Tone of Graphite nut vs tusq or bone

JimLamme

Member
Messages
121
Hi folks,

My strat has a nut black in colour which I assume is most likely graphite although it could be black plastic. I'm finding my strat to sound dull on the bass strings (especially E and less so on the A & D strings) although they sound ok and bright on the treble strings.

Assuming it is graphite, would changing to a tusq or bone nut make a big difference in making the bass strings less dull and or 'thumpier'? I've heard the debate between bone and tusq but how would either of them compared to graphite nut? Would the different between graphite and tusq or bone be bigger than the difference bone and tusq?

Thanks!

Jim
 

EADGBE

Senior Member
Messages
12,338
I think bone would sound better than what you have. Graphite sounds better than plastic. I'm not sure your guitar has graphite though. I'd go with bone. Or you could try some tusq or corian. But I think bone is best. It's more similar to ivory than the rest.
 

bluesjunior

Member
Messages
5,945
I think bone would sound better than what you have. Graphite sounds better than plastic. I'm not sure your guitar has graphite though. I'd go with bone. Or you could try some tusq or corian. But I think bone is best. It's more similar to ivory than the rest.
How can bone be more similar to ivory than artificial ivory?.:dunno
 

EADGBE

Senior Member
Messages
12,338
How can bone be more similar to ivory than artificial ivory?.:dunno
Because they have similar densities and similar strengths. Artificial ivory probably looks like the real thing. But doesn't sound like the real thing.
 

bluesjunior

Member
Messages
5,945
Because they have similar densities and similar strengths. Artificial ivory probably looks like the real thing. But doesn't sound like the real thing.
So how come Martin, Gibson. Fender are putting Tusq on their guitars in preference to bone?.
 

dB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,205
So how come Martin, Gibson. Fender are putting Tusq on their guitars in preference to bone?.
I think because Tusq is much more consistent and predictable than bone for large scale manufacturers like Martin, Gibson and Fender.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
34,003
What affect on tone will the various nut materials have on fretted notes?
Try this.
Slide a round toothpick under the string(s) up against the nut, thus raising them from contact with the nut. Play open and then fretted.

If you hear a difference, fretted, with vs without the toothpick, you may need to pick your nuts carefully. (that may be good advice, anyway:D)
If you hear no diff (that's me) don't sweat the trivia.
 

JimLamme

Member
Messages
121
I'm sure the big builders will use tusq because its easier to work with and more consistent. Perhaps also easier to source and can get them already slotted from the makers of tusq => less labour involved to make the nut fit. Although many will say bone sounds better, its different strokes for different folks.

But back to the graphite question. Big difference to bone or not a big difference?

Cheers.
 

Rob Sharer

Muso-Luthier
Messages
2,822
Bone is very hard and dense, assuming you've got a good piece and not some of that chalky crap that gets sold for top dollar by some suppliers. Graphite is stiff, but not necessarily very hard, and certainly not dense and heavy like bone. I don't want to make a sweeping generalization, but I don't like to use graphite nuts unless there's a compelling reason to do so, which in my shop turns out to be almost never, usually just at a customer's request.

I personally own guitars with just about every nut material commonly found, mostly on account of laziness when it comes to replacing a serviceable nut with something nicer. When I do replace one, I always use bone on my own axes. I believe a well-made bone nut can do everything a graphite nut can do, the emphasis being on well-made, and sound better to boot. Lubrication helps. Cheers,

Rob

p.s. Not all graphite nuts are created equal, either; some are more like molded plastic with graphite bits embedded. Those are way too soft to sound nice.
 

NoahL

Member
Messages
1,423
I called Gibson once to ask why the nut and saddle on my L-130 were Tusq. The guy told me that Tusq is more consistent, which is especially important for guitars with under-saddle pickups, like the L-130. I mentioned this to my luthier and he thought it was hogwash, that the chances of a bone nut being so inconsistent as to affect tone were negligible. I wouldn't be able to argue either way. I do notice that there are lots of $400-$500 acoustics today with bone nut and saddle -- so it can't be a deal-breaker, cost-wise, right?
 

Rob Sharer

Muso-Luthier
Messages
2,822
Gibson's right about bone being inconsistent; for this reason, it's not a good choice for undersaddle transducer-equipped guitars. Imagine you have a piece that's hard and glassy on one end, but more porous and soft on the other end (not hard to find). Which end will have better sound transmission?

That said, Tusq leaves me cold. I use Corian or Micarta for undersaddle pickup applications where there's a string-balance issue. Cheers,

Rob
 

JimLamme

Member
Messages
121
Ok. Thanks everyone for all the replies. If anyone has any more insight in the bone vs graphite story or anecdotal or personal experience I would love to hear it.

If not, till next time :)
 

OldRocker69

Member
Messages
11
Artificial Ivory vs. Real Ivory:
The artificial ivory (even the top of the line) is a synthetic material that is solid and has unique layers to create the growth ring appearance.

Real Ivory contains microscopic holes throughout the structure. When a string vibrates on ivory it resonates throughout all of those holes making the tone richer then a solid product.
 






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