Fretboard Woods

Discussion in 'Electric Instruments' started by Matthew Marsico, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. elvis

    elvis Hamfisted String Banger

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    I've only ever played maple, ebony and rosewood (no clue which kind).

    I like maple the best, I get more attack and brightness from it, which I like. Ebony seems to be a close second. I only have rosewood because some guitars I like came that way.

    I really like the variegated ebony, and if the 90% of ebony trees they left to rot are suitable for fretboard use, I'll buy those guitars.
     
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  2. walrus

    walrus New Member

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    The only fretboard I've ever worn down into divots is the ebony fretboard on my Guild D64. Over 30 years of playing - the only acoustic I've owned - even ebony will wear down.

    All other guitars I've had have had rosewood fretboards - love them, too.
     
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  3. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    I'm with you....blech!
     
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  4. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Titan sized groan!
     
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  5. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    I am in the "can't hear but can feel the difference" camp. I like ebony the best. Seems the "slickest" to me.
     
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  6. Lee B.

    Lee B. I stitch my wings and pull the strings.

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    Give peas a chance.
     
  7. alantig

    alantig SSBMA

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    Peas, Mister, Peas.
     
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  8. BWV548

    BWV548 Custom Title

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  9. jxe

    jxe babe en der wood

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    never would’ve expected so many ebony fans outside of the e.s.p. forum.

    years ago i asked an old guitar guy about maple/rosewood/ebony, probably looking for an excuse to upgrade from my imitation stratocaster with rosewood, and he said he liked ‘that drag’ of rosewood. i assumed because ebony has a tight grain and maple is usually under a finish. i like ebony best and always have, but i had a lacquered-to-death rickenbacker fretboard, which was like playing on glass.
     
    #49 jxe, Jul 13, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
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  10. bodia

    bodia Authorities said.....best leave it.....unsolved

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    Sounds to me like The Fall of the Peasmakers.
     
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  11. Mozzi

    Mozzi https://imgur.com/user/BAMozzy

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    I have never had any issues with Ebony at all and would happily buy a guitar with an Ebony fretboard. The problem with it is mostly its very brittle so doing 'fancy' inlays isn't easy and a number break when being carved. Once glued down, they are usually fine but they are still more difficult to work with. As I said, I like dark looking fretboards as they make inlays stand out far more - unless the inlays have 'shadows' like 25th anniversary birds...

    Its that hardness that makes Ebony feel really smooth, like glass and why its a great fretboard option too.
     
  12. jxe

    jxe babe en der wood

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    only thing i want inlaid is more ebony.

    off-topic, but first i heard of most exotic hardwoods was from nunchuck ads in the back of soldier of fortune magazine. cocobolo was a big one — whatta waste.

     
  13. flux

    flux 594 & CU24

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    Totally with you. The FB on my CU24 seems like an ideal example of that, just love the feel. Probably the most comfortable I've had to date.
     
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  14. CatStrangler

    CatStrangler PRS Enthusiast

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    I prefer the rosewoods (IRW, BRW, ABW) over ebony, they just sound better to me. I wish I could love the tone of ebony as it is so beautiful, I have tried so many times. I do need something in maple one day to get to know better.
     
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  15. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    I definitely hear a difference between fretboard woods.

    As a synthesist, sound designer and pro studio rat, I tend to describe sounds in terms of ADSR envelopes, harmonic overtones, etc. The caveat is that most of the differences are obscured by amp or pedal gain, so unless you’re at least occasionally a clean player, you may not hear them.

    In any case, the woods tend to have different ADSR envelopes; that is, their rates of attack, decay, sustain and release vary when a note is plucked.

    The ear picks up on this, it’s one of the things that makes, say, a horn sound different from a piano. Both instruments generate sine waves that sound different at the same pitch, because their ADSR and harmonic overtones are different.

    If you listen carefully to the envelope of the note through a clean amp, you’ll hear differences in ADSR between the woods used in guitars.

    As an example, a Maple fretboard tends to have a fast attack, and faster decay, accentuating the pick and releasing quickly for the next note. This is partially why the ear perceives it as bright, and also why it’s well-suited to chicken pickin’. Notes pop off the fretboard. To a degree, ebony also has a fast attack, and is perceived as a brighter sounding material.

    Rosewood tends to have a slower, more searing attack and decay, though I find BRW a little faster than IRW, and the notes ‘ring’ a little more. Madagascar RW is somewhere in the middle, nicely balanced IMHO.

    Listen to the differences between identically constructed Maple-bodied acoustic guitars and rosewood, or mahogany. You hear differences, but of course because of the amount of wood used, they’re more obvious. Nonetheless, those differences in tone don’t vanish when these woods are used elsewhere on the guitar in smaller amounts. They’re simply less obvious.

    It’s not a matter of thinking that one person can hear what another can’t. It’s more a matter of knowing what to listen for. Try listening to several guitars with various fretboard woods, listen for how they accentuate pick attack, and how a note decays and releases, and you may hear these differences. Eventually, if you play a bunch of them, concentrating on ADSR, you’ll notice the similarities and differences between these woods very easily.
     
    #55 LSchefman, Jul 14, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2018
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  16. merciful-evans

    merciful-evans New Member

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    You may be overestimating others sound discernment, or underestimating your own. I play clean most of the time, and never with any more than a hint of gain.

    I always evaluate guitars clean, yet cant make out the detail you can. Maybe when I was younger? I'm pretty old now and have trouble hearing the difference between neck material, let alone fingerboards!
     
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  17. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    As I mentioned, sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what to listen for. I’d bet if we sat down and did a playing/listening test together, and I pointed it out, the light bulb would go on in your head in a matter of minutes.

    Incidentally, I’ll also bet ya a beer that I’m older than you. ;)
     
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  18. veinbuster

    veinbuster Freeze zone

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  19. WA Paul

    WA Paul It’s ok...I’m with Manny dog

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    I’ve looked at this link many times the past five years, I was fascinated with the impact on tone and feel of the different neck woods, then had to do my own empirical research over the past five years.

    I think every part of the guitar contributes to each guitar’s unique tone. I’ve tried the following neck woods:
    Brazilian
    Pernambuco
    Maple
    Indian
    Dark Peruvian Mahogany
    Madagascar Rosewood
    South American (Honduran) Mahogany

    Pernambuco is in a class by itself, the clarity and sustain is amazing
    Next, I love Brazilian- all the ‘warmth’ that I love from Mahogany, but more clarity and sustain.
    Either Mahogany variant is great, but there is something extra with the Dark Peruvian.
    Madagascar RW is also great for a RW neck, kind of bridges the space between Hog and Braz.
    I need to try Cocobolo neck one of these days. Maple is my least favorite, too bright though I love the look of a stained neck. Only time I liked maple is on my Knaggs Severn, so maybe with Alder body/maple top it just works better for my ears than the classic hog back/maple top sandwich. I have a suspicion I might like a maple neck with an all hog body...

    For fretboards, I can hear a subtle difference, think of like a slightly different color shade. To me, neck woods matter more. Ebony sounds brighter (sometimes harsh to my ears on electric), maybe a faster attack, and feels great, but I really like Braz as it is a bit warmer but has some leanings of the brightness from ebony. I don’t like Indian RW very much. Madagascar RW and Cocobolo boards sound better than Indian but less highs than Braz. These are all very slight differences though. Only maple board I have is on the Severn which is more of a super strat so it definitely sounds brighter with a much faster attack. African Blackwood might be one of the best, as it seems to bridge Braz and Ebony to my ears.

    For acoustic, it has to be ebony all the way. Articulation is just so much better. I wonder what a Pernie fretboard would do...
     
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  20. veinbuster

    veinbuster Freeze zone

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    I almost put a perny board on my last PS. As I was pondering how it would fit with the koa top, Paul Miles offered to cut a board off of the side of my top wood - that struck me is pretty cool, so that's what I went with.

    My acoustics are all ebony boards, though the Birds of a Feather has some koa on it.
     

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