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String Resonance Behind The Nut


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An unfortunate problem which seems worse on one of my instruments than any of the others - when amped up, the string beyond the nut resonates and causes overtones/harmonics to be passed back to the string length between the nut and the bridge when muting. Very annoying when you're playing staccato passages or muting! I know a lot of guitarists wrap electrical tape around the strings when studio recording, but my issue is a lot more pronounced.

For reference, the nut is brass (i suspect that may be exacerbating the issue) and the string lengths vary from 2.5" - 6" from nut to tuner. The nut is quite heavy because of the material it is made from, but is seated adequately rather than being loose.

I'm wanting to learn and discuss other people's experience on this, as i'm changing my nut configurations to counter this issue as best as possible. I'm using zero frets from hereonin, so the guiding nut material can be changed to anything realistically. One dampening method i've considering is a string bar with a strip of dense rubber on the underside, and the other method is a guiding nut with slightly deeper slots then "normal" and rubber strip in the centre to absorb string vibration.

Either of these methods beat electrical tape *outside* of the studio! Thanks all.

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Many years ago, I made a strat nut out of steel.And then, it seemed the guitar had some kind of weird thing going on, which I figured was coming from the string on the headstock side of the nut. On recordings, the 3rd string would have this added sound, which I can only describe as the sound that a submarine makes in the movies, This on/off weird tone.

I actually thought the effect was cool as hell. But, it figures that it was the 3rd string, because thats always the string I have the most trouble with. I have since found that on a strat, it's best to keep the angle of the 3rd string slot to a minimum. Had I re-done the steel nut like that, perhaps that weird tone would have went away, but who knows.

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If you've ever seen the inside of a grand piano, you may notice that the 'non voiced' portion of the strings are all interwoven with ribbon (over and under, back and forth), something that not only deadens their sound, but also (with nice ribbon) could make the appearance more attractive.

Of course, this might be harder to do (especially to do nicely, if you constantly change strings) if you have individual string trees or such similar devices.

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If you change out the nut you many eliminate the effect but may also change the overall sound. The type of headstock you have would have have helped but I will assume it is not a fender style. I would try a rubber wedge just behind the nut at least 3/16" thick. Enough to deaden the strings but not lift them. I would not change the nut unless you see the strings are not seated properly on the back side, raised up over the cut so they have a chance to vibrate. Namely you can pluck these strings and make them play then the string slot may be too low and the string is breaking at the edge of the fingerboard.

If you can slide a piece of paper under the strings on the headstock side of the nut the nut is the problem. If you changed string gage it may have been the cause. Just guessing here????

Edited by Woodenspoke
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I can't see changing the material changing the overall sound when I introduce zero frets. The rubber wedge is definitely a contender for a solution as I may use it as a guiding nut beyond the zero fret for this purpose. Sounds like you had the same resonance problem I had Soapbar.

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String vibration above the nut typically indicates the string is vibrating in its slot. This is the primary reason why a V slot is recommended.

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String vibration above the nut typically indicates the string is vibrating in its slot. This is the primary reason why a V slot is recommended.

I had exactly this kind of thing happening on the brass nut of my 8-string fanned-fret guitar. I solved it by dropping in a small drop of superglue; of course it hardens and bonds the string to the nut, but as soon as you tune/detune the string it pops loose, and the layer of CA remaining is thin enough to stop this effect, and too thin to change the tone.

I've never had this happen on any other kind of nut, I think it is particular to metal nuts.

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Possible solution : You strip out the metal strands of some electrical wire, then slip the hollow wire jacket over the string that's behind the nut. Maybe it deadens the strings enough.

For a spacer behind a 'zero fret' I would go with something slippery; Nylatron, Delrin, etc. I would think a rubber spacer would make the guitar constantly go out of tune, everytime a string is pulled sharp on a bend, etc, and then gets a little hung up on the rubber. Of course you could put some teflon lube to likely solve that problem, but it would be a fight, since the strings would want to dig in to the rubber more and more over time.

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Interesting. I've been experimenting with Corian as nut material, and may use it as guiding nut material. I'd rather not go down the lines of using rubber. I think you may be correct about the metal nut issue Erik - the mass of the material is weightier than the string material, whereas bone, ivory, plastic, graphite etc. are lighter. It perhaps doesn't "stop" resonance over the break point the way a lighter material does.

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I can't see changing the material changing the overall sound when I introduce zero frets. The rubber wedge is definitely a contender for a solution as I may use it as a guiding nut beyond the zero fret for this purpose. Sounds like you had the same resonance problem I had Soapbar.

Oh a minor thing like a zero fret setup might have been an important piece of information. I am back to the strings are not seated and the zero fret is where your string breaks and ends at the tuner with nothing between to stop vibration.You can use something softer to stop the vibration behind the zero fret as others have listed as Alt materials; dump the brass as it serves no purpose in this kind of setup. If everything is gold plated then use black if not it does not matter what color you use. If you need exotic and soft use Black Buffalo horn easy to work with.

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Thanks WS. The brass nut is in the instrument with a non-zero fret setup. I'm changing tack on future builds to incorporate a zero fret, and dropping the brass nut for sure. I'm 90% sure i'm going to use Corian or Delrin (Acetal) for the guiding nut as it's cheap, available (well, Delrin is anyway) and easy to work with. Before I commit, I wanted to identify the source of the problem so I don't have to mitigate it further down the line using extra measures!

Do you know of a source of black buffalo horn, as I wouldn't mind trying it for the experience WS? It needs to be a 56mm wide piece however (just over 2") so standard blanks won't fit. Thanks.

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V slot method really is a great way to go....

About the only time I've had "strange" sounds like you describe is with metal nut material. I like the tonal aspects of brass, yet other types of nut seem to introduce less misc. sounds. One time I had a brass nut slotted with too much angle and I think the string was vibrating in the slot because of it. I tossed the nut and made another and it was fine. However, it still introduced that metal nut sort of sound we attribute to the metal nut which some of us like.

Using bone, graphite, or corian eliminated the artifacts in the general headstock vicinity.

-Doug

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Thanks all - i'm settled on going down the lighter non-metal material route. It was an interesting experiment with the brass nut, but i'm not happy with it for several reasons, this resonance one included! Corian sounds like the material of choice with Delrin a close second if I can't source a reasonably large chunk of black Corian :-D

To be honest Doug, I wasn't overly enthused with the sound of the brass nut (resonances nothingwithstanding) which is why zero frets seem a much more attractive proposition. I suppose if the sound of a "fretwire nut" isn't good enough for me then I should try taking up the harp or piano ;-D

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Coat your strings in clear silicon after the nut LOL. I give up zer,o non zero tape, nut, head spinning still no answer.

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I have some customers request the brass, so I use them. Like anything else guitar related it's a personal preference. The resonance is different, yet is it better or worse? That's a perspective question. Myself, I guess I still like the graphite or bone. I've never been asked to make a zero fret guitar so I can't comment on what that's like specifically. I do however a make a ton of necks with them so they must be popular.

-Doug

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