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

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Good thread here! I have also changed from plastic to bone on my guitars in the past. Last week I bought a new J 45 Standard at GC, complete with Elixir nano web lights (12 - 52) 80/20 phosphor/ bronze strings. Had not been a fan of Elixir prior to this but these sounded really good. In fact the guitar sounded awesome new out of the box except for the string change they made and a neck adjustment I had made to lower the action a bit.

After reading through this thread I was thinking "yeah, change to bone and get an even better sound". I asked my luthier about it. He's worked with me for several years and knows the sound I go for but in this case his advice was don't mess with it if you like the sound as it is. I'm considering following his advice in this case because this is the best sounding acoustic I've ever owned and sometimes the changes I've made in the past didn't have the impact I desired, sometimes even being negative. This guitar's tone is so well balanced as is that for the moment I'll probably leave it alone. I may swap out the pins on the next string change to get bone with abalone inlays but more for appearance than anything else.

So this week I've learned to bend the rules some and leave well enough alone at times. But to each his own!

David

 

2010 cherry custom shop 335

1999 Les Paul Standard

1979 ES 175

2000 Martin HD 28V

Alvarez Jumbo Yari

2013 Gibson J 45 Standard

2010 Nash '52 Strat

2011 Nash '50 Tele

A couple of guitars looking for new homes not listed here

 

Mesa Nomad amp

Mesa Mark V

Andrews Spectraverb pt to pt based on blackface circuit

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Thank's for all the tech tips. I've just purchased a Hummingbird Pro. Do you suggest I replace the nut and saddle ? I'm worried that replacing the saddle may damage or devaluate my guitar. Shouldn't I keep original parts on it ? Thank's !

 

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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Thank's for all the tech tips. I've just purchased a Hummingbird Pro. Do you suggest I replace the nut and saddle ? I'm worried that replacing the saddle may damage or devaluate my guitar. Shouldn't I keep original parts on it ? Thank's !

Saddles are routinely changed on guitars as needed. No worries there.

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I've recently purchased a 2009 j-45,great sounding guitar.The original saddle still on guitar,It has some pretty good wear grooves on it,pings and pops at times when tuning. I want to replace it with bone but I don't really want a drastic sound change. I'm assuming that because the saddle is on top of the pick up strip, which I think may be some what dampening, bone will not be to drastic of a sound change. Does this sound accurate?? Thank's for any input.

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I won't go into the string question too deeply -- at the MOMENT -- it's Martin Lifespan SP lights. But I use and have used so many and love too many to mention. Even strings I once hated (DR Sunbeam), I have recently "loved." Get the idea? Strings can make me crazy.

 

But what really changed my whole deal about tone is bridge pins: Ebony on Hogs (J45, D18), TUSQ (man-made ivory) on rosewood (D28 and D50). Big, difference. More attack on the rosewoods, and way more "wood" on the hogs....

 

For ebony, I just bought Martin sets from Musicians Friend.

 

For TUSQ, I bought from the manufacturer -- here

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Great post !

 

On my Blues King I've change nut and bridge to bone & pins to ebony. The result is a better sound and a bit bright.

 

As string now I'm using Martin SP Phosphor Bronze 0.11 / 0.52, they are cheap, good and easy to play (I suffer a problem in my left arm due to a car crash and I do a lot of bending playing Blues).

I've tried pure nickel strings with round core and they was very nice and easy to play too. Is hard to find them with the wound G, only on a german web store in Europe I've found the Pyramid Classic .011 / .050 but cost a lot of money.

 

The pick is another story. Yes is a cheap solution to change the tone, now I'm using Gibson x-heavy picks for hybrid-picking and they are good enough for light strumming and the sound is less bright than for example the classic Fender Heavy 351 shape.

 

Thank to all. have a nice day. Rico

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Hello again - 1 basic Q :

 

How much does nut material affect tone ?

 

Plast

Tusq

 

Horn

 

Ebony (other wood)

 

Bone

 

Brass

 

Very curious to hear personal experiences -

 

 

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I'm very new at this... only started about a month ago. I have a Yamaha FG700S which I put Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze, I like the way they felt and sounded on the Yamaha. I just got a J-15 last week and the store put new D'Addario strings, I'm not sure which.

 

What does everyone think would be a good string for the J-15?

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I'm very new at this... only started about a month ago. I have a Yamaha FG700S which I put Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze, I like the way they felt and sounded on the Yamaha. I just got a J-15 last week and the store put new D'Addario strings, I'm not sure which.

 

What does everyone think would be a good string for the J-15?

 

I have gibson 80/20s on now, doesn't seem to have the same volume as the d'addarios. I bought a set of elixir 80/20s poly web and martin 80/20s, I will be trying those in the next few weeks. I also have a set of elixir phosphor bronze nano webs but they are 11 gauge, might try them anyway.

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I bought a standard j45 about a month ago and I have been kicking myself everyday for not doing it sooner. Mostly I did not because I never played one in a store that sounded great. Strings I'm guessing. I use light (12's) Elixir Phosphor Nano's on every acoustic guitar I play and so do my band mates which is really handy. One of us always has a set or an extra string. I really wanted to like them on the Gibson. I left them on for about 48hours. They robbed the guitar of everything I love about it. I put on the Gibson strings that came with the guitar and I like them much better. Based on what I have read here, I am going to try some DR Rare and DR Sunbeams next. Ebony bridge pins seem like a good thing to try as well.

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I still believe it is possible to tune the sound of a guitar using different saddles, pins, strings, and nut.

 

My J-35 has been awesome sound-wise but so bright and loud. After having tried bone bridge pins instead of the factory plastic pins I recently swapped in some Ebony pins. Bingo! found just the right combination to give me the sound with this guitar I have been craving. Simply thinking about the materials we use, their innate characteristics and properties and what we want to try and do to the tone of a guitar. Bone pins were too bright and the Ebony sweetened the tone a little to make for the sound I wanted.

 

Great fun to try all the different materials and find the combo that works... I highly recommend experimenting.

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I still believe it is possible to tune the sound of a guitar using different saddles, pins, strings, and nut.

 

Great fun to try all the different materials and find the combo that works... I highly recommend experimenting.

 

Heard

 

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how much should one pay to have the nut saddle and pins replaced excluding the material?? Also where is a good place to find those items??

http://www.guitarsaddles.com/gen_info.asp

As far as cost - you are basically talking about a complete setup and some relatively minor install time. I dunno about your local luthier's, but perhaps $100 - $200 ?

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I went with Colossi pins, saddle and nut when customizing my SJ200, all in fossilized walrus ivory, and I think those additions are partly responsible for the depth of tone and rich full sound I get from it now, as opposed to how it sounded out-of-the-box. Amplified, it sounds amazing. I am also partial to the D'Addario EJ14 Bluegrass strings with lights on the top and mids on the bottom (.012-.056) for the nice bass tones that really compliment the bright highs for a very full sound barefoot. Replacing plastic with bone or another porous material is a must for my guitars. I have experimented here and there, and decided on the fossilized walrus ivory as being the best, IMO. Gives me more sustain as well as a solid feel when I fingerpick. Does that make sense? For me, it just gives my instrument an added oompf and there is a noticeable difference in the overall feel and sound. I find it ridiculous that a manufacturer of any fine guitar will sell it for over 3k with plastic touching the strings. Unacceptable, in my book. For those contemplating change, check out the fossilized walrus ivory instead of bone. Just my two cents:)

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