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Tusq Nut, Saddle and Plastic Pins


RHANK

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I read all of the comments in the Pinned Topic and I am really considering at Lest changing the easy parts like the Saddle and pins and going with Bob Colosi. The nut is another topic and way past my ability to replace. I have the Gibson J45 Custom with Rosewood back and sides and I think that it sounds great now. Do you think that the sound difference would be greatly noticeable with just the parts that I can change. Meaning will the nut change make the greatest change or the least?

 

On a side note: you would have thought that Gibson would have put Bone on a Custom guitar, but I have noticed that they have done away with the Rosewood finger boards on the new ones and they are using Richlite for that and the bridge!!

 

Thanks in advance for your opinions

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I'm a believer that pins make negligible or no difference. If they fit perfectly their purpose is only to insure that the ball end nestles against the bridge plate, vital for top response. The nut and saddle however transmit sound through direct string tension. Saddle is most important, and I change out to dense bone asap. Nut changes alter tone, too, and like the saddle, it's a matter of what your ear is happy with.

 

New guitars aren't my thing.

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Gibson is into using Tusq, particularly on instruments with factory electronics. It is said that it is a better saddle material for UST pickups but I think that varies a lot. As we know, acoustic guitars are individuals and some respond to changes in a good way, others not so much. I have a set of bone pins that I very much like in my J-45, but they robbed my Hummingbird of treble response. It's one of those "got-to-try-it" things..........might be an audible improvement, might be a detriment.

 

By all means experiment!

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Welcome to the Forum. And congrats on your J45C. I think Gibson puts bone on some models, I know my H'Bird TV had it. As Buc said - most likely they choose what they think will work best. The TV doesn't have electronics. As far as richlite - Martin and Taylor use it as well. The term "Custom" in Gibsonese just means 'not standard'. G'Luck.

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I believe doing what works best for you is the way to do it. At the moment, I don't recall ever changing the pins on any of my guitars because of the sound. As mentioned above, a lot of it has to do with each individual guitar. Sometimes there's a big difference (good/bad/no change depending on the listener). The good thing is that if you don't like the new pins, you can put the originals back in.....I'm not even a "minor" tech guy with guitars, so I pretty much leave a guitar as it is, aside from changing strings. Others like to tinker-around and that works too. Do what works for you. [thumbup]

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As Buc has said, Gibson really likes tusq on UST equipped guitars. The story goes tusq is a more uniform/consistent material, while bone can have inconsistent soft or dead spots. There's always back and forth on this. Gibson chooses tusq on it's UST equipped acoustics to insure the best vibration transfer to the top. The question is, why wouldn't they use it on all their guitars. They don't - their non-electric acoustics generally use bone saddle and nut.

 

I have a J-200 with factory UST that came new with a tusq saddle and bone nut. I didn't care for the acoustic sound (a bit muddy) and tried a bone saddle . . . I kept the bone saddle on the guitar - much better sound.

 

I'd say try the saddle first, because if you don't like the sound with bone, you can always put the old saddle back in. If you decided to keep the bone saddle, then you can think about the nut.

 

 

.

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I think the choices Gibson Montana makes on nut, saddle and pins materials is one of the smartest things they do. I think of it logically. When I bought my Songwriter, it had a bone nut, bone saddle and plastic pins. It makes sense. If you were going to keep end costs down, where would YOU make savings? What is easier to replace and will affect the sound of the guitar the least? The PINS! So, give me the bone nut and saddle and let me upgrade the pins as they are the easiest thing to replace as well. You don't have to cut string slots or shape the pins.

 

The other thing they do is put TUSQ saddles on guitars with UST pickups. Again, it makes logical sense. Bone, as a natural, animal, material, has uneven density and you run the risk of having your high E string running over a more porous part of the bone and hence, poorer transfer of sound. TUSQ is totally even density giving a uniform sound transfer to the saddle. For me, I can't bear a UST pickup so I will go with bone all the time on both nut and saddle. To me, bone has more sustain and better overtones.

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By having a J-45 Custom (rosewood), you’ve already got the typical sonic effect that is seen by doing the ol’ bonesaddle n’ nut routine. As someone who is just coming off a major Gibson rosewood jag (including J-45R's), the guess here would be that your mod might end up taking your guitar even further away from it’s J-45 DNA, and more toward sounding like either a Bourgeois, . . . or a Taylor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 

FYI- Gibson specs list your J-45 Custom as already having bone nut:

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We all tend to base our approaches on personal experience - what we've tried and how it sounded to us. That in mind, it's difficult to give a definitive answer in this kind of discussion. For what it's worth, if I'm not plugging-in, I regard Tusq as total sound killing trash and dispose of it accordingly - and I mean saddle, pins, and nut in that order. Bone is great for nuts and saddles if you play w/o the electronics - second only to MOP, but that's a material rarely seen on instruments made since the teens or 1920's and was primarily limited to mandolins even then. To my ear, pins make more difference than they do to lots of folks. That could be total BS, but if you're inclined to try ebony and/or bone or sometimes even brass, it's fun to see how you react to them. I've had guitars that preferred plastic, too☺

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I have the J45 custom rosewood and recently replaced the nut and saddle with bone. I think it sounds great, even more clear, but not bright like a Taylor. I think it's an improvement.

I bet it is! Haven't yet decided if my issue with Taylors (aside from the arthritis-unfriendly necks) is a matter of brightness or 'thin-ness' or a combination of both. Then there's that 'nasal' quality....

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The other thing they do is put TUSQ saddles on guitars with UST pickups. Again, it makes logical sense. Bone, as a natural, animal, material, has uneven density and you run the risk of having your high E string running over a more porous part of the bone and hence, poorer transfer of sound. TUSQ is totally even density giving a uniform sound transfer to the saddle. For me, I can't bear a UST pickup so I will go with bone all the time on both nut and saddle. To me, bone has more sustain and better overtones.

 

 

 

All true,Drathbun, but the real reason for using the Tusq saddles is, well, money of course. The bone saddles on a UST equipped guitar can be porous and uneven but not always - the percentages are on the internet somewhere - so EACH guitar needs to be plugged in and tested through an amp. Hmm. Time.

 

So they go with Tusq which has a higher percentage of success without having to plug them all in. Simple.

 

 

BluesKing777.

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All true,Drathbun, but the real reason for using the Tusq saddles is, well, money of course. The bone saddles on a UST equipped guitar can be porous and uneven but not always - the percentages are on the internet somewhere - so EACH guitar needs to be plugged in and tested through an amp. Hmm. Time.

 

So they go with Tusq which has a higher percentage of success without having to plug them all in. Simple.

 

 

BluesKing777.

 

I agree completely BK. But my point is, if you are going to cheap out somewhere, the first place is pins, second is saddle and last place is the nut. The saddle and the nut are the two key spots strings bear on and tone is created or sapped in those locations. And another reason I don't like UST pickups is because it robs the guitar of acoustic tone when not plugged in. The saddle should be hard material flush and flat on the bottom of the saddle slot so it transfers through the bridge to the bridge plate and top of the guitar. The UST is a wire mesh which will deaden the contact between saddle and bridge.

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All true,Drathbun, but the real reason for using the Tusq saddles is, well, money of course. The bone saddles on a UST equipped guitar can be porous and uneven but not always - the percentages are on the internet somewhere - so EACH guitar needs to be plugged in and tested through an amp. Hmm. Time.

 

So they go with Tusq which has a higher percentage of success without having to plug them all in. Simple.

 

 

BluesKing777.

 

The reason is more complex than just 'money'. It's sort of one of those "cost/benefit" things. When you are trying to manage a process, if you find one material that has a 'higher percentage' of acceptable quality than another - you go with that one. It would be silly to dyck around with bone on UST guitars and increase your costs. Add to that the increased risk of picky customers complaining about their sound and Guitar Center techs messing with the strings, setup, transduce, as well as saddle. There is no significant difference in cost between tusq and bone when you're buying in large quantities - as it is small part of a $3k guitar. So, why add labor costs and chance having unhappy customers? Martin and Taylor use tusq on some of their guitars. But others like Lowden don't because they focus on a different market niche. One with more 'money'. I read somewhere that Lowden recommends you take your new guitar to an expert luthier to have their profiled, two-piece saddles fine-tuned. I've also read that Tommy Emmanuel when young used a nut his father carved for him out of a toothbrush handle. So - each of us has to decide how much time and money we want to spend on these things. Some here use different materials for bridge pins on the same guitar. Some mix strings from different sets. All translate to 'money'. Some, however, just decide on a guitar they like, find one that sounds 'great', like the OP. and then just play it. I'm guessing they're all equally happy. .

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Don't ya'll think that plastic is stuck in them a, because most don't think it makes a difference b, maybe cost (but I'm not convinced that cost is a major factor) and c, because it gives the new owner a chance to fiddle with something , making him/her feel they've customised it in some way?

Kinda like buying a bottle of polish , new strings etc.

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For me - that's true. I got abalone inlaid bone pins for the same reason some people get fancier wheels for their new car. Their still round, the same circumstance, don't really 'go faster'. Just a subjective, customized improvement in looks - for those who are willing to spend $30.

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Don't ya'll think that plastic is stuck in them a, because most don't think it makes a difference b, maybe cost (but I'm not convinced that cost is a major factor) and c, because it gives the new owner a chance to fiddle with something , making him/her feel they've customised it in some way?

Kinda like buying a bottle of polish , new strings etc.

 

Plus 1 , , , and let's not forget that plastic-pins go way back - long before the ditto-bridges fx.

 

Not sure when they arrived, , early 50's even down in the Banner era ? And what did they replace - wood, yes ?

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Am I the only one around here with rosewood bridge pins (or wood in general)? My 94 J-45VS has them. I'm not sure they were original equipment because I bought it used, but I always assumed they were just because I didn't find anything else on the guitar that I thought was altered. I have been thinking about changing them out for some bone pins, but I like the sound of it now so I haven't bothered to. I only add this here because the OP was asking about options, I guess wood would be one.

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Can anyone here do a list of what each material pins should do to a guitar sound ?

Would be a handy thing

 

Ebony - mellows

Bone - brightness sustain ...:

 

I haven't a clue if those are true ,

 

That sort of thing , not a guess now folks , someone with the proper knowledge .. don't be smudging with heresay and wives tales !! 😄

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I'll word it a little more polite I guess , apologies to everyone for the initial post

 

Anyone has any info on what how bridge pin changing has effected the guitars , and anyone who has the supposed sound difference in each of the options please share the knowledge with the likes of me who might want to experiment and hopefully head the correct direction I'd like to change the guitar

 

 

Have a wonderful day

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