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#2948554 - 09/15/18 10:06 PM The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony, Maple, Pau Ferro
Mark Schmieder Offline
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I came upon this information semi-accidentally, as I've been struggling to identify the woods of some South American instruments I purchased (custom luthiers) that were labeled with wood names that don't show up in the wood database and in some cases don't translate either.

https://www.andertons.co.uk/fender-cites-rosewood-pau-ferro

I had noticed that lower-end models of Gibson (I think) and Fender (definitely) were using Pau Ferro fingerboards (aka Morado, Bolivian Ironwood, and many other names), and that higher-end models were more likely to use ebony now.

The article above, confirms what I thought: new CITES rules kicked in this year, and it is no longer economically sustainable for the companies to pay the associated fees and go through the complex applications and paperwork, to continue with Rosewood.

From my own point of view, this is welcome, as I don't like the feel of Rosewood anyway and much prefer both the feel an d the tone, as well as the grain and look, of Pau Ferro (and especially Ebony). Many here might be surprised that I especially dislike Brasilian Rosewood, as I find it too bright and hyper-focused.

Of course, for acoustic guitars, this also has an impact on side/back woods, but there I also rarely prefer Rosewood as it can develop too much bass buildup and boom -- especially in Dreadnought designs. I have a nice Eastman Rosewood Parlour and a Martin OM-28 in Rosewood, but I'm quite looking forward to the exploration of overlooked woods -- including ones that are domestic and plentiful.


Edited by Mark Schmieder (09/16/18 02:04 PM)
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#2948574 - 09/16/18 04:50 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
whitefang Offline
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I'm not well versed in most wood types. Especially in guitar applications.

I DO however, like the look of Mahogany in both guitar construction and furniture. And rosewood, used for the cabinet construction of BANG and OLUFSEN receivers and speakers up until the mid '80's had a real nice look to them.

As for guitar fretboards, I'd think any good looking( to taste) durable wood would suffice.
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#2948584 - 09/16/18 07:24 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: whitefang]
Larryz Offline
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I like ebony, maple and rosewood fretboards (in that order). I have never tried pau ferro but SRV liked it, so it must be good LOL! I have one rosewood fretboard on a Takamine parlor guitar that feels very nice. It's from Japan and different from most rosewoods I have ever tried. I'll take ebony every time if I have a choice... cool
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#2948590 - 09/16/18 08:51 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Larryz]
desertbluesman Offline
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I tried to sell my Faded SG on Craigslist, and they kept kicking my ad off the site because I detailed the SG as with an ebony fingerboard. Finally I took the word ebony off of the ad and consequently I sold the thing some months later. This is because ebony is an endangered wood so Craigslist would not let me advertise the guitar until I took the word ebony out of the title and out of the ad itself.

https://www.wood-database.com/wood-articles/ebony-dark-outlook-dark-woods/

Also Gibson had some problems some years back because of their acquisition and use of ebony. And we talked about that on this forum at that time.

My favorite fingerboard wood is ebony of course, but I can live with maple and rosewood which I have on my remaining guitars.
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#2948631 - 09/16/18 01:48 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: desertbluesman]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Ah yes, but the manufacturers have all agreed now that the wood is all that matters, not the colour, and that was the main reason that ebony had become scarce was that only the blackest heartwood was kept and the rest thrown out.

Also, there are several woods referred to as ebony, just as rosewood can mean many things (and mahogany as well). But I don't recall which specific ebony varieties are the ones still on (or recently added to) the CITES list.

Clarinets are made from grenadilla and sometimes mpingo, but often is referred to simply as blackwood or African Blackwood, and actually is a member of the rosewood (dalbergia) family anyway! Many mistake it for ebony, but they aren't in the same family.
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#2948634 - 09/16/18 01:50 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Gibson has updated their own wood database marketing spiel to help educate their customers during this rapid transition away from rosewood, which historically has been just about the only wood Gibson has offered (unlike other manufacturers who have had more of a balance of woods in their mix for fingerboard choices).

http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Gear-Tech/en-us/Know-Your-Fingerboards.aspx

It's funny how this is organized under the "lifestyles" section of their website, but didn't the company rebrand themselves this year as a "lifestyle" company instead of a "musical instrument" manufacturer? :-)
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#2948665 - 09/16/18 03:57 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
picker Offline
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I LOVE ebony fretboards. I like them better than pretty much any other. fretboard wood.
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#2948683 - 09/16/18 05:40 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: picker]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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I love Pau Ferro fretboards, myself!
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#2948712 - 09/16/18 11:23 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Caevan O'Shite]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Yeah, the big surprise is Pau Ferro, because I had read years ago that many people are allergic to it (specifically to the oils). Martin has been using it for years on their mid-priced guitars, under its Spanish colloquial name "Morado" ("Pau Ferro" is Portuguese for "Wood Iron" or rather "Ironwood" -- specifically in this case, Bolivian Ironwood).

I like it myself, as it is almost as hard and smooth as ebony. I like Maple on anything by Fender (including my Jazzmaster), bass-wise or guitar-wise, but I don't sweat hardly at all so don't have the issue many have with Maple.


Edited by Mark Schmieder (09/17/18 05:33 PM)
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#2948740 - 09/17/18 04:38 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
p90jr Offline
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I have Tele that I thought had an ebony fingerboard... black as the night, it is... but according to the Fender database info for that guitar based on the serial number it's actually rosewood.

I have no preference for fretboard wood other than visual based on matching the rest of the guitar in a pleasing way. I can't feel a difference and I certainly can't hear one (the string is sounding off the frets, not the fingerboard).

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#2948752 - 09/17/18 05:34 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Aha, try that on a Fretless Bass though. Woof, what a difference!
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#2948757 - 09/17/18 05:55 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
hurricane hugo Offline
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meh, give me synthetics.
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#2948759 - 09/17/18 05:55 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
p90jr Offline
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well, of course...

I've met guys who play fretless guitars and have fingerboards made out of glass.

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#2948792 - 09/17/18 08:23 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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WOW. The only fretless guitars, vs. basses, that I've played have been electric guitar-like versions of sitars and ouds. But they both had rosewood fingerboards.
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#2948811 - 09/18/18 01:13 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
skipclone 1 Offline
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There are objective differences in density among woods.
Ebony has been popular among hard rock machines like Ibanez and Charvel-
according to information and reviews, it gives notes better articulation. Synthetics are entirely inert-I have found them cold and unresponsive. Rosewood and maple are softer, I have always liked rosewood. But Brazil in particular has limited exports-last I heard there was only one company which was still licensed for exports. I spoke with a rep two years ago, the situation may have changed. Ironically, my main electric has a maple fretboard and it`s the type I`m least familiar with. I like the feel but it`s very bright. The pickups help compensate, the HSH arrangement has a lot of tonal options.

Glad I did some reading before I said anything else. I was going to mention Jacaranda, but according to one account it`s another name for Brazilian Rosewood. That same account mentioned that ebony and maple have `pop` and attack, but faster decay. Rosewood has more of a `bloom`. From my experience I would tend to concur.
My other main electric is made in Melbourne. The body is Bunya, neck is Australian Blackwood and the fretboard is rosewood-All of those are restricted now. In fact I just checked their website-they are not even offering electrics currently.


Edited by skipclone 1 (09/18/18 01:48 AM)
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#2948884 - 09/18/18 10:16 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
p90jr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark Schmieder
WOW. The only fretless guitars, vs. basses, that I've played have been electric guitar-like versions of sitars and ouds. But they both had rosewood fingerboards.


I think this is the guy who passed through town with a few of them...

He uses household mirrors... one taken from the mansion of Melvin Belli, he was strangely boasting about...

I've noticed a few other people using glass or mirrored fretboard since then.


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#2948885 - 09/18/18 10:23 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
p90jr Offline
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#2948889 - 09/18/18 10:31 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
p90jr Offline
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This has me wanting to put a Fretless neck on one of the guitars I have laying around...

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#2948890 - 09/18/18 10:34 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
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#2948907 - 09/18/18 11:34 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
Danzilla Offline
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I've only owned one instrument with a maple fretboard (a bass), but played several guitars with them, and don't particularly like them. I am a fan of rosewood, but do like ebony, as well.

I recently read an ad for someone selling a Godin synth guitar, talking about ebony being considered the most desirable fretboard material for tracking on synth guitars. Anyone have any experience in this regard?

Given my say on a custom guitar, I would have to get purpleheart. I played a Conklin that had that, and totally loved it. But it is rare, and seems to be expensive.

Boggs often uses interesting woods in his Rockbeach guitars, like pistachio. I'd be interested in seeing how they feel and sound. One day...
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#2948920 - 09/18/18 12:25 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Danzilla]
d Offline
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I myself have no "ultimates" in any particular element of instrument construction.
I've played gtrs w/any of the once-standard woods & value them for their varied qualities but I'd assert that those qualities are not necessarily equivalent in diff instruments, i.e., not all boards (or bodies) of any wood type will have the same sound.
I also think that the tonal qualities of any instrument change over time, although that's a bit hard to prove definitely.
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#2948936 - 09/18/18 01:09 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: d]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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Jacaranda is Portuguese for Rosewood -- well, not a direct translation per se, but simply the colloquial name for it in that language. But it is specifically used to refer to Bolivian Rosewood, not Brasilian Rosewood.

I just bought a bunch of Andean ethnic instruments, which feature Jacaranda, so had to do the research as I was also concerned whether it was a trick to get around the CITES rules.
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#2948937 - 09/18/18 01:11 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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As for synth tracking, I suppose ebony might help some, but the bigger difference, according to Godin, is using nylon strings, due to different resonance, harmonics, and inter-string play than with steel or other metal strings.

I owned one of theirs (an ACS Multiac) for a while, sold it to someone who was a housemate at the time, and he still uses it a lot, as he's super into Brasilian music and they mostly use nylon guitars of various types (including related instruments that aren't really guitars). He doesn't even use it all that much as a synth trigger (it has a hex pickup installed inside).
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#2948940 - 09/18/18 01:17 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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I owned the Godin Glissintar for a while, but found the scale length and other factors not conducive to playing the sort of Middle Eastern phrases I had in mind, as it's designed more like a guitar overall.

I do however, have my eye on their Electric Oud (I'd go for an acoustic one, but good ones are hard to find here and are quite expensive plus delicate). At first I felt it too much a compromise, but the latest high-end model ($1700) sounds way more authentic than the earlier models. Ebony fingerboard from what I can tell, and they make models for both nylon and steel strings.

The Oud should be played with a special implement (I forget its name) that is fairly long and somewhat spoon-like. Not sure if that would have helped on the Glissintar, but unlikely.

After giving up on ever finding a Jerry Jones electric sitar, and as the UK company that made one with a sculpted fingerboard went out of business, I was happy to see that Danelectro is back in the game but at higher quality than before (they may have hired some of the Jerry Jones people), and my Baby Sitar is on its way. I forget if it has Morado (Pau Ferro) or Rosewood fingerboard, but of course it's fretted unlike an Oud so it won't be as critical.

It took me a long time to like Maple on anything, but now there's no going back. I prefer the articulateness, and tame the brightness with flatwound strings (even on one of my guitars; certainly on all of my basses). But I'm OK with rosewood when it has super-tight grain, which is less rare than it used to be (except with Gibson, where finding a good neck is a 1-in-100 shot).
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#2948941 - 09/18/18 01:19 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Mark Schmieder Offline
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I can't do audio or video at work, but will try to remember to check out the posted links later this week. It's been a long time since I've heard a fretless guitar played by a top talent, and I'm curious to hear how well it works when not applied to an instrument that is specifically trying to emulate ethnic instruments (especially those of the Middle East).
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#2948943 - 09/18/18 01:23 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
Danzilla Offline
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And what should appear as Musician's Friend's "Stupid Deal of the Hour", but an Alvarez acoustic guitar... with an "engineered rosewood" fretboard. Is that just a composite, made from the sawdust of other rosewood boards?
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#2948969 - 09/18/18 04:02 PM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: Mark Schmieder]
d Offline
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Originally Posted By: Mark Schmieder
The Oud should be played with a special implement (I forget its name) that is fairly long and somewhat spoon-like.

Always happy to learn something new (at least new to me grin )
< http://www.oudforguitarists.com/oud-picks-ultimate-oud-buyers-guide-5/ >

"The final accessory required to get you started on the Oud is an Oud pick. It called mezraab/mizrap in Farsi and Turkish and Reesha/Risha in Arabic. Whatever you call it, youíre going to need a good one.
The mezraab is long and thin. It is held not only by the fingers but the whole hand. Donít use a guitar pick to play the Oud, it will limit your technique in the long run, and it just wonít give you the right sound. The attack of the mezraab is very unique for the Oud."
Originally Posted By: Danzilla
And what should appear as Musician's Friend's "Stupid Deal of the Hour", but an Alvarez acoustic guitar... with an "engineered rosewood" fretboard. Is that just a composite, made from the sawdust of other rosewood boards?

That seems to be exactly what it is...although for a moment I wondered if commercial scientists had successfully cloned the trees themselves.
< https://thefretwire.com/pages/what-is-engineered-rosewood >
There's also this...
< https://www.madinter.com/blackwood-tek.html?___from_store=fr&___store=en >
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#2949028 - 09/19/18 04:20 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: d]
whitefang Offline
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Originally Posted By: d
I myself have no "ultimates" in any particular element of instrument construction.
I've played gtrs w/any of the once-standard woods & value them for their varied qualities but I'd assert that those qualities are not necessarily equivalent in diff instruments, i.e., not all boards (or bodies) of any wood type will have the same sound.
I also think that the tonal qualities of any instrument change over time, although that's a bit hard to prove definitely.


I'd add that too, there's the factors of strings and finishes to consider as I do know some who pare it all down to those kind of trivial matters. Like, I know a guy who ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to buy a guitar with a polyurethane finish(his newest guitar is about 50+ years old).
Whitefang
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#2949076 - 09/19/18 08:14 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: whitefang]
d Offline
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Well, strings (in terms of size more than anything else, I think).
Finiahes are of course significant on acoustic instruments but for most of these matters re: electric gtrs, I think the pups, amps & out-board gear settings are the vital parts of the sound.
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#2949113 - 09/19/18 10:33 AM Re: The end of Rosewood, and the rise of Ebony and Pau Ferro [Re: p90jr]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Lovin' the fretless fingerboard playing in those Ned Evett and Guthrie Govan videos- thanks, p90jr, Sir! cool

Someone needs to get a good fretless Strat into Jeff Beck's hands! crazy

I think I'd prefer a radiused fretless-fingerboard, myself, as opposed to a flat one. And I think I'd do my dangdest to play as much chord work as I could manage, as well.

As for the fretless-fingerboard material? Treated/special-finished ebony or pau ferro (perhaps heavily treated/finished, like Jaco did), metal, glass, all appeal...
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