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.
Quote: "The 110 is a great guitar for the money, I am very happy with it."
Good for you Arthur!
A while back, for my last Birthday, my Son took me to an Exotic Music Shop faraway from Oxfordshire, to a strange foreign land called Birmingham, and I tried a Taylor 110.
I always like to try everything I can, simply for the experience and I was immediately impressed by the Sound, Quality and Price, and rather felt that Taylor had that Price Point rather wrapped up against the competition, although its hotting up further all the time at that level.
My impression was it had a strongly projected, but fundamentally, a strikingly Brassy Tone, against Traditional Guitar Tones, and gave a modern, pleasing, but somewhat different flavour from the usual offerings that one might expect. I took to it instantly, it's superb Playability, along with a well resonated, strongly projected Bold Brassy Tone, was how I would sum up its strengths.
Here's the thing, Arthur. Although it had a Brassy Tone, ...(some of my colleagues Design Engines, and the Tone of the Engines Sound is deliberately shaped and modified by careful Design to reflect the Engine Tonality a typical consumer would expect, find desirable, and specifically look for in a Vehicle of the Particular Type the Engine is Designed for, so "Brassy" is a word that means something very specific in sectors of my world)... the Tone was not overly bright, harsh, or in any way disturbing to the Ear, but very definitely "Brassy".
In my considered opinion, the Tusq Saddle and Nut are not simply the common and fiscally costed parts Taylor have used to Manufacture the Instrument.
They are also a deliberate part of the overall Tone Shaping of the Design. And although I strongly favour Bone as a material for these parts most definitely on Traditional Guitar Designs, and completely concur with others in regard to this, my slight concern would be on this Instrument, having experienced its dominant Brassy Tonal Personality, that it could well emphasize and boost the upper mid's and treble end of the Guitars Tonality. Particularly when utilising Thinner Gauge Strings, and possibly to a point which is on the very edge of that which one might think desirable.
I would hesitate before enacting any change that added still more treble response which has already been added to by the String Choice. You might prefer it. Then again on this Instrument you might not. What often happens is that brighter sometimes is initially translated as greater projection, and it takes a while to realise that something has been gained, but at times, something has also been lost. People often simply indulge in "Change" as against genuine "Improvement". If you were to Formally Study Musical Form and Performance, you would find that Volume and Tone are never spoken of as separate entities in the way Guitarists and Consumers are in many respects, consciously predisposed to think of them.
When you adjust one aspect of the equation, the other is completely affected by default. Play a Piano softly and it has a Particular Tone, Play it strongly and it's Tonality is completely different. So we speak of the "Volume of Tone".
Whereas the Design of this specific Guitar as it is Manufactured, has a "Well Balanced", Strikingly Brassy Tone.
My own personal Taylor Guitar has been "Tonally Tamed" to a small degree towards the Traditional.
With Bronze Strings that have been Played a while to completely lose the Initial Brightness.
A while back I tried and played a highly reputed Brand of Instrument, (but not any make you are probably thinking of) with very high expectations.
It was overly bright, to the point of tinny, thinness of Tone, and very harsh indeed on the Ear. What I believe is desirable is to have a Strong, Clear Treble, that has Real Fundamental, Strength of Bite and Tone, but does not travel beyond that point, into Direct Harshness as perceived by the Ear.
Many people will tell you that such matters are entirely subjective, as we all have different Ears, we like wholly different Sounds, and we Play completely differently and so are attracted to wholly different aspects in an Instrument. On the surface, and to a point in genuine reality, this is an entirely reasonable point of view, and a fair point to make. It is true, but it is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
In my world, "Objectively Quantifying Tonal Aspects" of a Product, and being able to Shape Every Aspect of that Tone so that it subconsciously meets, preexisting but entirely unconscious consumer expectations; and reassures and communicates regarding aspects of the Products internal build quality, that are completely unable to be seen by the eye, is all but a Part and Parcel of refining the Design and Manufacturing Process.
It has be Objectively Quantifiable and Scientifically Measurable, even if some of us, like myself, do indulge in broad descriptive terms, at times to communicate an idea.
The Instrument you own, (no longer in Production) used to be originally supplied with Medium Gauge Strings, and it is not hard to play fitted with them when the Instrument is new. Today that has now changed to Light Gauge 12-53 Strings on the closest equivalent Model of current production output.
I use Light Gauge Strings and found for myself that a tiny tweak of the Truss Rod was both necessary and beneficial for my Taylor which was supplied with Medium Gauge Strings. If your Instrument was Manufactured when being supplied with Medium Gauge Strings was the norm, as I believe, then it is highly likely that a small adjustment to the truss rod will be greatly desirable.
If you are up to do this yourself.
Here's the 1/4" Taylor Truss Rod Wrench.
I have some relatives in Townsend and surrounding area, not too far from you Arthur.
And I would think that if you were concerned about this Instrument, and would like an experienced set of hands, to do this for you, as you obviously love this Guitar.
The Truss Rod could be ideally adjusted by a Good Local Luthier for your favoured Strings. (Your current set up are actually specifically Designed for Easy String Bending in the Upper Treble Strings whilst retaining a Full Bass Tone in the Lower Strings), that's what they are for. I'm wondering if this eases the action problem and difficulty with your hand, for you and that's why you like them.
Phosphorous Bronze will add to the Harmonic Richness, i.e. brighter overtones. If you don't do a lot of that String Bending, and think you are probably not going to be tomorrows latest newly emerging Rock Artist. Be open to the notion that there may be Alternative Strings distinct from the Hybrid Choice you current have, that may far better suit your specific Playing and Tonal Requirements. Especially if the roots causes of the action issues are addressed. Do ask about that and allow a Luthier to make positive recommendations to you, that may greatly help you towards your desired ends..
Your existing Saddle and Nut could be Fully Optimised at the same time, or a New Bone Saddle etc. fitted for you just as you might wish, precisely to suit your Playing Style. Either way, as the Action seems a little high, and you are having some Playing Hand related issues that also may need to be addressed, it would clearly be the case that You and the Guitar, will benefit from a small modicum of expert care from people that know what to do, which may not be much at all, but will probably make a great deal of difference to your lasting enjoyment from the Instrument. They will probably overlook the Instrument as a whole, and make whatever straight forward tweaks and tightening are needed.
If you wanted to explore that possibility.
And indicated that here, I feel sure there will be Excellent Luthiers near you from the Massachusetts Area hereabouts on this board, that could very easily perform the necessary routines entirely to your satisfaction, perhaps making direct contact with you via the appropriate channels.
Just visiting and discussing this with them may be a wholly beneficial learning and growing experience for you Arthur, that will endue and empower you with far more knowledge and confidence and assist you in help relieve, some of the physical difficulties you have, alas, been experiencing.
Good Luck with your Guitar Playing.
I'm glad you like your Guitar so much!
Guitars like people are meant to be Loved.