On most quality guitars, the fingerboard (or fretboard) is made of Ebony. For years, the ‘color’ of these fretboards was solid black. Sadly, like any natural resource, there is a finite supply of these trees. Similar to tone woods like Brazilian Rosewood, guitar makers are trying to address these dwindling resources by looking for alternatives.
Due to this limited supply, some guitar makers are now using ebony from trees that previously would have been considered ‘sub par’ due to their cosmetic nature. This wood is not jet black as mainstream players have been accustomed. This wood has natural streaks that are much lighter in color (greyish tan). This coloring has no effect on tone or quality. It is simply a visual feature that players previously had not seen before.
Since Taylor Guitars is the major supplier to many other guitar manufacturers, you are starting to see guitars in shops with a non-traditional black neck. Some manufacturers may choose to dye this wood to cover up the streaking. Others see these ‘imperfections’ as being true to the nature of the wood and leave them as is.
Listen to Bob Taylor’s take on this natural resource: