Exotic wood especially rosewood and ebony plays a very important role on the impact of overall tone produced. Sometimes we end up focusing more on the composition of wood on the body and ignore the aspect of fingerboard which is also equally important. I am not really an expert in this field but my knowledge is from different luthiers I talk to and info they share with me.
Like I said though fingerboard do not play a bigger role in the sound of your guitar it certainly is factor you have to take into consideration. And not just in terms of tone produced – the fingerboard will also affect the feel of your guitar whilst playing, as well as changing its beauty. So it’s important to select the choice that’s appropriate for you……
Although there are varying types of woods used as guitar fretboards you are most likely going to find one of two main species on the majority of guitars: Ebony, and Rosewood. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of each one to help you decide which is the best for you…
Ebony is known for its clear and crisp attack. It has oilier pores and more brittle grains. Due to the very tight grains in the wood, ebony does not require a finish and this gives the fingerboard a very slick, fast playing quality which many players favor.
Although many variations exist, ebony is generally the darkest fretboard wood you will find on most guitars, making it very popular on guitars designed for heavier music where everything must be black! Although rosewood can also be dyed to give a darker finish it is easy to spot the difference between the two woods due to the size of the grain which is much larger on the rosewood.
I did have some customers who bought ebony get mad at me! They tell me that when they planed their ebony they found some streaks of yellow on it and it was not completely black. I told them to just dry it out with a fan for two or three weeks. Offcource they wrote me back saying they are really sorry but my ebony all turned jet black. I know how it would be frustrating for any customer to come across this issue especially if you end up buying 10 fretboards from me. I am so glad they didn’t live in the same town I did bcos I would be dead before I can explain it to them. Pls don’t go blazing guns if you find anything wrong give time to seller to explain and resolve your issue as with any supplier all are prone to make some mistakes sometime especially if they are over loaded with orders. Dang I am slipping away from my topic let me get back to it……
Ebony fretboards are generally favoured by guitarists who prefer a very bright, razor sharp top end or a very tight, well-defined low end.
Variations : Indian ebony, Gaboon Ebony, Macassar Ebony
Rosewood is the most common fretboard wood that you are likely to find on a guitar. It is a naturally oily wood which results in a richer fundamental tone due to the unwanted overtones being absorbed into the oily pores. The oily nature of rosewood also means that it does not require a finish which many players prefer due to the naturally slick feel.
While ebony are famed for their brighter, crisper tones, rosewood is known for its rich, warm tones with less high end attack.Rosewood fretboards are generally favored by players who are looking for a warm sound, or by those who wish to tame the harsh highs on a bright sounding guitar.
Variations : Indian Rosewood, Brazilian Rosewood
I Can’t Tell The Difference!
If the tonal difference is unapparent to your ears then go with whichever you find either the most aesthetically pleasing, or which feels the best to you.