Fretboard Material

Can anyone give me the finer points about fretboard material? How does the type of wood used affect the tone, playability, etc. of the instrument? As I drool over websites offering basses, I wonder what the difference in fretboard makes overall.


Good question! I’ve often wondered that myself.


I’m not good enough to physically notice much difference between woods at the moment. My preference is based purely on aesthetics.
I do know that as certain species of trees become harder to harvest and stocks deplete we are/will see a change in the materials being used particularly in lower budget basses.


sound-wise, maple and ebony sound clearer than rosewood. rosewood is warmer but also softer. ebony is closer to maple than to rosewood, sound- and feeling-wise.

overall it’s still a relatively small difference, if all the other parameters are identical except the fretboard wood, you will notice maybe 1% difference , it won’t change everything at all. a P with maple or rosewood fretboard always sounds like a P.


I was reading up on roasted maple necks last night as I do like the look of these and the makers claim a better tone but as @terb has said it doesn’t sound like it is a massive difference.


roasted maple makes more sense for an entire neck than for a fretboard only, in my opinion. not sure you will gain a lot on the tone, but the wood will be more stable and that’s a good thing already.


I agree with @terb here the difference is very minimal it is more about personal tastes. Me personally on all of my guitars I preferred maple necks and fretboards. I like a satin finish mainly because painted necks to me are not as easy to move up and down the neck. I usually treat my necks with lemon oil and then over the years they age and get that very nostalgic look to them.


My personal preference is Rosewood over Maple (I don’t have any Ebony fretboards in my house) - but tonally they’re only a very little bit different (to my ear, at least). I think it’s mostly driven by the whole package, anyway.

I have one Bass and one Guitar that has a Maple neck/fretboard and the major difference is that it’s sealed, as opposed to the Rosewood fretboards. So there’s a longer-term maintenance / upkeep thing you eventually need to worry about with each of the types that’s slightly different.

The sealed Maple is actually terribly easy to care for. Usually just a wiper cloth does the trick. For the others I’ve taken to the lighter fluid technique of care…and if it’s really crusty (which I try not to let happen anymore), Simple Green. Then you can, of course, have discussionments over whether to use Linseed Oil or not, then if it should be boiled or not…that’s a whole other can of worms :slight_smile:

For playability, they’re very similar, so it’s kind of a wash, I think.

But for sheer appearance, I love how the Rosewood looks, especially after a good cleaning.


A big Thank You to everyone. It sounds like a purely aesthetic choice for the fretboard so I shouldn’t worry much about it when it comes to tone. Thanks again to everyone!