PDA

View Full Version : Fingerboard selection: Brazilian rosewood vs ebony


Tone Gopher
03-29-2010, 03:31 PM
I've played nothing but ebony fingerboards for the last several decades.

I have a build coming up in November and among the various options are fingerboard material - BR or ebony.

Are there any particular attributes associated with BR fingerboards?

How do the following characteristics compare: Feel, mass, durability???

The body is to be koa with a BR-bound spruce top. I'm contemplating going all BR for head plate, fingerboard, and bridge (natural, unstained).

Thanks.

OC1
03-29-2010, 03:39 PM
Rosewood is cheaper. I think you would need to stretch your ears 20 miles in order to hear any difference between ebony and rosewood fingerboard (or any other fingerboard wood). On bridges this is bit different. Classical players prefer rosewood bridge over ebony as they feel ebony dampen the sound.

My own guitars I made are all ebony, but the ones I bought factory previously are rosewood, obviously as a saving measure. They all play and feel fine. If you like the look of rosewood on that guitar - no harm done in my opinion but then again you simply cannot go wrong with nice clean ebony.

Tone Gopher
03-29-2010, 04:32 PM
Rosewood is cheaper. I think you would need to stretch your ears 20 miles in order to hear any difference between ebony and rosewood fingerboard (or any other fingerboard wood). On bridges this is bit different. Classical players prefer rosewood bridge over ebony as they feel ebony dampen the sound.

My own guitars I made are all ebony, but the ones I bought factory previously are rosewood, obviously as a saving measure. They all play and feel fine. If you like the look of rosewood on that guitar - no harm done in my opinion but then again you simply cannot go wrong with nice clean ebony.

Thanks for the response. Is Brazilian rosewood cheaper than ebony? I didn't know that was the case.

This builder uses Brazilian rosewood exclusively for his bridges - dyed or natural.

I have seen more cracks in Brazilian rosewood guitars than Indian rosewood, hence I wonder about stability. I also don't know whether there is a tangible difference in mass that would affect the physical balance of the guitar (a jumbo).

Larry Pattis
03-29-2010, 04:41 PM
Thanks for the response. Is Brazilian rosewood cheaper than ebony? I didn't know that was the case.

This builder uses Brazilian rosewood exclusively for his bridges - dyed or natural.

I have seen more cracks in Brazilian rosewood guitars than Indian rosewood, hence I wonder about stability. I also don't know whether there is a tangible difference in mass that would affect the physical balance of the guitar (a jumbo).

No, George...you're correct, the Brazilian is the highest priced.

I'm more of an ebony fingerboard guy (stained black, if need be), and I don't know what I would do, stain-wise, if I went with a Braz. 'board. I don't think it will make any difference, tonally, so IMO the choice would be all about the look of the Brazilian board, and whether you want that look, or not.

I would for sure do Braz. on the bridge, and leave it natural...

Long813
03-29-2010, 06:02 PM
What or how does the bridge wood affect the tone? Is it just acting as a transference medium?

Martin_Nut
03-29-2010, 06:10 PM
I personally find Braz or MadRose fretboard / bridge more visually appealing these days. I doubt tonally you'd be able to tell the difference. The choice of materials is key to that piece, of course.

K III
03-29-2010, 07:06 PM
I like ebony fretboards better because they don't change color. Since there is no paint on the fretboard, I found that all rosewood fingerboards tend to become lighter in color, which I don't like. You also see a considerable difference where you have your fingers more, which is not beautiful, unless you play every fret on every string with the same frequence and intensity.

Luca Canteri
03-30-2010, 02:49 AM
for what it may concern fingerboard BRW - MRW or ebony I think it's a matter of tastes... about the bridge, well, I think it's a bit different. Try to grab an ebony bridge and then a Rosewood one... it's lighter... yes it is. I think in the overall dynamics of the top vibrating surface, a rosewood bridge is preferable.
Also I think a MRW veneer/ebony fingerboard/MRW bridge would be a really good looking solution.
Just my thoughts;), but I think I'll do this way for my next guitars.

nottypine
03-30-2010, 05:26 AM
I love the look of Brazilian. Can't say I hear the difference in tone. What I am hearing a lot though is you may have trouble taking it out or back in the country if brazilian is used. Just a thought. I'd just stay home with the brazilian.

DonW
03-30-2010, 06:23 AM
More than just trouble, if you take it across boarders and it is recognized as Brazilian Rosewood and can be confiscated. Then you're in for a battle to prove that the BRW was pre-CITES wood. So say good-by to your beloved instrument.

nacluth
03-30-2010, 09:59 AM
The real difference (besides obviously the visual one) is that ebony typically holds up to the oils in your finger over time better. Rosewood fb's seem to rut out a little faster than ebony boards, but realistically we're talking a lot of playing over many years. The fb's I see doing repair that have substantial ruts are typically 20+ yrs. old. I wouldn't let that change your mind, and I think sonically it's a wash. A stronger neck gives the best sound, I think, but rarely do I think the fb contributes.

I would side on the Rosewood bridge more often than not though.

cpabolting
03-30-2010, 10:47 AM
Ebony for color and longevity

Tone Gopher
03-30-2010, 10:56 AM
I'm more of an ebony fingerboard guy (stained black, if need be), and I don't know what I would do, stain-wise, if I went with a Braz. 'board. I don't think it will make any difference, tonally, so IMO the choice would be all about the look of the Brazilian board, and whether you want that look, or not.

I would for sure do Braz. on the bridge, and leave it natural...

Thanks to all for sharing your perspectives.

I was thinking that it would be interesting to have the minimum number of woods in this guitar - spruce, koa, and Brazilian rosewood (including all trim). I used to be a strict minimalist - no fingerboard inlays - until I got spoiled by a lil' Gallagher with a shiny ring around the sound hole. The guitar after that one also had a paua sound hole inlay (well, actually two since it has two sound holes) so that'll be the uniting feature of my guitars.

I don't know whether it is good or bad to have so much time before my build comes up. I'm hoping to settle on most of the details soon so I can forget about it for a while.

All the best to everyone!

songsender
03-30-2010, 12:32 PM
TG,

Something not mentioned about bridges is that they can be dyed. I am in the process of building a guitar with an Ebony fingerboard - but I want a lighter bridge on the guitar - I took one of East Indian Rosewood I had on hand and have dyed it black to match the ebony.

Most Ebony I'm ordering now has some significant grain to it - so for this guitar I also dyed the fingerboard.

They both match very nicely.

You get the best of both worlds this way.

Brackett Instruments
03-30-2010, 01:21 PM
The fingerboard won't affect the tone. Ebony makes great fingerboards because it needs little on no dye, it wears well, and it holds frets really good. I'm usually not a fan of Ebony bridges. I guess an Ebony bridge could tame a guitar somewhat that's too.....wild. Ebony is really heavy, and it's got alot of internal damping. (or dampening, I keep getting those words confused). My "normal" bridge/fingerboard combination is an Ebony fingerboard with a Braz bridge that's dyed black. This is a Braz bridge dyed black.
http://brackettinstruments.com/5-PRW.JPG

Bananafist
05-03-2010, 12:25 PM
I like ebony fingerboards over and above brazilian rosewood because, to me, it has more bounce and better feel. The guitars I had with rosewood boards (all brazilian from a time when availability wasn't a consideration,) have all moved on. If you sweat at all when playing, ebony doesn't absorb it like rosewood, and discolour.
;)

Tone Gopher
05-03-2010, 12:47 PM
Thanks for keeping this thread alive.

I just found this at Dana Bourgeois' (aka Pantheon) website:

http://www.pantheonguitars.com/tonewoods.htm

"Fretboard materials also exert an influence on overall tone, although they probably act more as icing on the cake than as a layer of the cake itself. Brazilian rosewood fretboards and their denser rainforrest counterparts add sparkle and ring, and Indian rosewood fretboards can help fatten up the midrange. Wenge, a dense, dark-colored African hardwood unrelated to the rosewoods, has tonal properties remarkably similar to those of Brazilian rosewood."

"Ebony, the traditional fingerboard material found on violins, classical guitars, and high-end steel strings, has the lowest velocity of sound of all the woods commonly used in lutherie and has definite damping characteristics..."

mutley2209
05-03-2010, 01:25 PM
i prefer an Ebony fretboard, my Avalon has a bound ebony fret board that plays great and the binding goves it a great look ;)

Bruce Sexauer
05-03-2010, 01:47 PM
Ebony out wears BRW by a factor of three, holds frets better, and inlays invisibly. But it is very compelling visually, and has a tradition to uphold. I currently charge a Franklin for it over my standard Ebony.

OC1
05-05-2010, 09:48 PM
Sorry about the price confusion, I didn't noticed the "Brasilian" in the Rosewood question.
Many high production factories these days use East Indian Rosewood for fingerboards becaus it is cheaper and plentiful than a good looking ebony.

Obviously they don't and can't use Brasilian Rosewood as any new stock is prohibited to use. I don't even keep thinking about brazilian rosewood anymore as I have no desire to hunt for old stock or to break law chasing illegaly imported new stock. For some reason, the punishment for brasilian rosewood is higher than trafficking drugs.
If you build from BR, the customer won't be able to travel with the guitar across borders, it will be likely confiscated, unless you provide him certificate it is not BR but EIR.

In any case I would prefer Ebony fingerboard to rosewood (brasilian or not) and rosewood bridge.