Still Got Wood? - Fretboard Wood Part 6

Tony Pasko, who is Rock House's gear Guru has been putting together some cool articles about woods and tones the past few months. To catch up on all of Tony's articles go to www.rockhousemethod.com and hit the GEAR411 button. 


Let’s continue our discussion and pick-up where we left off. The type of wood used for the fretboard is very important; how the strings respond to the density of the wood directly determines the type of tone you are going to get from the neck. This is a very important piece of the tone formula, so let’s talk about the most popular three: Maple, Rosewood and Ebony.

Let’s start with Maple:

Maple (Acer saccharum-Hard Maple)
Maple is a very hard, heavy and dense wood. The grain is closed and the tone is very bright with long sustain and a lot of bite.

Birdseye Maple (Acer saccharum-Hard Maple)
This figure is only found in the eastern hard maple trees.
Maple necks are brighter in sound and give you a tighter, snappier tone. Maple is great for long bends and has a harsher attack. If you’re into shredding, a maple neck doesn’t hide any flubs or mistakes.

Let’s move on to Rosewood:

Rosewood (Dalbergia baroni)
The tone is warmer than maple; the highs are dampened somewhat by the oily nature of the wood.

Brazilian Rosewood (Dalbergia nigra)
This is beautiful wood with a wide range of colors and grain patterns.

Rosewood is softer than maple and gives you more midrange. The attack is softer but the bass response is more pronounced. If you’re into shredding, rosewood is perfect for sweep-picking, the notes just ring out beautifully and the added mids cuts through a mix faster.

Last but not least Ebony:

Ebony (Dispyrus melanoxylon)
Very hard, smooth and fast feeling, it has a bright, long sustaining tone. Chocolate brown or dark gray streaks are not uncommon.

Ebony is probably my favorite type of wood for a fretboard. It really combines all the elements of maple and rosewood, but adds a smooth even harmonic structure to your guitar, all the strings seem to have punch, but not thin. The mids are there, and the bass response is tight like a maple, but more pronounced like rosewood.

Like I always say: Play everything and really know what to listening for, because the thing you thought you would never like, just might be the thing that you need to achieve the tone of your dreams.

To finish up this subject let’s move on to truss rods.

Wood necks are not sufficiently strong to withstand the constant tension of the strings and to counter the tension, reinforcement devices have been developed. This device not only strengthens the neck but is also adjustable. Because of the engineered shape or design, these devices are called truss rods.

The vintage truss rod consists of a single rod inset into a concave trench below the fingerboard. It is anchored to the neck at both ends. This is the rod used by both Fender and Gibson.

The second design is a double rod, either made from two pieces welded together or a folded single piece. This rod is laid in a straight trench below the fingerboard and is not anchored to the neck. This rod is used by Rickenbacker guitars.

A third design is a variation of the vintage single rod which is adjustable in two directions. This rod is used by Music Man and Peavey.

Which design is the right design for you? This is a personal choice with no wrong answer. To replicate a vintage tone, only the vintage rod will do. For stability and sustain, only the double rod delivers.

The vintage truss rod is a single rod typically 3/16" in diameter and threaded 10-32. One end is a fixed anchor. The other end is an adjustable anchor. The key to the function of this rod is the concave slot or trench in which it is installed. Tightening the adjusting nut causes the rod to straighten thereby exerting upward pressure in the middle of the arc. 
Benefits of the vintage truss rod
·        Light weight-minimum mass
·        unique tone-replicates vintage tone
·        inexpensive to manufacture
·        least torque required for adjustment
·        requires frequent adjustments with seasonal humidity changes
·        compression of the wood lengthwise causes eventual wood distortions (lumps and bumps in the fretboard)

The double rod is installed directly under the fretboard in a straight trench approximately 3/8" deep. A long adjusting nut is used to focus the truss action away from the unmovable heel joint. The force exerted by the tail end of the double rod is considerable. There must be a minimum 1/8" of wood below the rod end to prevent wood failure in this area. This becomes a concern only when thinning a neck beyond factory engineered dimensions.

Benefits of the double expanding truss rod
·        Extremely stable, no seasonal adjustments are necessary
·        Increased mass = longer sustain, cleaner and clearer notes
·        No end to end wood compression to eventually distort the neck
·        Double the weight of vintage rod
·        More torque required for adjustment
·        More expensive to manufacture

As always check out: www.warmoth.com for any addirional information.

In the month of July I’ll be attending the summer NAMM show in Nashville TN. If you are in the area, please stop by the “Worlds Largest Pedalboard” charity event, I’ll be there performing and hosting the Gear 411 Live…. I’ll post the charity information as I receive it.


Tony J. Pasko

©2009 Tony Pasko & Fred Russell Publishing, All Rights Reserved. This article can not be used without permission from the Author. To Contact the Author email curt@RockHouseMethod.com


Stratoblogster said...

Nice post Tony!

freddy1955 said...

This is a really nice post. Personally, I love the sound and feel of an ebony fretboard.

I did a post a while back about fretboard radius. You can see it here.