How To Make A Budget Acoustic Guitar Sound Great For Just $20.00!
By Billy Cokes, Picker's Grip
Most guitar manufacturers that produce budget priced acoustic guitars typically save costs by installing a plastic saddle and nut instead of using bone. Bone costs more than plastic. It makes good business sense using plastic saddles and nuts on value priced guitars as it helps keep the street price lower for the consumer.
Plastic saddles are more brittle than bone and are subject to breakage over time. Plastic saddles are not high density in structure compared to bone. Bone saddles will transfer the string’s vibrational energy through the bridge and the sound board or the top of the guitar much better. You will find bone nuts and saddles on all higher end guitars for this reason.
I recently purchased a new budget Yamaha FG830 for $340.00. This is the perfect guitar for vacations and for keeping around my office desk. I won't weep buckets of tears if it gets dented or scratched which is a plus. This model Yamaha guitar has a solid spruce top and laminated rosewood back and sides. When I first got it, I thought it sounded really good for the price. I tried different string brands in search for a boost of the low end. I was pretty much pleased with the purchase. Then I noticed when I would push it hard banging out full chords that it sounded a little muddy, meaning note separation was okay but not great.
I decided to do some research so I Googled “Yamaha FG 830 bone saddles” and as luck would have it; I found a compensated bone saddle on Amazon for $20.00. I read all the reviews to make sure that it would fit this specific guitar model. After I received the saddle, I methodically and slowly sanded down the saddle to match the height of the original plastic saddle. I repeated this process about six times until it was perfect. After I installed the saddle, I noticed right away the guitars overall sound quality went up several notches. Now my guitar had improved note separation and playing full chords sounded much better during soft and hard strumming. The lows were better and the highs were less shrill. The bottom line, the guitar sounded more “musical” to my ears.
With a little bit of research and for very little money, you can take you budget guitar to a higher musical level with a bone saddle replacement. And if you want to take it a step further, install bone string pins which will also help with tuning stability and sound transference. Look up Bob Colosi for bone pins, he's the best in the business!
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Thank you Bob!
Steve, One way to tell is to drop a plastic saddle on a hard surface and listen to the sound it makes, next drop a bone saddle. The bone saddle will make a deeper and more solid sound hitting the surface compared to the plastic one, The other way is to burn a sliver of each, the plastic one will definitely smell like petroleum material burning. One other trick is to shine a flashlight or lamp light through the saddle. Plastics will look more solid and bone will have slight variances in it’s make up. Hope this helps. I’m glad you like our T-shirts! Thanks
You needn’t apologize for not being a recognized writer. I found your short discussion clear, convincing and thorough. I write a good bit and am always looking to improve those three qualities which you nicely exemplified. Now, I admit: I’m not a guitarist, and I bought the Picker’s Grip aid only for use in sleight of hand magic. Despite that, the writing was appealing to me.
My best to you,
Hey Billy, great advice and it makes complete sense. Never thought of it. I’ll have to check my Ovation Folklore that I haven’t played in a while. Curious, how can you tell if it’s already bone or not, or is it obvious? BTW Picker’s Grip is a game changer for me, I love it! I have a bunch and leave them laying around anywhere I might find myself with a guitar. Like my tee shirt too.