Gentlemen I am seeking some hands on experience and some opinions concerning Black Buffalo Horn Nut.

I have a customer who thinks he wants a black horn nut on his Fender P Bass with Maple fretboard. He heard a video on YouTube, and played it for me, and I have to agree it does sound good in the lower registers.

But, a bit of reading up on the subject, I find a lot of Luthiers who are not inthusiastic about using it. Mainly that it isn't hard enough, wears fast, and can be mean to work due to delamination.

So, I was hoping that someone here has some actual experience with it? Should I get some horn and give it a go? Will the customer not be happy with the results? Or should I try to talk him into using some Tusq in black? Other than Tusq and Buffalo Horn, are there other "Black", alternatives? Could I fashion a nut from Ebony?

I should follow up by saying that I've been a member here for a long while but have rarely posted. And I've probably done less than a dozen nuts for other people, and maybe that many for myself. I've never done one for someone that they weren't happy with. So, I'd kind of like to keep that average! So thanks guys, grace me with your wisdom!

Tags: Buffalo Horn, Nut

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I've used it and was not impressed.  Regarding tone It is what it is and I'm not going to be offering a subjective opinion as to what I believe that to be for better or worse.

First think toe nail, soft, easily worked, and not long lasting as a result.  Horn is easier to work than bone but at the price of being very soft.  It polishes beautifully and after all that work, perfect spacing, slots cut just right, sides blended into the neck profile just as we would want on a perfect day.... it looks just like black plastic....

It is black though and it's not plastic and that's something if that's what you're after.

Ebony was used in the past commonly and can make a decent nut with the cosmetics all there and decent, not perfect wear resistance.  Other synthetics are also a possibility and likely the more common ones will last longer than black horn.

On my personal fleet I've got black horn on three at present and all are earmarked to have it replaced when I get around to it if this tells you something.  Not a bad material just not a great one IMO either.

Lastly we are asked to comment on tone daily in our busy repair business.  Of course everyone do what ever you like but in our experience not commenting on tone is a pretty good idea at least for us.  We are happy to do the work, do great work, etc. but we won't get involved in matters that can't be specifically quantified for the client in terms of measurable, definable, and agreeable...... value.

Quote: "Gentlemen I am seeking some hands on experience and some opinions concerning Black Buffalo Horn Nut.

I have a customer who thinks he wants a black horn nut on his Fender P Bass with Maple fretboard. He heard a video on YouTube, and played it for me, and I have to agree it does sound good in the lower registers."





Fender Basses use a White Micarta Nut.

It basically seems that the Issue is Tonal and Cosmetic.

But I would be handling this issue in a completely different manner.

There would be two fundamental points that I would be respectfully focussed upon.

I would focus upon them, by asking pointed and pertinent questions of the client, and showing them that I was listening hard and taking in their answers.

But I be pretty sure that I would already know the answers I was going to get, and would shape the questions I put to them, so that I it was fairly inevitable I got the answers that would steer the client, in the direction I felt would be most beneficial to them.

Basically, I would want to order the conversation in such a manner that the client themselves, thought that the idea for what we would agree to enact, actually came from themselves; rather than following a suggestion from me. Or at the very least, that we arrived at these conclusions mutually, together, as a result of the consultation.


There are many excellent reasons for taking this approach.



First of all, making decisions like this based upon YouTube Videos is not a good idea.

The Videos are often made by people with limited knowledge and experience and often have as poor recording equipment as the listeners have sound.

Whereas some of these Videos if well done and highly informative can be wonderful to watch, many are at best unhelpful, and can indeed be completely misleading.

So unless they are made by an Experienced Expert (like Dan Erlewine or David Collins for example), it is best to view such amateur media, as simply a starting point for a conversation, with someone of Real Experience.

Let's be clear. According to your post, the client has heard a cheap Tele Clone Electric Guitar, Played with several different types of Nuts, and on the basis of those comparisons is persuaded that a Buffalo Horn Nut would be ideal for his Fender Precision Bass?


That's Nuts! Think about it for while.


So rather than the client coming with a predetermined conclusion and accepting that as a concrete proposal.

When the notion was based upon poor and limited information, little knowledge, and a complete lack of empirical experience.

I would want to ask questions and listen, drill down deeper into the clients driving motivations, and have a conversation that clarified to both of us, what he was really after.

In other words, by the time we finished chatting which wouldn't take long, the client would understand and know themselves, far better than they ever did, when they first walked through the door.



Having made that point about the Videos and talked together.

Knowing I have listened and understand them, I would finally be clarifying  whether the Primary Motivation for changing out the Nut was to achieve a Tonal Difference?

Whether it was a Deeper, Fuller more Vintage Precision Bass Sound, that the client was really trying to achieve, perhaps a "Classic Bass Sound" he had heard on many of his Favourite Albums?



My hunch would be.

That the answer the client would give to this question would be "Yes!"

Presuming  that was clearly established as the Primary Objective, I would explain about the likely negative issues regarding lack of wear ability of a Buffalo Horn Nut.

The requirement of regular replacement, and the constantly growing ongoing cost that would gradually amalgamate, constantly building up over time.

I would also make points regarding the risks of too frequent, unnecessary replacement to this sensitive area of the Instrument.

There are also Economic Disadvantages to Changing Nuts simply for Colour, Altering Traditional Cosmetics.

With a Direct Impact on Instrument Devaluation.



These are all things the client should take into consideration.



Just before his Brain began to Boggle with the Negatives.

I would give him what I felt was the Ideal Answer to such Problems.

By way of Fully Achieving his Primary Objective, with an altogether, Better Solution.

I would throw a little history in too, as one of the things I liked about Leo Fender is the same thing I like about Rupert Neve.

Rupert as you may know Invented the Recording Console as is found in Studios,  but the point is they both picked their components, very carefully, by Ear.

Technical specification sheets alone didn't impress them too much. They Listened Carefully with their Ears, and finally settled on the Components they believed gave the Best Sound.

I like this approach, its more Art than Science.

And Great Instrument Designers and Luhiers are primarily Artisans.



When Leo first developed the Precision Bass.

Bands featured far more Musicians, and Arrangers ensured that Musically, lots was going on with all of them.

The Violin Families, Double Bass was the Reference, with its Pure Deep Sound and Bass Players typically provided a Musical Foundation.

Later when more Dynamic Players that used Complex, Pulsating Rhythmic Patterns like James Jamerson and Carole Kaye came along, to name just a couple.

Using the Instrument busily, in most popular styles, along with Jazz, the Fretboard suddenly became a rather busier place altogether. And many Bass Players seek that Vintage Fender Tone.



Along with the Advent of Powered On Board Electronics, and the Strident Music Man Basses.

There had also been a Huge Reduction in the Average Number of Musicians Playing in the Typical Band.

On Record and Live, Bass Players were being asked to Fill the Gap, Contribute More, and bring New Chops to the table in Range, Compass, Number of Notes and Also Variability in Playing Styles with Popping and Slap et all.



Here's the thing.

For the reasons detailed and explained above.

A Modern Precision Bass Player will be expected to deliver Upper Mid Range Clarity and Cut Through with more "Edge".

Whereas the Vintage Instrument has been Tailored by Design to Deliver a Fundamental Musical Foundation,  far more akin to a Traditional String Bass.

So the Electrical Components in the Modern Precision Bass typically feature a Capacitor of .05 uf which allows enough roll off of the treble, to give a nice Warm Tone but not lose much "Edge", so it's a quite subtle roll off.

However, it doesn't give the Fullest, Deepest Rounded Tone, that one might expect to find on a Vintage Precision Bass. This will feature a Capacitor Value of 1 uf which will roll off DOUBLE the amount of treble, compared to a Modern Bass of the Same Model.




If the Primary Reason for changing out the Nut is to achieve a Tonal Difference?

If the Client wants a Deeper, Fuller more Vintage Precision Bass Sound, he had heard on many of his Favourite Albums?

Then the best way to achieve that in my opinion, is simply to remove the existing Capacitor and keep it for replacement in case he ever sells the Instrument.

And replace the Capacitor for one of Double the Existing Value (assuming he has a Modern Fender Bass rather than a specific Vintage Fender Instrument) and this will more closely approach, the Characteristic, Killer Tone, that Jamerson, Kaye, Dunn and so many other Legendary Players had.



Kaye used a heavy pick so getting that sound is simple enough though that probably not what he's after.

Zeroing the Tone Controls Value gives him all his treble "Edge" back, so in effect he has lost nothing whatever, if he still wants to cut through the Upper Mids.

You could also fit Potentiometers with a By Pass, so that the Volume and Tone Controls can be set in a Completely Neutral Position, so that they didn't have any effect on the Bass Sound at all.

One of my Pals, (he Mixed the Sound on "I Will Always Love You by Witney Houston" the 25th Best Selling Hit of all time, amongst many other Legendary Hits many of which were Recorded at Stax Studios with Donald Dunn another Precision Player) and has Two Good Ears, and maintains that the Best Tonality  that can be got out of a Precision Bass is by omitting the Volume and Tone Pots Altogether.

My argument against this viewpoint is that it is too radical, and that Players need to adjust their Tone to the Song more readily, however the same can be achieved by using Pots that By Pass the Signal. I like CTS Pots myself. So there are plenty of options and things that can be done to improve the Tone and Give the Player the Killer Vintage Tone.

And all this can very easily be achieved, without changing the Nut, at All.

Although Graph Tech do make a Black Tusk for a Precision Bass.

A Buffalo Horn Nut is not something I would not encourage.

Clearly Black will simply devalue the Instrument.

No one will notice but the Player himself.

Bone is Best, Forget the Rest.

I'm glad to get that.

Off my chest!



With a White Bone Nut, the Cosmetics are Maintained.

The Tonal Projection will be Fuller and Clearer, with a Better Treble.

Whilst Fitting a .1 uf Capacitor will DOUBLE the Roll Off in the treble frequency range, giving a Warmer, Fuller, Rounded Vintage Bass Sound.


He will get the best of All Worlds with this Combination!




I've made a few black horn  nuts for guys that are nuts for black horn.  Worked just fine, sounded OK, no problem that I remember.  Wearability is not much of a factor for many players - sorry, but the reality is most instruments don't get much use.

That said, I'd stay away from ebony because of the wear factor, and when asked to do either black horn or ebony I always recommend black Micarta, which looks nice and black, too.  In fact, black horn, Micarta, ebony all look the same to me when polished up really well.   Micarta is cheap, available and durable.    

Soundwise, well, as usual, I'm skeptical. . .

I have also used graphite for some customers wanting the material...just to throw in another black option for you...



Right!  I'd forgotten Graphtech - we use the black stuff here, too.

Thanks Hesh, Peter, Doc and Frank. And I really appreciate the time and thought invested in your response Peter! Very good points and food for thought.

The truth is this customer is a personal friend, and if I told him horn isn't the best option, he would take my word for it. From the conversation we've had, I do believe he's more interested in it being black than what it sounds like. So when he did his own research and came across that video, that's when he realized it sounded different. The bass isn't particularly valuable, I think he paid $350 for it. So, preserving its value isn't a real concern. I have told customers before that had valuable instruments that I highly advised against altering them. But I do think I will try to steer him toward a bone nut, or if it must be black then use the Graphtech, I do prefer my work to last. Because even if you warn a customer that their choice will not be long lasting, they will still be disappointed when it doesn't last as long as they would have liked. And as far as tone is concerned, the guy plays in a thrash band that plays a whole step down, with floresent coated strings! And they take it very seriously, so I wouldn't dream of voicing an opinion. And I do have several caps between .047 and .1, so thanks for the idea, I will experiment with that.

Quote: "food for thought."




Thank you for your kindly sentiments.

Feeding thoughtful reflection is a bit of a preoccupation for me.

And so few people appear to have the time to stop be quiet and think properly these days.

So what I love about the great people like Frank, Paul, Russell, Hesh, David, Doc and so many others here.

Along with the huge disparity of problems that are presented in this forum, is that the entire place is an Engine for Thought.

Every day of my  life I like to learn and think about new things, so thank you for your tremendously understanding manner towards the fact that whatever a client appears to want at the outset of the consultation.

Following an initial interrogation, where I enquire WHY they want to enact the procedures they are considering and they are gently persuaded to EXPLAIN their REASONING. I am totally committed to finally imparting what I sincerely believe to be the very best impartial advice.

Irrespective of every other consideration.



Quote: "And as far as tone is concerned, the guy plays in a thrash band that plays a whole step down, with floresent coated strings! And they take it very seriously, so I wouldn't dream of voicing an opinion."



In my experience, for such Players, who are attracted to the many differing SUB GENRE'S of Heavy Metal Rock Music.

Specific Amplification Criteria is the Principal Fundamental Key to their Particular Sonic Characteristics, more so than any other singular factor.

I've worked promoting and been on stage years ago with many Groups and Artists like Black Sabbath, the late Lemmy of Motorhead fame, and many others of similar (but differing) Heavy Rock Genres, and see this type of music as basically a fusion of a number of differing elements that subsequently emerged from that Musical Form, but crucially and definitely as a SUB GENRE of Heavy Metal Rock.

In fact the SUB GENRE he is interested in was begun in the north of this Country.  Though the later German and American Forms differ somewhat. The Germans in particular are massively into Minute Characteristics of Amplifiers along with Mic Placement. Never the less, as a Broad Principle I would be thinking about Amplification, Micing and Mic Placment as important keys to what he is probably trying to achieve.

I know a fair few Producers and Recording Engineers, some of which specialise in these specific Musical Forms. Thus, I know the focus of their Sonic Attention is often, quite obsessive on such matters as these above, rather than the specifics of the Instrument, that quite naturally is usually the obsessive focus of the Typical Player.

These facts will be entirely counter intuitive to a great many Enthusiasts and Players who have come to see Particular Instruments as the Key to the Tonal Characteristics they associate with Artists whose Sound they aspire toward emulate.

However, there remain Iconic Bassists who Mid Concert can switch Instruments which many Players would indentify as having completely differing Iconic Sounds.

But in the hands of the Artist, do deliver a Sound Quality that is entirely  indistinguishable in Concert from one another. It is quite extraordinary.

It's the Player of course that makes the difference, and the Amplification, Micing, Engineering and Production.



Quote: "he's more interested in it being black"

- Snipped for Shortness -

Quote: "they take it very seriously"



Yes they do!

It's a Tribal Mentality.

Ask him if he is a fan of Johnny Cash?

In 1973 I worked on a project in the U.K. with Johnny, his Wife and the Tennessee Three at Wembley Stadium. He was into the same Colour.

One of my Producer/Recording Engineer pals knocked a Neumann Mic on a Stand over and into Johnny's Famous Black Martin, and gave it a dent, whilst in his Ranch Studio.

Although I'm not a Catholic, one thing I learnt from Pope Benedict XVI (who is a great Music Lover and whom I have Composed for), is that in reality Rock and Pop Music is not really about Music at all, but really all about Image.

I think that's a point worth making and reflecting upon. If he has to have Black, (though Thrash Metal is different from Death Metal and Black Metal). The Graph Tech Nut I mentioned in my first post will do this job and is Manufactured as a direct "Drop In" Nut replacement for Precision Bass.



The thing is Russell.

People think that the more energy that is transferred from the Vibrating String into the Nut, the More the Instrument will Ring with Sustain.

In fact, the less energy that is absorbed by the Nut and the more that is Retained in the Vibrating String itself, as well as being transparently transferred directly through the Nut into the Instruments Neck, the more the Sound Rings and Sustains.

This is of course where the Hard Nut Wins. If you dropped a slice of Horn Buffalo on a Hard, Reflective, Marble Floor Surface, it would give a Dull Thud in a direct comparison to a slice of Bone, which would strikingly and sensationally, Ring Out like a Bell!

So this is what will give the Bass more Top Edge Ring, while the .1 uf Capacitor will also further extend the Instruments Sonic Qualities in entirely the opposite direction as he seems to want more Low End Tonality. Which without swapping pickups, gives far Greater Tonal Versatility overall. The best of Both Worlds regardless of Musical Genre.

The thing to appreciate, is that although the .1 uf Capacitor will give a Bassier More Rounded, Vintage Tonality, it achieves this  by Rolling Off the Top End. But like a Bass Notes from Grand Piano you want that Low Fullness of Tone Balanced with a Strong Fundamental that can Growl with Power. So it's a Balance provided by several Components that work together to Enhance and Stretch Tonality.

What you have to consider in a Nut is its Fundamental Elasticity. This determines how the material will react under the stress of its load. The higher the Modulus of Elasticity, the less it will react. If its Properties of Elasticity is low, the material deforms under the stress of its load, so it Absorbs Vibration. This is what is happening more so, to the Buffalo Horn than with other Traditional Materials.

What you really want in a Nut is a High Modulus of Elasticity. This is where the Harder Material Shines. With a High Modulus of Elasticity the less the Material deforms under the stress of its load, so it Absorbs Far Less Energy. Energy that is retained in the Vibrating String and Transparently Transferred through the Hard Nut material into the Wood of the Instruments Neck allowing Greater Bell Like Ringing and More Sustain with Better Harmonics, thus a Richer Quality of Sound.



We know Bone has a Higher Modulus of Elasticity than Buffalo Horn with all the concomitant benefits.

But what material has a Higher Modulus of Elasticity than Buffalo Horn and Bone, with even more of all these seemingly Desirable Features? 

Brass. It possesses a Massively Higher Modulus of Elasticity than even Bone. There are different types of Brass and you have to make a Brass Nut from the correct material for best results, but its Modulus of Elasticity, Ring and Sustain is Remarkable.

I think for any budding Thrash Metal Player, a Solid Brass Nut should be Very High Up on the List for Serious Consideration, purely for the Sonic Impact it will have on the Instrument. Always provided the Ideal Material is Selected and the Nut is Implemented Optimally. I would fully complement that feature with Brass Saddles and perhaps an entire replacement Black High Mass Brass Tailpiece.



But I wish to add one further thought because today a lot of Musicians of every level are interested in making Recordings.

Many times you will hear people say This Mic Pre- Amplifier is great for Bass, not so hot for Vocals, and you could change out the Instruments that the Equipment is Good or Poor for Endlessly.

If you follow this line of logic, then anyone who wants to Record, will require a multitude of Completely Differing Pre-Amplifiers made by Disparate Manufacturers, because they are all Good for one or two Sources but Poor at Everything Else.

So many people think that if a Mic Pre-Amplifier is Great for Bass irrespective of what its poor for, then it must be a Good Pre-Amplifier. Not so, the fact that a Pre-Amplifier Sounds Great on certain Sound Sources but poor on Other Sound Sources, is a sign of a Fundamental Weakness in the Design of the Pre-Amplifier.


What on earth has this got to do with Luthiery? You will be asking!


Here's the thing.

The Best Designs of Top Studio Recording Equipment are All Transparent.

In other words, the Sound that you Hear in the Studios Live Room is Captured Precisely as you Hear It, and passed through the equipment out to the Monitors without Tonal Colouration.

The best Mic Pre-Amplifiers can be used on ANY SOUND SOURCE and they will Faithfully give you the Exact Sound of the Voice or Instrument they are being used to Record. Such Pre-Amplifiers (all the same) were fitted as Standard into Large Format Recording Consoles.

This is what I mean by Transparent. Transparency is the Holy Grail of High Fidelity Sound Reproduction. The Signal Goes In and Comes Out Exactly the Same as the Original Source.

If you think about it, the Best Luthiers and Instrument Repairmen are also Transparent, as  you don't know they been there or have done anything you can visually detect. ;)



The salient point about Nuts

Is that you want them to Pass Signal (String Vibration) Transparently.

The Player can alter many Tonal Aspects of Sound through their Quality of Touch and Playing.

If the Nut is "Transparent" it will pass the Energy through it without any or with precious little of Energy being Soaked Up and Absorbed.



What I am trying to give you.

Is Analogies that will be of interest to Performers.

That enable them to Understand why Particular Materials are Outstanding.

A Nut (or indeed a Saddle) that Colours the Sound, may tame, control or tailor Sound a Certain Way.

In some cases that might seem to be a very desirable thing indeed. But the problem is the limitation of Tonal Variety that Imposes.

Dependant on how truly versatile a Player is, what appears to be an improvement for Certain Sounds and Styles will eventually Limit the Tonal Quality of other Sounds and Styles that a Demanding Player will eventually want to  Explore.


All else being equal.

This, (in my opinion) is WHY particular Traditional Materials Reign Supreme for the Task they are Deployed to Execute.

Its WHY  Players seeking to Improve Tone and Change Out Component Parts and indeed may appear to Achieve that Improvement, for a While.

But Suddenly Hit that Inherent Timbre Limitation, Discover and Uncover the Truth that the Tonally Coloured Material, like the Tonally Coloured Pre-Amplifier, although Good in Certain Respects, is Poor in Other Respects.

The Great Luthiers of History didn't just Hit on these Traditional Materials by Accident. They Settled on them because of their Superiority in Sound, Durability and because they Afforded the Player the Widest Possibilities in Exploring the Tonal Capabilities of the Instruments Timbre.


Here's Segovia to help reinforce the point!



Food for Thought!




What do you mean by modulus of elasticity in layman's terms, PP?

Also, I just have to point out that saying rock and pop music is strictly about image is a pretty broad generalisation. Certainly image has a lot to do with it, but its not everything in any case. I also find it very curious that you mention black metal, just because lol.
Thanks again Peter, your points are well made and we'll taken!

I am a bass player myself, I was an amiture sound engineer for a local rock band for about 12 years, and when that band finally desolved a friend taught me to play bass and I moved from the board to the stage. Actually it took almost another 10 years for that to happen, and we played local venues and packed the local bars with what is now known as, "Classic Rock". It was all great fun, but we grew old and feeble, so over the past year we have resigned ourselves to playing for our own satisfaction and recording. So, since I was the sound engineer I am now in charge of the recording. It's slow and steady, and I think it gives us purpose more than a destination. This freedom to play what we like, without other considerations, has actually given us greater enjoyment, and we've learned far more songs than we did playing out, and our skills have moved up noticeably. Oh I do miss the crowds, and the applause at times, but I do not miss moving all the gear and lights and fighting all the problems that crop up in a live performance. We never made any money so I sure don't miss that!

Anyway, I do understand exactly what you're saying, I've never worked with the level of musicians that you have, but local musicians can be very much the same. And I personally play a Spector NS-2A, that I am very proud of. Like an old tall tale, I found it in a pawn shop for only $200! Suffering from electronic issues. Which I repaired and cleaned and set the instrument up correctly and it is my pride and joy! With Orange amplification and an Ampeg SVT 8x10 cab, I know exactly what you mean by tone, and the joys of proper amplification.

So I was all prepared to take your approach, and try to persuade my friend to go with the Graphtech nut instead of Horn. But, since the last time I saw him, he had talked to someone else who put the idea of a brass nut in his head. So I heartily agreed that was the way to go. He was concerned that I had already started, and I assured him it was no problem to switch to Brass. I also convinced him to move to a heavier gauge of strings, for tuning down so low, moving from regular/light strings to medium should give him more growl, more beef. To use terms he is more familiar with.

I may make a Buffalo Horn nut one day soon just to see what it's like. Just to feel and hear it for myself, even if I don't use it very long, just for the experience.

Thanks again Peter, I sincerely appreciate the wisdom



Here is an explanation for students.

Though, we even punch holes into metal to increase its stiffness.



Quote: "I just have to point out that saying rock and pop music is strictly about image is a pretty broad generalisation."


Quote: "Certainly image has a lot to do with it"



With respect.

You have breezily critiqued a point.

Subsequently confirming the truth of the point you critiqued.

He was The Pope, so it's entirely understandable he would make a perspicaciously insightful statement.

It only remains for me to thank you, whilst highlighting the opening words of my post: "so few people appear to have the time to stop, be quiet and think properly these days."

Thank you Andrew for the many differing contributions that you make from time to time to the life and energy of Franks wonderful forum, that I trust, people have genuinely benefited from.



Quote: since I was the sound engineer I am now in charge of the recording. It's slow and steady, and I think it gives us purpose more than a destination.




Recording is  of huge interest to me.

Rupert Neve who invented and made the best Sounding Recording Consoles.

Helped the little group I was in tremendously, putting all his top bod's at our fingertips to guide and advise us.


If you click on the link below you can see in close detail the Channel Strip of the 9098i one of Rupert's Later Designs.


In the Space Ship Building of Capitol Records, my hero and mentor AL Schmitt  plays about all day mixing on a RUPERT NEVE Designed 9098i Recording Console


Because we work largely in very old school ways we tend to do a great many things in the same way, mainly in Capturing Performance in the Live Room and Achieving a Killer Sound by Judicious Mic Choice for Application and Precise Placement within the Near Field of the Instrument.

To be honest Russell, this is where a Solid Understanding of How any Instrument is Designed and Manufactured and the Manner in Which it Produces and Projects its Sound, is so Helpful. If you have the Right Mic and place it in the Sweet Spot, you don't need to alter or add Equalisation whilst tracking to "Get a Sound", the Best sound Available is Already There, you just have to know how to Capture It!

Other things we have in common, is that we always lay out the Consoles from Left to Right Starting with Bass at the Far Left then Drums, etc. It's helpful the keep the Channels you will repeatedly alter in level most closely together, whether controlling single channels or grouped channels, and keep these in the middle, so they are very conveniently positioned and facilitate Live, Hands On Mixing.

Another thing Al does is to set up a Reverb Chamber with sends leveled ideally to eight different lengths of Reverb.  Using the same Reverb Chamber for all the Sources, creates a Homogeneous Quality of Sound, having that "Sound" readily available with different length "Sound Tails" switchable to any Source, means you don't have to Create an "Ideal Verb" adjusting for each and every thing you Track. It's all there ready, available at the touch of a switch, even before you begin.

James Taylor bought a Huge Metal Shipping Container a while back and buried it in a big hole adjacent to his Studio. He put a movable wall that slides electronically in it and uses it to provide a Reverb Chamber. 30 feet below the Studios, Capitol has Eight Different Chambers that provide up to a 5 Second but natural sounding verb. Some Studio Chamber uses a solid but movable wall, while Abbey Rd. Studios have different sized huge upright clay pipes in theirs. Reverb is the Most Important Effect in Most Recordings.

If you click this link, you can see the layout of Studios A and B. In between there is a Huge but Movable Wall. For Recording Large Ensembles, you can slide this Wall Back, and one studio Area was originally Carpeted to give Warmth to String Sections, whilst the Reflective Wooden Floor and Wall add zest to Brass Sections. Usually, the Bass, Drums Guitarists and Vocalists use Isolation Booths, though not in all cases.

Typically One Engineer will Track using the Console, whilst another will control the Pro Tools. Steve Genewick usually does this for Al.



Here is a Mic Inventory.


The point is each of those Mics will have their Own Sonic Qualities, Personality or Voice. A lot of it is knowing and carefully picking the Best Mic for the Voice or Instrument you are Capturing.

One trick I learnt from Joe Ciccarelli was what is known as the Complimentary Mic Technique. In other words you might have an overly bright Voice or Instrument. Then you pick a Dark Sounding Mic that tends to Tame the natural over brightness into a more acceptable, Better Balanced Tonality to the Ear.

But Perhaps you are faced with a Deep but Dull Sounding voice that lacks Clarity and Punch. Then by using the opposite type of Mic, one that's Crisp, Bright and Lively, you can bring that Energy to the Voice that is lacking and again create a more acceptable, Better Balanced Tonality to the Ear. What we are discussing is recognising what most people would consider to be "an issue", and AT SOURCE, whilst Capturing the Performance, Completely Solving the Problem before the Signal even gets to the Pre-Amplifier!

Can you see the beauty of these ways of working?


Now what you should consider is that in reality, much in the way that I have described above, what your Client is trying to do to his Bass is in reality, precisely the same thing. He is attempting to Tweak his Instruments Sound Quality, at Source.

It appears from what you write, that we have all in the interim, journeyed towards the same conclusions and solutions so I have every confidence that the Meat Balls Sound these changes will introduce, will go a long way towards aiding your Client to further enjoy his Playing. Always provided that "Enjoyment" is a permissible element in "Black", "Death", and "Thrash" Heavy "Metal" Music. Though with all due respect to the many Former Colleagues I have been associated with over the years, I'm not entirely sure that "some of these words" and the word "Music", really  belong together. :)


George Massenburg who devised and invented the ubiquitous Parametric Equaliser found on All Recording Consoles is another friend.

By the way, the George Massenburg Lab Pre-Amplifiers are very good examples of everything I mean by transparency and CAN be used on ANY SOUND SOURCE.


Seven Miles from my home, Colin Sanders CBE founded Solid State Logic.

The premium and only remaining major Large Format Recording Console Manufacturer. SSL Consoles are very much the Sound of Rock and Pop Recording, with Built in Compression on Every Channel.

Today, EX Genisis, Musician and Singer Peter Gabriel owns the Company. He is a nice man and we run into him from time to time as he is a very friendly with Kate Bush, England's Most Successful Female Singer/Songwriter who has a Recording Studio just adjacent to my own in the beautiful Oxfordshire Countryside.

Top Session Bass Player Tony Levin along with Drummer Steve Gad featured on her last Album. (Steve loves Dogs quite madly by the way), Singer/Songwriter Elton John who sang a duet with the Beautiful Kate and Steven Fry who featured giving narration on certain Tracks. So it's quite interesting with all the coming and going.


Adjacent to the Solid State Logic Building is Where the SONY Oxford Recording Consoles were Designed and Developed, largely by another friend, Paul Frindle.


My Son married a beautiful Irish Girl. In a Short While the Lovely Corrs will be nearby in Concert. A friend recorded most of their Big Hits so I thought you might be interested in the Making of one of their Recordings. What you hear is simply from a Built In Mic on a Sony Camera which the Engineer just bought.

I've been extremely fortunate to have worked with many Top Session Drummers over the years. I feel that they are both the backbone and driving Force of much that makes the Rhythmic Feel of a Hit Recording. Note the High Overheads and Physical Separation for the Cymbals.


By the way my friend the late Session Drummer Bobby Graham was the first Session Drummer to ever Call for Cans on a Recording, and Al Schmitt was the first ever Engineer to use a Mic on the Bass Drum on a Recording.

This below was the first Movie made when my friend first got the Camera.


Nathan East is on Bass which  you might enjoy, but the thing is the Scale Length of the bass is typically 35" on these Basses.

Where Low "B" strings are involved or Dropped Voicing, with Slack Strings there is a consensus that a Longer Scale Length Bass is the ideal. To be honest though that is correct, the physical practicalities are that a 34" is quite long enough for most Bass Players.

Certainly I can confirm that Top Session Player Tony Levin uses a single 5 String Music Man made by Sterling Balls Company, which utilises a 34" Scale. Personally I find that I can manage for the Music I Record with 4 String Bass really, and like many others, feel that often problematic SUB BASS frequencies, are usually best avoided entirely.

Top Session Bass Player Carole Kaye, suffered from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome for a While and had to Stop Playing and became a Musical Educationalist. Whilst Studying Musical Arranging, with the Bass being so essential to Modern Musical Forms, I learnt from her and indeed still do so Today.

She would use a Mute under the Strings so Tame Problematic Frequencies, and indeed Leo Fender built a Rudimentary Mute into certain of his Bass Designs, for this very reason. Music Man, Rickenbacker and others do so for the same purpose. Although, some Bass Players that utilise a Heavy Pick , some of which want that Clicky, Trebly, Bass Tone and so often use them to Reduce Natural  Sustain.

Theses Mutes were really, Originally deployed in the Design to Address an Issue. Its related to the Limitations of Amplification and Speaker Designs of the Day. It's also worth considering that in some cases when you think that you are really hearing the Fundamental Notes of the Bass. What you are really hearing essentially, is The Harmonic Information that the Fundamental of the Note has Generated. Often our Ears are being cleverly tricked.

If you talked to Paul Frindle personally, he would tell you quite genuinely that he doesn't believe Sound Systems should reproduce anything below 60 Hz. Whilst this will seem fantastical to many people and completely, just plain wrong. What they are unlikely to realise that there are few affordable Sound Systems that can Faithfully Reproduce Frequencies below this with Great Integrity. This is why later Sub Woofers have come into being.

In fact it would cost you $40,000 per speaker to find a Full Range Passive Speaker that gave you a Ruler Flat Linear Frequency Response 20 Hz - 20,000 kHz, often quoted by many as the Absolute Range of Human Hearing.  The problem is you see, the Integrity of Phase as you get Lower and Lower. It's not that Systems can't reproduce these Frequencies, they can.

What they can't do is to reproduce them "Perfectly In Phase" to provide "Truly Faithful Fidelity", Over and throughout that Compass. It's very difficult and tremendously expensive to achieve That Level of Phase Integrity. Only Sound Specialists usually require that level of Faithfulness, and normally for the Purpose of Testing Components and Detecting the Truth.

Specification of Speakers Frequencies Responses are thus typically written in figures. If you were able to see the True Print Out of the Graph of what was happening to the Sound, whilst travelling throughout the Compass, ever Lower and Lower. In regard to Maintaining the Integrity of the Phase the Graph would be Crazily, ALL OVER THE MAP.

It would be simple for anyone to observe, because most Systems, are in truth, all over the place.


As a  final thought, although Producers often make Recordings featuring Sonics which could be said to be Creative or could equally be said to be Disparately All Over the Place, featuring all kinds of Sonorous Anomalies.

Mastering Engineers (the stage between the Studio and Pressing Plant) Assemble Separate Tracks in the Desired Order, Adjust he Comparative Levels and Equalise the Overall Tonality as well as Maximising the Loudness Potential to a Competitive Rate.

But in order to Achieve the Latter, which is an Overriding Important Consideration for a great many Artists, one very common occurrence and technique that can be applied which no one ever seem to think about is that the Mastering Engineer can Bandwidth Limit the Entire Recording. In other words, by Removing Excessive Sub Bass Frequencies and Taming them, as they soak up huge amounts of Sonic Level, a far Louder Overall Level can be Achieved for the Whole Recording.

The Mastering Engineer has to Balance the Recording to work Optimally on any Playback System from the most Expensive Hi-Fi to the In Car Stereo, Ghetto Blaster or iPod.

One analogy we could use to easily understand this is to think of the 100 Hz Cut you will find on many cheap Mixing Boards. A Singer that taps his foot on the Stage Floor, creates Sub Bass Sonic Vibrations that travel right up the Mic Stand and Spoils their Sound. By Cutting the Low Frequency Off at 100 Hz we Preserve the Clarity of the Artists Presentation, remove Feedback Inducing Unwanted Frequencies, and Enhance the Sound by Enabling the Level of the Artist to be Higher.


Bringing all this back to the Bass Guitar.

Leo Fender and Carole Kaye's (who can type much faster than me and used her own Over and Under Mute) Foam Mutes were Devised and Invented to Tame Problematic, Unwanted Sub Bass Sonics, in very much the same way as the 100 Hz Cut, but at Slightly Lower Frequencies.

How this relates to the Brass Nut of your Client is that it should provide what in the vernacular of some could be described as, (forgive me), a Powerfully Ballsy, Strong, Clear Fundamental with Incredibly Generous, Compellingly Enhanced Sounding Harmonics. Hopefully, without any undue excess of the concomitant, Problematic, Sub Bass Frequencies.

Where  Bass is Concerned, Harmonics can work wonderfully to the good.




A program has just come on that features The Dave Clark Five, and I want to see it, so must cut this short.

My friend Bobby Graham who played Drums on many of my Recording Productions and who I Toured with.  Played the Drums on All of the Dave Clark Five's Hit Recordings.

Bob was the equivalent in the U.K. to what Hal Blaine was in America. Dave Clark asked him to make the Drum Fills Simple, so that he would be able to copy or mime them for all his TV Appearances.

Thankfully, Music can Make Us Happy, I'm starting to feel "Glad All Over", it doesn't have to be Black, Death or Metallic.

Thank you for your thought provoking thread. Most everything you learn about Sound and Recording has a Direct Correlation to the World of Designing, Building, Tweaking and Modifying Musical Instruments of all kinds.

What is the difference you might ask, to Gibson providing Three Different Sounding Saddles  made from Entirely Different Materials (as they have done with certain Models over the Years) and the Complementary Micing Technique used in Recording Studios.

That Modify and Tame Undesirable Qualities of Particular Vocalists. This Complementary Micing Technique was used on the Main Vocalist below to Rejuvenate and Renew the Voice on this Recording Below. It makes the Voice Sound, Young and New.



Everything you learn about Sound.

Will enable and help you to deal with whatever Sonorous Problems you encounter with a Musical Instrument.

Luthiers at their best make Musical Instruments that Produce Killer Sound. Producers and Engineers really should be in the Same Business.


Food for Thought?



Thanks again Peter for your insightful response. I really enjoyed it!

I've ordered some brass nut blanks so I'll update once the job is complete. And if I like it I may install one on my Spector!

I've used it to replace the adjustable nut on Warwick basses....several times... and the plastic one on the Johhny Cash Martin and I used it on a run of black walnut and mahogany stick dulcimers I made a few years ago.. In short I've used it a number of times over the years when I wanted a black organic saddle or nut replacement. I've never had an issue with how it worked and my customers seem to like it.

btw. The adjustable nut on a Warwick bass can't be adjusted with the strings at full tension, you have to loosen the strings and then make your adjustment. 


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