Ebony vs Rosewood Fretboard?

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by squirrel211, Jun 26, 2015.

  1. squirrel211

    squirrel211 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2015
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    118
    I'm getting ready to finalize my HBII build for my daughter's memorial guitar, and wanted to know what you guys thought regarding the difference between ebony and rosewood for the fretboard? Large tone difference? Difference in care for the fretboard?

    Also, I'm most likely getting a maple neck, but could change up for mahogany.
     
  2. shallbe

    shallbe New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    363
    Likes Received:
    633
    I like ebony on PRS guitars so much I sold all my rosewood board PRS. I now have 3 ebony board artist guitars.

    Yes, I think it feels better. But the real difference is in sound and attack. It adds a nice clarity and snap to the notes that you can really hear and feel. With a hollowbody, it would be outstanding. There is a reason most hollowbody guitars have ebony boards. The quick attack and sweet treble.

    For neck wood with ebony, I recommend mahogany or a rosewood neck with the ebony board. I have both. As pretty as flamed maple can be with ebony, I'm not a fan of the tone as much as with these two other woods.
     
  3. HANGAR18

    HANGAR18 Not buying any more guitars. Again.

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2013
    Messages:
    2,517
    Likes Received:
    2,957
    At the risk of getting berated mercilessly, I think that a Maple fretboard is very similar to an Ebony fretboard for both tone and feel. Kinda like a poor man's Ebony.
     
  4. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    27,122
    Likes Received:
    30,739
    Everything's a trade-off when it comes to these choices. In terms of traditional hollow body guitars, the big guns in traditional jazz boxes like the $12k Gibson L-5 CES have maple necks and bodies and ebony boards. Keep in mind, however, that changing any element of these recipes affects the tone and response of the guitar. The L-5 also has a spruce top, and has a larger body, and the PRS will have mahogany rims, so there are a few substantial differences between that and a PRS hollow body.

    A maple neck will usually scoop the midrange a little; however, the ebony board will sometimes add the midrange back in a nice way. A mahogany neck will often give a warmer sound, as will a rosewood fingerboard.

    For me, the neck and fingerboard make a really important difference. What I'd say is be careful what you wish for!

    There are times when what works on one guitar doesn't translate to a different guitar that you might buy for a different purpose. As an example, I was crazy about my Artist V with its mahogany neck and ebony board. What a great guitar! So I got myself an SC58 with the same combination. When I ordered that SC58, I also had a Stripped 58, that I loved. I figured the two would compliment each other, and they certainly would have, but by the time the SC58 rolled in, I had sold the Stripped 58. The SC58 sounded great, but I missed the traditional tone I had gotten with the Stripper, and I wound up selling the SC58 to get an SC245 with a rosewood board.

    If you play a Hollowbody II in a store, and your thought is, "I love it, but I wish it had this or that different quality," that's one thing. If your thought is, "This is perfect," then don't fix what ain't broken! ;)

    The HBII isn't a big ol' jazz box, which is one of the things that makes it great, but I can see why PRS chose a mahogany neck, RW board and 'hog rims to warm it up a little.

    In terms of care, rosewood and ebony are the same. Clean the board with lemon oil when it needs it. and then wipe off. I don't recommend oils (lemon oil is just scented naphtha), the woods are naturally oily, and you're not really adding a thing that the wood needs, and in most cases, are detracting from its longevity by softening it.
     
    #4 LSchefman, Jun 26, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
  5. squirrel211

    squirrel211 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2015
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    118
    I come from strats, so while I LOVE my Custom 24 with 57/08's, scooping out some of the mids and adding a touch of highs would really be something I would dig.

    Do you think I should stick with the maple neck and rosewood?
     
  6. Ol'Lefty

    Ol'Lefty New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2015
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    2
    I re-necked my Robert Cray Strat with an ebony fretboard neck. I think I get better vibrato with ebony. The original is rosewood.
     
  7. shinksma

    shinksma What? I get a title?

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2014
    Messages:
    4,704
    Likes Received:
    5,430
    Here's my two-cents worth (and you probably think I'm overcharging, at that...):

    I have always found maple and ebony fretboards to play faster - the surface just seems a little more friendly to my my fingers for ease of moving around. But I am not a fast player - think David Gilmour.

    OTOH, most of my PRSi have rosewood fretboards, and they play just fine, thankyouverymuch. Plus, I cleaned a couple of them recently with lemon oil followed by lemon Pledge, and that seems to have helped speed them up (as well as darken the rosewood ever so slightly). I think if I played just one guitar, then natural oils from my hands would keep ther rosewood in shape, but I do tend to swap around a bit, so I'll probably do annual lemon oil cleanings to keep things "fresh".

    I have a PRS SE Akerfeldt, which has a maple neck and ebony fretboard, and it sounds a bit different from any of the other SEs (like the SE ZM with hog neck and rosewood fretboard), but not enough that it seems like night and day. I suspect the nuances would be more noticable on a PS or AP build of a core guitar with better-than-stock-SE pickups (not that stock SE pickups are bad, just not as stunningly good as what you can get in a core model).

    In other words, I don't really know, and it truly is all a judgement call on your part. Being a PRS it will never sound bad, so the real question is what tone are you chasing?
     
  8. g.wizz

    g.wizz Nabs

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    2,790
    Likes Received:
    1,889
    My first cu22 had a rosewood board and hog neck and first generation 57/08s
    bought another cu22 LTD run that had the etched 57/08's but an ebony board and
    I immediately noticed the snap and clarity (as described by shallbe) add to that the smoothness of the tight grained
    ebony I liked so much and when I specked my 513 AP I went with an IRW neck with ebony
    board and it sounds fantastic albeit a bit warmer ( to my ears ) than the hog/ebony combo.
    I know that would be different somewhat in the HBII scenario but
    I hope that helps a bit.
     
  9. squirrel211

    squirrel211 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2015
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    118
    Hmmmm, I'd have to say that after playing my strat (62 reissue with Lollar Blondes) and my CU24 back to back at lunch; I love the tones of the strat, but the sustain, feel, playability, and quality of the CU24. The strat just feels a world apart from the CU24, and not in a good way. Sounds like heaven though! Even with a lot of gain; it actually palm mutes really well. The CU24 sounds better for overdriven solos, much better.
     
  10. Hollis Prince

    Hollis Prince New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2014
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    2
    I have a solid rosewood neck and it's the best feeling neck I've ever played.
     
  11. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    27,122
    Likes Received:
    30,739
    I think it's apples and oranges to compare what you're thinking about to a Strat.

    A Strat is a solid body guitar with a bolt on neck. An HB II is (obviously) hollow, with a set neck. In that respect alone the two guitars are a world apart. But it goes further. A Strat will be either Ash or Alder. An HBII is maple/maple/'hog rims. A Strat has a big springy thing with a chunk of cast metal in the middle of its solid body, the HBII has nothing of the kind.

    So while you can tweak the tone of the HBII with the woods you're thinking about, it may be a little bit dangerous to make the same assumptions about them that you'd make with a Strat.

    However, there are some forum members who have HBIIs with various neck woods and fingerboards, and I'd certainly be interested in what they have to say about their versions of the guitar.
     
  12. squirrel211

    squirrel211 New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2015
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    118
    I know what you're saying Les; I was using the reference to convey my tastes a bit so people with experience could possibly use it to recommend a direction.

    I think I'm going to pull the trigger on the maple neck and ebony board!
     
  13. blaren

    blaren New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2012
    Messages:
    224
    Likes Received:
    14
    To the OP, thank you for calling it a fretboard and not a fingerboard. It is not a fiddle lol.
    I prefer the feel of ebony. Almost impossible to A/B an ebony board with anything else though. Hard to say just how much the ebony contributes to the tone. I'd say go for what you like the feel of the best. It's pretty easy to tweak the tone of an electric guitar.
     
  14. 0defects13

    0defects13 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    1
    My Jackson Soloists have ebony boards, as does my Heafy LPC 7 string. My strats have maple, and my other instruments have rosewood (well the Martin has whatever that wood/epoxy puree is).
    In feel, maple with a finish has a similar feel to ebony. Rosewood feels a little more "rough" than ebony or finished maple. If you've ever played an ernie ball music man with the oil/wax finish (Birchwood casey gunstock oil and wax if you're ever curious) the maple feels a little "smoother" than rosewood. In all practical terms, I really couldn't tell too much of a different if I was on stage and keeping with the band.

    Most of the time I notice the differences like that when I'm sitting and just marveling at the craftsmanship of an instrument. If I am playing at volume, I already have an idea of what my tone/sound is and I'm focusing on just making music.

    When I put my PRS guitars away, I wish they had ebony. When I'm playing them, it's not really a thought. Also, I'm sort of a raw dog in tone. I used to run FX racks and a zillion pedals. Now I run a cable into a tuner, maybe a wah or chorus, and then that cable into a Mesa. I used to unplug the wah when not in use, but why bother? Heck, I haven't even plugged in a chorus in awhile- I sold my favorite one and never recovered (the old boss MIJ 2 knob jobber). When I'm playing a maple boarded strat (consequently the only wood I'll buy a strat with- not sure why there) I'm never thinking "this maple is AWESOME!" I'm just playing.

    I'm not sure the story behind the guitar but I have puzzled out a small piece of it, enough to know that this instrument will mean a lot to you. I'd strongly suggest thinking about how are you going to play this. Yes, I know that sounds crazy. If this is going to be a case queen or wall candy, get the best LOOKING thing you can do. If this is going to be a played guitar, then you need to think about how it's going to be played/what main style of music is going to be played. Then go out and try it. My personal opinion is that I think the neck wood makes more of a tone difference than fret board wood.

    Maple and ebony are a beautiful combination in my opinion. Maple necks are just classic.
     
  15. veinbuster

    veinbuster Zombie Three, DFZ

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    12,817
    Likes Received:
    21,498
    My favourite neck is mahogany with an ebony board, particularly on a hollow body. I can't think of a situation where I would choose a rosewood board over ebony from a playability or sound point of view.
    I find ebony boards feel nice and silky. I feel ebony adds a bit more breadth to the harmonics.
    In my experience ebony boards require much less maintenance than rosewood.
     
  16. Morphine

    Morphine New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2014
    Messages:
    94
    Likes Received:
    2
    Always preferred ebony. Was what kept me from getting a PRS for so long. No models I liked came with it, and paying PS prices just for a fretboard seemed a bit extreme. Once I learned ebony fretboard was an option with the artist package I placed an order.

    It's always hard to suggest what someone else should get as it largely boils down to personal preference.
     
  17. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    27,122
    Likes Received:
    30,739
    Gotcha!

    I have maple and ebony on my PRS Tonare Grand acoustic. I think it's a superb combination, but of course it's different from the HB as well. Still, maple and ebony are THE classic combination for a traditional high end jazz box, and I think you'll get a beautiful tone with it, very articulate and refined. There's always the tone control if you need to roll off a little treble.

    IMHO the guitar will do better on clean stuff than on gainy rock stuff, but that's not a bad thing. Horses for courses!

    Jack Gretz has a Wood Library guitar ordered for me, a McCarty with a maple neck and Braz fretboard. I think it'll be a nice combination as well. I plan to use it for spanky clean tones, edge of amp breakup, that kind of thing, but will probably stick to my McCarty Singlecut and CU24 for the more distorted stuff. Then again, who knows, maybe it'll kill on the dirty stuff as well?
     
    #17 LSchefman, Jun 27, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2015
  18. 0defects13

    0defects13 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    Messages:
    51
    Likes Received:
    1
    I'll be flipping damned. I never knew it was an artist package option.
     
  19. LJD

    LJD New Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2012
    Messages:
    788
    Likes Received:
    125
    I prefer how ebony looks, and I love how it ages. An ebony fretboard that's been oiled simply by the hands over time has such a smooth look and feel to it.
     
  20. 11top

    11top Cousin Eddie's cousin

    Joined:
    Apr 26, 2012
    Messages:
    9,551
    Likes Received:
    29,616
    Choose the fretboard wood that you think looks best and choose your pickups wisely. Why? Because in my opinion, while tone is affected by fretboard wood choice to a certain degree, the pickups will have a much greater impact.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice