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Brass Nut or Bone Nut?
Old 21st February 2014
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Brass Nut or Bone Nut?

Which one do you like and why?
Old 21st February 2014
  #2
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

A brass nut will allow the open strings to ring with that piano like ring where bone results in a mildly softer less inherently aggressive tone.

Both my '93 Strat Plus with the metal roller nut and my custom USA Schecter PJ
with brass nut are guitars I choose for natural ring, jangle & chime, but also for
their aggressive edge with a harder attack.
Old 21st February 2014
  #3
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
A brass nut will allow the open strings to ring with that piano like ring where bone results in a mildly softer less inherently aggressive tone.

Both my '93 Strat Plus with the metal roller nut and my custom USA Schecter PJ
with brass nut are guitars I choose for natural ring, jangle & chime, but also for
their aggressive edge with a harder attack.
Great! Does it "ease" bending?
Old 21st February 2014
  #4
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosty999 View Post
Great! Does it "ease" bending?
I play mostly rhythm and don't do a lot of bends.

Run my Strat Plus floating without the Whammy.
Old 21st February 2014
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
I play mostly rhythm and don't do a lot of bends.

Run my Strat Plus floating without the Whammy.
Ahh, I had a feeling there would be less friction etc, Yngwie/Blackmore both always had brass nuts installed and they bend more than a slinky!
Old 21st February 2014
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosty999 View Post
Great! Does it "ease" bending?
I have guitars with different nuts, brass, bone, graphite and whatever material Earvana uses, there is now difference in how easy it is to bend strings, and I bend a lot of strings.
Old 21st February 2014
  #7
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FFTT's Avatar
 

I've always wondered what the String T Tree does to the way a string responds,
both fingered notes and open.

The metal roller nut on my Strat Plus eliminates the need for the T Tree,
but because you have to route the strings through the roller assembly and not
over it, this does limit string gauge to 10's.

I love the guitar, but re-stringing in a hurry is not its strong point.

On a standard nut, I'll clean them up Gently and de-burr with 400 or 600 wet or dry paper before applying graphite.
Old 21st February 2014
  #8
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e3p0's Avatar
 

I always felt that bone sounded brighter than brass. Like the brass didn't allow the strings to vibrate freely. That or they are both fine as a material for nut. Corian, bone, graphite, tusq...
...all make decent choice, but bone (in my experience) is brighter.

That said, I prefer to work with the GraphTech stuff, like Tusq.
Old 21st February 2014
  #9
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

It might be interesting to see an electron microscope view of the different
materials to see which is actually the smoothest.
Old 21st February 2014
  #10
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

I prefer bone. I see no advantage whatsoever in using brass. There might be a subtle difference in the tone of the open strings, but not to a degree that it's very noticeable.

Over the years, I've made hundreds of nuts out of various materials (mostly bone). My primary complaint about brass is that it's so hard to work with, and it puts a lot of wear on my nut files. I could overlook this if there was a noticeable advantage in using brass, but if you can't hear it or feel it, what's the point?
Old 21st February 2014
  #11
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FFTT's Avatar
 

You bring up a good point with workability of the material.
Old 21st February 2014
  #12
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e3p0's Avatar
 

The minutiae is the elusive carrot. The tiny percent points. Placebo effect also. If one thinks there is an improvement, there will be one.
Old 21st February 2014
  #13
Gear Maniac
 

Everyone makes good points here, I'm sure a lot of it is placebo affect. I've just heard that guitarists that swear by them (probably slight bias) say sustain and open notes have more attack and "kerang" at high gains. They say cleans it's not noticeable. Also they say a little bit of lubrication on a brass nut makes bending a little easier...
Old 21st February 2014
  #14
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

You mentioned Yngwie as one of the players who endorse the use of a brass nut. Personally, I wouldn't believe anything that guy says in an interview. I remember as a young guitarist, I admired Yngwie's playing, and in a magazine interview, he said that he used heavy strings (like 11's or 12's), so I followed suit and strung my guitar with 11's. I found out years later that he had been using 8's all along, and he was just lying in order to throw people off who were trying to play like him. It worked on me - I never had much luck trying to play or sound like Yngwie. But I stuck with the heavier gauged strings - they just worked for me. Thanks Yngwie!
Old 21st February 2014
  #15
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Well you could go really old school and use various strains of fossilized bone.

I mean gee wiz, your choice of Mastodon, T Rex, Saber Tooth, Brontosaurus,
or let your freak flag fly with Pterodactyl
Old 21st February 2014
  #16
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HAHA....yeah I'm one for bone too.

It's easier if adjustments need made down the road and I feel like it provides a little more sustain.
Old 21st February 2014
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
You mentioned Yngwie as one of the players who endorse the use of a brass nut. Personally, I wouldn't believe anything that guy says in an interview. I remember as a young guitarist, I admired Yngwie's playing, and in a magazine interview, he said that he used heavy strings (like 11's or 12's), so I followed suit and strung my guitar with 11's. I found out years later that he had been using 8's all along, and he was just lying in order to throw people off who were trying to play like him. It worked on me - I never had much luck trying to play or sound like Yngwie. But I stuck with the heavier gauged strings - they just worked for me. Thanks Yngwie!
Rig Rundown - Yngwie Malmsteen - YouTube

This is the interview I go by as he actually shows the gear as he explains it so a little more trust worthy, I'm a bit of a fan boy but also amazed at the vibrato and sustain he gets and was trying to achieve it without scalloping
Old 21st February 2014
  #18
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

I especially like his rendition of "Bored To Tears In 15 Seconds"
Old 21st February 2014
  #19
Of those two I prefer bone, there's a slight difference in tone when playing open strings, but unless you do that a lot it's hardly worth it as there's obviously no difference once fretted, and on top of the aforementioned difficulty in working the material I find my strings don't last as long with brass.
Old 21st February 2014
  #20
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosty999 View Post
Great! Does it "ease" bending?
No.

Brass nuts have some serious problems, especially for lead players, to wit:

Brass is a rather soft metal, much softer than the steel alloys that guitar strings are made of. What that means is that over time the windings of the bass strings make impressions into the brass. These impressions make it difficult for the string to slide through the slot when bending of tuning, resulting in trapped string tension problems. That makes tuning difficult and means that bends on the lower strings often do not return to proper pitch.

You should probably go for the bone or, if you bend a lot, graphite.
Old 21st February 2014
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghosty999 View Post
Ahh, I had a feeling there would be less friction etc, Yngwie/Blackmore both always had brass nuts installed and they bend more than a slinky!
They also have full time techs to deal with the problems. And I'm not certain that Blackmore always used brass. You could email Dawk and ask him, maybe he'd tell you.
Old 21st February 2014
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Well you could go really old school and use various strains of fossilized bone.

I mean gee wiz, your choice of Mastodon, T Rex, Saber Tooth, Brontosaurus,
or let your freak flag fly with Pterodactyl
Fossilized bone tends to chip and crack easily.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #23
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Fossilized bone tends to chip and crack easily.
Of course this coming from your personal experience
Old 22nd February 2014
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
Of course this coming from your personal experience
Oddly enough, yes. One of my various hobbies is collecting rocks and cutting gemstones.

Most mineralized (turned to stone) fossiles are composed of calcium based rocks (limestone) or hydrated silicates (opal or similar stones). Both are rather soft and fracture easily.

Many mammoth fossils are not mineralized at al, but are aged and partilly decomposed bone or tooth material which has become quite brittle with age.

If you watch many documentaries about fossil digs (I do) that's why they always excavate the bones with some of the surrounding matrix rock and coat the whole ting in plaster of paris and burlap to prevent it fracturing, then very slowly and carefully remove the matrix at the lab before treating the fossil with an epoxy type resin to stabilize it.

I've been into minerals and fossils since I was a little kid. My best friend in school's dad was head of the Oklahoma University Geology Department.

I have the equipment needed to cut you a nut out of fossilized bone but I wouldn't recommend it.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #25
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Eppstein View Post
Fossilized bone tends to chip and crack easily.
I've worked with fossilized mammoth ivory a handful of times. Perhaps in theory it's more brittle, but in practice I had no problems of that nature. The "fossilized" ivory that I've worked with was noticeably softer than (non fossilized) bone, and didn't seem brittle or prone to cracking or chipping. I don't recall ever using fossilized bone.

As you also mentioned, this stuff is of course not actually fossilized even if they did dig it out of the ground.

Back to the OP, brass does actually work really well under the rigors of extreme string bending and tremolo use if the slots are cut correctly and you apply machine oil to the string slots often. My primary beef with brass nuts is all the extra time it takes to craft one, not to mention the additional wear and tear it puts on the tools.

Come to think of it, my wife's bass (a Gibson Lee Sklar signature model) came with a brass nut. She's a professional bassist and plays it all the time. We've never oiled it and that bass holds tune remarkably well.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
I've worked with fossilized mammoth ivory a handful of times. Perhaps in theory it's more brittle, but in practice I had no problems of that nature. The "fossilized" ivory that I've worked with was noticeably softer than (non fossilized) bone, and didn't seem brittle or prone to cracking or chipping. I don't recall ever using fossilized bone.

As you also mentioned, this stuff is of course not actually fossilized even if they did dig it out of the ground.

Back to the OP, brass does actually work really well under the rigors of extreme string bending and tremolo use if the slots are cut correctly and you apply machine oil to the string slots often. My primary beef with brass nuts is all the extra time it takes to craft one, not to mention the additional wear and tear it puts on the tools.

Come to think of it, my wife's bass (a Gibson Lee Sklar signature model) came with a brass nut. She's a professional bassist and plays it all the time. We've never oiled it and that bass holds tune remarkably well.
Well, it does depend on which type of brass is used (brass is actually a family of alloys), but over time the windings of the wound strings will sink cross grooves into the metal. This does vary somewhat with the type of strings - obviously it won't be as much of a problem on strings with smoother windings, such as flatwounds or ground rounds.

For a long time there were a lot of instruments floating around the Bay Area with Stars Guitars brass nuts. Most of those have been replaced by now due to the grooving problem.

Fossil, non-mineralized ivory doesn't usually have the same problems as other fossilized material, although I did use to have some mammoth teeth that were crumbly as hell.

Incidentally, the proper meaning of "fossil" is "dug up". It doesn't necessarily mean mineralized, although it is commonly assumed to mean that.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #27
Gear Guru
 
FFTT's Avatar
 

What bone can they use legally?

I've seen listings for whale bone, walrus tusk all kinds of stuff.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #28
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Yuri Kogan's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by e3p0 View Post
The minutiae is the elusive carrot. The tiny percent points. Placebo effect also. If one thinks there is an improvement, there will be one.
Bone is a much more resonant material then brass which is softer and more "inert". Therefore the transference of the string vibration to the neck will be better and you will have a more vibrant resonant sound. With brass it will be a lot more "controlled"
Old 22nd February 2014
  #29
The original rationale for brass nuts (and bridges) according to the '60s Bay Area hippie luthiers at Alembic and Stars Guitars who were pretty much responsible for the brass hardware craze was that brass was a higher mass material and as such would not absorb as much energy from the strings, resulting in increased sustain.
Old 22nd February 2014
  #30
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Tinderwet's Avatar
My suggestion is to try a nut made out of delrin. It's hard and slippery (doesn't require lubrication).
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