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Fingerboard Dilemma


stewblack

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Speaking to those of you similarly afflicted. To the 'I don't care either way' contingent please chip in if it gives you joy - I don't want anyone to feel left out.

I don't like those aneamic, yellow fingerboards. I don't like how they look (like someone forgot to finish making the guitar) and I've never liked playing basses that have them. Or at least, not for long.

No. It doesn't make sense to me either. I can only assume there are others who will feel the same about all the dark timbered fretboards out there, and good for you, we are no different, not really.

To the nub. If you suffer thus, can you ever love a bass with the wrong coloured board? I ask because I suffer GAS for a particular species of instrument and I only ever seem to see it for sale with the wrong colour glued to the neck. I'm not so flush I can fling the readies about willy nilly trying this and that. In any case I'm the absolute worst Del Boy ever there was. I never make my money back if I buy then resell.

Have you ever discovered the love that dare not speak its name? Is it possible?

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For years I was a rosewood man, never even considered instruments with maple. Then in my last band we started playing brightly - sometimes too brightly - lit stages and I found it difficult to see where I was on rosewood boards, so switched to maple. Made the seeing bit much easier, and I found that there wasn’t really that much difference in either the feel or the sound. At home I could detect a slight snappier response but in the mix not a chance. 

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In general almost all my basses are dark wood - I would say rosewood, but some are panga panga, and one is ebony, but they are all basically dark, the darker the better (although probably not ebony any more), however, some basses / guitars just look better with maple fingerboards. I have a hankering for a buttercream jazz player bass (I have no idea why, it has 4 strings, I will play it twice and put it on a shelf never to be played again), but that would look bad with rosewood. I think for fender style instrument, once they reach a certain level of critical lightness, maple works.

Oh I had a Squier CV precision that was maple but one of the really yellow ones, and I absolutely loved the colouring of that, it had a lovely neck.

I guess what I am saying is some colour combinations just work.

 

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I'm fine with either rosewood or maple, but the slightly orange pau ferro board was the biggest factor in me not buying a Jazzmaster guitar last year.

I wasn't sure I could live with it and there were indications at the time that the relaxation in CITES rules might mean that Fender will be going back to rosewood in the nearish future, so I decided to wait.

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As a founder member of the CESP GB club (Cloth-Eared, Shallow Philistine's GB) when it comes to boards I can't hear much of a difference when playing in the pub with the band so I buy most on the overall aesthetic. 

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22 minutes ago, ead said:

As a founder member of the CESP GB club (Cloth-Eared, Shallow Philistine's GB) when it comes to boards I can't hear much of a difference when playing in the pub with the band so I buy most on the overall aesthetic. 

Oh I don't consider any sound difference, but some colours work!

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9 hours ago, Lozz196 said:

At home I could detect a slight snappier response but in the mix not a chance. 

Bit of an aside, but you've summarised my bass tone journey in a nutshell! 

I really enjoy and appreciate nuances of bass tone at home. In a band mix they're lost. Then put on decent ear protection on top and, as you rightly say, "not a chance" except for stuff that is pretty in your face (eg dirt, filter, synth). 

So it then boils down to what @chris_b and others have been banging on about for years - being a really good bass player is much much more in the fingers and technique than in the gear your using.

So I've concluded: more time at the fretboard and less time fretting about gear!

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I'm with you on this one, Stew - every few years, i have a sudden urge to buy a bass with a maple fingerboard, but I never keep them long, whereas the rosewood Precision and Jazz I have had for several years and simply won't be going anywhere until I have to stop playing (through age, infirmity, death, etc.).

Te mystery is why it took me 40 years to realise that I turned around maple boards so much quicker than anything else. It's not the feel, my fingers don't touch the board, its not the sound - I'll be damned if I can really hear a difference  between different woods, so it must be the appearance, as you say, anaemic. 

My first quality bass was a Fender Precision, white and maple - my dream bass back then - but I never bonded with it, just something cold and impersonal about it - and all the maple boarded basses I've had since. I think I have finally got the message, so will try not to buy another one!

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Just now, Woodinblack said:

Good hack, now hand the keyboard back to Al, you are not fooling anyone!

Hahaha! I'll have you know I'm 7 weeks into a gear detox regime and it's been very cathartic! And even managed to outlast far worthier musos than myself on the GAC 2020 such as the noble (but somewhat profligate) @FinnDave 😁

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1 minute ago, Al Krow said:

Hahaha! I'll have you know I'm 7 weeks into a gear detox regime and it's been very cathartic! And even managed to outlast far worthier musos than myself on the GAC 2020 such as the noble (but somewhat profligate) @FinnDave 😁

I'll accept profligate but don't think I'd qualify for 'noble'!

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To me the fretboard is an integral part of the overal "sound" of the bass. My Elrick has a Maple (birdseye) board, and it is right for the bass as it gives a little extra bite. My G&L SB-2 has a Rosewood board which is perfect for it, perfectly balanced old school PJ sound. 

But to be frank my fingers/technique have a bigger impact on my tone than anything else. I have a a "bright touch", whatever board I have on the bass.

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I've had rosewood, pau ferro, ebony (fretless), phenolic (fretless) and maple. The maple was a MIA Fender Jazz which I bought in a long between band period... I sold it on before it was ever gigged. Must have been aesthetic, but I never really liked the maple (seemed a good idea at the time). Aged maple boards look quite cool, but I can't wait that long and I'm not into relics.

I found the pau ferro rather dry and (dare I say it) gritty feeling. But I gave it a good going over, rolling the edges, smoothing fret ends and polishing frets. I overdid the lemon oiling but polished it up well and 0000 wire-wooled it. Now it feels great and looks darker. It's also more figured than rosewood.

Never really noticed any huge difference in tone... certainly not when gigging or rehearsing. 

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Birdseye maple or ebony for me. The only bass I have which isn't either is a BB414, which had a rosewood board. Past tense - a slathering of some nice Ebony wood dye, and and it's now dark enough that I can look at it without curling a lip.

Can't be doing with brown boards of any ilk...

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I've only ever owned rosewood and maple boards so can't really comment on pau ferro or Indian laurel. However, I've played a couple of the latter and the dryness does put me off. I know I could lemon oil them, but there's a certain thing getting in the way, namely I can't be arsed. So, if i was buying a modern Fender, I'd probably only look at maple boards and use the tone control to get a deeper sound 😊

I think it mostly comes down to aesthetic for me - a maple boarded Ric or T'bird just looks weird to me, but i do love my maple precision!

 

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I was looking at that .... telebass on the trade sites but my thoughts ... hrmmm its not Maple , i'd not really get on with it.

I seem to be the odd man out here ... I love me a maple board ... not one of those horrible satin things ....a good honest to goodness Nitro Lacquer .
Its a tone thing for me ... i have two excellent jazzes and its always the maple i go for its brighter and more adaptable as i can turn the town down to find my mud
but not get the bite back when im playing somthing that needs it.

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I think I was always a maple board kinda guy, didn't matter what the bass was, as long as it was a maple board. I liked the brightness and anything dirty rosewood coloured wouldn't get a second look. However after 30 odd years playing all the basses I love have rosewood/ebony boards and will always be the ones that go to gigs/get noodled on at home. I have a couple of home built maple P basses that I like as I built them but no doubt if I need to sell they'll be first on the chopping block. So the darker the board the better for me now!

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Fingerboards? Whatever suits the look of the bass. 

On the whole I prefer dark coloured fingerboards, but I wouldn't say no to a light coloured one if it looked right.

I'm still to be convinced that the fingerboard wood itself makes any consistently noticeable contribution to the sound of the instrument.

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