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Imagine Movable Nut Saddles


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For a long time, I have tried to make the first few frets of many electric guitars sound in tune, but, in practice there are always strings that sound a little higher in pitch, and compromises must be done when choosing the distance between the first fret and the nut. I don't know why, on most guitars, the distance between fret1 and the nut is a little longer than it should be. This leads to higher pitched notes on the first frets, accurate 12-th fret(when we do the intonation correctly), and lower pitched notes after the 12th fret. This led me to the idea, that movable saddles can be made at the nut, just as there are saddles on the bridge. This would make the guitar play almost perfectly in tune, as each string will have its ideal distance between fret1 and its corresponding nut saddle. Furthermore, this "device" may be made in such a way, that the height of the saddles(or the height of their base), may be adjustable too, so that one can tweak the string height at the nut. What do you think? Will it affect the tone of the guitar much?

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Sounds like a good idea,

It would have to be made something like you would make a saddle. I'm not sure how it would effect tone,but I believe people have used all brass guitar nuts before so it might be possible. It would have to be very low profile, and not have any sharp edges or anything like that, might just be possible though.

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nice idea, have aductments at both the nut and bridge may take a while to set up (as soon as the nut is adjusted the bridge will be requiring re-adjustment to get the 12th fret back in tune so you may need to repeat the prosess) but once done it should be great.

Earvana offer a similar systeme where the nut is adjustbale

you will otic that for each string there is a different point at which the nut ends this allows for thus use of only two srews rather than six individualy adjustable srews. it sounds like what your thinking of is almost another bridge and the nut, if you could make a minuate tom it would probably work. but i mean minuature! just go back to your guitar and look hoe much space there is (im talking fingerboard width). the additionial mass wouldnt be a bad thing in most cases, but may cause extra frition which in turn causes tunning problem the very thing you ar trying to over come in the first place.

to sum up it would be great but i dont think its do-able by the likes of us home/small builders

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The Micro-Nut is actually available again from the reincarnated Micro-Frets company - it was just one of the truly innovative design features featured on the original (late 60s/early 70s) Micro-frets guitars. Unfortunately, they couldn't give these guitars away, even with Bill Lawrence designed tapped pickups and an available onboard wireless system. They were (and probably still are) too far ahead of the curve, but the designs were sound, even if the guitars were a bit odd-looking.
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they look pretty cool, never heard of the company before how did you find out about them? as you mentioned they werent very popular, (personaly the guitars dont look that good but they inotive designing in them)

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they look pretty cool, never heard of the company before how did you find out about them? as you mentioned they werent very popular, (personaly the guitars dont look that good but they inotive designing in them)

I purchased a Microfrets signature new in 1968 for $295.00. double cutaway. It was bright red. Very light weight guitar. It was made of a laminated 2 piece type of fiberglass. The intonation was awesome. I sold it in 1975 as well as my selling my 69 strat. Sure wish I had those guitars now. Now Paul Rose has brought the company back to life. The nut can be purchased from them for $125.00 as a replacement for there guitars. I'll see if I can find a picture of mine and scan it. It was really ahead of it's time and there original designs were more for the C&W and Jazz vs R&R.

Mike

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look foward to the pic as their site has none ther is a pic with t on a guitar but its hard to see in detial

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In 1972 I worked in a music store and the owner was somewhat of an inventor.

He had the same idea for a fully adjustable nut.

He came up with a design and had a patent lawyer do the patent search and found that there were already 5 or 6 patents for a similar device.

I'm sure I've seen "compensated" nuts somewhere.

Be Cool,

d ward

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I didn't know the Micro-Nut was back out again. It's from the 60s, I think, and didn't last too long. If you want to get an idea why, look at the price in the above link! There's a lot of parts there. I think about 80, just to make the G sound in tune a bit better.

A common solution is to shorten the fingerboard at the nut end by .020" or so. That's an old idea too ... and that's exactly what the Buzz Feiten system does. He didn't invent it, he just trademarked it.

With most factory guitars the tuning problems in the lower positions have very little to do with the nut design anyway. The nut slots are simply cut too high.

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The really cool thing about the micro-fret nut was it was adjustable up or down , forward and back and sideways and was a roller nut. It was an ingenious design but was also very finicky. Would work for almost any radius. I just had surgery on my leg so I'm not real mobile so may be a day or 2 before I can find a pic.

MK

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In 1972 I worked in a music store and the owner was somewhat of an inventor.

He had the same idea for a fully adjustable nut.

He came up with a design and had a patent lawyer do the patent search and found that there were already 5 or 6 patents for a similar device.

I'm sure I've seen "compensated" nuts somewhere.

Be Cool,

d ward

Taylor use them on their acoustics. Quite an old idea actually and a few people have used them over the years.

The whole subject of compensation is a fascinating one but IMO alot of people are obsessed with reaching a level on intonation that the human ear isnt capable of detecting.

Cheers Martin

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My ear is DEFINITELY capable of hearing the typical "out of tune-ness" of typical nuts and typical setups. Compensation isn't about perfection but rather about improvement. There's no way the guitar, due to its physics, can EVER be "perfectly" intonated (and indeed, even a Piano which CAN be, is tempered to make it pleasing to the ear), but that's a different issue. Some people are obsessed, but others simply want to make an improvement to their guitars that's easily and instantly audible to a great many people.

Greg

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My brother has "perfect pitch" which means he can hear a note and tell which note it is.. It's pretty amazing.

It's pure intuition, but funny thing is he absolutely HATES notes that are out of tune. It's not obsession.. it's more of a sensitivity "issue" (well.. not really an issue). Telling if the intonation is off or not is a lot easier and some people have it, some people don't.

I have yet to learn the physics behind this, does anyone have a link that explains how intonation physics work?

This is a cool topic.

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The physics aren't tricky, unless you're talking about the raw calculations... here's the "need-to-know" though:

The 12th fret is the halfway point, physically, of your string. Which means that at the 12th fret, you should in theory (purely) be exactly one octave higher than your string as an open string.

However, when you fret a note (thereby pressing physically down on the string) you will pull it sharp. The elasticity of each string is slightly different, and the B string tends to pull sharp more easily than the other strings, for reasons that aren't all that interesting. The other strings also pull sharp, but the actual amount they go sharp varies from string to string, and even between manufacturers to a very small degree.

To "compensate" for this pulling sharp, you compare your fretted note at the 12th fret (ie., it's pulled sharp) with the harmonic note at the 12th fret. When they're the same, your bridge is compensating for the amount pulled sharp. The PROBLEM is that the closer you get to the nut when fretting, the more easily you pull the string sharp, expecially with a nut that's not cut very well and with strings sitting too high. This is because the tension of pulling sharp isn't evenly distributed anymore. To make up for this, people realized that if you compensate at the NUT as well as at the bridge, you will be able to have a more consistent average compensation, though of course it STILL won't achieve perfection.

Greg

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though of course it STILL won't achieve perfection.

Ugh. Perfection. Yuck.

Maybe lack of perfection is the reason why guitar = rock n' roll?

There's a certain amount of dissonance created through this 'problem' of intonation, not only among the strings of a guitar, but also between a guitar and a bass, and a guitar and a keyboard. And it's the dissonance that helps make the music exciting and complex, full of inherent risk --and capable of supporting dozens of styles/genres.

That said, the nut compensation issue is another reason why zero frets make more sense.

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I think what idch means to say is that having a zero fret reduces the need for nut compensation when compared to a poorly cut bone/tusq/etc nut that doesn't have deep enough slots. Although, it's foolish to assume that a zero fret will be the best choice as not all nuts are cut poorly.

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BTW ... forget about perfect intonation.

Guitars, like almost all modern Western instruments, are equal tempered. You cannot have perfect intonation on any equal tempered instruments since they aren't designed to give you that. What they do is to spread the out of tuneness around so it's not too objectionable.

If you want perfect tuning you need to use just intonation. And if you do that, unless it's a fretless instrument like a violin, you're only going to be able to play in one key or its relative minor. That's why equal temperament was invented and where the title of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier came from.

The idea is to get the instrument as much in tune as you can and then be able to play it in tune. I've seen extreme examples of that ... a buddy who used to live here had a 30s Dobro that was the most off key guitar I've ever seen. He could fret it in tune, no problem.

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'fanned frets', are because you have a combination of scale lengths on the same neck.

The adjustable 'does it all' nut reminds me of those "grandaddy" acoustic bridge saddle substitutes that seem like a great idea, but hardly anybody can be bothered to use it.

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My ear is DEFINITELY capable of hearing the typical "out of tune-ness" of typical nuts and typical setups. Compensation isn't about perfection but rather about improvement. There's no way the guitar, due to its physics, can EVER be "perfectly" intonated (and indeed, even a Piano which CAN be, is tempered to make it pleasing to the ear), but that's a different issue. Some people are obsessed, but others simply want to make an improvement to their guitars that's easily and instantly audible to a great many people.

Greg

Agree with you Greg. Interesting comments about tempered pianos. I recently attended a Pat Methany concert and sat there convinced that his baritone guitar was either seriously out of tune or the intonation was way out. After about 10 minutes (good thing alot of Pat's numbers are very lengthy!) I found I had got used to the instrument and it no longer sounded "strange". I still think the intonation on the thing was a bit out but once I got used to it I no longer noticed it.

Cheers Martin

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A common solution is to shorten the fingerboard at the nut end by .020" or so. That's an old idea too ... and that's exactly what the Buzz Feiten system does. He didn't invent it, he just trademarked it.

Actually, the amount the nut is moved on a Buzz conversion is 2mm (.0788"), not the .5mm (.020") your suggesting.

What I wonder about, is how the adjustable nut will effect the tone, isn't that kinda the whole point of building a guitar, for good tone?

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Mickguard-- I'm with ya, man. If the intonation is completely screwed and/or the nut is cut like crap, I DO notice. But as long as the "normal" nut is cut properly and the bridge is compensated, I'm cool with that.

rhoads-- what tgm said. I think the comparison was being drawn with the typical factory nut, not a nut made by someone with any degree of competence.

Hoser Rob-- interesting stuff, the whole physics of it. I can't imagine restricting myself to one key. :D

redwhite-- as mentioned, fanned frets are to accomodate 6 (on a 6-string) different scale lengths on the same guitar; or what's more honest, *2* scale lengths (at the high E and low E) with all points in between. Some people don't like the feel of "normal" scale lengths in the lower strings... too floppy for riffing, especially with dropped tuning. But on the other hand they don't like a longer scale length adding tension to their upper strings where they do a lot of soloing! Additionally, if we spread our fingers, they "fan" out, so the contention is that a fanned fret system is ultimately more ergonomic as well.

Kiwi-- neat anecdote, illustrating how our brains can so easily adapt. I bet there are people out there for whom it would seem WORSE with each passing moment, but I suspect I'd be the same as you and "get used to it."

GF-- while not necessarily adjustable, there ARE roller nuts out there, and they don't seem to negatively affect tone. Some people might argue that the metal-on-metal is more in line with the tone of notes being fretted and therefore desirable. As for potential loss of sustain with moving parts, it's hard to say. The whole TOM + Stop tailpiece is really terrible from an engineering standpoint, with "loose" and flimsy parts galore. Yet, TOM-equipped guitars manage to sustain. So, I don't personally see it as being too much of an issue.

Greg

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