Fretboards are key to the guitar. Besides, the choice of a fretboard has an impact on the overall tone of the instrument. Also, the fretboard plays an important role in the aesthetics and feel of the guitar. Guitarists are often torn between the two main types of the fretboard; maple and rosewood.
Although most beginners don’t bother about their tonewoods, it’s an important decision for veteran players. If you’d have to choose one of both options, then you must know their pros and cons. In this article, we’ll compare and contrast the maple and rosewood fretboard.
What is a Fretboard?
The fretboard on a guitar or any other musical instrument, such as a ukulele or banjo, is the fingerboard. It has a series of 6 to 12 strings connected to it. Different types of sounds are produced when different combinations of chords are squeezed together strongly. This also requires strumming the strings underneath at the same time.
Besides, there are different types of fretboards for guitars and other musical instruments. They also come in a variety of sizes and materials. The sound of the instruments is influenced by the material used to construct the fretboard.
This is a result of the density of the wood used in making the fretboard. Essentially, the sound produced will be louder and more vibrant as the wood density increases.
Why Is It Important to Choose the Right Fretboard?
Without a doubt, different wood types of the fretboard produce different tones on your guitar. Not only does the fretboard impact your sound, but it also affects the look and playability of the guitar.
Moreover, different types of players have different choices of the fretboard. So, you must tailor your choice of fretboard to your musical style and needs.
In addition, expert players who have used different types of fretboard can easily tell apart one type from the other. This is because each type of fretboard has its unique look and feel.
- How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard
- What is The World’s Best-selling Musical Instrument
- Best Equalizer Settings for Bass
- What Is a Refrain in Music
- What Instrument Should I Play
- Jazz Music Instruments
- What Is Treble in Music
- Guitar Fetish Review
- How to Clean Guitar Fretboard
- Overtones Music
- What is a Bar in Music
- Marcato Music Definition
- Frank Sinatra Genre
Maple is a rich, strong tonewood with a bright, sharp sound. They give precise, articulate notes with good bite and a tight low end on a guitar fretboard. Maple fingerboards are often used with maple necks and brighter body tonewoods such as alder. Besides, they are two methods of making maple fretboards.
The first is the one-piece maple neck. With the truss rod placed through a channel at the back of the neck, the fingerboard is built with the same piece of wood as the neck.
This is a famous Fender design that can be found on guitars such as the Stratocaster and Telecaster, as well as basses such as the Precision and Jazz. Of course, many guitar producers today use this method to construct necks and fretboards. They give the fretboard a firm, smooth feel.
While in the second method, a maple fretboard is glued to a neck which can be made from any type of tonewoods, including maple. One advantage is that you are not restricted to a maple neck.
For example, you may think a mahogany neck would be a great blend with a maple fretboard and have the combo. To get this type of maple fretboard, you may have to contact a custom guitar builder.
Pros of Maple Fretboard
Here are the advantages of the maple fretboard over the other types:
- Maple fretboard enables fast action.
- Easy to maintain and care for.
- It has a hard feel.
- The slick feel makes it easy to play at a fast tempo.
- Maple fretboard produces bright and percussive sounds.
Cons of Maple Fretboard
The drawbacks of maple fretboard are:
- Bending notes is difficult because of the finish.
- When the finish wears, the woods may absorb dirt and oils.
- Price variation between hard maple and silver maple fretboards.
Rosewood has a sweet, warm tone. It’s the most used material for fretboards. When compared to maple, the difference is clear. The rosewood fretboard softens the sound, even in guitars with maple necks. One of the reasons why some guitarists choose Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters with rosewood fretboards is because of this.
Besides, rosewood softens the harshness of a bright guitar. A lot of guitarists like this, but of course, this is where your taste comes in. Maple is too harsh for some players, who prefer the warmth of rosewood.
Others may prefer maple for its bite and percussive qualities. It’s also vital to keep in mind that different fretboards are better for different types of music. Each wood’s tonal properties make it more suited to different music genres.
Pros of Rosewood Fretboard
Here are the advantages of the rosewood fretboard over the other types:
- It provides an excellent bite for easy string control.
- Stunning color and feel.
- Easy to maintain and care for.
- Great for string bending, perfect for blues music.
Cons of Rosewood Fretboard
The drawbacks of maple fretboard are:
- Some species of a rosewood like Brazilian and Honduras rosewood are endangered. Hence, they’re not mostly available.
- It’s difficult to tell when the rosewood fretboard is not clean. Therefore, it’s hard to determine when to clean the fretboard more thoroughly.
Maple Vs Rosewood Fretboard
For you to know exactly what fretboard material to choose, here’s how the maple and rosewood fretboards compare with each other. These two materials will be compared based on the most important qualities of a fretboard as follows:
The playability of a fretboard is a function of its feel when playing it. That is if it’s comfortable to move up and down the fretboard, then it’s playable. The playability of the maple fretboard depends on the finish.
It can be either be sticky or smooth. Most will prefer it to be smooth, which will make it easier to play the guitar. A quick solution for a sticky fretboard is to add sand to the surface.
On the other hand, rosewood fretboards can be difficult to play, especially as they get older. The rosewood fretboard can become dry due to frequent use.
Furthermore, because it is hardwood, you may feel the need to press harder. As a result, you may find it quite uncomfortable. It may also contain minor potholes, making it more difficult to play.
While it may not be noticeable, the construction of a guitar depends on the material of its fretboard. Typically, for a maple fretboard, the construction is one-piece. This means that you’ll also find the same material, maple, in the guitar’s neck.
However, for a rosewood fretboard, the neck of the guitar can be made of a variety of materials, including maple and ebony. That is, rosewood is glued to another wood rather than having a one-piece body of the same material.
The overall tone of both materials is one of their main differences. Maple is dense and hardwood. It provides a brighter sound with more overtones due to tighter grains and pores.
This is why you’ll be able to play simple and articulate notes with ease on a maple fretboard. In comparison to a guitar with a rosewood fretboard, it is snappier and brighter.
Meanwhile, on a rosewood fretboard, the tone will most likely be warm and pleasant. It will soften the sound produced by the guitar, especially if it has a rosewood neck. Moreover, it has a deeper fundamental tone because it is naturally oily wood. The greasy pores absorb the undesirable tones
The texture of the fretboard varies as a result of the different finishes. The way the material feels while playing is also due to its nature. Rosewood fretboards are oily by nature. Some users find them to be rather slippery, but with enough practice, you will become accustomed to their feel.
As for maple, the texture and feel largely depend on the finish. It will be smooth if it has a lacquer finish, for example. A satin finish will have the same effect. A matte finish is recommended if you want the fretboard to be a little rougher.
Aside from the material, the finish on the fretboard can have a variety of appearances. Lacquer is the most frequent finish for maple. It’s typically sprayed to create a gleaming, transparent protective layer.
The satin finish is another popular choice, as it has a natural texture and is easy to work with. Matte, gunstock, and gloss are some of the other maple fretboard finishes available.
Whereas, if you choose a guitar with a rosewood fretboard, you may expect a glossy, opaque finish. It nicely matches the dark color of the wood, bringing forth its unique qualities.
Both the maple and rosewood fretboards have different types. Now, let’s look at the different types of these fretboard materials.
For maple fretboard, there are two types:
- Silver Maple
This is an excellent material to use if you’re seeking something cheaper. It is less expensive since it is more readily available. This material is used in many guitars made in China and Indonesia.
- Hard Maple
In comparison to silver maple, the hard maple is a heavier and more durable material. It’s also more pricey, therefore it’s not suitable for those on a tight budget. Fender and Paul Reed Smith are two brands that use it more often.
While for the rosewood fretboard, there are three types:
- Indian Rosewood
This is a popular choice of material for a fretboard since it is one of the most musically rich tonewoods. The material produces deep tones and sparkling treble notes. Besides, it comes from East India, as the name implies. In addition, it’s known for being affordable, making it a popular choice for budget guitars.
- Brazilian Rosewood
This high-end material is an excellent alternative if you don’t mind spending extra. Because it is an endangered tree, it is difficult to come by, which contributes to its high price. It is a rich, deep color material that will draw attention to your instrument.
- Honduran Rosewood
While it isn’t as popular as the other two, it’s a great fretboard material. The color is close to the Brazilian rosewood. It is endangered as well, but not to the same degree as the former.
The fretboard material is important to how it looks. Besides, it’s very easy to distinguish rosewood from maple. While the specific appearance will change on the different types, such as Indian, Brazilian, or Honduran, rosewood is often dark caramel brown. However, lighter tones are also available. Furthermore, the material appears to be grainy.
A maple fretboard, on the other hand, has a bright appearance and a creamy color. It easily shows signs of aging over time thereby giving the guitar more character. Also, it differs from rosewood in appearance due to the presence of light-colored and fine grain lines or pores.
8. Care and Maintenance
Both maple and rosewood fretboards require proper care and maintenance. Rosewood requires more effort to clean and maintain due to its open grain and irregular surface. Dirt and dust can build up on the surface, damaging the quality over time.
Maple fretboard has a light cream color that darkens with age. When compared to rosewood, the marks of wear and tear are more obvious. However, it will take several years for this to become visible, especially if you get a quality guitar.
How Do I Care for My Guitar’s Fretboard?
Are you confused about how to care for your guitar’s fretboard? Here are a few steps to take:
- First, remove the string of your guitar. This ensures access to the fretboard and makes it easy to clean it.
- Next, clean the fretboard with alcohol wipes.
- Use steel wool to remove hard or stubborn dirt. Note: only use on a rosewood fretboard as it can damage a maple fretboard.
- Then, to restore the fretboard’s appearance and functioning, condition it with lemon oil.
- You may need to reapply and wait overnight for the oil to settle on the wood, depending on the degree of the dirt.
- Lastly, reattach the strings after the guitar is clean and dry.
Why Do Guitar Players Use a Capo?
Guitarists use capos to play in a different key. This is done by increasing the pitch of the instrument, which is achieved by applying pressure on the guitar’s neck with the capo.
What Are the Functions of Frets on a Guitar?
The fact that each note is considerably more firm is one of the key reasons for frets on guitars. In comparison, the notes on a violin are much more fluid. Furthermore, chords would be nearly impossible to play without a fret securing each note!
So, which is better, maple vs rosewood fretboard? Now, you can determine that. When you want to decide on the type of fretboard for your next guitar, you need to keep in mind the essential features – sound, texture, finish, look, feel, care, and maintenance of the fretboard material.
On a last note, your choice of fretboard must be in tandem with the sound you’re looking to create.