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Wednesday

What's the Ideal Guitar Nut Material?

Tony Pasko recently posted a good article about nuts at The Rock House Blog. You should read it first, before reading on.

Tony's post got me thinking about nuts vs tone, and asking myself, "how important are nuts to tone, really?". I mean, the tone of any fretted note is more influenced by the nickel the fret is made of right? So it would therefore seem logical that a nickel nut would provide the ideal overall tonal balance between open and fretted notes. Are there any other kind of guitar notes? Alright, add nickel slides too. That oughta cover it!

Now I know that some people swear by petrified mastodon feces as the ultimate nut material. I don't wanna argue about it though, so don't even comment here if you're one of THOSE people wanting to talk feces.

But I'm still thinkin' the ideal nut material must be nickel, and that bridge & bridge saddle material is even more important since the bridge is NEVER out of the loop like the nut is whenever notes are fretted. Everybody with me here?

THEN I read the Phil Petillo interview in the May '09 PG, which seems to help solve the puzzle! If you want some serious insights about guitar construction materials, this is the interview for you, and I urge you to follow the link and read it!

Petillo refers to ivory as the most "musical" fret material, but of course since ivory frets would require constant replacement, he's been on a longtime quest for metal alloys with similar tonal characteristics to ivory. Petillo talks about a type of stainless steel alloy he eventually discovered which sounds like ivory frets would, but won't wear out. He does not mention if he's also making nuts from this alloy, but it sure seems logical as the ideal nut material, when you consider how popular ivory nuts are on hi-end guitars.

Materials like graphite and the synthetic Tusq, used for more conventional nut material, are also not the stuff you can make frets out of. What about Pyrex or ceramic? Probably cracks too easily. Perhaps someday we'll have fretboards in which users can simply "eject" one type of frets and pop in another type.

Anyway, Petillo caused me to do a 180 degree change on my original theory about nickel as the logical ideal nut material. But I'm still standing by utilizing a common material for nuts & frets, even if it's petrified mastodon feces.

As for bridges & saddles... Let's save that for another time.


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