Ebony is a fantastic type of wood that has been used for centuries as fingerboards for many stringed instruments, such as the violin, viola, and cello. So naturally, because of its qualities, ebony is also a popular choice for acoustic and electric guitars and basses too, and this article will discuss some of the reasons why ebony fretboards are loved by so many people and used on quality instruments.
Ebony Is Bright
Ironically, despite being one of the darkest woods in terms of color, ebony is a tonewood with a bright and snappy sound quality that’s somewhat similar to the light-colored maple fretboards, as opposed to having a “darker” sound that emphasizes lower frequencies and harmonics. Not only that but ebony is also regarded as providing plenty of sustain.
Although people will have their preferences on tonewoods, the bright and crisp quality of ebony is undoubtedly something that many desire while also enjoying other benefits it offers.
Ebony Is Strong
Regarding the main types of wood used for fretboards, ebony is the hardest, densest, and strongest one you can get. These traits make it one of the best options in terms of durability.
There is a reason why a lot of high-end instruments use ebony; its toughness allows it to reduce wear and tear exceptionally and will keep your guitar looking nice for years to come. It’s also resistant to rot, and it’s considered to be stable, but it can still react to temperature and humidity changes, so you’ll still need to care for your guitar like any other by storing it properly and using a humidifier.
Ebony Is Smooth
Many people enjoy the smooth and slick feel of an ebony fretboard. This has to do with the fine texture and tight grain of ebony and the inherent oiliness of this type of wood, the latter being why many ebony fingerboards are unfinished.
Once again, the feel of a fretboard is also preferential, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a person who doesn’t think ebony is pleasing to the touch and a joy to play on. If it weren’t, it probably wouldn’t be the preferred choice for many traditional instruments, including plenty of classical guitars.
Ebony Is Beautiful
Lastly, ebony is appreciated for its natural beauty, which is one of the primary reasons why people choose to have an ebony fretboard on a guitar. It’s darker than rosewood, and unlike maple fretboards, ebony doesn’t start looking dirty easily.
It can also complement the body of many guitars very well, and its luxurious and aesthetic appeal is why it’s used frequently on more expensive guitars.
However, you should also know that there isn’t just one type of ebony out there. While many fingerboards have almost a jet-black appearance, several kinds have gorgeous stripes and streaks that can give a guitar a unique and exotic style. Macassar ebony and pale moon ebony are a couple of variants used on high-end guitars and look stunning.
As you can see, ebony wood provides benefits that can add a lot of value to an instrument and are why it’s typically used on higher-end guitars. However, one crucial reason why guitars with ebony fretboards are more expensive is that the wood itself is definitely not cheap. In fact, ebony is one of the most expensive woods in the world because it’s not easy to get.
The trees in the Diospyros genus grow incredibly slowly, so it’s difficult to create sustainable ebony. The demand for their wood, which has historically been used for countless goods since ancient times, has also led to them becoming endangered. Due to logging and exploitation in tropical rainforests where they’re native, the exportation of ebony is incredibly controlled, and it’s illegal to export in most places.
Still, despite this, the demand for ebony has not decreased, but the supply has not increased, hence the high prices.
With that in mind, I hope this article has shed some light on why ebony fretboards are valuable for all musical instruments that use them, not just guitars. Not only do they look lovely, but they also have some practical benefits that you can appreciate in a guitar with one.