Anyone Swear By Compensated Nuts?

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Collin D Plonker, Mar 19, 2021.

  1. mtorn

    mtorn Tele-Holic

    Nov 29, 2016
    Portland, Oregon
    Alright, I guess I'll jump in now with my take on it.

    I like compensated nuts.
    Maybe I have some kind of fancy extra-discerning ear (probably not), or maybe because I play more keys and synths than I play guitars I'm used to perfect equal-tempered tuning (more likely), but either way I absolutely DO think that there is a problem that is worth trying to solve.

    A few things to mention, for clarity:

    1. It has NOTHING to do with the bridge intonation or compensated saddles. If you just had a straight piece of metal (or wood, or bone) as your bridge, this all applies the same.

    2. It has EVERYTHING to do with how (due to the laws of physics) each of our six strings behave a little differently when bent.

    As we all know, each of the six strings on a guitar will respond differently to increased tension (which is what happens when bending). If nothing else, it's apparent at the tuning machines - a half turn on one string will affect the pitch more than a half turn on another. The high E string will change its pitch much less than the G string. (The GraphTech Ratio tuners are made to address that, with different gearing for different strings).

    We also all know that we bend the strings a smidge simply by fretting a string, even if we have a light, clean touch.
    And most of us know that the most aggressive bending happens on the fist few frets, since you have to fight the nut more. You'll bend the string a LOT if you have a high nut, but even a low nut, or a zero fret, will require some bending (and some raising of the pitch). Some of us, especially beginners, will push the string a bit too hard against the fretboard, bending it yet a bit more.

    The ONLY time you won't bend the strings at all is with open strings.

    So why would anyone be surprised when different strings raises the pitch different amounts when fretted (especially at the low frets)?
    The picture posted above illustrates this nicely, isolating our attention to the G string, the biggest culprit:

    On this guitar, you might be tuning your guitar like normally, with a tuner and open strings. When you encounter the G, the offset saddle will make the string a little higher in pitch. So you tune that string down a little, to a perfect G.

    Now, when playing, the open G will be in tune (you just tuned it!). And here's the magic: when fretting the G string, the act of fretting will raise the pitch of it a bit more than it will bend the others, but since the string starts out tuned a tad LOWER than it would otherwise, the fretted notes will still be in tune!

    It's as simple as that.

    Here's something for doubters to try at home, with a guitar with a regular nut:
    This uses only the highest 3 strings. Fret the G string at the first fret, and strum (this gives you a E major triad, G#, B, E). Make sure that the 3 strings are tuned nicely against one another (while the G string is fretted), producing a clean chord.

    Now drop the fretted finger, and play all 3 strings open (an E minor, G, B, E). It sounds a bit sour, doesn't it? It makes me cringe a little bit. Try tuning the G string up, just a little. Better, right!?!
    This is EXACTLY (and ONLY) what the compensated nut does. Just like in the picture.

    If you don't think that there is a noticeable improvement, it's probably because you are either not very picky about pitch, or because you've gotten accustomed to the imperfection. Perhaps you even prefer it!

    Buzz Feiten did us a disservice by making it seem like he's a mystical guru of compensated nuts. That's not going to work well to convince the "if it aint broke" crowd, especially not those who prefer a largely unchanged guitar from 75 years ago!
    DugT likes this.
  2. Newbcaster

    Newbcaster Tele-Holic

    May 10, 2015
    2 things. The first is a statement that I'm pretty sure is wrong or not specific enough. But..

    I think the buzz feiten system basically calculates the nut and and all the other frets at par, but then moves the nut closer to the first fret for all the strings. Is that true?

    Secondly, I am very wary of this. I have bat ears.

    We have become accustomed to the jangle of strummed slightly out chords since time immemorial.

    It's a big part of the sound of rock.

    Buzz guitars sound off to me because they are too right. Too sweet.

    It's why I don't listen to Steve vai. It's too perfect.

    The other guy I dont listen to as much as I'd like is Eric Johnson. Don't get me wrong. I LOVE his playing.

    But he tunes his string progressively flat from the d out to low e, and progressively sharp from g to high e.

    I think earvana is a nice middle ground. Just move the g forward.

    Ugly as sin visually, but sonically tolerable.

    It's not necessary, but it is nice.
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