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Sound: Maple vs. Rosewood

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zacho Max, Aug 24, 2012.

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  1. Zacho Max

    Zacho Max

    May 15, 2012
    Can someone explain to me the sound differences between and Maple fretboard and a Rosewood fretboard? Might tell why Geddy's always on dat maple!!!
  2. jlepre

    jlepre Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2007
    Parsippany, NJ
  3. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    Man I'm not that technical as I have heard basses with rosewood boards hit as hard as basses with maple boards. I prefer maple boards because I think they look prettier.
  4. eqvolvorama

    eqvolvorama Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 2000
    Arlington, Virginia
    General consensus among TalkBass, in my subjective observation:

    1. Maple is SLIGHTLY brighter than rosewood
    2. This difference WILL show up in blind tests, where otherwise identical basses are played solo with everything else held equal (strings, pickups, etc.), but is subtle enough that any difference will likely be completely insignificant in a band or real-world context.
  5. Rip Topaz

    Rip Topaz

    Aug 12, 2005
    Willow Street, PA
    Beta tester for Positive Grid
    I'm in this camp. All of my basses have maple boards, because I love the look. I haven't noticed that much difference in sound between maple and rosewood.
  6. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    This is one of those perennial topics, and for some reason I keep contributing. :)

    To me, maple is brighter and projects less of the fundamental of each note. It sounds "glassier." When I play on rosewood for a long time and then switch to maple, it feels like something is missing: the "core" of each note. On the other hand, maple is great for slapping (quick response and lots of high end) and Geddy might like it because the clarity of it works well with his fondness for crunchy distortion (rosewood might just get muddy).

    Okay-- cue the 100 people who are going to tell me that I'm being pretentious, and pretending to hear differences which just aren't there...
  7. THE SAW


    Sep 14, 2006
    Rosewood seems to be more sensitive to weather changes.
  8. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    I will add that the other day I saw Malcolm Hall play a custom Brubaker where the bass was made from ash, the neck was made from ash, and the board was birdseye maple. That bass was a slappers delight, and fingerstyle was bright and punchy and in your face. Some guys don;t like that sound. Me likee. On youtube it's 83 Brubaker Bass etc. There is also another one where Malcolm plays a single cut with the same woods. I believe that ash neck adds some snap to the sound. For my custom build I think I'm going to go for the ash body, ash neck, maple board combo.
  9. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
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  10. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Oh, there's more. That's only as much as the forum software will allow me to post at one time. :atoz:
  12. I find this topic fascinating and I think I have some insight.

    dougjwray said maple "sounds glassier"

    : it also looks glassier. (maple fretboards are lacquered or sealed).

    THE SAW said "Rosewood seems to be more sensitive to weather changes"

    : it also looks like it would be more sensitive to weather changes. (open grain vs. sealed).

    Most people say that "The Rosewood sounds Darker"

    analysis: it also looks darker

    I'm not saying that there is no real difference in sound, but isn't it funny how what our eyes "see" is translated into what we "hear"?

    How about this...a maple fretboard with no lacquer or sealing coat. Here we will have a much softer wood than the rosewood and it "should" sound more mellow and whatever and it will look like it should sound that way because it looks like a piece of decaying driftwood.

    I bet a cork fretboard would sound killer. Especially fretless.
  13. Datsgor

    Datsgor Supporting Member

    Jul 29, 2000
    Rosewood is warm and organic. Maple is cold and technical. Do you want to be warm or cold?
  14. Fresh Eddie

    Fresh Eddie

    Nov 13, 2008
    My maple fingerboard P-basses sound a lot brighter than my rosewood ones, but I think it probably has more to do with the really thick gloss finish on them than anything.
  15. willbassyeah


    Oct 9, 2011
    I thought the definition of the tone of the rosewood vs maple is applicable to the neck of the instruments only and not the fretboarf??
  16. davidjackson


    Sep 10, 2011
    You are talking about a bass with a Rosewood neck???
  17. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I agree about the fundamental and something missing. With maple boards it always feels like I'm getting more easily lost in the mix.
  18. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Thank you for including that phrase.
  19. notverygood


    Feb 11, 2010
    Why would it matter if you're using a fretted bass?
  20. Engine207

    Engine207 Losing faith in humanity...one call at a time.

    Jul 10, 2008
    Higley, AZ
    I'm always amused by these discussions.

    For starters, describing a sound is like smelling a color. It's subjective. What's 'woody' sounding to you may sound 'dark' to me. Unless we're talking frequencies and amplitudes, it doesn't mean anything to me. In fact if we are talking frequencies and amplitudes, it still doesn't mean anything to me. I either like how a bass sounds or I don't but describing it doesn't work for me.

    Another thing that cracks me up is how some folks can hear such subtlties in the mix with the rest of the band. After all, that's the situation that we really hear our basses anyway. Finally, with a fretted bass, the strings are vibrating between the chosen fret and the bridge saddle - never touching the fretboard wood. Maybe I'm a little messed up, but it would seem to me that the alloys used for the fretwire and saddle could have more to do with tonal variation than the wood below it.

    I dunno...maybe I've been to close to too many cymbal crashes, but basses sound good or don't sound good.

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