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View Full Version : rosewood vs ebony fretboard - differences


The_Rev
04-01-2008, 03:41 PM
Wondering what the difference is between an ebony fretboard and a brazilian rosewood fretboard besides cosmetics. Is there any difference in feel, playability or tone? Thanks for the help.
Shalom!

PWoolson
04-01-2008, 03:53 PM
Some of my clients claim that there is a difference in feel. Though in theory, you shouldn't be touching the fingerboard itself, just make the string make contact with the fret. Though I think in reality most of us, especially me, tend to push the string into the board much harder than it needs to be. For this reason, I prefer to use ebony simply because it wears better. If you look at an old rosewood fingerboard, you'll find that it has shiny spots on the 1-4 frets (the money making frets).
As far as playability goes, I don't see them as being much different. Technically, the ebony board is heavier which can ad to the sustain of the guitar. But I've built rosewood boarded guitars that had 18 second sustain so I really don't think it makes much difference in that department.
I'm not sure how helpful that answer was. But it's all I have to offer.
Best, Paul

charlie45
04-01-2008, 04:05 PM
Two guitars, same brand, same model except for laminated sides and rosewood fretboard versus solid sides and ebony board :

I had the impression that ebony gives more high frequencies.

Or was I dreaming?

Diamondave
04-01-2008, 04:10 PM
I own 6 or so guitars with rosewood fretboards and bridges and feel that there is a bit more buttery warmth.....

banpreso
04-01-2008, 04:11 PM
a guy i met i the guitar store (:rolleyes: ok i know) told me that he bends the string a lot on his guitars, and over many guitars, his rosewood fretboards all got chewed up by his fingernails pretty badly, while his ebony boards are all in good shape

on a side note, how do you measure sustain?

rroodd
04-01-2008, 04:15 PM
To me, Ebony just seems to give me a slightly 'smoother' feel to the hand/fingers, if that makes sense...especially for string bending, etc.

A lot of older guitars i've seen with Rosewood fingerboards, do certainly develop more 'hollows' in the bottom fret areas than Ebony boards, I think mainly because some Rosewoods have a much coarser grain, and hence aren't as dense as Ebony boards.

And from a cosmetic angle, i just loove the look of a pitch black ebony fingerboard......

Rod

Freeman
04-01-2008, 04:21 PM
on a side note, how do you measure sustain?


What I have done is load a clip into Audacity and look at the length of time for a note to die out. This has been very effective with my string and pin test (you can compare both volume and sustain). Of course I'm doing this on one git so every other variable is held constant - something you can't say about comparing two guitars.

The only other thing I'll add to the ebony vs rose discussion is that as a very limited builder I am hearing that getting consistantly good ebony is becoming harder - there is more color variations and some seems to chip pretty badly. As a result ebony seems to run about 50 percent higher at places like LMI.

Jim
04-01-2008, 04:30 PM
The average weight of ebony is in the range of 70 pounds per cubic foot. The average weight of Indian rosewood is in the range of 50 to 55 pounds per cubic foot. Ebony is a much denser and harder wood than rosewood and that means it gives you a much harder and more durable fretboard than rosewood. This is a very desireable trait in a fretboard. Ebony is more costly than rosewood and so an ebony fretboard is typically going to be found on more expensive acoustic guitars while rosewood fretboards are going to be typically found on entry level acoustic guitars. The raw materials cost of a board big enough to make a fretboard is in the range of $30 for a decent ebony one (or higher for an exceptional quality one) and about $9 for a decent Indian rosewood one. In addition, the Ebony board will be harder to shape and so there are additional manufacturing costs to make a guitar with an ebony fretboard as well.

Bob Womack
04-01-2008, 04:31 PM
I have noticed that a brand new ebony board is often more "gritchy" feeling than a good rosewood one when you bend a string. They do eventually polish off through use.

Bob

Andromeda
04-01-2008, 04:36 PM
I'm just going by looks but I love the look of ebony on the fret board.

billgennaro
04-01-2008, 04:38 PM
I have noticed that a brand new ebony board is often more "gritchy" feeling than a good rosewood one when you bend a string. They do eventually polish off through use.

Bob

"gritchy"? funny thing is, i actually know what you are referring to.

maybe i need some time off! :D

bill

Brock Poling
04-01-2008, 07:54 PM
All things being equal I prefer brazilian rosewood... in fact I include the choice of a brazilian or ebony board with no upgrade.

I think the brazilian board gives a bit more sweetness to the sound, but it is hard to say for sure, since it might be the guitar talking and not the fretboard... but I can say that I generally prefer the sound of the guitars with the brazilian boards.

... but I might not be able to do this for much longer. Finding good brazilian stock is becoming next to impossible.

On the down side, wear on rosewood is a bit of an issue (although brazilian wears much better than indian rosewood) and it can occassionally have pores in it that are noticable (ebony doesn't have pores and feels "slicker")

Ebony stock will be around for quite a while, but if you are looking for the jet black stuff... well.... your standards are going to have to shift. It is getting really hard to find ultra black boards. Most have at least a little grey in them now. Macassar seems plentiful, but it is stripey with black and tan coloration.

The best of the best ebony is Madagascar Ebony and it is getting hard to get with any regularity, and when you can find it it is expensive.

ScottR
04-01-2008, 08:25 PM
Best of both worlds? This is the bookmatched brazilian fretboard with ebony binding on my new Maingard 000 http://gallery.mac.com/scottrandall#100222/IMG_1598

rroodd
04-02-2008, 03:39 AM
The Goodall 'Aloha' range is apparently using 'Pheasant Wood' for their fretboards.....anyone know if this is some type of Rosewood or something...?

It's their 'entry level' range, so i would assume it's a lower priced option than regular Indian Roswood.....

Rod

Hodges_Guitars
04-02-2008, 06:33 AM
The Goodall 'Aloha' range is apparently using 'Pheasant Wood' for their fretboards.....anyone know if this is some type of Rosewood or something...?

It's their 'entry level' range, so i would assume it's a lower priced option than regular Indian Roswood.....

Rod

I did some research on this and some are calling Koa "pheasant wood" while others are calling other woods by the same name. It is also known as "Partridge wood". Here is the definition from dictionary.com:

Partridge wood (a) A variegated wood, much esteemed for cabinetwork. It is obtained from tropical America, and one source of it is said to be the leguminous tree Andira inermis. Called also pheasant wood. (b) A name sometimes given to the dark-colored and striated wood of some kind of palm, which is used for walking sticks and umbrella handles.

My personal feelings on fingerboard wood is that I want all of the woods I use to have a good ring tone. Rosewood and ebony are both dense enough to have good ringtones and I agree with Brock that the Brazillian Rosewood fingerboards would most likely sound better than Indian rosewood because of it's more complex overtones and density.

There was an article published by StewMac in the last 6 months or so about this issue, and they even went so far as to reccomend that the frets be glued down with CA to insure that the fret to wood contact was maximized for better tone and volume. I might add that I dont reccommend that everyone go get a tube of superglue and glue down their frets. You can make an unrepairable mess in a hurry if you dont do it right.

12 string
04-02-2008, 07:16 AM
To me, there is a difference between rosewood and ebony. The best way I can describe it is to say that ebony is somehow "faster".

' Strang

uks4z
04-06-2008, 06:29 PM
I like ebony because, umm, I can see the strings better in low light. Does that count?

edman
04-06-2008, 06:40 PM
Ebony is harder and has a smooth, tight grain compared to rosewood. I like both.