Bass Guitar Neck Fingerboards


Fingerboard woods come in many colours
Bass fingerboards come in many colours

Bass Guitar Neck Fingerboards and everything you need to know about how to choose the right fretboard for your next electric bass.

When the opportunity to purchase a new bass comes along, many buyers – especially first time buyers – focus on the shape and colour of the bass, what their favorite bassist plays or how many strings and other features it comes with. However, these elements come in far below the most important qualities of feel and tone.

This is especially true when it comes to choosing the right type of fingerboard you want on your next bass guitar. To many buyers, the fingerboard is an after-thought, chosen primarily for how well it matches the finish on the body. However, it’s important to note that the fingerboard materials used in the construction of the bass guitar play a large part in the overall tone of the instrument.

Fingerboard Woods

The most common types of fingerboard are made of either maple or rosewood, but other popular choices include ebony (especially on fretless bass guitars) and pau ferro. Some fingerboards are also made out of exotic woods like wenge.

Each type of wood imparts a subtle characteristic to the tone of the bass guitar. Rosewood is softer and mellow sounding where as maple is brighter and livelier. There are pros and cons to each type of wood chosen; where rosewood is more subtle with less noticeable attack, maple has greater attack but also tends to buzz more than other fingerboard materials. There are other woods that offer similar tone shadings that run between the two. Increasingly, man-made materials like graphite (noted for its ultimate stability under any type of humid conditions) are used to make bass guitar necks or are blended together with tone woods like maple for the best of both worlds.

What Bass Guitar Fingerboard is right for you?

While making note of the fingerboards that some of your favorite bassists use is a good starting point,  ultimately, the best way to know which is best is by playing as many different types of bass guitar necks as possible. The ideal scenario would be to have the exact same model of bass guitar with the only change being the fingerboard wood type for you to judge – but that’s a pretty tall order in most cases. Many mass-produced bass guitars come with only one or two fingerboard options, and while custom bass guitars generally have more fingerboard options – it’s harder to have many variations of these more expensive basses all in one store.

But don’t lose hope, you can also research various luthiers like Michael Tobias of MTD bass guitars and see which types of tone woods he uses to achieve specific sounds on his hand made basses.  Tobias is one of the foremost experts when it comes to choosing and combining tone woods for basses. One advantage to purchasing a brand new or used bass guitar through a luthier is that they can give you a lot of detailed insight to what sounds each wood type produces.

Neck woods are traditionally chosen for their strength and stability as well as how well their tonal characteristics blend with the tone woods used in the body of the electric bass. One popular combination is using ash – which is noted for its pleasing low tones with maple – which is noted as being bright, in order to create an overall bass tone that can cover both the low and higher frequencies for a more flexible sound.

While it is true that bass guitar pickups and preamps also affect the tone of the bass, they tend to augment or diminish the already present natural tone of the instrument.

Do you have a favourite fingerboard material? How many have you tried? Are you guilty of choosing the type of fingerboard on your bass purely based on what looks the coolest? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading about bass guitar neck fingerboards here at Bass Guitar; hopefully you’ve learned a little more about how important they are in finding the tone for your ultimate bass.

  • Why so little on ebony fingerboards? I only buy bass guitars with ebony fingerboards. I absolutely love playing on ebony. My other requirement is a brass nut. I am looking for quality custom ebony fingerboard bass neck with a brass nut. I want a fender style body with bartolini active pick ups with a Dark Glass preamp. I already have a Spector with this configuration which is the greatest bass on earth as far as I am concerned, but I would like a custom bass also for fun.

  • Hey Edward, love to hear about your experience playing ebony necks (and that Spector you mentioned sounds to-die-for)! This post could likely use a refresh, if you have any resources on ebony fingerboards that you think I should check out let me know and I’ll consider them for a future update. Thanks for reading!

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