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View Full Version : Does a Bone Nut Have Any Effect on Tone?


ancient
03-16-2010, 04:24 PM
Just had one installed on my SG while taking it in for a setup so I'm curious to find out... :)

K-Line
03-16-2010, 04:30 PM
:munch
I love this thread! My vote is yes but not that the human ear can decipher.

TwoTubMan
03-16-2010, 04:36 PM
Trust me, the TGP Bat Ears Brigade will be able to hear a difference...

Tone_Terrific
03-16-2010, 04:42 PM
:munch
I love this thread! My vote is yes but not that the human ear can decipher.

It should be in the FAQ library.

So, I'll repeat the test.

Slide a round toothpick (or something) under a string or 2, right up against the nut, lifting it slightly out of the slot thus creating a wooden nut.
Try it.
Nobody ever does (the lazy lot of you!:FM), so I'll tell you the answer, too.

Unfretted it IS a bit duller but would work in a pinch.
Fretted, no difference.
Mr Goldenears will hear it differently, but should be blindfolded first.

cram
03-16-2010, 04:52 PM
yes, these tend to get a lot of posts in reply with interesting commentary.

I think it boils down to these basic points -
It should only affect open strings, but these are used extensively in playing most styles.
Some will say it's a marginal difference if anything.

I've never had a decent before and after test. I'd prefer a better nut on my 01' LP Standard (plastic of some sort), but the work to get it in and sounding good stands to be error prone (looking bad around the binding/edges.

Flinto2002
03-16-2010, 05:23 PM
it's only going to ever effect the open strings. So even if all you play is cowboy chords, the most strings that would be effected in most any given chord would be 3. So yeah, maybe you can hear a teeny bit of difference on an open E chord, but for most things any of us would be playing... prolly not gonna hear anything

dspellman
03-16-2010, 05:26 PM
Basically, no.

But before there was plastic, there was bone, and plastic is cheap, while bone is merely inexpensive. Therefore bone must be better. No one knows exactly *why* it would be better, but there you are.

riff1006
03-16-2010, 05:32 PM
Only on an open string. On a fretted string the fret becomes the nut.

MartinC
03-16-2010, 05:39 PM
Well, Suhr build guitars that are designed around quality and tone. They use Tusq. Not saying that Tusq sounds better than anything else, but I'm comfortable believing that bone isn't better in terms of tone ... otherwise Suhr would probably be using bone.

Others I've spoken to (guitar techs) believe that bone is too inconsistent in quality to be worth using, and other modern manufatured material is much more consistent and hard wearing.

David Garner
03-16-2010, 05:57 PM
I don't think so. I changed the nut and saddle on my Taylor to bone, and the saddle altered the tone a lot. Nut, not so much.

David Garner
03-16-2010, 05:58 PM
Well, Suhr build guitars that are designed around quality and tone. They use Tusq. Not saying that Tusq sounds better than anything else, but I'm comfortable believing that bone isn't better in terms of tone ... otherwise Suhr would probably be using bone.

Others I've spoken to (guitar techs) believe that bone is too inconsistent in quality to be worth using, and other modern manufatured material is much more consistent and hard wearing.

That's probably right. For some reason, Tusq doesn't sound as good for acoustic saddles to me, but I seriously doubt there is any advantage to bone over Tusq for an electric guitar nut.

The Guy
03-16-2010, 05:58 PM
:munch

arthur rotfeld
03-16-2010, 06:08 PM
A properly cut nut sounds best :)

jakes guitars
03-16-2010, 06:16 PM
The only arguement I have that bone is better than plastic is the fact that it is natural in origin. I would have to agree with those who say if there is a difference at all, it is only on open strings. I use it simply because I like to use as little plastic in my guitars as possible.
For the most part, Its tradition, and I definately prefer it over plastic. Even if it is from a mostly aesthetic point.
And Arthur said it best "A properly cut nut sounds best"

Flyin' Brian
03-16-2010, 06:21 PM
Only if you're playing through Tag's Dumble

arthur rotfeld
03-16-2010, 06:25 PM
The only arguement I have that bone is better than plastic is the fact that it is natural in origin. I would have to agree with those who say if there is a difference at all, it is only on open strings. I use it simply because I like to use as little plastic in my guitars as possible.
For the most part, Its tradition, and I definately prefer it over plastic. Even if it is from a mostly aesthetic point.
And Arthur said it best "A properly cut nut sounds best"

I agree about the natural aspect.....on a great guitar it's nice to have the bone there. My custom acoustic has no plastic....all wood, bone, shell, (and metal for the tuners). Nice.

gkoelling
03-16-2010, 06:40 PM
Unless you're playing an open string, no. There are some who will argue otherwise but they're all drinking a different brand of Kool Aid.

101Volts
03-16-2010, 08:04 PM
The difference isn't very big between nut materials. However, I did notice a difference when I replaced the stock plastic nut in my Tele with a bone nut. Its small but its there. Also, I tried a graphite nut once - It was more difficult to make than a bone nut and it sucked tone and possibly sustain out of my guitar. I didn't have all the knowledge I have now about making nuts but still, I don't think graphite makes for a very good nut tonally.

Gary Ladd
03-16-2010, 11:55 PM
A long time ago I once had a brass nut put on a 335...COMPLETELY changed the tone of the guitar.

Afterwards I put a bone nut in (couldn't stand the brass tone) and the guitar definately was more resonant and had more sustain, fretted or not, than it did with the stock corrian nut.

Rumblefish
03-17-2010, 12:13 AM
Well call me bat ears if you must.On my various Fenders I always replaced the stock with a bone nut.And yes it only impacts tone on open strings,but I hear a more"open/airey" sound.And a rounder top end while still retaining sparkle.
If you wish to really hear a difference on a good acoustic gtr,try walrus tusk ivory on nut and bridge.Really woke up my D28.

TresGatos
03-17-2010, 08:10 AM
Well call me bat ears if you must.

Bat Ears.
:p

Rumblefish
03-17-2010, 07:09 PM
Bat Ears.
:p

I jest caint git no respect 'round here.:cry:

Slowlicks
03-18-2010, 03:55 PM
They look nice if done right... That's about it.. I speak from experience.
Its a waste of money if your chasing tone..

jazzandmetal?
03-18-2010, 04:08 PM
It depends on what kind of animal the bone is from.:)

OlAndrew
03-18-2010, 04:57 PM
Would a black cat bone give you mojo?

Will Chen
03-18-2010, 05:29 PM
It's an OCD thing some just gotta do. Any difference is nominal and would easily be nullified by boosting/cutting treble/bass at the amp.

ickywoods
03-18-2010, 06:17 PM
it's only going to ever effect the open strings. So even if all you play is cowboy chords, the most strings that would be effected in most any given chord would be 3. So yeah, maybe you can hear a teeny bit of difference on an open E chord, but for most things any of us would be playing... prolly not gonna hear anything:agree

Boris Bubbanov
03-18-2010, 06:23 PM
A properly cut nut sounds best :)


This is the real answer. I'd rather a tusq nut than a badly cut bone nut, or a bone nut with an internal fault that just hasn't broken clean yet. Bone is not as consistent, and for this reason I've used only tusq and graphtech for the last 3 years. This stuff is deadly consistent, both tusq and graphtech.

If you can tell a brass nut, all of you, even with a barre chord, then it stands to reason at least on some guitars you might be able to distinquish graphtech or tusq - from bone. Even with all notes fretted. Because the entire string is involved to a certain degree. Even if we're talking "around the horn" by way of resonating back through the neck. On some guitars you won't be able to tell because there's some 800 pound gorilla issue with the guitar someplace else in the sound chain and until that is fixed you won't be able to distinguish much of anything.

I'm gonna go back and try some bone on a half dozen or so. I will let you know what I think. Trying to get those last drops of whisky from the glass.

doublee
03-18-2010, 06:46 PM
^

Last few drops????? :eek:

Ginglymus
03-18-2010, 10:31 PM
Only on an open string. On a fretted string the fret becomes the nut.

It is conceivable there could be an audible difference. The nut is still providing support for the tension in the string while the fret is only changing its vibrational length.

OTOH, when playing bent notes, or guitars with very high action, the fretting finger becomes like a nut, affecting string tension, and has a noticeably damping effect on the string.

greenlander
03-18-2010, 10:59 PM
I had bone nuts installed on my guitars and found it made a drastic difference (for the better). I do use a lot of open string chording.

And I also have very sensitive ears. I can tell whether a gnat fart was an F# or a Gb.

buchla300
03-19-2010, 02:05 AM
I like the look of a bone nut and as they cost sweet FA, I'll go bone. All I know is all my guitars sound good. Exception my Ibanez LR10 has a brass nut and sounds great.
Just make sure you get someone good to fit one. A badly cut nut ruins a guitar. Half of the people throwing pickups in and out of guitars, changing pots and wiring have never even looked at the nut to see if that is why the guitar doesn't sing or stay in tune or has deadspots or just feels nasty..

semi-hollowbody
03-19-2010, 10:15 AM
The go-to guitar repair guy in my area says the only reason to change a nut is if its broken or there are intonation/tuning issues...to change one out FOR tonal reasons only is a waste of time and money as it ONLY affects the open strings and is barely noticable...If I go on the forums and ask for the best guitar tech in my area this guy is repeatedly mentioned...

I actually persisted (wanted a bone nut on my dot) and he actually talked me out of it...he looked at it, had no intonation/tuning issues...the stock plastic nut was cut correctly and slots filed correctly...I didnt make any drastic string guage changes...he insisted it was a waste of money...

Rock Johnson
03-19-2010, 10:25 AM
If you can tell a brass nut, all of you, even with a barre chord, then it stands to reason at least on some guitars you might be able to distinquish graphtech or tusq - from bone. Even with all notes fretted. Because the entire string is involved to a certain degree. Even if we're talking "around the horn" by way of resonating back through the neck. On some guitars you won't be able to tell because there's some 800 pound gorilla issue with the guitar someplace else in the sound chain and until that is fixed you won't be able to distinguish much of anything.


That's my dilemma on the question.

My gut tells me that any difference would only be audible on the open notes...but I know for a fact that on a Les Paul, changing the tailpiece material changes the tone. Since the tailpiece is past the bridge witness point, it *shouldn't* have a noticeable effect, but it does.

So, I wonder if the same thing is somehow true with nut material - even though it's past the fretted note witness point, it also *shouldn't* have any effect...but maybe it does, even if it is 'round the horn' like you say.

It's also possible that the tonal difference people hear is the difference between a poorly cut nut and well cut nut, like you said.

I also think the difference is much more noticeable on an acoustic than an electric. Way fewer variables with an acoustic guitar (no amps, speakers, cables, electronics, etc).

Alvis
03-19-2010, 10:32 AM
Yeah, it makes a difference
If you were around for the late 70's ,the days of BRASS nuts,then you know

But,that aluminum nut on the danelectros is a keeper !

GtrDr
03-19-2010, 12:35 PM
I can't hear the difference between bone and Corian or tusq. I find Corian (Nylon) easy to work with & easy on strings. I have a friend that owns a Custom Kitchen Company. He gives me the sink cutouts. So I have it every color under the sun. The Granite looks great as a nut/saddle combo.

101Volts
03-19-2010, 12:53 PM
I had bone nuts installed on my guitars and found it made a drastic difference (for the better). I do use a lot of open string chording.

And I also have very sensitive ears. I can tell whether a gnat fart was an F# or a Gb.

Have you ever tried a Graphite nut? I tried one and it made my guitar sound halfway between palm muting and not palm muting compared to the bone nuts I was making. However, I don't think I cut it right. I have to try that again. Oh and the last part is funny, I see what you did there.

Tone_Terrific
03-19-2010, 01:35 PM
That's my dilemma on the question.

My gut tells me that any difference would only be audible on the open notes...but I know for a fact that on a Les Paul, changing the tailpiece material changes the tone. Since the tailpiece is past the bridge witness point, it *shouldn't* have a noticeable effect, but it does.

So, I wonder if the same thing is somehow true with nut material - even though it's past the fretted note witness point, it also *shouldn't* have any effect...but maybe it does, even if it is 'round the horn' like you say.

It's also possible that the tonal difference people hear is the difference between a poorly cut nut and well cut nut, like you said.

I also think the difference is much more noticeable on an acoustic than an electric. Way fewer variables with an acoustic guitar (no amps, speakers, cables, electronics, etc).

Try the little test I suggested way back near the start of the thread.

The string DOES vibrate past the witness points and moreso at the bridge, as the bridge actually rocks (vibrates) along the length of the string.
However, the effects are, clearly, debatable and clamping one's finger on the neck when fretting kills a lot of nut influence.

How hard do you want to pursue an effect that I don't think could stand up to a blind test?

But, nobody participating, around here, has the facility to simply test these premises properly. So, YMMV, based on personal experience and bat ears.

Gary Ladd
03-19-2010, 03:14 PM
Make a nut out of wood and compare that to bone ;)

Better yet, just go compare a wood bridge ES175 to one fitted with a TOM...

I can definately hear & feel a difference between bone and plastic, depends on my mood which type of guitar I want in my hands.

YMMV :Devil