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Fretboard Materials: A Quick Look
Posted by Drop-Tuning.com 10:37AM CST 8/28/17

In this brief read, we will cover the 3 most common types of wood used in the construction of guitar and bass fretboards. While many types of wood can be used, we will be covering rosewood, maple and ebony, as these are the 3 most commonly used. We will compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of each to hopefully shed some light on their differences.

There is no aspect of guitar theory, that isn't the subject of a least some debate and many argue that fretboard material offers no difference in sound or playability. None of the opinions in this article are concrete fact and instead attempt to reflect popular public opinion within the guitar community.


The most common is rosewood. Rosewoods are a mix of light and dark bown, and bear a very distinct look. Grown in many different countries, rosewood is fairly inexpensive to mass produce is very durable.

As a drawback however, some players say a rosewood fretboard will provide extra unwanted friction on your fingertips when bending strings, as it is a rather porous wood.

Extremely consistent and durable, rosewood sits on the lower end of the brightness spectrum, sounding less bright than maple, and often very similar to ebony. Rosewood has been, and will almost certainly continue to be, the go-to material for manufacturers looking to offer a quality playing experience at an affordable price. 
Often featuring a rosewood fretboard as seen here, the Gibson SG has been been played by pros such as Angus Young, Tony Iommi and many more. Available at SamAsh.com .


Next on our list is maple. Lighter in color than rosewood, maple can be a dark or light colored wood that provides a very springy sound. We've all seen a guitar that caught our attention because it had a beautiful light colored fretboard that stood out from the others. This is most often a white maple fretboard. 

Although beautiful, the veneer can eventually wear down from use, leaving a grayish area on the most commonly used parts of the fretboard, which can be unsightly. Maple is usually heralded as the most organic and lively sounding of the 3 woods. 

Despite being slightly more costly than rosewood to produce and maintain, this wood is often used on the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster, as well as a number of other iconic axes, and is super common on electric bass guitars.
Featuring a beautiful maple fretboard, the RG6PCMLTD seen here is part of the lineup that earned Ibanez it's reputation as a maker of legendary metal axes, check out the entire lineup at zZounds.com


Rounding out the top three, is ebony, a dark, heavy, and dense wood that is very responsive and bright for low tones. Because of this responsiveness, ebony is the go to wood for many extended range guitars, providing unmatched tone for the 7th, 8th, and even 9th strings.

Even more expensive to produce than maple, ebony is very durable and with proper care will last a lifetime. Ebony is often preferred by metal and hard rock players because of its heavy-yet-bright tone, and sleek, near black look.

The ebony fretboard on this Jackson Pro Soloist SL2Q is a perfect example of a typical metal guitar with an ebony fretboard. Check it out at zZounds.com

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