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Thread: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

  1. #1
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Is it worth it? Will it positively affect tone or playability? Or do I just need more practice?
    Last edited by David Lewis; Jun-25-2020 at 7:52pm. Reason: Typo

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    I personally would never own an instrument with a plastic nut. Bone is the standard that all other materials are measured against. I think you will be happy with the results of changing to bone.
    Charley

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    Hands of Pot Metal
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Gibson Loars and others at the top end have MOP nuts. Playability is just setup. Tone is in the ear of the listener/player.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Fingers of Concrete ccravens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Is it worth it? Will it positively affect tone or playability? Or do I just need more practice?
    Yes it is worth it.
    Yes it should positively affect tone, maybe not playability.
    Yes you need more practice. As do we all.
    Chris Cravens

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Long tones.

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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Amplified or acoustic? I ask, because a Martin certified repairman asked me that question when I took him a Taylor 714 I’d just acquired to do some set up on, including replacing the saddle with one a bit higher. I realize the saddle and nut are different(the Taylor had Tusq nut and saddle), but he told me if I were planning to install a pickup he’d recommend against the switch to bone. I had him switch to bone. Loved the results, and didn’t feel like I’d made the wrong choice when I added a sound hole pickup and started playing it out some a couple of years later...but I can’t tell you the bone is superior to Tusq, because the Tusq saddle was just cut ridiculously low, so there was no fair comparison.
    Chuck

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    Registered User John Soper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    The biggest difference in tone with a nut change is likely going to be on the open strings, and I do like bone better than Tusq or other plastics. A good set up will likely affect the tone of fretted notes, so make sure your mandolin is set up well, whether or not you change out the nut. And yes, practice slowly and listen to the tone you produce for each note.

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  14. #8
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Quote Originally Posted by CES View Post
    Amplified or acoustic? I ask, because a Martin certified repairman asked me that question when I took him a Taylor 714 I’d just acquired to do some set up on, including replacing the saddle with one a bit higher. I realize the saddle and nut are different(the Taylor had Tusq nut and saddle), but he told me if I were planning to install a pickup he’d recommend against the switch to bone. I had him switch to bone. Loved the results, and didn’t feel like I’d made the wrong choice when I added a sound hole pickup and started playing it out some a couple of years later...but I can’t tell you the bone is superior to Tusq, because the Tusq saddle was just cut ridiculously low, so there was no fair comparison.
    Acoustic. My cheaper mandos have plastic nuts. Delfin and abs so I wondered if could I get a bit more out of them.

    I found none nuts 3 for 9.99 Australian at grandado. Figured I could try at that price.

    Thank you all.

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    Registered User Chris Bowsman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    I think whether the nut is cut and filed properly is infinitely more important than the material it's made from. However...

    After close to 30 years of playing music, I'm finally at a place where all my gear is pro-quality. If any of them didn't already have Tusq or bone nuts, I'd replace them just because it makes me happier to have quality stuff.
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    I agree that a properly cut nut is more impartant than the material. Also the nut will only impac the sound of open strings, not that open string sound isn't important.

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Changing the nut will only affect the tone of open strings. SO: Play your open strings. Then play them fretted. Is there a significant difference in the tone that you can hear? If so, then changing the entire nut (or simply adjusting the nut slots, in many cases) may improve the tone of the open strings. If not, then don't bother. Some people are troubled by the mere thought that some part of their mandolin is made of plastic, and seek to get rid of it for prejudicial reasons. Never mind that these same people play their mandolins with a plastic pick, which has a big effect on the tone, as we all realize!

    I would not try to talk you out of changing the nut, but you should do the experiment described above first, and determine if there is a tone difference in the open strings and the fretted ones. That is the thing to test. The chances are good that if your nut is properly cut and set up, the nut material makes little, if any, difference.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lewis View Post
    Will it positively affect tone or playability?
    The playability of any nut, whatever material it is made of, is based on how well cut and fitted the nut is.

    The bad reputation of many plastic nuts is because many are pre-slotted, hollow, and not fitted well nor do they have the action at the first fret optimized. This is common on many low-end budget or entry level guitars and mandolins.

    Is you current instrument set up properly? If so I'd say leave it alone until you actually need a new nut, then get a bone or similar high-grade material nut and make sure that the action is set properly by a competent technician.

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  23. #13
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    On some older guitars the plastic nuts are dense, and work well. I wish I could find that plastic material. The handle of an old toothbrush used to be a good substitute, but as usual it's a different plastic in today's toothbrushes. Bone is not always even in it's density so it is not always better. Tusq was designed because of the uneven density in bone and even Martin guitars, not the high end where the buyer would expect bone, has used Tusq for many years. Do what sblock says and see if you can hear the difference, if not don't worry about it. Unless you are having tuning problems, then you must be playing a mandolin.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  25. #14
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    I've changed several instruments over from plastics to bone. In all cases, there was at least some difference in the sound. Sometimes the difference was minimal, sometimes it was quite significant.

    Because of the cost involved, I do not recommend changing over an inexpensive instrument. In those cases, I think it wiser to save the money for the better instrument fund.

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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    I'd say, like so many other setup related items, what else changed besides the nut? Were the string grooves changed in any way? Was action changed? Was bridge tilt or location changed? Were the strings changed? Was fretwork changed? Was relief changed?

    The truth is, it's impossible to change only one thing. So it's also impossible to attribute differences in sound to a single precise change.
    -- Don

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  29. #16
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Talk me out of replacing an ABS nut with a bone nut

    Material of the nut will not affect tone at all. It's the cut of the slots that does. Material mostly affects longevity and allows better quality of work. ABS is one of the worst materials for nut. Tusq or corian is MUCH better, probably very close to bone. Pearl needs to be cut in proper direction from shell to work well, which is rare these days.
    Soft or chippy material will wear from tuning and even from the vibrations of string the very end of slot gets wider and sound gets muffled over time. That's main problem with soft plastics.
    Adrian

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