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

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I have a 95 Gibson j-200 Birdseye Maple #19 of 250 made and I just got it back from Custom Inlay Inc. in Leitchfield Ky about 40 miles from me. It's owned by Brian England and its family run. He does inlay for Gibson and Jackson. They also make guitars, mandolins and banjos called England. I visited the shop a week ago and again today and he has quite a nice setup and some very nice instruments. He made a Compensated saddle out of bone and bridge pins out of fossiled walrus jawbone with I think it is abalone inlay on the tops of the pins.The guitar sounds fantastic now. I think instead of abalone inlay I think it is called MOP inlay. I'm just amazed at the difference in sound not to say the beauty of those pins. I've added some pics so you all can see them.100_3112.jpg

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Thank you, I just realized that MOP and Abalone are the same thing I believe.

Those compliment that guitar very nicely ! Glad it had a good affect on the tone for you.

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Wickepedia would gree with you: "The shells of abalones have a low and open spiral structure, and are characterized by several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre or mother-of-pearl, which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong and changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl." It sure looks good on guitars!

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Yes you are right they sure look nice on guitars for sure.

Wickepedia would gree with you: "The shells of abalones have a low and open spiral structure, and are characterized by several open respiratory pores in a row near the shell's outer edge. The thick inner layer of the shell is composed of nacre or mother-of-pearl, which in many species is highly iridescent, giving rise to a range of strong and changeable colors, which make the shells attractive to humans as decorative objects, and as a source of colorful mother-of-pearl." It sure looks good on guitars!

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I agree about the bone saddle all the way, the nut about halfway and the pins not at all.

The saddle is a crucial link in the chain, the vibrations that drive the top pass directly through it. Assuming the nut is set up correctly for ease of play, it can only affect tone on open strings, and in my opinion the goal here is to match the tone of a fretted note. Nothing wrong with bone here, but composits can do a pretty good job here too. as for bridge pins, I believed for a long time that harder pins and more mass gave better sustain. it still makes sense to me to think more mass will have a drastic impact on tone-volume-sustain. But in my actual experience, not so much. I used brass pins for a long time on my dread, then someone told me that plastic pins would have less of a damping effect because they are lighter. I bought a set, and changed them last time I changed strings. I do not believe I could actually tell you the difference by sound alone. But then, I know this is not popular to admit.

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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

I would love to try a saddle out of this stuff on my classical. It sure looks beautiful.

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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?

 

Absolutely LOVE bone on my old 60s bird, brightens her up just right, can't speak for a newer one though, worth a try!?

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Absolutely LOVE bone on my old 60s bird, brightens her up just right, can't speak for a newer one though, worth a try!?

 

In the meantime I did, and the sound is just stunning I have to say.

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I just fitted a Colosi bone saddle and pins on my J-50 Modern Classic. I think it sounds different? Maybe a tad better? Hard to say! It goes to show you I think some folks can hear a more pronounced difference than others. I also changed strings to Pearse PB Lights, so to be fair I am having trouble isolating the differences attrubuted to the saddle vs. the strings. It had Lifespan Lights on prior.

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I have switched the pins in my 2010 Epiphone Texan from the stock ones that came in it to some made by Planet Wave's, I believe they are some sort of wood. The old one's where plastic I'm sure, it has a brighter tone than before. I'd like to replace the nut & bridge as well and the first 4 or 5 frets to but I don't know if I should go with bone or ivory. It's not an old guitar but as it's my only use-able one atm so I have played it a LOT in the short time I've owned it from new.

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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.....

 

 

Preaching to the choir....apparently I am related to the creatures in Alien as my pores exude corrosion causing enzymes.

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Hi, I am a newq guy to this site and I have 1993 Blues king which needs a bit of work, the bridge is really too low to be of any use, especially on the terble side of things, and it has a fishman pick up unders the saddle.

I want to change the saddle ideally, its really sloppy in the slot and I have packed it so it sits vertically, but its a poor contact with the bridge and pick up I think as the volume seems well down.

So, it all original apart from the fishman and ideally I would like to order a saddle replacement that I can pretty much fit in after adjusting the height. I live in the UK so its not as easy as ordering from the usual excelent suppliers you guys have. Any thoughts on a new saddle and pins?

Also, I ahve been using 11's for quite a while, but they do lack power so I have changed them for some 12's until I get the saddle sorted. Any recomendations? Its sounds as dull as ditch water with Phoshor Bronze so I am looking to brighten it up a bit, I have 80/20 Martins in for now.

Any thoughts would be most welcome, I do play live quite a bit and I love the original tone of the Blues King, it always attracts comments but I am sure can sound a whole lot better.

 

Thanks

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Hi, I am a newq guy to this site and I have 1993 Blues king which needs a bit of work, the bridge is really too low to be of any use, especially on the terble side of things, and it has a fishman pick up unders the saddle.

I want to change the saddle ideally, its really sloppy in the slot and I have packed it so it sits vertically, but its a poor contact with the bridge and pick up I think as the volume seems well down.

So, it all original apart from the fishman and ideally I would like to order a saddle replacement that I can pretty much fit in after adjusting the height. I live in the UK so its not as easy as ordering from the usual excelent suppliers you guys have. Any thoughts on a new saddle and pins?

Also, I ahve been using 11's for quite a while, but they do lack power so I have changed them for some 12's until I get the saddle sorted. Any recomendations? Its sounds as dull as ditch water with Phoshor Bronze so I am looking to brighten it up a bit, I have 80/20 Martins in for now.

Any thoughts would be most welcome, I do play live quite a bit and I love the original tone of the Blues King, it always attracts comments but I am sure can sound a whole lot better.

 

Thanks

Hi and welcome. Try Bob Colosi for the pins and saddle. I think there is a link in the very first post of this thread. As many others here I am a big fan of bone for pins and saddle for enhancing tone. Bob is a real nice guy as well as helpful. You may have to do a little fitting but it's simple and well worth the time. Good Luck.

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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.

 

Always wondered about string gage. I have heard many folks say that size of the instrument has a lot to do with sting gage preference...and that the larger the instrument the greater the tension/gage in order to move the top. Nevertheless, I believe I will try some lights on my rosewoods and see if there is a difference. Right now I have all dreads, and they all have mediums/aj17 coated d'addarrios.

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Just had my new tech install a Deer Horn nut on my J45. Very noticeable difference in sound and sustain from the bone nut that was in it before. Brighter with a sharper attack and great projection. Highly recommend giving it a try.

 

 

1001135_393698124074476_1894686571_n_zpsd476516e.jpg

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Hi there - I'm new to this forum and its interesting. If nothing else, its one of the most civil forums I seen. I've got some comments and a question.

I have a 13 year old Taylor 714 (cedar/rosewood) and several years ago I ordered a set of Colossi fossilized walrus saddle and bridge pins. At the same time that I changed out the saddle and pins I also put a new set of strings on. All I remember was I liked the sound before and I liked it after but without having the two guitars side by side with the old tusq saddle/ebony pins and the replacement parts, I don't think I could really tell the difference. I'm sure there are some subtle differences in tone, but I would be hard pressed to say what exactly. I can hear the difference between different string manufacturers - I like Martin phosphor bronze SP's for example much better than elixer's. My own feeling is that string composition has a much bigger effect on the tone than the saddle/bridge pins do but its a guess. Its also a lot easier to try different strings than it is to replace the saddle and pins with different materials till you get what you want.

 

So now the question - I just bought a new Gibson J-165 Rosewood (there is a reason I signed up for the Gibson forum after all). The website says the nut is bone, but is strangely quiet about the saddle and bridge pins. My guess would be that the saddle is also bone. Can anyone confirm that? I'm reasonably sure that the bridge pins are plastic just from the look and feel, but I don't know that for sure either. I play fingerpicking and I'd like to try and get a little more clarity from individual strings (especially the middle strings), but I still have the factory strings with no clue about what they are made out of either. Anyone have any experience with this guitar?

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If you take the saddle out and give it a tap or two on a hard surface does it have a tick-tick sound (likely bone) or a thunk thunk sound (likely something other than bone)? I am of the school that different material bridge pins will have no effect on tone, but can dress up a guitar.

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If you take the saddle out and give it a tap or two on a hard surface does it have a tick-tick sound (likely bone) or a thunk thunk sound (likely something other than bone)? I am of the school that different material bridge pins will have no effect on tone, but can dress up a guitar.

 

Thank you for the advice. I'll try taking the saddle out as soon as I have some time.

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I live in the UK so its not as easy as ordering from the usual excelent suppliers you guys have. Any thoughts on a new saddle and pins?

 

 

Thanks

 

Try Chris Alsop in the UK, he will duplicate a saddle for you, he is on Ebay

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Bone-Copy-Your-Guitar-Saddle-Custom-Design-Modelling-PS040-/180993494197?pt=UK_Guitar_Accessories&hash=item2a240d8cb5

 

 

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Diagonal-Compensating-Bone-Guitar-Saddle-You-give-Height-Width-Length-PS001d-/170980743852?pt=UK_Guitar_Accessories&var=&hash=item27cf3f1aac

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Hi Node,

 

Ok... I'll respectfully disagree with you on the issue of pins. In 40 years of playing I've never noticed any difference with using bridge pins made up of various materials. Saddles, nut, strings - of course but I think the whole issue of pins suiting any other purpose other than 'bling' is pure marketing.

 

I've played probably hundreds of guitars over the years and presently own more than I'll admit to. Many times just to satisfy my curious nature I've swapped out one set of pins for another thinking maybe there's something to this. Nothing ever convinced my ears that there was.

 

In my opinion the majority of a guitars tone is achieved by the top wood followed by the back and sides. Obviously body shape, nut, saddle and strings will play a part.

 

Just my 2 cents.

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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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