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Strings - Nut - Saddle - Pins - They are essential to TONE!

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Ok...To start off. I personally change the saddle and pins on all my guitars from the factory plastic to bone. I believe bone saddle/pins/nut do enhance the sound of my guitars and is a fairly low cost/low risk upgrade. (A little bit of MOP inlay on the pins can also give a little bling). Saddle and pins are something anyone can DYI, cutting and installing the nut is probably something for a good guitar tech to do for you and should be under $100

 

A couple resources for this upgrade, but not limited to, would include:

 

StewMac Saddles

 

StewMac Pins

 

Bob Colosi Custom Saddles and Pins

 

Frets.com Steel String Guitar Users Manual has lots of info on saddles, pins etc.

 

As far as strings go here is some basic info:

 

Quick primer on strings

 

 

I personally prefer coated strings such as:

 

D'Addario EXP Coated 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

 

Martin SP Lifespan Phosphor Bronze Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings

 

While many here love Elixer strings ...I am personally not a fan. YMMV

 

Coated strings last longer and some will reduce finger squeak a bit. Purists believe the coating reduces tone or some people tend to change strings so often the extra cost for coated strings doesn't make sense.

 

And for small delicate guitars I love Newtone Heritage Acoustic Guitar Strings

(They are designed to have a reduced and virtually equal tension on each string.)

 

My general thoughts on string selection.

 

If you have a guitar that is naturally loud and bright go with Phosphor Bronze strings to bring some extra sweetness and complexity to its sound.

 

If you have a guitar that is a little on the quiet side or needs a boost in treble use 80/20 strings.

 

Two properties of strings that have a lot of influence on sound are string gauge and string tension.

 

Generally the larger the gauge the greater the tension, but not always. A couple websites like Just Strings have some information on string tension for a few of the strings they sell and it can be very interesting. Some manufacturers have the info on their websites. I wish this info was more easily available.

 

I would say the average steel string guitar player uses what are called "lights". Lights are also called 12's because generally that is the gauge of the high "E"string, but buyer beware that this is not an industry standard and also many sets of "lights or 12's" can have the other strings in the set vary in gauge from brand to brand.

 

Experimenting with strings is probably the single most effective, easy and inexpensive way to bring out the best tone of your guitar. Trying .11's .12's and mediums .13's can greatly effect the guitars sound. Most modern guitars can handle .13's, but make sure you refer to the guitars manual to be sure before stinging up .13's. (Warning - changing string gauge can change the action of your guitar. For example heavier strings will pull harder causing string height on the fretboard to raise and may require a truss rod adjustment)

 

80/20, phosphor bronze, coated and uncoated, custom strings sets where the low E A and D strings are heaver gauge to bring out a guitars bass response, etc...etc. The possibilities are endless and the fun of experimenting is Guitar Nerd Heaven!!

 

Alright ....let's discuss! Agree with me....Disagree with me....

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I have always used Martin and D' Addario lights, For some reason I changed to DR MT10's Way to thumpy, had to reset my truss, and a great deal of difficulty stayin in tune. Just one experience. As to the rest....[thumbup] "WHAT YOU SAID"

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Not much to add. I agree with Node on this, one of the cheapest improvements that can be made to improve volume, tone and sustain. I do, however, love Elixer strings. PB Nano lights. I've tried all the others, I kept going back to Elixers. They do it for me! +1 on Bob Colosi's pins and saddles!

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I agree with Larry and Node....coated strings are the best!! My body chemistry is such that it eats non-coated strings,lol....so I pretty much HAVE to use them!!! Node, I've heard tha you would play better with a new bone,nuts,and I'm pretty sure you've used a saddle before.....

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I agree about the saddle and nut, pins a different issue. I've replaced a set of bone pins with ebony pins and I noticed a difference that made the guitar less tinny ( best word I can use to describe the sound) on my rosewood guitars. When it comes to strings I usually go by phospher bronze for hogs and 80/20's for rosewood, but each guitar is different so applications may change.

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I agree. Plastic seems like a really poor choice for any surface having to take the force of metal guitar strings tuned to pitch. I also agree with Oldguy that for tuning pegs, I'm perfectly happy with ebony and it's less obvious to me how the pins alter the tone. For nut and saddle, I prefer bone not only for its tone but its durability. I think all the bits and pieces of a guitar work together. Something like a bone saddle may add brightness but that can be offset by things like the choice of strings and pick. But bone just strikes me as the "right" material for nut and saddle. It's affordable, attractive, and durable. I consider bone as a reference standard. If a guitar needs a somewhat sweeter tone, I'd rather change something else to make that happen than sacrifice a bone saddle (or not choose that particular guitar to begin with). Even on my least expensive guitar (a Seagull), I have swapped out the original saddle for a Colossi bone replacement, to good effect. I'm also very picky about saddle fit in the bridge slot and have fitted new saddles to other instruments either to alter the string height or, in at least one case, to improve saddle fit. To me, this sort of upgrade just seems like an easy way to improve my level of satisfaction with an instrument.

 

I've never sprung for FWI or elephant ivory as an upgrade. they're too expensive and I haven't had enough experience with them to be confident I'd prefer the tone. I have mandolins with ivory saddles (on fixed bridge vintage instruments) and it seems to work fine but given its scarcity, expense, and protected status (in the case of elephant ivory), I have no inclination to go that route on any of my guitars. Bone is king, in my book and many guitar builders seem to agree.

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Excellent resources in this thread Stephen [thumbup]

 

I too am a believer that these modifications will change your tone, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. For example, I put a bone saddle on the Epi and it's just too much sound for that little guy. The Tusq saddle is going back on and if the bone saddle fits the Seagull I might try that. Both Gibsons have bone saddles and pins now and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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All excllent points, really good thread and thanks for sharing.

 

Couple things i would add:

 

1) I find mediums work great on mahogany b/s dreads as they bring out the natural woody richness of the tone, while 12's are better for rosewood b/s guitars. I found 13's on rosewood dreads in particular chokes the sound.

 

I prefer non coated strings and i always put a new set of strings before a gig, hence it makes sense to use non coated ones as i reagularly change them. I just find its easier to play with new strings, and as I use DR Sunbeams they have a warm tone straight off the bat so dont have to worry about new string zip'.

 

Bone pins /saddle - Ive plaed Colossi bone pins / saddles in all my main 3 guitars and yes, i do hear a genuine difference. Its subtle but there, all for the better

 

Guitar picks - this is probably to me the one thing that can change the tone of a guitar more than anything. Its also the cheapest 'modification'. Thicker picks bring a really different tone compared to lighter ones. Its worth experimenting. Personally i tried numerous picks but i alway come back to the Orange Tortex picks, but if i play a track where there is a lot flat picking i gravitate to a thicker pick, as it makes picking really a lot easier.

 

OK, thats my 7cents worth.

 

cheers.

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E/A brings up a good point about Dreads (Martin & clones). Large box =more top to move=more string. You might loose a little nuance that way but it brings the sound out. Same rule of thumb apples to J200s.

 

Meds can be used selectively on smaller boxes. For ex, some Martin guys use a bigger string on 000s (24.5) for extra tension/response, so they are more like an OM (25.4)--no dog in that fight, just saying. And I tended to like the AJ and BK I had better with meds=again, more sound (the BK turned into the mouse that roared). Oth J45s I prefer lights.

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My two cents is that when many folks say better they are actually hearing brighter. When it comes to strings I think the core of the string has a substantial role in producing sound. I prefer round core nickel strings. While the hex cores hold the wrapping better, the round core puts less tension on the neck and tend to produce a different sound - to my ears a punchier attack. I would also argue the thicker the core the fatter the sound.

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I replaced the nut, saddle, and bridge pins on my 08 j45 (MC). The nut and bridge were replaced with bone and the bridge pins with FWI, I just wanted bone or something harder that plastic (FWI is all the luthier uses for bridge pin, being in Alaska it is a nice AK touch). Here are my noticeable affects: 1. Much great sustain, 2. More note clarity, this was more noticeable in chord variations, 3. Louder, and 4. A bit brighter.

The added brightness concerns me a bit, but I have received a couple of option (from this forum) to help with this. I agree that the benefits, especially the note clarity and sustain, outweigh the perceived add brightness. I am going to try different strings and, as bkharmony suggested in a response to an earlier post of mine, I am going to try some different picks.

Concerning the picks, are the materials used in Blue Chip and Dunlop Totex a softer material, or what makes the tonal difference? And which would lend to a more mellow sound?

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Guitar picks - this is probably to me the one thing that can change the tone of a guitar more than anything. Its also the cheapest 'modification'.

 

BINGO !

 

And after many decades of gigging I would have told you you were NUTS a year ago for saying this.

 

My experiments with picks started out costing me $40.00 for a single Bluechip.

 

Let the insanity begin.....

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I'm thinking of moving to all bone on my 09 Bird, but I am a bit reluctant as it already sounds somewhat bright. Scared to make the brightness a bit too overwhelming.

 

Any thoughts on that or experience in changing to bone on standard Birds?

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I'm thinking of moving to all bone on my 09 Bird, but I am a bit reluctant as it already sounds somewhat bright. Scared to make the brightness a bit too overwhelming.

 

Any thoughts on that or experience in changing to bone on standard Birds?

 

 

 

You can easily and cheaply experiment with bone pins and saddle. Get a saddle blank and bone pins at StewMac for $30 -$40 (you will need to grind and sand the blank to match the original) and see how you like the sound. Just save your originals and if you don't like the sound...swap the originals back in. If the Nut isn't already bone, wait until you know how the bone saddle and pins effect the sound of the guitar, then have a Tech or Luthier cut and install a bone nut. The nut will be more costly and requires some skill to remove the old and cut and install the new one.

 

If the Bone is more efficient transferring string vibration to the top and you like that, but it is a little bright, you can then experiment with different strings to get a mellower tone.

 

Again saddles, pins (as long as you keep the originals) and strings are cheap and easy to experiment with ...have fun!

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Here is what I use:

 

Acoustics & Archtops: Martin PB 12-54s

 

My 118yr old Lyon & Healy Parlour: Martin Silk & Steels

 

Electrics: Ernie Ball 11s (for Teles, Strats etc) or Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottoms (for Les Pauls)

 

Classical: Dell'Arte Hard Tension

 

Coated strings are great, but my problem is I play hard with a heavy pick, so tend to break strings before they lose tone...so, as you can imagine, I don't get the benefit from coated strings that others do...having said that, I'll slap a set of Elixirs on my Kalamazoo archtop next time I change strings, as that one gets played more gently and less frequently than my others.

 

I'm intrigued to try those Newtone Heritage strings on my old Lyon & Healy, I reckon that could be a nice compromise between Silk & Steel and my normal strings...

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I'm intrigued to try those Newtone Heritage strings on my old Lyon & Healy, I reckon that could be a nice compromise between Silk & Steel and my normal strings...

 

Jinder...Maybe OneWilyFool will chime in or send him a PM. He is the one that got me to try those. They sound very good and really last a long time. OWF uses them on his 1890 Bruno guitar and they really bring out the tone on it.

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Hi Jinder, Newtone strings (fabrique en Angleterre) are great strings, they are all made with round core, so no hex core to build up oils and dirt. The Heritage are GREAT string for vintage parlor guitars that can't take the stress of full tension strings.....they are in 10, 11, &12 guage, each set pulling a different tension. One interesting thing about the Heritage strings, they are designed to apply equal tension to each string......no one string pulls harder, so no tendency to twist the neck. I started with 10's on my two parlors, but went up to 11's on one of them. These strings last and last and last.......round core again.....try them out......here they are about $13/set, pricey, but again, they last longer than Elixirs even. Good luck....

 

An example of one year old strings on my Bruno:

 

 

Jinder...Maybe OneWilyFool will chime in or send him a PM. He is the one that got me to try those. They sound very good and really last a long time. OWF uses them on his 1890 Bruno guitar and they really bring out the tone on it.

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Hi, I've a 2010 j45 and I'm changing it's original pins for Colosi's bone pins. Does anybody knows what is the proper size for replacement?

Many thanks

R

 

Bob has a description of how to measure your original pins. If you have dial or digital callipers it is real easy.

 

http://www.guitarsaddles.com/products.asp down just under the pin descriptions and pictures there is the info on how to measure yours.

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I may have finally found the strings for my SWD.

 

I use DR Sunbeams for my mahogany guitars (Furch / CW) as they bring out the natural warmth of mahogany but found them too mellow for my rosewood SWD.

 

Tried Daddario 80/20's but found them on the other hand to lack warmth, so went looking for 'brightish' PB's.

 

After long time tried good ol' Daddario EJ16's PB's and so far they seem to be the perfect fit. Being natually bright they cut through the rosewood, but still bring warmth and I finally hear that lovelly note seperation that I was missing before.

 

Makes my GAS for a J-200 subside ... relief ..lol

 

Just wanted to share that.

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Appreciate it EuroAussie - what type of J-200 do you imagine ?

 

Specifically the J-200 studio that Ive been playing regularly at my local guitar shop. Amazing tone, surprisingly singinificantly better tone than the J-200 standard that sits right next to it..

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Maybe it is my old man hearing but I find no discernible difference with bone vs plastic or ebony etc. As for strings I prefer the uncoated ones, GHS are cheap and work well, sound great and they last too. Picks make a big difference, and technique the most.

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