Maple vs Rosewood Fretboard - Please Explain

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by Komodo, Mar 15, 2019.

  1. Komodo

    Komodo TDPRI Member

    Mar 14, 2019
    Some people say that a maple fretboard will sound 'brighter' and that a rosewood fretboard will sound 'warmer'. Some people don't believe these people.

    My question is: how would the different material actually affect the sound that comes out of my speaker? And what physical property of these woods would make them sound this way?

    For the record, I have teles with both maple and rosewood fretboards, and they sound very different to me! Of course, the fact that one has a set of Toneriders and the other has Piledrivers MAY have some effect on this... ;)

    Attached Files:

    Greggorios and rich815 like this.
  2. Old Deaf Roadie

    Old Deaf Roadie Tele-Holic

    Oct 11, 2017
    My opinion, and it is strictly an opinion, is that you will feel the difference in the woods before you hear it in the speakers, as in the feel you get when you bend strings. I can feel the grain of the rosewood in a bend, but not maple. I believe that pickups, hardware, and body density have more of an impact on the final sound from the speakers than the fretboard material. I have followed these beliefs in the construction of my own instruments with good end results. This is just my own experience & philosophy.
  3. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Meister

    Sep 4, 2018
    Erie, CO
    I’m a skeptic, but if somebody swears they hear a difference then more power to them.
    DonM likes this.
  4. supersoldier71

    supersoldier71 Tele-Holic

    Nov 22, 2009
    Fayetteville, NC
    I'm with you.

    I think that every element has an effect, but not every effect is quantifiable. And given the uniqueness of every piece of wood, sometimes, those effects aren't even predictable.

    My two favorite guitars, ATM: one is maple, one is rosewood.

    Sonically, it doesn't matter. I do prefer rosewood on PRS and Gibsons, maple on Fenders, but that has nothing to do with how they sound.
    dlaroe, Old Deaf Roadie and howardlo like this.
  5. AAT65

    AAT65 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    May 29, 2016
    West Lothian, Scotland
    This is just the whole tonewood argument. Either the physical properties of the thing to which the strings are attached has an effect on the vibration of the strings relative to the pickup, or it doesn’t.
    If it does, the effect might be noticeable & reproducible, or it might not be.
    Any observations based on a handful of guitars is just anecdotal, not evidential.

    In other words — we just don’t know. So if you have the energy to get into the arguments then go for it — if not, just chill out and play whatever guitars you like. That’s my position on it!
    Greggorios and rich815 like this.
  6. 8barlouie

    8barlouie Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

    May 9, 2015
    Seekonk, MA
    I don’t understand why people need validation for what they already have heard and played and seen. First thing with me is looks. If a guitar looks good, I’m going to pick it up. After that it’s all up to sound and feel. It’s best to evaluate each guitar individually regardless of what you have heard should be the result.
  7. ReverendRevolver

    ReverendRevolver Tele-Holic

    Feb 2, 2019
    Ohio (Nerk)
    I'm in the same camp, the fretboard is look and feel. I can have someone record and prove using quantitative figures and graphs that humbuckers zound different than single coils, a LP sounds different than a mustang with humbuckers, and that a tube amp registers differently than ss(the last one a friend of mine did about 15 years ago to settle a bet).

    But until you get someone willing to sit blindfolded in a room where someone is switching between guitars plugged into that amp in another room and can consistently tell me what the fretboard is made out of, I'm unconvinced.
    Even body wood sounds different with enough age in it, or so I'm told. Never been able to afford an experiment to disprove.

    I can say that the argument is based on how vibrations resonate, and that the neck and body mathematically make up more of the equation with that argument, so ash v. Alder is probably more relevant than maple v. Rosewood.
    Also, hardware, pickups, strings, how many winds are on the tuning peg, cable(material and length), pedals (even with true bypass capacitance isincreased) amp, tube, speakers, and properly grounded electrical system in the place you plug in all impact the end result more than fingerboard material.
    I don't know that the human lifespan is long enough to properly keep up with and be omniscient about every one of those variables in every combination.

    Play what looks and feels good. Maple looks dirty faster than rosewood, but rosewood feels dirty when the grime accumulates. Ebony... I only have one, and I play it less than the others, so cant comment.
    RadioFM74 likes this.
  8. bblumentritt

    bblumentritt Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

    Dec 3, 2012
    Austin, Texas
    I prefer rosewood. I like the way it feels better than the maple. I like the way it sounds.

    When I play on a Tele with a one piece maple neck, they always seem to sound snappier... twangier.


    I don't know. I do know that a neck resonates a whole lot more than the body does. When you play a Telecaster unplugged, it's loudest at the peghead.
    DHart likes this.
  9. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

    May 14, 2008
    Marion, NC
    IMHO, I believe that the different neck woods have ALL to do with aesthetics, feel, durability and playability - and NOTHING to do with tone.
    Doctorx33, Ben-Zion and howardlo like this.
  10. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !

    Most often the wood test goes "I have two identical guitars except for fretboard wood" ... and I'm sure you've heard people recommend to 'run the racks' when buying a new guitar -- and that's because there is so much variation in the exact same model with the exact same features that you need to experience the unique guitar you are buying. That is due to variation in the other parts assumed to be the same.

    Measure the volume pot actual kohms on your comparison guitars ... you'll find a lot of variation there -- factory specification of 20% range max to min is possible. Caps have 10% range. Pickups have some variation that is so wide, none even get a tolerance spec range while some don't even give a target just relying on an unlabeled chart to show relative output characteristics of their range of pickup builds. If the thickness of one neck was 20% more than the other neck then could that be an issue? I expect there would be some wood trouble if other parts of a guitar were able to float around targets by 20%. But those pots/etc are assumed 'identical' for most test comparisons.

    Now, even if you/they believe in a tone difference caused by the wood -- are you/they able to play above it or in spite of having either species on your/their guitar? I find it surprising when a famous pro player who supports environmental causes, runs with the politics of avoiding global warming, and then comes out with a signature guitar festooned with rain forest lumber. Why is that? Are they so poor of players they can't overcome the nuances of the wood? I expect a true pro player can, and should, be able to play responsibly. It's only the hacks that need Rosewood and Ebony to get by. At least that is what runs through my thoughts whenever I see a pro babbling on about their latest new guitar acquisition. Mere mortals might need help, if they believe in magic wood.

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  11. viking

    viking Friend of Leo's

    Jan 23, 2007
    I think the difference between pots have a lot to do with the "Certain pickups works better in some guitars " , that , and actual installed height.
    Body wood/fretboard material , I really dont know......Im not saying that people are crazy for hearing/feeling things I dont , but Im not hearing it , but I also dont expect to notice a difference.
    Tone wood , primary tone , everything matters are words/statements you often hear on the internet.
    I cant hear a difference between maple or rosewood , brass or steel saddles , rosewood and ebony......But as said , I also dont expect much of a change , and hardly ever play amplified at home.......Maybe thats why I cant even hear the difference between aluminum tailpieces and zinck ones on Les Pauls.
    If it matters to others , and they hear it , fine ! Just dont state it as fact on the internet.
    In general , I grab a guitar , tweak a few knobs and go.....
  12. john_cribbin

    john_cribbin Tele-Afflicted

    Nov 26, 2014
    Ones light, ones dark. Anything else is subjective.
    stratoman1, ronzhd and Ben-Zion like this.
  13. Hendrixlvr

    Hendrixlvr Tele-Holic

    Mar 9, 2014
    Mississauga, Ontario Canada
    Try a blindfold test so you’re not listening with your eyes
  14. bftfender

    bftfender Friend of Leo's

    Dec 21, 2017
    York PA
    i am waaayyy opposite,,it has to sound right & play right..after all, it is for making music
    Ignatius and nojazzhere like this.
  15. SamIV

    SamIV Tele-Holic

    May 14, 2011
    South Louisiana
    I prefer the feel of rosewood, but maple is ok as long as the finish is light. Lots of poly is a turn off to me. Just doesn’t feel right. Don’t know about any sonic difference. Play what feels better to you.

    I have guitars that have bodies made of some kind of Canadian basswood, mahogany , maple, and others. I pretty much sound the same whatever I play. Another import that says made of hardwood. Play what feels right.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
    Macrogats likes this.
  16. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    I'm buying a baritone neck, and for the base price I have the choice of maple or rosewood fretboard; I'll be getting rosewood, strictly for the look. (If I wasn't trying to stick to a budget, I'd get ebony, for an extra $90.00)

    For other guitars I might choose maple, again for the look, it depends on the particular guitar.

    In the case of fretboard material, I think whatever makes you feel good about it is the way to go. :D
    Macrogats likes this.
  17. LutherBurger

    LutherBurger Friend of Leo's

    Oct 29, 2013
    Child or troll?
    Tommy Biggs likes this.
  18. fender4life

    fender4life Friend of Leo's

    Sep 18, 2011
    los angeles
    They sound very different. IMO The neck itself is the #1 biggest difference in a fender and the FB wood is huge in that equation. Anyone who disbelieves that is doubting John Suhr because thats what he says too. The fact is, some people just dont hear a lot of things, ot just this. Part of that is experience. When i started playing in the early 70s i couldn't tell the difference between any 2 fenders regardless of woods or models or anything. I arely heard the difference between a gibson and fender ! In time your ear becomes more and more sensitive to it Also it takes a LOT of experimentation, especially where you have the scenario of "all is being equal". In other words, you cannot listed to a few rosewood models and maple and be sure of what u r hearing. The best way is to put different necks on the same guitar, but necks of the same type, IE: 2 fender vintage RI necks on the same guitar, one maple board one RW. If you just experience mape and rosewood boards without that type of scenario you will still come to hear the difference in time over the course of many years and many fenders, but swapping necks will really ake it obvious much quicker.

    So thats why theres so much confusion and conflict on the subject. As far as tone, those who hear it may not all hear it the same, or even if they do thier descriptions may be very different partially because theres probably more of a language barrier between payers trying to put tone into words as there is between different languages. In any case mine is as follows. I hear maple as being tighter in the low end, especially with OD. In fact maple sounds tighter overall while rosewood has a looseness in the tone. Rosewood also has more balanced mids and highs and seem to have more complex harmonics, something that seems more and more obvious the cleaner the tone gets. Maple seems to have a dip in the mids and sound sorta scooped compared to RW. Some will disagree with me even if they hear the same thing because my words are what i choose to describe it but may not be the right words to someone else. In any case that's how i hear it. IMO RW has a more versitile sound and it's my fav. But i love both and lately have ignored my one last RW fender (strat) for my maple neck strat and tele. Just in that mood lately and i DO love both. But if i have to have just one electric i'd choose RW. Also i find the amount of RW matters. Some RW boards, especially those on some more modern necks sound very different. The seem to lose lows and end up having a lot of highs and high mids making for a much thinner sound. I stay away from those like the plague after too many experiences like that with them. Of course ALL of this is generalities and there are exceptions to every rule, especially when dealing with wood which can vary a lot from one piece of the same species to the next. Some will say i have a RW board like that and mine isn't all highs and high mids, but if it's a stock model maybe the manufacturer made up for that in other ways...pickups, hardware, body wood, etc etc. But put that neck on another strat and maybe now you will hear it. See all the possible things that can cause such differing opinions? You could write a book on it. But it all leads to huge differing opinions in threads lie this. Otherwise i think we'd be much more unanimous in out opinions on this.

    SPUDCASTER Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Sep 7, 2010
    Grangeville, Idaho
    Type of frets may contribute to how much your fingers come in contact with the fretboard.

    I've played vintage frets for years. Recently, past 3-4 years I've acquired two Tele's. One with tall narrow and one with medium jumbo.

    My touch had to lighten up due to the taller frets. Intonation reasons I guess. Had to relax the "Kung Fu Grip".:D

    With a lighter touch should mean less contact with the fretboard surface. Maybe, I could be wrong too. o_O

    I'm not sure I hear any difference in tone between the maple and rosewood. If we're talking strictly Tele.

    I will go along with the feel aspect being a possible factor. Especially with the vintage frets.
    NewKid and Greggorios like this.
  20. GGardner

    GGardner Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 22, 2017
    I frankly don't know if there is any sonic difference. I prefer rosewood for aesthetic reasons.
    notmyusualuserid likes this.
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