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


nodehopper
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Are they tusq?

 

I think you are right about it being very difficult to actually record the differences between fx tusq and bone pins, but 30 centimetres away just above the stings'n'sound-hole, you'll hear what happens to single-notes.

 

Regarding Marts., I believe they come with plast. Not sure about the highest high-end tho. .

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  • 1 month later...

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....

I would agree with most of what you have said. Pins, saddles, strings, 80/20 or PB's and guages, coated or uncoated strings, are all critical to tone. Great thread!

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  • 1 month later...

 

I think you are right about it being very difficult to actually record the differences between fx tusq and bone pins, but 30 centimetres away just above the stings'n'sound-hole, you'll hear what happens to single-notes.

 

Regarding Marts., I believe they come with plast. Not sure about the highest high-end tho. .

 

Yep generally all martins come with plastic pins and have since the 1930s or earlier (when plastic was amazing!). Some Martins, like the new 15 series, now come with ebony pins.

 

Sometimes I think pins make a difference. Sometimes I don't. Doesn't seem like the should.

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I changed out the bridge pins on two guitars this past week - my D35 and my Hummingbird standard. They both had plastic pins and they now both have bone from Colosi. I really liked the sound before on each of these guitars, and I really like them now too. I guess, try as I might, I just dont hear a meaningful difference, although these pins wont curl and bend, and potentially allow the ball ends of the strings to dig into the bridgeplate.

 

Maybe in a week or so, when I have some time, I will try to put the old pins back, record, and do it again with new pins.

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the spring I decided to learn how to carve'n'craft my own nuts over summer.

It's a splendid thing to beable to do, 1 to avoid the price at the luthier, 2 for the enormous thrill it is to bring the exact right spacing on to your favorite guitars.

 

Made about 6 until now and it doesn't happen one after the other. Whenever the spirit is there I move – not least because it takes quite an amount of concentration as you don't want to fail by fx getting one groove too deep after everything else is right and ready.

 

Wednesday it was time to replace the pre-slotted black tusq factory made PT 6010-00 on the re-necked 1966 Country Western with a piece of waterbuffalo horn – also black.

The hardest part is to get the 5 spaces between the strings identical – first by knifing the extremely precise measured pencil-marks, then by accurate special-tool filing.

But there I went and it turned out good.

However it wasn't really the succes I thought. Yes, the thing privided more room, which was nice, but the sound, , , , was differnt.

 

I have never been a big believer in sonic effects of nut material. That definitely changed.

And I'm absolutely sure as the two blackies have been on and off in 4 rounds now (also because I needed to file a bit more each time).

 

The horn might be smoother – more elegant and classy. It's not bad at all.

 

But the tusq delivers a more pronounced hyper warm tone, which probably in comparison leans a degree toward the primitive.

It simply blends better with the rest of the components and my playing.

 

Ahaa, , , ergo the tusq is back on and though it's possible to live with it, the new spacing was fantastic. This means there only one way to go now :

Get a piece of clean tusq and begin again.

In fact I already ordered 2 blank black blocks this morning - PT 4025-00's - and can't wait to continue the experiment.

Will the new one sound as good as the replaced. Will I hit bulls eye with the flown in home-carved spacy tusq, , , or is this pre-cut 6010-00'er something real special, hehehe. . .

 

September will tell – I will report.

 

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Good going, Em. I have been timidly trying to lower my L0's action at the nut since it came back from a neck set, which left it a little high on strings 2,3,and 4. However, I never got around to buying a proper set of tools for the job, so I can get that exact break angle and contact point correct and polished. Now, inspired by your tale, I think I'll get down with StewMac and get the correct pkg. I'd like to play a little with the spacing on my Martin.

 

I'm in agreement...nuts matter, but you need balls to mess with them.

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I ordered both a set of bone pins and a set of ebony pins to try out with some Elixir Strings Acoustic 80/20 Bronze Guitar Strings with POLYWEB Coating Custom Light (.011-.052) and the ( .012 - .052)

 

I don't know if I will hear much difference but I want to check it out and see on a Gibson Songwriter Deluxe with the L.R. Baggs pickup. It only has the volume at the edge of the sound hole, so you can't even tell it has a pickup until you plug it in.

 

But I would like to see if I can hear a difference between the pins that are on the Guitar now, and the Bone pins, and the Ebony pins.

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

After trying several different strings, and pins, I ended right back where I started from with the Tusq pins, and 80 /20 strings with coating - 11's, and 12's. Both sets sound good.

 

With the Bone, you get better sustain, but you lose some top bass, and high end. You get some warmth. With ebony, you get more warmth and great sustain, but you still lose low and high end, and loudness.

 

I guess Gibson knows this because the original pins and a good set of coated strings sound the best to keep the loudness, and peak high and low end tones, with clarity. You get some better sustain out of bone and ebony pins, and gain some warmth,

 

but you lose the clarity of the high and low end tones, you lose some loudness, and the sustain is not that much of a difference to matter. I have tried a lot of strings on this Songwriter Deluxe Guitar, but I have found, the coated strings are good, less

 

squeak, but that is more to the player than the strings. The 11's and 12's are great on the this Guitar after they are broken in. Also the more I play this Guitar the better it sounds. When it is plugged in, then you hear a difference and a benefit with the

 

bone and ebony pins. You are able to keep the warmth, sustain, and compensate for the loss of the very high and low end tones, and when it is plugged in, then the bone and ebony pins are better. But most of the time, I am not plugged in. Our stage

 

and building does not need it for an acoustic set of just me playing and singing. But, if I was playing plugged in most of the time, I would go with the ebony pins, Gibson, or Heritage 80/ 20 - (11) strings.

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

After trying several different strings, and pins, I ended right back where I started from with the Tusq pins, and 80 /20 strings with coating - 11's, and 12's. Both sets sound good.

 

With the Bone, you get better sustain, but you lose some top bass, and high end. You get some warmth. With ebony, you get more warmth and great sustain, but you still lose low and high end, and loudness.

 

I guess Gibson knows this because the original pins and a good set of coated strings sound the best to keep the loudness, and peak high and low end tones, with clarity. You get some better sustain out of bone and ebony pins, and gain some warmth,

 

but you lose the clarity of the high and low end tones, you lose some loudness, and the sustain is not that much of a difference to matter. I have tried a lot of strings on this Songwriter Deluxe Guitar, but I have found, the coated strings are good, less

 

squeak, but that is more to the player than the strings. The 11's and 12's are great on the this Guitar after they are broken in. Also the more I play this Guitar the better it sounds. When it is plugged in, then you hear a difference and a benefit with the

 

bone and ebony pins. You are able to keep the warmth, sustain, and compensate for the loss of the very high and low end tones, and when it is plugged in, then the bone and ebony pins are better. But most of the time, I am not plugged in. Our stage

 

and building does not need it for an acoustic set of just me playing and singing. But, if I was playing plugged in most of the time, I would go with the ebony pins, Gibson, or Heritage 80/ 20 - (11) strings.

 

 

 

 

Thanx, RockyMtnAirShow - recognize what you say about bone and ebony pins. I combine those, , , sometimes with plast also.

 

 

 

 

 

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You could combine the different pins to get a certain sound out of a certain string.

 

'Xactly - some people see it as messing up the look of the guitar due to the different materials.

 

Understandable, but I regard the combos a part of their personality.

 

Then again some stay all dark : horn/rosewood/ebony/black plast, , ,

 

others remain white whitish creamlike : (dyed)bone/maple/plast

 

 

The dots of course, have a whole chapter for themselves ;-)

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey there,

 

I just installed a bone saddle from Bob Colosi and bone pins from Stewart McDonald on my J150 and Hummingbird and wow!!big difference, they are back to life. I can not believe all that was missing this time. However, I was using elixir strings with both and was sounding too bright, recently installed Martin Acoustic SP PB and it sounds even better, more balanced. I don't want to change strings every 2 weeks, so is there any option on coated strings other than Elixirs?

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Hey there,

 

I just installed a bone saddle from Bob Colosi and bone pins from Stewart McDonald on my J150 and Hummingbird and wow!!big difference, they are back to life. I can not believe all that was missing this time. However, I was using elixir strings with both and was sounding too bright, recently installed Martin Acoustic SP PB and it sounds even better, more balanced. I don't want to change strings every 2 weeks, so is there any option on coated strings other than Elixirs?

You could try the Martin Lifespans - they are "treated" and come in that SP / PB configuration. Interestig that a simple bone saddle can result in such a step in tone on so many guitars.

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  • 2 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...
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Really like the pins for appearance. The bone saddle took very little work to fit the slot and about three tries to get the action to where I wanted it. Very noticeable increase in what I would say is the upper midrange tone and the length of sustain on notes. I used Bob's saddle as a pattern to make an ivory saddle from a spear whale tooth I have. I like it even better ...but this could be because I made it . Much simpler than I thought it would be. The tone in the Baggs pickup is much better with both the bone and ivory than with the Tusq.

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I currently have the Gibson 80/20s that came in the case on my J-15. I find them fairly..average really. Next to try are D'Addario 85/15s which also have a slightly heavier bottom than the standard D'Addario lights. I have a Colosi bone saddle which I'm fitting this week but I'm keeping the stock bridge pins as 1) I couldn't figure out which size to order from Colosi and 2) I like like the plain look of them.

Has anyone had a chance to test the new D'Addario Nickel Bronze sets yet? They are quite expensive compared to the regular PB or 80/20, at least over here in the UK.

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I seem to find the stock pins fine and gotta say I think the saddle holds the tone not really the pins, (and yes I could be missing something others hear that i dont) and for strings Ive kept the original free pak of gibson strings unopened in the case and will say the dadario coated 80/20 bronze exp 11, 12 -53 are the best strings ive ever tried, over the last 25 years of experimenting , somes times i really lay into them somes strum lightly cheers j

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  • 3 weeks later...

I put on a set of the new D'Addario Nickel Bronze 12-53 last night. I was expecting them to be a sort of silvery-gold colour but they are silver like the other nickel strings I've used in the past (John Pearse).

First impressions are positive. In particular the low end seems to be devoid of overtones, and when I mute the bottom strings with my right hand, they gave a very pleasant dry thump that suits the way I play. A quite dead sound but in a good way. I guess it will take a few days for them to settle in so I'll report back when that has happened.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hands down, Gibs, Austrian made Thomastik-Infeld Spectrums. They don't start out bright so there's no break-in tone changes, and they last a helluva long time. You get what you pay for @ 20 something dollars a set. I couldn't afford to string all my acoustics with them but always kept them on my '57 J45.

 

I was wondering. Do you play them in 11-52 lights or 12-54 Medium lights?

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