Differing fretboard materials

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by Marshall Boogie, Oct 17, 2020.

  1. Marshall Boogie

    Marshall Boogie Well-Known Member

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    Is it just me or are there quite a few guitar players asserting that there is no difference between the differing fretboards. I have been on other forums where there is always some guy that says "I work in a guitar store and play thousands of guitars and I can tell you there is absolutely no difference between the differing fretboards". Let me tell you , nothing could be further from the truth, there is a distinct difference between Rosewood and Maple. There is also a difference between Maple and Ebony, although they are more alike than Rosewood. The one guitar I have not played yet is a Gibson SG (Mahogany body, neck and Rosewood fretboard) (Closest thing I have is a Jackson with Rosewood fretboard), you SG guys, is there much difference between the Epi SG and a Gibson SG?
     
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  2. scozz

    scozz Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Well to me there's a big difference in feel, but I've only played one or two Epi SGs. I recall the Epis having more of a neck dive issue than the Gibsons. Sound wise pretty similar, quality?,.....Who knows!
     
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  3. SkyMonkey

    SkyMonkey Well-Known Member

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    I can (maybe) tell the difference acoustically (in a guitar shop).
    But once I'm plugged in the tiniest tweak of the amp EQ obliterates any difference.
    That said, I have 4 electrics, 3 rosewood and 1 ebony.
    Never really gone for maple fretboards on 6-strings (the feel).
    Only my bass is solid maple.
    So that's apples to oranges.
    I have to go to my LGS to do a real comparison on their guitars.
     
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2020
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  4. axe4me

    axe4me Well-Known Member

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    I've found that there are a world of differences in grading woods.

    There are levels of quality in every grade of wood.

    Baked maple; Obeche; Pau Ferro; Swamp Ash and other types are substitutes that companies use as alternates.

    Cost and availability are the reasons.

    Sometimes I can tell the difference.

    Sometimes (seems like more often) I say WTF is this?

    Reconditioned wood from old furniture or old building materials are a treasure.

    I've heard that discarded swamp drenched telephone poles are being used.

    Bowling ball material is being used.:rolleyes:

    Wood from pallets is being used.:lol:

    Supplies are getting more scarce; getting more and more expensive and harder to get.

    Keep using that inferior wood and companies will continue to use that crap.

    Don't respond to the crap and lesser quality will continue and you'll pay more for much less.

    The large instrument companies love when you buy this garbage.

    It keeps them afloat.

    Recondition those old Stella or Harmony guitars and you may find a good piece of wood.

    Small luthiers seem to build superior instruments.

    The resale is crap but, if you keep that small builder guitar, you'll have a special instrument.

    The rosewood fretboard on my '56 & '62 Gibson LP Jr is a God send.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020
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  5. ido1957

    ido1957 Active Member

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    Ebony, maple and rosewood. I have all 3 types and TBH it's the neck profile that is noticeable. And the difference is short lived once I get the feel for the neck back under control.
    It's 99% personal preference.
     
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  6. Matthews Guitars

    Matthews Guitars Well-Known Member

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    Being a guitar builder, there is certainly a difference. First, I absolutely HATE maple fingerboards. Especially if they have a finish on them. (Clear glossy finish.) I don't like a finish on ANY fingerboard, actually. Bare and lightly oiled every now and then is good.

    I have used Brazilian Rosewood, Indian Rosewood, Ebony, and African Blackwood fingerboards in my builds. Of all of them, African Blackwood is my hands down favorite, followed by Ebony. They're tonally very similar and add clarity to the tone. The Rosewoods are also very similar and add upper midrange bite. I'm not saying I'd be able to pick which is which by sound quality alone.
     
  7. SLICKFASTER

    SLICKFASTER Member

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    What’s left of any quality wood should be saved for pro line guitars and not 3rd tear entry level ..the likes and level of Squires n Epi should get the non traditional materials....
     
  8. Marshall Boogie

    Marshall Boogie Well-Known Member

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    I find maple and ebony brighter and rosewood really resonant, the harmonics bounce off of maple and ebony while rosewood soaks em in. It really is a feel thing, because through pickups most of the differences go away. But every guitar is a resonant creature to some extent, and that resonance gives them their unique character and sound (and while most differences go away when amped, they don't all go away, and the results tend to be cumulative, so each type really does have a unique sound when looked at as a whole.) Thanks for the input on the Gibson/Epi thing, neck dive is certainly an issue I do not want to deal with, there is usually some thing that makes Epi less desirable (certainly not price, they got that going on)
     
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  9. axe4me

    axe4me Well-Known Member

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    Aside from the crap that the big companies put on their instruments, I use my fingers and slide them across the low E and high E strings to see if there are sharp fret ends.

    I do this on the nut too.

    This, along with the fret board quality is essential for me.
     
  10. Marshall Boogie

    Marshall Boogie Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, how well a fret board has been filed is a sign of quality (I really just pick em for looks). I actually do my own setup, filing included, but it can be daunting to think about filing your frets and messing up, if you have never used a file before (it was required in my family when I was growing up, to know how to use tools).
     
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  11. ampeq

    ampeq Well-Known Member

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    Brazilian Rosewood & ebony are my favorite, don't care for maple much. As another has said the grade of the wood makes a big difference too. There is nothing wrong with maple as a fret board material, for me I think it is more the finish on the wood I don't care for than anything. Dark woods are open and feel more natural, maple usually gets a clear coat and feels more un-natural. They also ruin the looks of some guitars for me, but thats my hang up. Open woods just feel smooth and evert less, like the Wenge neck and Macassar Ebony fingerboard on my Strat. I'v always liked ebony best but I just got a very nice guitar with Br. rosewood and wow.... how sweet it is.
     
  12. Marshall Boogie

    Marshall Boogie Well-Known Member

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    Rosewood has a nice resonant quality to it. I find that maple and ebony are bright and bouncy because they reflect the sound back towards the strings(to me they feel similar). I think rosewood has a tendency to absorb sound and resonate with it (I have a Jackson and the neck, where the pocket for the truss rod is, sounds downright acoustic with the rosewood over it and the maple bouncing the sound around inside it). Gives that guitar a really nice mid-range that my others do not have and a really resonant low end. (most guitar cork sniffers would hammer me for loving that Jackson(DKMG), especially with a scarf joint in the neck, but I literally picked that guitar out of the inventory of an entire music store just for the way it felt in my hands).
     
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  13. What?

    What? Well-Known Member

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    I used to hate maple fretboards too. Then I got older and learned to like them. Now they are just different than rosewood. Every strat or tele I have played with a maple board sounds a little more rounded off, where rosewood sounds a little edgier. It's not a giant difference, but it is enough to take notice of. And yea, heavy finishes on maple can get super sticky with sweating hands. I can't say that I like that. And some of them with lighter finishes feel like playing on cardboard. But if the finish is ok, I think maple is just as cool as rosewood, only different.
     
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  14. Maggot Brain

    Maggot Brain Well-Known Member

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    As said before, I think it's more of a feel than anything else.

    I read a lot of guys swearing they can pick the difference out by ear but idk... Feel like with pickups, cable variance, amp, volume, eq... I feel there is too much going on to pick out a nuance such as that.

    Personally I prefer the look and feel of rosewood hands down. The finish on a maple just feels weird to me but I do think some finishes and guitar models look better with maple.
     
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  15. Jethro Rocker

    Jethro Rocker Well-Known Member Silver Supporting Member

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    I like finished maple boards. Partly because my first guitar has a maple board and I spent many hours over years with that. I like the feel.
    Tonally? I grab a guitar, an amp, set it how I like it and play. The subtle nuances don't mean anything to me. It will sound slightly different of course based on the amp I choose
     
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  16. Lo-Tek

    Lo-Tek Well-Known Member

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    I agree with those that feel it's a minimal tone difference. Not to mention even guitars with the same specs usually sound different anyway.
    I've got all three and can appreciate them all- both for look and feel. Sometimes the more tactical quality of rosewood is nice but other times the super smooth feel of ebony or maple is good too. Then again one of my rosewood guitars is a much tighter grain than the others; it's almost like ebony in feel. Idk, I guess I'm just easy to please.

    Threads like these make me glad I grew up before the internet and internet opinions though. I just wouldn't want to be limited by tone-wood dogma that seems so common on the net. Tons of the world's best guitarists have toured and recorded with maple neck guitars. I read Eddie's original Frankenstrat was Northern ash with a maple neck- hardly a cork sniffer's dream.
     
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  17. Headache

    Headache Well-Known Member

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    My humble 2 cents worth:
    Of the dozens of guitars I've owned over the years, I can tell you that the very best sounding guitars (to my ears) have the same 2 traits:
    1. String through body. 2. Ebony board.

    I would rank second place sounding guitars as having neck thru and a solid tail with ebony boards.

    Aesthetically, I like the looks of dark ebony better.

    As far as playability goes? I don't have a preference at all, I like em all fine. No hate or dislike for maple or rosewood.
     
  18. Nitrobattery

    Nitrobattery Well-Known Member

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    There's definitely a difference. Anyone who has done semi-pro or pro recording will agree. What can seem like a minimal difference in a big room with sounding bouncing off the walls, becomes a pretty big difference when you're sitting in a control room and hearing things isolated.
     

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