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

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Oh yeah! The secret handshake. Extend your index and pinky fingers whilst clasping the hand of the greeter. They will 'get it' and 'know' that you and 'he/she' are Colossi 'brothers/sisters' and all will be well and in sync with your bodies and minds for 'only' as long as you hold 'that' grip ....and after that....well you MUST perform some other physical contortions to make you 'one with the world'..... [blush]

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Hi, I had an Epiphone masterbilt AJ500 rosewood that sounded really nice, I decided to try some brass pins on it to see if there was a difference and I could hardly beeive it, it sounded a little more resonant but added a deep sweet tone.

I didn't think I would knotice such a difference by such a small mod.

BTW it had a bone saddle and nut as standard.

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I decided to try some brass pins on it to see if there was a difference and I could hardly beeive it, it sounded a little more resonant but added a deep sweet tone.

I didn't think I would knotice such a difference by such a small mod.

BTW it had a bone saddle and nut as standard.

This is good news. I had a suspicion that brass would sound metallic. Hard in some way – overdefined or too distinct.

All I dared up till now is a brass t.r. cover.

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I guess I'm the odd man out here. I've been comparing guitars, new and old, strings, saddle, nuts, -- even bridge pins -- for 40 years, and I have some pretty well formed opinions.

 

1. Old instruments sound better in general than new instruments -- if sound is your thing, buy old.

 

2. Construction materials (woods) are important -- not necessarily better, but tonally predictably distinctive. Some materials are known to work better for different styles and genres.

 

3. Top/bracing,bridge,bridgeplate geometry -- there are the major determiner for guitar tone.

 

4. Setup -- neck pitch, saddle height, etc., etc. Incredibly important -- setup is where the money is to be made. Optimize these, you optimize power.

 

5. Strings are mostly a matter of taste. I agree that coated strings last longer but lose some power. Once you have the right guitar with the right setup, cheap strings will work fine and will be really hard (impossible?) to beat.

 

6. Finally, there is saddle materials, bridge pins, and nut materials. I suppose if you used chewing gum, you might have an effect. What we have found is that the geometry of these are very important -- the materials (within reason) are not.

 

There it is -- sad but true.

 

Let's pick,

 

-Tom

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I guess I'm the odd man out here. I've been comparing guitars, new and old, strings, saddle, nuts, -- even bridge pins -- for 40 years, and I have some pretty well formed opinions.

 

Appreciate it -

 

1.Old instruments sound better in general than new instruments -- if sound is your thing, buy old.

 

There is a clear difference. A 20 - 30 - 40 - 50 year old instrument has something indefinable. You feel/hear how much the instrument has come together.

The different pieces of wood really know each other and vibe as a whole.

 

2.Construction materials (woods) are important -- not necessarily better, but tonally predictably distinctive. Some materials are known to work better for different styles and genres.

 

Wood is one of the main keys to tonal identity.

 

3.Top/bracing, bridge, bridge plate geometry -- there are the major determiner for guitar tone.

 

Be conscious about scalloped or non-scalloped braces and the bracing pattern itself. A long lasting deeply interesting riddle.

 

4.Setup -- neck pitch, saddle height, etc., etc. Incredibly important-- setup is where the money is to be made. Optimize these, you optimize power.

The right set-up makes you go from struggling over playing to flying.

 

5.Strings are mostly a matter of taste. I agree that coated strings last longer but lose some power. Once you have the right guitar with the right setup, cheap strings will work fine and will be really hard (impossible?) to beat..

 

Older strings can like grow to be a part of the guitar as they fade. If that happens, don't change them before they no longer stay in tune.

6.Finally, there is saddle materials, bridge pins, and nut materials. I suppose if you used chewing gum, you might have an effect. What we have found is that the geometry of these are very important -- the materials (within reason) are not.

 

Bridge-pin and saddle material affects sound. I'm not heavy enough to talk about nuts and bridge plates.

 

There it is -- sad but true.

What is the sad part. . .

Let's pick,

What key ?

-Tom

E-minor7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Tom for a great summary. I had my 64 Hummingbird's adjustable bridge (which was a fiasco IMHO) replaced with a plain rosewood bridge with a new bone nut and saddle.

The sound difference was like playing a new guitar. Didn't replace the pins, but may do that someday. I had some other repairs done on her, repair and glue the top cross brace, replaced 4 frets.

The luthiers did a stellar job on the 64 Bird. I've done some recording with her and she does very well.

 

PS: Why has Gibson reissued the "Early 60s Hummingbird" of late (2011) with an adjustable bridge? I don't get it; why repeat the mistakes of the past? Apparently some don't feel that an adjustable bridge was a mistake.

Huh....

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PS: Why has Gibson reissued the "Early 60s Hummingbird" of late (2011) with an adjustable bridge? I don't get it; why repeat the mistakes of the past? Apparently some don't feel that an adjustable bridge was a mistake.

Huh....

Where did you see that one ?

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I happen to have a piece of ebony laying around and wonder if it's worth the effort involved to make a new saddle with it, and replace my plastic saddle with ebony. Has anyone any thoughts or experience with ebony saddles ?

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this is a great thread, you guys have talked me into trying this. i have a Gibson DSR ( Canada ) that i do realy like but just needs a little more volume and sparkle for me. thanks for the info.

 

racer

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Anybody ever heard of "Kauila" wood ? It is the wood used by "Ancient Hawaiians to tool down to make axe heads and spears ect. then used for cutting down Koa and other trees for Canoe building and such. It was their Iron wood so to speak. I'm in the process of quartersawing it to make nut, saddle and bridge pins. Any thoughts ?

 

Kauila3.jpg

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I'm not a performer like most here seem to be. I am just an enthusiast and Love the sounds of strings. I'll try to get my wife to do a before and after. She is less inhibited than myself. Also, she makes music. I will only be able to record directly into my laptop, so please forgive the sound quality. We'll do our best, but give me time, I still have the wood in log form as you see in the pic. Will follow up though.

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Is harsher, brighter, louder, sharper .... is that an improvement in the tonal quality ?

 

Some would say yes, some would say no.

 

I am very relieved and blessed that i am in the 'no' category in this regard. Saves lots of swapping out nuts, saddles and bridge pins [flapper]

 

I'm of the belief that brightness, loudness, sharpness can mostly be achieved by experimenting with strings.

 

If you are compelled to swap out a nut or saddle or experiment and to a lesser extent swapping out bridge pins to achieve your desired tone, you've purchased the wrong guitar !

 

If you are a tinker type of person and enjoy these activities, well then more power to you if that is how you achieve enjoyment with your guitar.

 

I'll stick swapping out strings thank you very much since that is a requirement, unless you like to play with dead strings [flapper]

 

I'm in tpbiii's camp on this more or less but i aint raisin' too much of a stink if guys like to do this.

 

But, i don't think its gonna be any sort of panacea or aha moment.

 

Your mileage may vary of course.

 

Cheers and pick on when yer not swappin' out bridge pins [flapper]

 

Harmonics101

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If you want to play using a amp or a PA SYSTEM you will get a better sound with in MOP with Tugsten saddle. Also a FI Walrus nut and saddle is not as bright as bone!!!

 

thats quite a definate statement for such a broad scope of scenarios !

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PS: Why has Gibson reissued the "Early 60s Hummingbird" of late (2011) with an adjustable bridge? I don't get it; why repeat the mistakes of the past? Apparently some don't feel that an adjustable bridge was a mistake.

 

I've played a lot of beautiful sounding Gibsons with adjustable bridges and even Tune-O-Matics. These bridges have long been branded "tone killers," by some, but Pete Townshend's J200 had a TOM, George Harrison's J200 had a TOM, Mickie Most's J200 (which Jimmy Page borrowed for some Zep stuff) had a TOM - and those guys had some truly great acoustic guitar sounds. Were there dogs with TOMs and adjustable bridges? Sure, but there are dogs without them. If the guitar sounds good, it's not a mistake.

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J-45 TV - Bone Saddle - Compensated or uncompensated? The existing saddle is not compensated, but a bit low. Looks like it had an undersaddle pickup, but that is gone - was replaced with a Seymour Duncan Mag-Mic in the soundhole. All three of my Martin dreads have a compensated saddle. Won't break the bank if I order one of each, but thought I'd ask.

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Ok - I put in a bone (compensated) saddle, and at the same time I replaced the plastic bridge pins with these bone pins. Except for the vaguely odd color of the pins I detect no change in tone on this J-45 TV. The saddle that was replaced was stock bone, I believe, but not compensated - putting in the compensated saddle lowered the action on the high B and E strings a tad and makes this instrument very easy on the fingerstyle that I am addicted to.

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Somewhere I read that if you take bone, and smear it with brown shoe polish, tie it up in a rag overnight, that it will result in a dyed hue, tempering the white, and perhaps resulting in an aged or vintage look. I just did this with a bone strap pin, and it turned out to be the same odd color as the Bridge Pins pictured above. My wife said "how come they're pink?". Guess that means I'm going back to white.

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Somewhere I read that if you take bone, and smear it with brown shoe polish, tie it up in a rag overnight, that it will result in a dyed hue, tempering the white, and perhaps resulting in an aged or vintage look. I just did this with a bone strap pin, and it turned out to be the same odd color as the Bridge Pins pictured above. My wife said "how come they're pink?". Guess that means I'm going back to white.

 

Try bone in a strong cup of coffee or tea, , , with salt.

Let them be overnite and check next morning.

Still too white - Give the item(s) another 6 hours bath.

 

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Try bone in a strong cup of coffee or tea, , , with salt.

Let them be overnite and check next morning.

Still too white - Give the item(s) another 6 hours bath.

 

I'm gonna try this over the weekend with the "pink" ones. Have to remember before and after pics, and the recipe.

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Do pins matter. . . .

 

Just replaced the G-string pin on 2 squares. I have a tendency to claw the G-string while playing a certain expressive fingerpicking style.

Especially the Bird-G sounds slightly boomy with 12's in that context. Up went the bone, down went the wood.

 

Do pins matter ?

 

Try it !

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Is harsher, brighter, louder, sharper .... is that an improvement in the tonal quality ?

 

Some would say yes, some would say no.

 

I am very relieved and blessed that i am in the 'no' category in this regard. Saves lots of swapping out nuts, saddles and bridge pins [flapper]

 

I'm of the belief that brightness, loudness, sharpness can mostly be achieved by experimenting with strings.

 

If you are compelled to swap out a nut or saddle or experiment and to a lesser extent swapping out bridge pins to achieve your desired tone, you've purchased the wrong guitar !

 

If you are a tinker type of person and enjoy these activities, well then more power to you if that is how you achieve enjoyment with your guitar.

 

I'll stick swapping out strings thank you very much since that is a requirement, unless you like to play with dead strings [flapper]

 

I'm in tpbiii's camp on this more or less but i aint raisin' too much of a stink if guys like to do this.

 

But, i don't think its gonna be any sort of panacea or aha moment.

 

Your mileage may vary of course.

 

Cheers and pick on when yer not swappin' out bridge pins [flapper]

 

Harmonics101

Thank you harmonics for your input. Having read what you said, I began to do some thinking about all these alterations we often do. I was about to sell my Martin J-40 Rosewood because it was just too loud to sing with, beautiful tone, but so loud and resinous that it upstaged me as I sang. I decided to get rid it of it. But first...after 10 years, I would remove the Ebony pins I had placed in it so long ago, and put back the standard plastic Martin pins that came with it, and sell it. After removing those Ebony pins, and playing it, I realized that i could now sing with it...the loud over volume, and sustain were diminished just enough to make it PERFECT!!! I will now keep it, because it is now my best singing guitar. A lesson hard learned...and as you said...LOUD, BRIGHT, Endless Sustain is NOT always a good thing. My J-40 is now MUCH more balanced with the factory pins it came with. Who knew? I thought I was doing a good thing by making it louder...NOT...In fact it was perfect the way Martin designed it. Thank you for your input....it has allowed me to save my treasured Martin J-40!

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If you are compelled to swap out a nut or saddle or experiment and to a lesser extent swapping out bridge pins to achieve your desired tone, you've purchased the wrong guitar !

 

 

Harmonics101

 

I disagree with this statement. Even people who spend thousands of dollars on the perfect audiophile grade stereo systems will still adjust EQ to suit their ears. Your statement is like saying that if a person buys a guitar and needs the action adjusted to suit their playing style, they must have bought the wrong guitar. Every ones singing voice, picking attack, music style and desired tone is different and dialing in the guitar tone to best compliment is a very subtle and personal thing.

 

GuitarLights post is a perfect example of how a treasured guitar can and should be adjusted using all the tools at ones disposal such as: strings, picks, attack, nut/saddle/pins material, set-up etc so that the tone fits the owners ideals. (even if it means that the original plastic pins are the answer)

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