Is a bone saddle always desirable on a steel string acoustic guitar?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by lazmo, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. lazmo

    lazmo Member

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    My Yamaha solid top/lam back and sides acoustic guitar is not anything special, but it does play really well (I played a lot of guitars before I found this one) and it has a really balanced sound.

    Since getting it I have tried a stack of different strings and my current favourites are Martin SP Lights, which play easily and really enhance the nice balance of the guitars sound.

    The next thing obvious thing to do to the guitar is pay for a setup, but while they are at it, I’m wondering if I should get them to install a bone saddle.

    I know a saddle change to bone (or whatever) is easily reversible, but what will bone bring to the table? I thought that bone was brighter? Won’t that detract from the nicely “balanced” sound it has now?

    To bone or not to bone?
     
  2. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    The problem with bone is that it's bone. It's inconsistent. A great piece of bone is going to have a consistent density and weight throughout. A bad piece of bone is going to have sections that are, for lack of a better word porous, or spongey. Say what you will about corian and the other modern wonder-materials, they are consistent from piece to piece, and most importantly within a single piece!

    Ordering bone by mail? order 3. Tap test them.
     
  3. theaxedoctor

    theaxedoctor Member

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    Fortunately bone is cheap. If you have a decent sized piece that you are cutting yourself, or pre cut blanks, you can tell if it has a large void which would make it unusable. A good piece of bone would be a big upgrade from a stock plastic nut. I've also used water buffalo horn which is very cheap, although I prefer standard bone for aesthetic reasons. If you want you could use a tusq, corian, or graphite nut. Just remember if you use bone, fill the slots with some graphite dust, which will prevent the string from binding.
     
  4. flapjack

    flapjack Member

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    I suggest that bone is not better or worse, just different. You can always try it and let your ears decide.
     
  5. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Member

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    "Slots"? In an acoustic flat top guitar saddle? Oh, you switched to nut-talk.


    I like bone in general and usually discard a third of what I get. If you hold it up to a light source you can see the variation in density. Very important if there is an "under the saddle" p.u. I use a synthetic mostly in this instance.
     
  6. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    Yeah. Lots of folks who put in a Bone saddle only do the saddle due to a lack of ability to swap out the nut, but if you can, or if you take it to a tech doing both is the way to go.

    Not passing judgement. I've paid my dues to be able to do a nut. My partscaster Fender Esquire survived experiments for over a decade that would have put me before the Guitar Crimes Tribunal. But I learned a lot about going from a blank to an installed nut that meets my requirements and fret dressing :p Not something you want to do for the first time on a treasured acoustic where you can't just buy another screw on neck off Ebay for $80...
     
  7. theaxedoctor

    theaxedoctor Member

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    Wow, I should probably learn how to read before I post a response! Anyway, replacing the nut/saddle with bone is not a bad idea.
     
  8. pickaguitar

    pickaguitar 2011 TGP Silver Medalist Silver Supporting Member

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  9. zombywoof

    zombywoof Member

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    It probably wouldn't hurt but I never seem to be able to hear any difference between the various nut and saddle materials.
     
  10. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    And as I warned above, I've heard a number of "dead" bone saddles. Usually internet ordered DIY jobs.
     
  11. JSeth

    JSeth Member

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    I would say that bone produces a slightly warmer tone, as opposed to brighter... it is a small difference, however, but enough that good ears can hear.

    I have bone in my 2 Angus acoustics, well, maybe not the 12 string, I'm not certain... and I have a bone saddle in my new Goodall Grand Concert, as well...

    The Goodall is a redwood top w/ mahogany, and the sound is very warm; first acoustic guitar I've owned where I actually WANT to play a bit more towards the bridge with my picking hand... and I've thought of having a Tusque saddle cut for it, to see if it would brighten up the tone, slightly.

    There is a man named Bob Colosi who's business is saddles and nuts; he is spoken of very highly on the Acoustic Guitar Forum. He could get you a nice saddle for that old Yammie... only way to tell would be to try one out; just don't expect a "night and day" experience, is all... and I'd probably do both saddle and nut, were it my guitar.

    play on.......................................................>
     
  12. geetarman

    geetarman Supporting Member

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    I have Colosi bone or ivory saddles on all of my acoustics and all were improved.
     
  13. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Member

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    Huh? I was just attempting to stay on-topic (saddle); the OP said nothing about a nut, then suddenly someone is talking about "slots" , which we all know do not apply to a bridge saddle, next thing I know my head is spinning like a crazy monkey!

    It requires not much more skill to make a proper nut than to make a proper saddle ("proper" being the key element here). I've been doing it professionally since about 1975.
     
  14. clicktone

    clicktone Supporting Member

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  15. Barnzy

    Barnzy Member

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    A bone saddle will give you a tonal change in your guitar's sound. Whether it is for the better or worse is anybody's guess. In some cases, the change is minimal or nil, and in other cases, dramatic. Definitly worth trying because even if you think your guitar sounds great...it may sound even better. If you are the type of player who plays around with your amp's tube brands or speakers, your choice of pick material, or your string type then you should give bone a try for sure. If you just like to plug (...or unplug...) and play, then maybe you can do without trying it. There are rewards to be had if you care to look though....
    Barnzy
     
  16. Schroedinger

    Schroedinger Member

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    I have changed a bunch of saddles when doing fret jobs. I have heard the same guitars with bone, ivory, TUSQ, etc. My personal conclusion: a saddle that is properly made for the specific guitar it's going into can make a big difference. To get it really "right" takes more time than most people want to give it. The actual material being used makes much less of a difference as long as it's suitable for the job at hand.
     
  17. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    I guess I'm confused . I seem to set you off no matter what I say. I was agreeing with you that the OP asked about saddles Hence the "Yeah". We even agree on the quality of Bone. You say you toss a third of what you get, and I said buy 3 if you are ordering online. I then went on to say, completely seperate from that, that most folks don't want to tackle a nut. Why this would spin your head I don't know.

    But at the risk of getting you mad, I will point out that nuts do require much more knowledge, skill, patience, and most importantly the right tools. You can get by with a good steel rule, a pencil, a block with a straight edge and sandpaper to do a saddle. Stuff most of use have lying around.
     
  18. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    Likely if your guitar already has a well made nut and saddle made from good materials, your guitar may not sound dramatically better or even much different. I find on my Rodriguez classical that the bone was a nice change from what was on it from the factory. On that guitar the bone nut and saddle gave the sound a bit more girth - fatter, more sustain and more even in terms of frequency response. Not dramatically so, but enough for me to substantiate the small cost to have it done. If you're worried about the possible quality buying over the internet, it's probably better to just deal with a great tech as most will have stocks of bone they would already have sorted through. And if you are so inclined have your guy make a couple sets of different materials and then you can make a realistic comparison and find what you like best.
     
  19. musicofanatic5

    musicofanatic5 Member

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    No, there is no conflict that I can see. What spun my heads was how the OP's quiry about a saddle became a thread about the nut, and I did not in any way blame you for this. Do not presume that you "set me off", but I was somewhat unsure exactly what you were trying to direct toward me. All is groovy.

    There was a post above offering that there is more to properly making and fitting a saddle than many might want to think. This is what I was referring to when I stated that similar levels of skill are required to make a nut or a saddle. Sorry to give any other impression.
     
  20. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    Glad to hear it! I was really feeling strange about the whole thing.
     

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