Nuts about nuts
Every guitar has one – that little piece of bone, plastic, wood, metal, etc. which supports the strings at the end of the fingerboard near the tuning pegs.It may be small but it has a big job! We pay great attention to the nut in every guitar setup or guitar repair. It supports the strings at one end, keeping them comfortably spaced along and above the fingerboard. If either the spacing or heights are wrong, the results are from: ‘ it doesn’t feel right’, up to: it’s impossible to play’!
Although the nut supports the strings, it should not prevent them from moving through the grooves, which happens when they are tuned or bent. The less the resistance, the more stable the tuning.
Two main factors contribute to the efficiency of a nut
- The material it’s made of.
- The fit and shape of each individual string groove.
Generally a harder material is better in most respects – stronger and more durable and can be made smoother to reduce friction.
We favour bone for the traditional look and German silver for more modern guitars. The latter has an additional advantage that it is a similar material to the frets, so the tone of the open strings is more consistent with the fretted notes.
Instruments on which the strings splay out behind the nut (e.g. Gibson Les Pauls, PRS and most acoustics including Martin, Guild, Takamine, Aria, etc) often have tuning problems – particularly with the 4th, 3rd and 2nd strings. We have developed a mod which vastly improves their stability. We scallop the nut from the rear towards the front of each string groove (see picture above) – reducing the effective groove length by 50 to 80%. That means less friction – less frustration!