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View Full Version : Ebony vs. Rosewood for bridge and fretboard



Joyful Uke
07-14-2018, 08:54 AM
Comparing the specs on 2 ukuleles where I thought that the price difference was simply due to a little bling on one, I see that one has ebony bridge and fretboard and the other rosewood bridge and fretboard.

Would this make a difference in sound? If so, how noticeable, and what would the difference be? Both ukuleles are all koa top, back and sides, same size, same brand.

Croaky Keith
07-14-2018, 09:14 AM
Doubt that these would make any difference to the sound/tone as neither are in contact with the vibrating string, & I wouldn't think there would be any difference between bridge & soundboard as it would be glued solid to it.

(I'd likely go for the ebony. ;) )

Joyful Uke
07-14-2018, 09:16 AM
(I'd likely go for the ebony. ;) )

Just because you prefer the appearance? Or for some other reason?

bratsche
07-14-2018, 09:16 AM
Don't know about sound, but all else being equal, I'd pick ebony just for the looks alone. Why it's not used more on ukes is something I don't understand. Rosewood fretboards are just "meh" to me, and downright "yuck" if they're light-colored.

bratsche

Joyful Uke
07-14-2018, 09:21 AM
With the CITES restrictions on rosewood, I would think that use of some other wood is a good idea, but since I don't buy with a plan to later buy and ship overseas, that part isn't all that relevant to me.

IA agree about ebony vs. rosewood for appearance, but just wondered if there is any other reason to prefer one over the other. I'm guessing there could be a difference (slight as it might be) in sound, but really have no idea, so I thought I'd ask all you knowledgeable people. :-)

GASguy
07-14-2018, 04:53 PM
With steel string guitars there is some thought that Ebony gives a very slightly brighter response / attack and Rosewood gives a very slightly warmer response / attack; I am not sure about that, but I think it may be true.

I do prefer the look and the feel of an ebony board on a steel string guitar and on a uke as well.

Croaky Keith
07-14-2018, 09:25 PM
Just because you prefer the appearance? Or for some other reason?

Purely on looks. :)

kissing
07-14-2018, 11:31 PM
As others have stated, the fretboard wood probably doesn't make much difference in sound nor practicality.


That being said, I think that ebony is a bit harder than rosewood, in theory making it more resilient to wear and tear.
Can anyone confirm this?

Not that it makes a "practical" difference. I don't think hardly any of us would have played a ukulele so long and so much that the fretboard actually wears out. And by the time we do, it's probably worth getting a new uke, as that ukulele would have served a lifetime or two by then!

Swamp Yankee
07-16-2018, 02:31 AM
In all cases, I prefer ebony to rosewood. Appearance-wise, especially, but I also prefer the finer grain of ebony under my fretting fingers... each of which is a sentient being and all of which which unanimously agree that they, too, prefer ebony.

bsfloyd
07-16-2018, 03:15 AM
I like maple fretboards :)

But, in the ebony or rosewood comparison, I too prefer the look and feel of ebony.

hoosierhiver
07-16-2018, 05:32 AM
With the CITES restrictions on rosewood, I would think that use of some other wood is a good idea, but since I don't buy with a plan to later buy and ship overseas, that part isn't all that relevant to me.

IA agree about ebony vs. rosewood for appearance, but just wondered if there is any other reason to prefer one over the other. I'm guessing there could be a difference (slight as it might be) in sound, but really have no idea, so I thought I'd ask all you knowledgeable people. :-)

Ebony will be one of the next wood on the list. Some manufacturers are already using ovangkol instead of rosewood, if you've bought an imported ukulele in the past year, that "rosewood" fretboard might be ovangkol.

hoosierhiver
07-16-2018, 08:29 AM
Do you think all ebonies will be added or just specific ones (and if so, which)?

I would not be surprised if the 4 major species all ended up on the list.

pdxbmw
07-16-2018, 08:31 AM
Coming from the guitar world, ebony is known for more fundamental tones while rosewood adds more overtones. Density matters too. Classical guitar makers would use a ebony fretboard with a rosewood bridge as the lower weight of the bridge allows the top to vibrate more freely. I personally find rosewood to add sizzle. On ukuleles, I can't comment, but I would assume it follows the same path as guitars.

kissing
07-18-2018, 12:06 AM
Coming from the guitar world, ebony is known for more fundamental tones while rosewood adds more overtones. Density matters too. Classical guitar makers would use a ebony fretboard with a rosewood bridge as the lower weight of the bridge allows the top to vibrate more freely. I personally find rosewood to add sizzle. On ukuleles, I can't comment, but I would assume it follows the same path as guitars.

This is a somewhat debated topic in the guitar world.
The scientific minds tend to say that fretboard woods doesn't affect the tone, in both electric and acoustic guitars.

I'm inclined to lean towards the view that fretboard material has little or no effect on tone.
It's not very scientifically plausible, with the physics considered.

A more realistic explanation as to why guitar companies imply different woods on necks results in different tones, etc, is more to do with marketing and hype.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVmFlzksMCE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mVmFlzksMCE

(warning: some mature language)

Swamp Yankee
07-18-2018, 05:06 AM
Ahem, please re-read: "as the lower weight of the bridge..."

And at what point did he talk about fingerboard woods (or bridge woods) having no effect on tone? I personally don't believe the fingerboard wood matters much in terms of tone—not something I worried about or researched—but if you're going to cite a source in this fashion, it should at least be relevant. Maybe I missed his comment, buried amid his conspiracy theorist-style rhetoric.

Somewhere out on the internets, there's a heated discussion unfolding about the tonal differences between various materials used in the tuner knobs. :D

But seriously - when I can play identical make and model acoustic guitars and hear tonal differences, at some point I came to the conclusion that the variations inherent to having two different pieces of wood - even of the same species - can be enough to override a lot of the observations I've read about the tonal qualities of one species of wood VS another - and that's with the tops, backs and sides. I can only imagine the wood used for the fretboard and bridge is even less consequential.

I'm not saying the wood used to make the top, back and sides makes no difference, only that the rules of thumb we're used to about this and that tonewoods are broad generalizations and have to be taken with a grain of salt.

pdxbmw
07-18-2018, 06:17 AM
Somewhere out on the internets, there's a heated discussion unfolding about the tonal differences between various materials used in the tuner knobs. :D
.

Actually in some instances it will affect tone, mass that is. It really depends on the guitar and the overall weight. I have a particularly light and lightly braced Martin 000 from 1989 that had a set of 9oz grovers on it. I put on some Grover sta-tites (5.4oz) and the guitar immediately sounded airer, less bass than before. The guitar sounded way better, but it still felt like something was lacking. A few years later I swapped some old grovers from the 60's (7oz) and the guitar finally sounded how I wanted it to.

With regard to Uke's, it may be that the extra mass is negligible.

With regard to the video posted above, I prefer to get my information from luthiers with years and decades of experience.

I may be spoiled in the fact that I have a local wood store that has a section of wood devoted to luthiers and doing tap tone tests on 50 different finger boards does result in auditory differences.

Read through his thread and it will shed some insight on mass in guitars.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/umgf.com/viewtopic.php%3Ft%3D170716%26amp%3D1

Swamp Yankee
07-18-2018, 06:45 AM
I may be spoiled in the fact that I have a local wood store that has a section of wood devoted to luthiers and doing tap tone tests on 50 different finger boards does result in auditory differences.



I can scarcely imagine a controlled experiment that might conclusively demonstrate this as anything other than anecdotal - sorry.

hoosierhiver
07-18-2018, 08:03 AM
I've got to agree with Swamp Yankee, the number of variables in any given instrument makes it impossible to say it sounds a certain way because of just one contributing factor.

Joyful Uke
07-18-2018, 08:21 AM
I've got to agree with Swamp Yankee, the number of variables in any given instrument makes it impossible to say it sounds a certain way because of just one contributing factor.

If I'm playing them, that might be the one factor that does make them sound a certain way. I'm sure I can clear out a room quickly when I start to play. :-)

But, that is yet another variable in how an instrument will sound. The top players can probably coax a better sound out of any ukulele than I can.

I hadn't heard that ebony might next on the CITES list. Glad that I'm not a builder who has to keep those things in mind.

pdxbmw
07-18-2018, 09:12 AM
Try a Martin D-21 and a D-28. The only difference is ebony F&B vs rosewood.

bratsche
07-18-2018, 09:28 AM
I hadn't heard that ebony might next on the CITES list. Glad that I'm not a builder who has to keep those things in mind.

In that case, whatever will violin family luthiers use? I can't imagine having anything but ebony for fingerboards. :confused:

bratsche

Swamp Yankee
07-18-2018, 09:31 AM
Try a Martin D-21 and a D-28. The only difference is ebony F&B vs rosewood.

Better yet, try two Martin D-21s .. even with consecutive serial numbers. Chances are good they will have perceivable tonal differences.

Now do the same thing with two D-28s with consecutive serial numbers...again chances are good that they, too, will have perceivable tonal differences.

pdxbmw
07-18-2018, 10:13 AM
Better yet, try two Martin D-21s .. even with consecutive serial numbers. Chances are good they will have perceivable tonal differences.

Now do the same thing with two D-28s with consecutive serial numbers...again chances are good that they, too, will have perceivable tonal differences.

You are correct. What I feel is being ignored is the fact that fretboard and bridge material make a sonic difference which is different from two guitars with consecutive specs and serial numbers sounding different. Hell, the type of wood that an instrument is braced with will change the tone when all else is similar. Every instrument has its own voice, which is an amalgamation of all the parts. Again, when it comes to a small instrument like a uke, those differences in woods may not even be perceptible due to the small spectrum of frequencies that a uke produces. Regardless, it sounds as though you have no intention to hear another's opinion without a rebuttal, so I will step aside and go back to the guitar world. It might behoove you to read up the ideas behind wood by John Arnold, Howard Klepper, Jeffrey Elliot, Dana Boureqouis, Ervin Somogyi, Bruce Sexauer, Dick Boak, Ren Ferguson and countless other luthiers who have been building guitars and other stringed instruments.

Swamp Yankee
07-18-2018, 11:35 AM
Regardless, it sounds as though you have no intention to hear another's opinion without a rebuttal.

Nuh-uh!! ;)

kissing
07-18-2018, 07:24 PM
Try a Martin D-21 and a D-28. The only difference is ebony F&B vs rosewood.

The problem with this experiment is that even though you say "the only difference", unless you perfectly cloned the guitar atom for atom and only changed the fingerboard, there are too many other factors at play.

Even two guitars, a D-21 and another D-21, for example, would exhibit different tones due to the same tonewood samples being different to one another.

Also the specific setup of the individual instrument plays a bigger factor. The string action and angle at every little part of the instrument will vary from one to another, despite being built and setup by the same luthier.

And speaking of the physics, where exactly does fingerboard material play a role in the tone production? The strings vibrate atop the saddle and transfers this vibration to the top and sides. Some vibration is transferred to other parts too of course, like the neck and tuners - but not in any way that generates an audible difference to soundwaves that the overall instrument produces.

Even if it did (at some miniscule, quantum level), it wouldn't be the decisive factor in changing a guitar's overall tone that one fingerboard material gets associated with "bright" while another with "mellow" tones. It's a misconception that plays a big role in marketing.

Swamp Yankee
07-19-2018, 02:32 AM
The problem with this experiment is that even though you say "the only difference", unless you perfectly cloned the guitar atom for atom and only changed the fingerboard, there are too many other factors at play.


Even given the atom-by-atom cloning, there could still be marked differences if, for example, a fly flew into the cloning apparatus. Then, every time you played a Bb, you'd hear a buzzing noise followed by a tiny voice screaming, "Help me!!"

Joyful Uke
07-19-2018, 05:37 AM
Even given the atom-by-atom cloning, there could still be marked differences if, for example, a fly flew into the cloning apparatus. Then, every time you played a Bb, you'd hear a buzzing noise followed by a tiny voice screaming, "Help me!!"

I think I hear my ukulele screaming "help me!" every time I play it. :-)

kkimura
07-19-2018, 04:40 PM
I think I hear my ukulele screaming "help me!" every time I play it. :-)

For me it's usually a concerned listener.

BTW, great reference to "The Fly".

besley
07-19-2018, 04:58 PM
I'm surprised that more high end ukes don't come with Richlite fingerboards and bridges. They can be almost indistinguishable from ebony, look great, and last forever. Gibson even uses them on $6000 guitars (though I do have to admit that not everyone is happy about that).

Swamp Yankee
07-20-2018, 05:00 AM
I'm surprised that more high end ukes don't come with Richlite fingerboards and bridges. They can be almost indistinguishable from ebony, look great, and last forever. Gibson even uses them on $6000 guitars (though I do have to admit that not everyone is happy about that).

Cordoba is using a composite of some kind on some of their ukes. My 24T, for example, has this composite for bridge and fretboard. It quite dark and very much like wood in appearance....on close inspection, it appears to be made from thin strips of wood in a laminate. So far so good... it feels good under the fingers although it's not highly polished and I'm not sure it would even take a polish..

hoosierhiver
07-20-2018, 05:11 AM
In that case, whatever will violin family luthiers use? I can't imagine having anything but ebony for fingerboards. :confused:

bratsche

Being on the CITES list doesn't necessarily mean that wood is absolutely forbidden. Stockpiles of "pre-convention" wood can still be used as long as it is documented and other CITES wood can be used if it is from an approved and documented source. There are some exceptions to this, but in general that is how it works.

kkimura
07-20-2018, 08:31 AM
When you have to worry is when they attempt CPR.

Naw, they probably wouldn't. They might try to put me on the CITES list though. ;)

Seriously speaking, I believe our traditional tone woods, including neck, fret board and bridge woods, were easily available when they were first used. I'm sure other woods are out there now that regulations are forcing us to use different woods. And I'm also sure the debate over which is best for any particular purpose will continue.

B# or Bb