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Are Ebony finger boards better?

March 24, 2017

 

Good tone is derived from combining different woods. We hang our fingerboards & body woods up and then tap them for resonance and pitch. Most small hand builders will at least attempt to marry the different quality woods together sometimes in thirds, fifths or in unison pitch to ensure the greatest sounds Possible. That being said, Whats the actual deal with Ebony as a quality wood.

 

There are two varieties used in fret-board construction; African and Asian. The Asian variety often features brown stripes that many players find ugly or distracting when they are looking for frets, which means that it’s the African alternative with its uniform black colour that is more commonly found on guitar fret-boards. Although many variations exist, ebony is generally the darkest fret-board wood you will find on most guitars.

 

A few years back i never thought to ask myself why ebony was often seen on higher end guitars or whether it made a difference to the overall sound for that matter. We ask ourselves; what makes ebony finger boards special? Is it really the best wood to use for fingerboards? and does Ebony really favor the Guitars overall sweet voice.

 

 

 

Traditionally Ebony has been a popular fret-board tone wood choice for years. Luthiers stand by the fact that Ebony is a very dense and heavy hardwood. It differs to Maple in that is has a higher natural oil content, and this means that it can be left unfinished. This seems to be an appealing trait to many players who tend to refer to it as playing ‘fast’ because of it’s natural hard, smooth, and ‘unsticky’ feel. It also wears very well and will hold up to years of playing, more so than some of the less dense options available like Rosewood. 

 

Funnily enough, the question in matter seems to be highly discussed. Its apparent when searching the web and scanning through forum's that purists favor Ebony fretboards. Whilst's others see no plausible benefit other then its rarity and pleasing aesthetics. Those in favor would have you believe that Ebony is known for its clear, crisp attack which is often even brighter than maple. While ebony and maple are famed for their brighter, crisper tones, rosewood is known for its rich, warm tones with less high end attack. Rosewood fret-boards are generally favored by players who are looking for a warm sound, or by those who wish to tame the harsh highs on a bright sounding guitar.

 

So, are ebony finger boards better? Personally I don't think that any one wood is better than any other (assuming they're all fit to be used). While there may well be a contribution to the sound of the guitar, I think the looks and feel also seem to play a vital role.If the tonal difference is unapparent to your ears then go with whichever you find either the most aesthetically pleasing, or which feels the best to you.  Besides, most of your tone comes from the fingers right? 

 

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