Hi, I have a Taylor 110 with a saddle I believe is made out of Tusq.
I know that Tusq is better than plastic, but what is better than Tusq?
Should I go to bone? I have heard of NuBone, what is that exactly?
Is NuBone the same as Tusq? Is real bone the best way to go?
Can I really hear the difference?
Thanks for any input.
I don't think you'll get many dissenting opinions that bone (lots of variations in 'bone' btw) is the preferred material except, as Ian stated, in cases where a manufacturer expressly requires a synthetic (Tusq or Nu-Bone) for their product to perform as designed. B-band does this.
I recall that you posted a few weeks ago asking how to tame the high end 'zinginess' on your Taylor. Here's the only caveat to using bone in that situation: Bone may actually increase the high frequency content of your guitar. Only a swap to compare the two will definitively answer that question. It's worth a shot :)
Best of luck with your quest, our friend :)
I've replaced plastic saddles and nuts with bone on many instruments. I can say that bone at the saddle will definitely increase the loudness and dynamics of the guitar, in some cases maybe too much loudness. There is increased brightness and even added bass. This is because the hardness of the material transfers the vibration of the string to the top of the guitar with more efficiency. Tusq is harder than plastic, bone is harder still. The best material to transfer sound between objects is steel, which is used in higher end electric guitar saddles. In the old days they made saddles out of wood, and they still do on archtop guitars (the string tension pushing down on the saddle is different on archtops). So to summarize: The hardness of the saddle is directly proportional to the loudness and dynamics of the guitar.
As an experiment I took the saddle out of one of those adjustable bridges to see what it would sound like, although it was not in the shape of the saddle I got a general idea what metal would sound like. Metal while it's much harder tends to make an acoustic guitar sound very harsh and loud. Something about the dampening of sound in the saddle adds to the tone.
A bone nut seems to add overtones, although it is not nearly as dramatic as changing the saddle. As far as I can tell there really isn't a big difference in changing the nut, and I'll usually just leave the nut unless the nut is broken or a very poor hollowed out plastic nut.
Tusq is very nice in that it is slicker than bone and allows the strings to slide around more so it's easier to tune the guitar and they tend to stay in tune longer. There is less chattering, and pinging of the strings as the guitar is tuned with Tusq, as opposed to bone.
As far as tonal quality that is very subjective. I replaced a bone saddle with a plastic one on an inexpensive guitar, and the guitar still sounded the same but not as loud. Tusq is certainly more balanced than bone, but bone seems to add a certain character to the sound that is different than Tusq. Whether that difference is better or worse is highly subjective to the player. Tusq is definitely louder than plastic but not as loud as bone. Tusq and bone both offer an improvement to tone over plastic to my ears.
Also not all bone is equal. Bleached bone is whiter, but the strings also tend to stick to it and cause pinging and chatter more than Tusq. Unbleached bone is slightly slicker and easier to tune, although some might say not as pretty. Bone can have wide variances in tone and sound quality as it is not something that can be quality controlled like Tusq can. So bone in general is more of a gamble than a synthetic material.
I remember something about Frank Ford taking his saddles and knocking them on something hard to see how well they ping. If the bone pings nice, it's more likely to be a good saddle, if the bone thuds there might be problems.
I'm a bone fan and all of the nuts and saddles that we make to order are bone, quality, well degreased bone. I'm also a fan of harvesting bone from cattle that use their legs or "free range" with the thought being that animals that use their legs, instead of living their lives densely packed in pens, are more likely to have better bone density. Same likely holds true for we human bags of mostly water too....;)
Regarding saddle material and under saddle transducers the fit of the saddle is critical to getting the most out of the UST. What I shoot for is a well fitting saddle with no gaps in the slot and zero ability to rock (in the moving back and forth sense not in the getting into a rousing rendition of We Are The Champions.... sense). I want a saddle to be able to be lifted out of the slot and move up and down freely with minimal effort but again very close tolerances to the saddle slot. This often means for us that we get out the laser guided, vacuum clamped, PC-310 powered saddle slot mill and clean up the slot a bit.
Can folks hear a difference between say bone and plastic? Maybe I was too much of a 60's type person wanna be but I think that I can hear the difference between bone and plastic. More specifically in the midrange and highs which seem to be more present with a nice, hard, piece of bone used for the saddle.
Can folks hear a difference between bone and tusk or corian? Maybe not so much in that I am not sure that I could hear this difference and while we are at it I am always not sure that even if I hear a difference that I am correct - who knows....
Anyway over the years I've developed a bit of a fondness for working with bone and see it as an opportunity to do some carving, work with files, chase scratches, and achieve a nice high polish on the nut and saddle buffer. It's fun for me and I even sign my nuts (no jokes please, well maybe a few) before gluing them in place with a couple little drops of glue.
Oh yeah, the reason why we only use bone and never use any pre made nuts is that even with the pre made stuff there is still lots of fitting if you want a gapless, quality fit where the ends are super flush. If you also shoot for the idea that a nut should match the lines of the instrument and not be chunky even more material often needs to be removed from commercial offerings. So we just make em one at a time the old fashioned way and then we have complete control of slot spacing, the lines, the fit, etc.
I can just see it. 50 years from now someone will knock the nut off their guitar and be surprised that, what they always thought was bone is in fact "labeled " as some sort of "stone".
Best reply of the day Ned.
Is this your own Guitar?
A purchase you have made from new?
If so, and from your post that was the impression I gained, you may want to consider the fact that Taylor make handy drop in replacements parts available.
Although some of these parts might seem a little pricey for what they are. I think for an Owner/ Player, as opposed to a Luthier per say, they offer an attractive solution that gives perfect fit parts with precious little effort, if that is your situation. You can try out Bone or Tusq and make your own evaluation, simply when you change Strings.
Although I favour Bone myself, I wouldn't change out this part on a new Guitar.
After all I was happy with the Sound of the Instrument when I bought it. Rather, I would buy drop in replacements whilst they were available. And replace them with Bone if and when that might become necessary in the future.
Some people are always looking for a little more improvement. I try to work harder at my actual Playing Performance as an alterative approach, quite contrary to the mass of the world at large, who see the Guitar they own, as being the one involved, in need of further work and improvement.
Kudos to Bob for making these parts available. I like his style, that he has thought through so clearly many of the problems and dilemmas that Guitarist face with Acoustics, and come up with compellingly sound solutions, to age old problems. I have the Factory Fitted Fret Wire, (as well as the other Recommended Repair Shop Wire), Machine Heads, basically everything that might wear out.
Although they are not expensive as Guitars go, I do like the Taylors in this range of the Market, and just above, the ebony Fretboards and so on. Songwriter Paul Simon even does too, so I think they have something. The new "Faith Naked Series" is another Guitar Range well worth trying in my opinion, if you get the chance. Just a simple G Chord seems to resonate superlatively.
Amongst other rather finer Guitars, I have a lovely Taylor Acoustic myself and like their Neck, Playability and Tonal Projection very much indeed, although I use Light Gauge Martin Strings to modify the Sound a modicum, mainly because I am a Traditionalist albeit Electric - Acoustic. The neck is extremely tweakable to a fine degree, mainly because of the superb and smoothly engineered truss rod. And if you change String Gauge, just a fraction of a turn can dial you into where you want to be.
Now, I have a couple of other thoughts you may find helpful. Part of the Instruments Voice is the thin Gloss Finish on the Top Back and Sides. However, you may find that if every time you Play for a while, you Polish and Buff up the Back and Sides with Carnauba Wax specifically. It will bring out the full beauty of the Wood Grain that is there. Keep on doing it and if the Guitar has a reasonably good Grain, the Guitar will gradually look like it's worth a great deal more than it actually cost. They can be made to look quite stunning to the eye.
The other thing worth knowing, is that it is a fact that amongst Acoustic Players, Hiscox Hard Cases are greatly favoured as the best Quality versus Price. Most especially the middle priced Liteflite Pro ll Series. However, one of the things I like about the Cheaper Taylor Guitars is that they utilise a Bellied Back. It reminds me of the first two Guitars that I learnt to Play on, both of which were constructed in the same way, which whilst adding strength eliminates the need for back bracing. Although I don't own a 110 Model myself, because of the Bellied Back, my experience has been with Instruments of this nature, that they don't suit the Pro ll Series Cases absolutely ideally as they lay down to fit. However, the very Strong and Cheaper Liteflite Standard Series (which surprisingly, in fact are slightly deeper recessed for the Body than the seemingly bigger Pro ll Series) perfectly allow the Belly space needed, for a perfect lay down of the Instrument. If you want little corner pads to push and perfectly hold the body at each corner (as per the Pro ll Series), normally Hiscox are extremely good at providing this type of customer service, if you give them a ring. I bought an Artist Liteflite Case at Christmas and they sent me extra Pads to make a Perfect fit for my Instrument. I will probably buy another Artist Case soon.
It is the best Case for the money I have found, and to my mind the best lay down and fit for this 110 Back Bellied Taylor Model if you want a Hard Case, once you push a little pad into the corners to perfectly secure the Body.
Most Generic Cases will need some little added Padding somewhere, as they are made to fit such a wide range of Instruments.
Good Luck with your Playing!
Thank you Peter!
Yes, this is my guitar, I am the second owner.
I love it, although my left hand hurts if I play it too much at one sitting.
(that's another post!)
Thank you for the links to the Taylor products.
The solid spruce top is starting to "ripen" slightly, it is slightly
darker, and heading toward that honey hue, and the sound quality
should improve even more I am told.
I have D'Addario Phosphor Bronze custom lights on it (EJ26).
The action could be a bit lower, but I am afraid to touch the truss rod.
The 110 is a great guitar for the money, I am very happy with it.
I only wish to add one thing to Peter's very detailed and informative post. Thanks Peter :)
The saddles (and nuts) that Taylor sells on their website require final fitting on the guitar. For the saddles, that means they will likely need to be sanded to fit the width and depth of the saddle slot and to establish proper action. Their nuts (just for info only) are also taller than they need to be, for a personalized 'custom fit' by someone with the skills and tools (nut slotting files of the correct gauge). I simply want to clarify that it's not a "pull out the old one & drop in the new one" task.
My Taylor is a 1996 714 (spruce/RW Grand Auditorium) straight acoustic. I change out the nut and saddle about every 12-16 months as it gets lots of gig time. It's not a difficult task. I changed out my saddle just last week. Nuts, saddles & Strings are the "expendables" on any acoustic guitar and like tires on a car; the longer you own it, the more of those you'll replace.
As far as the truss rod, check out Taylor's Tech Tip sheets (available on their site) on truss rod adjustment.
As long as you don't overtighten the rod (ex: using vice grips to turn the adjustment tool to get that last 1/8th turn that you truly don't need), you'll do fine. Turn the rod no more that 1/4 turn at a time in the proper direction to get the neck to look like it does in Taylor's Tech sheet. They do a great job of explaining it to owners with little to no set-up experience. ALL of their Tech Tip Sheets contain useful information.
And, contrary to common misconception, adjusting a truss rod ONLY corrects the straightness of the neck to establish a bit of relief if desired. It should not be used, in & of itself, to lower or raise the action. That requires saddle & nut adjustments after the neck's straightness (with or without relief) is established
Changing out your saddle is a great 'first repair' to learn and I'm sure you'll do well. If you run into problems or have questions....well.... we're here for ya. :)
For your convenience:
This is the tip sheet that also includes truss rod info.http://www.taylorguitars.com/sites/default/files/10_SymptomsofaDryG...