The repair work increases leaving less time for building - any views on the compensated nut systems? Happy New Year to all

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Hi Hayden , Im a first timer so I'm feeling my way here! I have seen a few factory installed "Buzz" style nuts and they seem to be just as badly intonated as any other nut , and usually too high as is the case with most factory nuts .In my opinion it's not necessary to stagger the nut slots as long as they are not too high and the distance from 1st fret to nut is not too long.Any one else got an opinion ?
From what I've seen, the BFTS is a well-intentioned solution to an almost non-existent problem. Now, having said that, my ear isn't as "golden" as some, so maybe there's an improvement in the lower fret range that I can't hear. All the hooplah about proprietary parts, methods, schooling and the "authorization levels of installers" (for a stiff fee) makes me a little skeptical about the whole thing. But -under all the bells & whistles- there may be an improvement. My jury's still out.
I don't really understand all of the theory of scale development but I was under the impression that our "equally tempered" scale will always play just a bit out of tune as we move up the finger board. It's the price we pay for being able to change keys with any reasonable accuracy. I can understand how a compensated nut could bring the open strings closer to in tune with one another but I can't see how it would help much beyond that. From what I understand, perfect intonation in any given key would require that the fret spacing be modified for each string (thus a different fingerboard, with different fret locations for each key change).

If this is true, and I think it is, noting a string would negate any compensation that was done on that string at the nut simply because the nut is not really part of the tone we are producing now. In order for this new note to be compensated properly, we would have to compensate the fret. Wouldn't a capo kill all of the nut compensation? Am I missing something?

Now, I am one of those people that can't stop tuning and I would love to find something that would correct this. The b-string, in particular makes me crazy. The best I can do is tune everything off by a "hair" to compensate to"clean" cording. My usually tuning process is to tune the a-string to my source and then ear tune the remainder of the strings. Even then I can't help but mess with it constantly. That said, I have personally known only two other people that felt the same way. Everyone else thinks I'm crazy ( and it makes THEM crazy that I'm never done tuning ). I wouldn't mind trying a compensated nut if it would help with this but most of my "playing" friends wouldn't hear any difference.

But Ned,

With a compensated nut, all Your tuning efforts will be wasted as soon as You capo, if I am not totally missing out in the theory...

Personally, I have had a hard time understanding all the fuzz about nut compensation. With the slots in a "normal" nut perfectly shaped (to correct height) it should be identical to having a zero fret. The little error You might have should be equal along the fingerboard, also when using capo in differrent positions, and it shouldn´t be bigger than what You can handle with "bending intonation" while playing.

Now, I am not a very skilled player, but I fail to see big deal with nut compensation and true tempered fretboards (which is being discussed a lot here in Sweden).

Hi Magnus,
I think the deal with compensated nuts and tempered fretboards is in the ears of those of us that can never really get our instruments into tune. The equally tempered scale we use give us flexibility at the expense of perfect tuning. In my experience this is really only an issue with a minority of players. I don't think I have ever heard a guitar that played perfectly in tune. If the instruments strings are in tune open, fretting it will bring out dissonance that is noticeable to me. I actually don't mind this so much in other people's playing but I it bugs me a lot when I am doing the playing. My wife loves to hear me play but wishes I would just finish a song before I start tuning again. SHE can't hear what I hear just as most of my friends never hear what I hear. In the end, I think that finding a way to perfectly intone an equally tempered scale would only make a real difference to a small number of people.

Somewhere, in the Internet, I came across a luthier offering adjustable frets. It looks like the fingerboard is cut with t-slots running the length of the neck and short custom made frets that slide in these. I thought it was cool in a techie sort of way but realized that something like this would only shift my fiddling from the machine heads to the fret board. It looks like a full time job changing keys to me.

Maybe I'll take one of my older guitars and play around with compensating the nut sometime. If it would really help me fine tune my guitars, I'd jump aboard I just can't see how it would work for anything but open strings. I don't know a lot about it yet but it seems to me that the compensation at the nut could just as easily be incorporated at the bridge. In fact is seems to me that the bridge compensation would need to be readjusted after the nut was compensated.

I keep thinking that I'm missing something, that too many people are looking at this seriously for my take on it to be correct but I can't find anything wrong with my thinking.

BTW, Every guitar I have ever tuned, tuned out differently. My main two guitars right now are a 12 fret Martin D-18 and a Ricky Scaggs signature Bourgeios. They have very different personalities and that includes how they tune. Someone else here ( I think it was here, anyway) noted that they noticed that some Martins may have some intonation issues over part of the neck. I noted this on my D-18 too. Very strange.

If you'd like to check the MIMF site, there's a reprint of something I wrote on compensated nuts a few years ago. You might find it of interest.
Essentially, it is based on the principle that the open string is the only position which is _not_ slightly sharpened by the process of holding down a string between two adjacent frets. So to me, it makes sense to sharpen the open string a little to roughly match all the fretted notes. Just how much sharpening occurs on fretted notes ( and how far you might need to move the nut to match this) depends on a lot of factors, including fret height, string gauge and tension, and how hard the fretting fingers press down.
It's different for different instruments and different players - but to my ears, a slight under-compensation is a more useful and tuneful compromise than none at all, and doesn't seem to cause players any problems. ( Some of them have brought me second and third instruments to have the same job done, so I guess they find it helpful.) In the real world, on an existing instrument, this might correspond to moving the nut about 3/4 of a millimeter towards the first fret.
I wish Buzz Feiten well, he's wrapped up the concept of nut compensation together with a lot of experience with tempered guitar tunings, and packaged it, branded it and marketed it. I expect many guitarists may have an easier time as a result - and if Mr Feiten can make a bit of money for allt he effort and experience he's put in, then good luck to him.
But as a matter of history, there are examples of my instruments out in the world which were built with similar compensations, dated back to the 70's, and I know I'm not the only maker who was doing this.
I believe some guys can hear this...There are players out there that can hear it.... and I believe Pete Anderson who says it makes him more in tune with an accoustic piano.... and I believe.....But, we have lived on a diet of those slightly out of tune guitars....Num.Num.!!..No real problem
Hi "Fishin" (if I may be so bold as to shorten you avatar?)

It does explain why I can never tune to a piano. I play in a praise band at my church. It is the only time I play with a piano and I can NEVER quit get in tune with it. I can tune all my strings to it but then I retune the strings so I can stand to play. It's all really rather frustrating.

Thanks Alys and Simcha,
I hadn't thought of this from this angle before. It seems obvious to me that it would only effect open strings but I didn't make the connection and it certainly explains why it must be on the nut. I can see where this might make it easier for me to find a more comfortable tuning.

I have to admit that I tend to be quicker to discount ideas that are patented and marketed more quickly than I do "freeware" ideas. I'm always a bit skeptical of trusting the information I get from someone with a product to sell me. It seems that I may be too quick in my judgment of this idea.

I'll look up your article on MIMF but tell me, if you don't mind, is it possible to compensate a nut without recompensating the bridge or will both ends of the scale need to be done together? I've got an old guitar that I've been thinking about reworking ( it will make a good beater to lone to kids at my church that might be interested in learning to play). I was going to replace the plastic bridge with bone anyway. If both ends of the scale need to be worked together, I might use this instrument to experiment on.

Thanks for setting me straight.

Yes indeed, thanks Alys and Simcha, for a very understandable explanation.

It is actually the open string note You compensate, to make it as sharp as the fretted note.

Is it a correct understanding that it is mainly the extra tension from pressing the string to the fingerboard between two frets, rather than the tension from pressing the full length of the string down to the top of the frets?

It seems like this fraction of the added tension (causing sharpened note) is constant along the fingerboard, and also indipendent of action or relief, whereas the second fraction (pressing down to the top of the frets) is increasing as You move towards the bridge.

My understanding until now have been that the effect of a compensated nut is eliminated by using a capo or by taking barré chords. After giving it some further thought it strikes me that the compensation of the nut (or the position of the zero fret for that matter) actually compensates also for the effect of the actual setting of the capo or taking a barré chord...

Food for further thoughts..., thanks again!
The nut compensation ,I believe ,is connected to the stiffness of the string .That`s only going to apply on the first fret and each string is slightly different. It took me a long time to understand a lot of this and if I jumped in (as a novice )it`s time I made a little apology.The tuning temperament is already set by all the frets being spaced out as they are .Any players with adjustable gut frets can ignore the last sentence.An outstanding book Lutes,Viols& Temperaments by Mark Lindley(Cambridge University Press) describes the history of this problem since about 1520.
The nut compensation is a different thing to the temperament clash between pianos and guitars.(I think)
In fact I still don`t know if these instruments are tuned in a similar way.
Mr Feiten should tell you all about that. This is a big subject with a very long history.Lots of amusing stories of lute players ,music ,composers,Pythagoras,and frustration.ENJOY.
We needed Mr Feiten to bring a complicated subject up to date.


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