on my experience of 27 years, that fingerboard wood makes no significant difference in tone (again, on a *fretted* bass). All the differences I'd heard those first few years I could attribute to other sources: electronics, body wood, and/or construction type (neck-thru, bolt-on, etc).

    I also realized that there can be significant variation in tone even in identical basses... and thought of all the times I'd said "this bass is pretty bright for having a rosewood fretboard", etc. So, I wondered, how is it that fingerboard wood gets so much credit? It's more likely that any differences in tone come from other sources. As with all things musical: IME, IMO, YMMV, M.O.U.S.E.
     
  7. The Lurker

    The Lurker

    Aug 16, 2002
    Ankh-Morpork
    I agree- not much of a difference, if any. Certainly much less important than electronics, etc.
     
  8. 1964

    1964

    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    I, for one, never made any assertions as to how much the fingerboard wood contributes to overall tone.

    The tone of any instrument is not based on any single component, but the *whole package*, with just about every component playing some part.

    If however, you have an already bright bass that's got a maple fingerboard, and so with all other things remaining constant, you replace the maple fingerboard with an ebony one, the tone, attack, and sustain of the bass will be affected to some discernable extent.

    Good electronics simply bring out what the bass itself already has to offer, which is why most folks don’t simply buy any old slab of wood with strings and bung in boutique electronics.
     
  9. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Well I have tried many many basses and can *definitely* tell the difference between different fretboard woods or body woods etc etc...

    I don't think luthiers make up what tonal qualities the wood will have in their basses ;) The proof lies in that you can specify the sound you want and a good luthier should be able to select the wood combo's that will give you that sound. Sure the electronics play a part in it as well (obviously) but the wood is the basis for the whole instrument...

    No one should just believe what they "are told" but it's pretty easy to try hundreds of basses and see that ones with maple boards, ebony boards, ash bodies etc etc will have certain tonal characteristics specific to each wood ;)
     
  10. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Louisiana, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    No one's debating whether wood has an effect on the sound of a bass. The discussion here is merely on fretboards. I personally think fretboard material is highly inconsequential on a fretted bass. There is obviously some sound difference, but not much. Fretless is, obviously, a different story.

    I don't live anywhere near any places where I could play hundreds of basses. The only places around here are GC and a small place. No Foderas in town, I'm pretty sure :bawl: .

    Basically, I think that, for a fretted bass, fb material is the least important wood consideration. But that doesn't mean you should have a wenge body and particleboard fb. Looks should really be a higher priority, IMO, since the way the fb looks is far more noticeable than any tonal coloration. For a fretted.

    I also think we are putting way more thought into this discussion than theshaz did when he posted this.
     
  11. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Well all I am saying is go find identical basses, one with an ebony fretboard and one with a maple. Try them and I dare ya to tell me you can't tell the difference. ;) Seriously.
     
  12. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    I always thought that ebony and maple both sounded extremely bright. I like the feel of the grain in a rosewood or Pau Ferro board. BTW Pau Ferro is a particular kind of Rosewood. I agree that the different fretboard woods make a tiny difference in bass sound. Tiny, but there. :)
     
  13. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    That's easy: the one with the dark brown fingerboard is ebony, and the one with the light brown fingerboard is maple. ;)
     
  14. Pau Ferro is rosewood!
    pau ferro = ironwood = Bolivian rosewood= morado

    When used as a fingerboard, to my ears, it sounds a bit brighter than East Indian, African Palisander or Brazilian rosewood but is not nearly as bright as maple.

    I find ebony produces a more focused tone than maple or rosewood. More pronounced fundamental.

    Jes, it sounds like we're talkin about fine wines. Bleh!:spit:
     
  15. bben

    bben

    Feb 28, 2002
    Santa Fe, NM
  16. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    It's *called* a rosewood sometimes, but I don't think it actually is one. AFAIK, the true rosewoods (Brazilian, East Indian, palisander, cocobolo) are all from the Dalbergia genus. Pau ferro isn't: it's from the Machaerium genus.

    It seems that wood names can get pretty tricky. Often the same tree is called by several different names, and sometimes it seems as if popular names come about just because somebody thinks it would make the wood easier to sell or because one wood has a superficial resemblance to another (even if the two are really not related at all). For instance, imbuya is sometimes called Brazilian walnut, though it's not a true walnut.
     
  17. Eric Cioe

    Eric Cioe

    Jun 4, 2001
    Missoula, MT
    I find that my purpleheart boarded bass has a sound all it's own, especially when you dig in. It has a lot of high mid grind (is that the word?).
     
  18. bassackwards

    bassackwards Member

    Dec 16, 2002
    OREGON
    Ebony.




















    Is a fine publication.
     
  19. 1964

    1964

    Mar 26, 2002
    Too Close To Hell
    > “When used as a fingerboard, to my ears, it sounds a bit brighter than East Indian, African Palisander or Brazilian rosewood but is not nearly as bright as maple.”

    I humbly suggest a hearing test.
     
  20. corky st. clair

    corky st. clair

    Apr 22, 2003
    so for those of the cilia-advantaged super-cochlear endowed set, what about inlay?
    Do you prefer the tone of abalone, mother of pearl, or LED?