Guitar: Maple Vs. Rosewood Fingerboards

Fingerboards are also called fretboards.

The type of wood used for a fingerboard affects the tone quality of the guitar. Wood choice largely depend on the personal preference of the guitarist. Guitarists choose woods based on appearance, texture, resilience and sound. Fingerboards have a lesser impact on the sound than the main body. This makes the choice of which wood to use mainly an aesthetic choice. Choose a fingerboard based on how comfortable it is to play. Guitarists may prefer the stickier texture of maple or the slick texture of rosewood.


Fingerboard woods create specific timbres, the sound quality of an instrument. Clean sounds are characterized by tones that eliminate a lot of distortion and extra frequencies. Penetrating sounds have the ability to cut through the ensemble. Bright sounds are light and airy while dark sounds are thick and dense. Maple fingerboards have a narrow and focused sound with good penetration. Rosewood fingerboards reduce brightness. Unwanted, extraneous frequencies are absorbed, resulting in a focused sound. Rosewood provides a warm and soft sound, and less brilliance than maple.


Maple fingerboards have a lightly tanned color that must be cleaned regularly, to prevent the oils from your hands showing on the wood. Variations of maple include flamed, quilted, birds-eye and hard maple. Each variation describes a particular pattern that naturally appears in the wood. Birds-eye maple has small, oval-shaped grooves. Flamed maple has wavy lines. Quilted maple has ripples in the wood. Hard maple is flat and smooth. Rosewood maple has a rich, red color and comes in both Indian and Brazilian styles. Indian rosewood consists of dark striations throughout. Brazilian rosewood consists of smooth and even swirls in the wood.


Maple and rosewood fingerboards are both hard woods that create a strong fingerboard. This strength makes these woods capable of easily withstanding the tension of the strings. Maple is a medium hardwood with evenly spaced pores. Maple from the Eastern United States has a harder texture than maple from the Western United States. Rosewood is harder than maple and, as it is derived from tropical trees, has a very dense, thick texture. Rosewood is very stable and resists deterioration well. Both kinds of wood are resilient and provide the guitarist with years of use.


The texture is an important consideration when choosing a fingerboard wood. Maple requires a finish to protect the wood from deterioration. Glossy finishes have a sticky feel that gives the fingerboard a less virtuoso feel since the fingers don't glide smoothly. Satin finishes are possible with maple, and help to maintain an even and smooth feel. Rosewood does not require a finish, which makes the wood supple to the touch and smoother.


Ebony is another option to consider if you want a dark fingerboard with a clean, penetrating and bright sound. The added advantage of ebony is that, aesthetically, it is a dark wood suitable for a completely black guitar. Ebony provides a clean attack that is even brighter than maple. The wood feels very slick and enables the guitarist to quickly move across the fingerboard. The slickness comes from the fact that ebony is a small, grained wood with smaller pores than maple or rosewood.


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