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Bridge pin and saddle materials, your comments invited.

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Recalcitrant, Feb 27, 2021.

  1. Recalcitrant

    Recalcitrant Tele-Meister

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    https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/3-ways-make-acoustic-guitar-sound-better/



    While clicking around on Sweetwater's site, I found this interesting set of sound clips comparing the tone of different acoustic guitar bridge pin and saddle materials. Normally discussions on materials bring out all kinds of remarks. I have to say these clips showed notable differences in sound, at least to me.

    Accordingly. I went out and replaced the ebony pins on a self-made cigar-box guitar with bone, and had my tech replace a plastic saddle on a Yamaha guitar with bone, and I feel these were definite improvements, seeming to even out the tone in both instruments.

    In these clips the ebony pins sound a little thin to me, but they might be used to improve a dark guitar? And plastic pins sound like…plastic, but nonetheless sound pretty good.

    I'd be very interested in hearing what your personal experiences have been.
     
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  2. Cali Dude

    Cali Dude Tele-Afflicted

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    Both of my acoustic guitars have ebony pins. It makes me curious how bone might sound.
     
  3. telepraise

    telepraise Tele-Afflicted

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    There are tons of options, check out Bob Colosi's site. The ebony pins in my Eastman rosewood dread were anything but thin, that guitar has tons of bass. I replaced them with bone to try to pick up a little more definition in the wound strings. It wasn't Earth shattering but I could hear the difference. Replacing a plastic saddle with bone is definitely worth it IMO.
     
  4. SparkleFart

    SparkleFart Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    The October (?) 2020 ToneQuest had an article on a material used for pins called Galalith. Below is the first page.

    Galalith.jpg

    I have no experience with it, though I thing StewMac has it. If nothing else I thought it was interesting from a historical/materials perspective. Other folks might too.
     
  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Cow bone
     
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  6. FenderGuy53

    FenderGuy53 Poster Extraordinaire

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    My Alvarez MD60EBG has bone nuts and saddle, with ebony bridge pins. ;)

    Sure sounds good, too. :)
     
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  7. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I like the brass pins I swapped into this one 0.jpg
     
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  8. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

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    Bone saddle and I no longer use bridge pins . They are obsolete in my opinion .
     
  9. scook

    scook Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    Are you going strictly with string slots and no pins?
     
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  10. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

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    I've tried all kinds of materials: brass, bone, corian, tusq and ebony.

    I liked (in order) tusq, ebony, bone and corian.

    Ebony bridge pins is nice for a traditional sound, especially with an ebony bridge and fretboard.

    Tusq is a great transducer of more complex harmonics as a bridge saddle and nut.

    I think it lends itself to fingerstyle guitar, better than the rest.

    Bone as a bridge saddle and nut, to my ear, is brighter than tusq or corian.

    Probably, good for flatpicking in a bluegrass band.

    Brass as bridge pins is also a bit on the brighter side.

    BTW, I've always wondered why Martin has used corian, micarta, ect., and not tusq (however, they're using bone on some models , now)?

    But, if I had to only pick one material for most of these replacement's...

    I'd go with tusq.
     
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  11. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

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    Bone seems to add brightnss and loundness. My artfully hotrodded dread has a bone saddle and nut and four bone bridge pins. The two unwound strings have rosewood pins — the bone pins made them shrill.

    But we all play differently, and we all have different taste. So I like how my guitar sounds, but that has no bearing on what you'd like on your guitar.

    So just fool around with it until you're happy!
     
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  12. otterhound

    otterhound Poster Extraordinaire

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    55C94F46-24F9-4193-BA61-109967F83821_1_105_c.jpeg
    No . I am using a Lexan sheet under the bridge plate to anchor the strings .
    Lexan will conform to the arch or lack of built into the top and this can be done with no modification to an existing pin type bridge . As an original build , I do shape the bridge differently from a pin type .
    The downside is that strings must be bottom fed , if you want to consider that a downside .
    Going forward , I plan on using an access panel to the string path area . Think of a sound port type setup , but near the rear of the body and a replaceable access panel .
    I guess that it could be accessed from the back as an alternative .
    Advantages are no wear to the actual bridge plate , downward pressure to the rear of the bridge and no pins to fumble with or lose . This also allows placement of mass where you want it if so inclined .
    No bridge pins .
     
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  13. AJBaker

    AJBaker Friend of Leo's

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    I've found that slotting the bridge has a greater effect than the material used for the pins.
    Plus, with the bridge slotted, you don't need a groove on the pin,l. The string is hanging off the bridge plate and all the pin is doing is stopping the string from popping out of the slot.


    That said, I have ebony bridge pins, and my wife's guitar has bone. I dislike plastic on acoustics, so I replace what I can with wood or some other natural material.
     
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  14. trapdoor2

    trapdoor2 Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    It has to be a big change in bridge mass for my ears to tell any difference. With pins, plastic vs ebony = I'd never hear the difference. Brass? Yah, I imagine I'd hear that vs plastic or wood. I'm basically an old-time fiddle/banjo cowboy-chord guitarist. I need volume vs sustain. I'd go with the lightest material that did the job (holding the strings on). Plastic works fine for that.

    When I bought the luthier's estate, I figured there'd be some interesting stuff. Yup, he had one of those small-parts bins with all the little clear-plastic drawers. He had one row (three drawers) of "plastic", one row of "bone" and one row of "Ivory". The plastic and bone sections have bridge pins, the "Ivory" has only saddles and nuts. This stuff is pre-ban...but I doubt I will use it on anything except to experiment with on personal builds.

    So, I just kinda gave everything a quick look. I don't think there are any ebony bridge pins in there (lots of black plastic) but there are several sets of metal ones (brass and maybe steel or german-silver...could be stainless, I guess). There are some fancy ones with abalone dots, etc. I think they're Rosewood. Might be a couple of boxwood ones too (light tan wood). Certainly there's celluloid too.

    I have two guitars that use bridge pins, the Gallagher and the 1915 Gibson L-1. I'm going to convert the Gibson's celluloid trapeze to African Blackwood and make it string-thru. That celluloid piece-of-crap was a bad design from the start. The Gallagher has its original 1985 plastic pins in it...no real reason to change 'em out.

    I've made nuts and saddles out of Tagua-nut (I think I made a nut for my Strat out of Tagua)...but I prefer bone.

    I'd like to try Antler. There's enough hunters around here to beg for a rack or two.
     
  15. darkwaters

    darkwaters Friend of Leo's

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    I find the tonal differences to be subtle and prone to some confirmation bias. That said, I very much agree with your analysis.

    I want my nuts/saddles to be bone, if possible, (the traditionalist in me :)) but I wouldn't remove Tusq. To me. tonally, they're virtually indistinguishable.

    I confess to some shallowness. The look matters to me as well. I want a rich, but understated look. No bling. The ebony pins on the dark bridge of my 30 yo black Tak look fabulous. The Tusq pins on my little, slotted headstock S&P have yellowed with time so that now they look like old ivory. (The saddle and nut are also Tusq and they've yellowed beautifully as well.)

    IMG-0760.JPG

    IMG-0761.JPG
     
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  16. aeyeq

    aeyeq Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    During my time in a bluegrass band I had fossil ivory mods done. Nut, bridge, and pins. It was fossilized walrus. I don’t remember the luthier, in Colorado I think. Several hits when you google.

    Loud, clean.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
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  17. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    While I think a plastic saddle hurts the sound and can be heard compared to a good bone saddle, I find my playing varies more than the sound difference between various light weight pins.
    Higher mass brass pins are a bit of a mute, but I change the sound of a guitar simply by fiddling with it for the time it takes to swap pins.

    If I dislike the original pins and love some extra sweet fossilized ivory pins, I will make the guitar sound better after the swap.

    The saddle though is a critical tone ingredient, as it couples the strings to the sound board.
    Changing the mass behind the bridge, that would alter the tone and response, same as something like a violin mute that's just a little chunk of mass you slip onto the bridge.

    I guess we also have the method used by the individual stringing the guitar, where the ball end should be hard against the plate, rather than wedged in place by the pin, so a pin swap could change the sound simply by operator method.

    I just don't BELIEVE I can play exactly the same and play with the subtlety required to hear the difference between bridge pin materials that fall within the same mass and weight range.
    Maybe if I only played one way and employed no variation in my technique?
    I'm not that player, and can only think of one who might fit that bill.
    Of course if I know one, there are others.
    The player I'm thinking of; I suggested he add some dynamic range to his playing, build tension etc.
    So he wrote one quiet gentle song in my honor.
    NO NO NO that's not what I meant!!!
     
  18. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity

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    I now have a brass ' Bridge plate mate' over the chewed-up maple bridge plate of my well-played Martin D-1.

    ( maybe too many string changes, and years, going back and forth between Light and Medium strings? now, Lights only!)

    So I don't know if bridge pin material is much of a factor, on my own guitar.

    So I have had plastic>to unslotted bone>back to plastic now ( Martin) bridge pins, and bone saddle and nut ( an upgrade from original).

    But honestly IMO, good pro setup is more important in imparting great tone than anything.

    ( just as I have really heard this difference on this one guitar- we've been together a very long time!)
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  19. telemnemonics

    telemnemonics Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Anybody try comparing pins on a 12 string?
    You could use your two pin types on each pair, B and high E, so they are both right there at the same time.
    Of course one has a longer length behind the bridge and a slightly different break angle, but will the two E's and the two B's sound different from each other if one has bone and the other ebony?

    As I've said before, I spent a solid year learning to make the SAME sound with every pick stroke, and that was a challenge.
    So hearing a DIFFERENT sound is the norm, it's inevitable.
     
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  20. vgallagher

    vgallagher Tele-Meister

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    Bone nut and saddles always. Plastic or ebony pins maybe fossil ivory.
     
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