Jason Isbell explains why beginner guitarists should opt for rosewood, rather than maple, fretboards

Jason Isbell
(Image credit: Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

Maple or rosewood fretboard? It truly is an age-old debate, which electric guitar fanatics and tonewood students alike have labored over ever since the first solid-body models hit the scene way back in the early ‘50s. 

Now, country guitar hero and celebrated singer-songwriter Jason Isbell has weighed in on the debate, with the vintage guitar connoisseur saying, “If I was a beginner guitar player, I wouldn’t use a maple fingerboard.” 

During a recent conversation with MusicRadar (opens in new tab), the Tele-wielding titan took a deep dive into his first-ever Fender artist model, exploring the various appointments that the stunning signature sports. 

Fender Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster

The Fender Jason Isbell Custom Telecaster (Image credit: Fender)

When asked about the fretboard of his new axe, Isbell voiced his admiration for rosewood 'boards, citing their ability to "soften things up a little" and round off the tone as being key advantages they have over their maple counterparts.

“I love maple fingerboards too, but there’s something very forgiving about rosewood,” commented Isbell. “If I was a beginner guitar player, I wouldn’t use a maple fingerboard Tele.

titleJason Isbell explains why rosewood fingerboards are better than maple for beginner guitarists, and if you make a mistake you’re going to hear it. The rosewood just softens things up a little, rounds it off. For this particular profile it felt right, plus you’ve gotta have a rosewood board for a Telecaster Custom!”

While this won't end the debate, which, in reality, all boils down to personal preference anyway, Isbell's comments will be useful ammunition for those of you who champion rosewood fretboards, and for those starting their guitar playing journey who are on the look out for the best beginner electric guitar.

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.