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Importance Of Correct Nut Slots?

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I guess what I'm asking is: how much of a difference (and in what way) do correct nut slots make?

I have 2 guitars (one acoustic, one electric), both are on the cheaper end (less than $200, and less than $500 respectively). I just recently found out that both have incorrectly filed nut slots (both are not deep enough).

If I were to get a luthier to fix this (or invest time and $ to file them myself) what would the gains be?

Would it more affect the tone or the playability of the instrument (or both equally?)

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thanks for the replies and information mattia....checked out your website...looks loaded with good info too.

do you recommend the Buzz Feiten system or is it overkill (is a correctly filed nut good enough)?

It does? It's mostly in a terribly state of 'rough draftness' and lacking in illustration, but thanks!

*note to self: quit slacking and finish the damn website already!*

Nut compensation does work, by all accounts, although I've never given it a try. Read Stephen Delft's article on compensated nuts for a start:


Feiten's in no way the first to compensate at the nut end (Taylor's guitars are trimmed a little at the fingerboard end, f'r instance), he's just managed to pull of the biggest and best marketing for the 'system' as a whole, patenting a specific set of offsets.


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I'm still digesting that article.

Nut compensation does work, by all accounts, although I've never given it a try

So then the intonation gained by nut compensation must be very subtle.?

I came across a couple potential $ saving methods on another forum(a tap guitar forum):

Nut Blanks

Go to the pet section of the store and get a dog bone. If you look around you can find really dense (cow shins? femurs?) that are a foot long or longer. K-Mart has bleached, sterilized ones. If you can build fretboards, etc. you can saw a blank out of a bone. I usually saw the knuckles off on a band saw, then saw it lengthwise. Then I saw out an over sized nut (or bridge inlay) and finish it up by sanding it to size. Put the sandpaper on a FLAT surface (glass works).

Nut Files

Also I use (believe it or not) a set of feeler gauges to cut nut slots. I just used a coarse file to rough up one edge of the gauges, and now I can cut a nut slot from .008 to .135, for about $5.

Any thoughts?

Edited by bobmirror
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  • 3 weeks later...

I'd learn how to cut a standard nut before getting into compensated ones ... it's tricky and a couple of thou are going to make a real difference. Too high fiddly factor for me.

The Buzz Feiten nut system is not new at all, he just trademarked it. I first heard of it being done by classical makers at least 15 years ago and it wasn't new then. It involves moving the nut about .2 mm towards the bridge and compensating at the saddle too.

It's not going to give you perfect intonation either ... the guitar is an equal tempered instrument and so that's impossible. It's just redistributing the out of tuneness differently. The ideal is to get a guitar playing reasonably in tune and then being able to play it in tune. I've known guys who can play guitars that are hopelessly off key for me in tune.

And what if you want to use a capo? I've never seen a classical player use them so I guess it doesn't matter to them but I like capos myself.

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Anybody that has seen my posts know that I realy like the Earvana system. Its a retrofit system that works without shoping of a piece of the fretboard.

Check out www.earvana.com

The main disadvantage is that it is made out of plastic, and I prefer bone nuts on acoustics.

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I guess what I'm asking is: how much of a difference (and in what way) do correct nut slots make?

Would it more affect the tone or the playability of the instrument (or both equally?)

It would have an effect on playability in that the 1st position notes and chords would be as easy to play as any other position. Tonally it shouldn't make much of a difference, if any. As far as intonation goes it makes a big difference. Just having the nut slots at the correct depth reduces the stretch of the strings in the 1st pos. and that makes for a more in tune guitar.

About compensated tuning sytems, I have used both the Buzz Feiten system and the Earvana system. Both work equally well in my opinion. However I don't feel the need to use them (unless a client orders it).

What I use is very simple. I cut .030" off the end of the fingerboard. This compensates the nut and does wonders for intonation. I tune and intonate regularly, which is to say that the 12th fret fretted note = 12th fret harmonic. This sytem works as well as the other two for me. I never have complaints from my clients. Quite to the contrary. I often get comments saying how amazingly in tune the guitar is. My method has been in use by many, many luthiers most notably acoustic builders. PRS does this too. No need for a patent on this tried and true technique. Small builders have used nut compensation for decades, centuries even. And you can use whatever nut material you want because the nut is just moved closer to the bridge a touch.

All of this is hitting the marketplace recently in the form of Earvana and Buzz Feiten only because the mass produced electric guitar market got involved. This section of the market is highly susceptible to hype and propaganda. A little research will yield that this is not new but only packaged and marketed as such.

That's my take on it at least.


Edited by Myka Guitars
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