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View Full Version : Bone or Tusq saddle/nut vs ebony



ErnieJ
09-09-2010, 05:29 AM
So I've got this solid uke that I posted about last week. It is an all solid Kala Acacia tenor. It is strung with Aquila strings and has an ebony saddle and nut. I really like it but it is not very loud compared to other ukes at the jam and even my tenor laminated uke. I was thinking that tone and volume could be improved with a bone or Tusq saddle and possibly nut and maybe a different set of strings such as Worth or Fremont. Also the action is quite low and I am thinking that raising it a bit will help too.

Am I correct in assuming these upgrades and changes would help?

Thanks

Paul December
09-09-2010, 03:46 PM
I have the same uke and love its warm sound. I would guess changing to Tusq would make it louder, but brighter too.
My Acacia is very picky (pun intended) on where she wants to be strummed. When I strum her in front of the sound hole (not over it) it is actually becomes one of my loudest ukes.

ErnieJ
09-10-2010, 02:51 AM
I've noticed that too and if I use my thumb nail or a felt pic it is much louder. It is growing on me. I do think I'd like the action a bit higher as I tend to dig in.

Thanks for the response,

erniej

bazmaz
09-10-2010, 08:06 AM
I'll be perfectly honest, guitar forums are awash with threads like these. I changed the saddle on my pricey Taylor guitar from tusq to bone and the difference was really really subtle. In fact as strings went off, difference wasn't there.

I'd wager that on a small instrument like a uke the difference would be even more unnoticeable. That said, each to their own, and if others can tell difference big enough to outweigh the hassle, then good luck!

adam2180
09-12-2010, 04:50 AM
Changing the saddle will make a slight difference in tone, raising the action will help a little with volume. With the action higher you can also play louder with out any string buzz. Aquila strings seem to produce the most volume to my ear.

Pippin
09-12-2010, 05:07 AM
If the strings are too low, the ukulele might not buzz but it might produce a much lower volume. Ack! Adam beat me to it.

70sSanO
09-12-2010, 08:41 AM
I played a ukulele with an ebony saddle for 3 years my personal opinion is that an ebony saddle sucks some of the tone out of an instrument, so I would vote for tusq saddle. Changing the nut would be for appearance sake only.

But if I were you I'd experiment with strings first. I think that is where you may find your biggest improvement.

I agree that higher action gives more volume if it is based on strumming the strings harder without getting fret buzz.

If you take fret buzz or muting out of the equation, if you have the same string tension on the soundboard I don't think it matters if your action is higher or lower.

So if you use higher tension strings, you will probably get more volume even if the action is the same. I would think it would be louder than raising the action with lower tension strings.

Higher tension is not an absolute rule because Worth Brown Strong strings sound better when I tune down and have less tension on the soundboard. By the same token putting Aquilas on with standard tuning improved both the volume and tone.

John

Pippin
09-12-2010, 09:06 AM
I played a ukulele with an ebony saddle for 3 years my personal opinion is that an ebony saddle sucks some of the tone out of an instrument, so I would vote for tusq saddle. Changing the nut would be for appearance sake only.

But if I were you I'd experiment with strings first. I think that is where you may find your biggest improvement.

I agree that higher action gives more volume if it is based on strumming the strings harder without getting fret buzz.

If you take fret buzz or muting out of the equation, if you have the same string tension on the soundboard I don't think it matters if your action is higher or lower.

So if you use higher tension strings, you will probably get more volume even if the action is the same. I would think it would be louder than raising the action with lower tension strings.

Higher tension is not an absolute rule because Worth Brown Strong strings sound better when I tune down and have less tension on the soundboard. By the same token putting Aquilas on with standard tuning improved both the volume and tone.

John

You have to figure "break angle" into the equation. If the angle of the strings across the saddle is sharper, then there is more downward pressure on the sound-board and therefore, more vibration. This, in turn, produces more projection, realized as higher volume. It really all rests on "break angle" itself. The same holds true for violins and double-basses.

70sSanO
09-12-2010, 11:34 AM
Pippin,

I agree, I was trying to say that, probabaly not that well, with string tension on the soundboard. I agree it is produced by the break angle from the attach point off the saddle.

I'm not sure how much the impact is on raising a saddle vs. higher tension strings... provided the saddle has not been lowered too much.

John

ichadwick
09-12-2010, 01:12 PM
Yes, you can raise the action with a higher saddle. Tusq will be brighter and louder. Glass will be more so. Help is subjective. I replaced existing saddles on three ukes with Tusq and they all sounded better and louder to my ears: Pono mango, Tom Guy cigar-box and Lyra mahogany baritone. Louder is easier to quantify, better is up to your listeners.

ichadwick
09-12-2010, 01:15 PM
I played a ukulele with an ebony saddle for 3 years my personal opinion is that an ebony saddle sucks some of the tone out of an instrument,...
Ebony is better than rosewood as a saddle, but not as conducive to transmitting wave energy as other materials - bone, ivory, brass, some plastics (i.e. Tusq) or glass. Ebony will mellow some of the tone and restrict the high end somewhat. But it will depend on the instrument (build, size, tonewood, etc) if it's better to replace it.

70sSanO
09-12-2010, 01:48 PM
ichadwick,

I really enjoyed your glass saddle experiment. But we are probably on divergent paths.

Based on the use of spruce and maple for violin and mandolin bridges (Check out Red Henry), I have moved toward wood, particularly hard and soft maple and may even some other more exotic woods.

I don't doubt that theoretically, or even in your test, that the harder the saddle material the better the transmission of vibration from string to soundboard. But I do get lost on the purity of that transmission when under saddle pickups, saddle shims and sometimes multiple saddle materials are set in a bridge that is attached to a soundboard that is all setting on a bridge plate. It would seem that all those pieces would have a some impact because frequency waves have to move between the joints of varying material types.

While I hear improvements, either real or perceived, in the end, as pauljmuk pointed, saddle material accounts for such a small change to the sound.

I can very slightly reduce the brightness of my bright sounding ukulele even when I go to a soft maple saddle, although I like the overall tone. Likewise, I can only very slightly brighten up my mellow sounding ukulele going to a hard maple, and with ebony I lose tone and volume.

All that said, my suggestion to ErnieJ would be to go to higher tension strings and a tusq saddle.

John