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Dampens string vibration
Soft Saddle

© Frank Ford, 11/1/98; Photos by FF, October 1998

Fossil ivory, bone, graphite, brass, Micarta, Corian, etc. There's a lot of talk in lutherie circles (we do run in circles) about the best material for bridge saddles. I'd rather not get into splitting hairs over which is the very best.

For now, I'd like to concentrate on the kind of saddle that's the worst. The kind of saddles that really suck up tone and make a guitar sound dull.

Soft materials just don't work very well.

I'm not talking about synthetics that are used on high quality guitars like this one:

But, while we're here, take a look at this saddle. See the tiny black nicks at the first and second strings?

Now, look REALLY close:

You can see that the string impressed itself into the saddle which actually flowed a tiny bit under the pressure. Personally, I like a saddle that doesn't do that so much, so I'd prefer bone to the synthetic material here. But as for tone, I really can't say it makes enough difference to warrant worrying about it.

Now check out the cheap plastic saddle on this guitar:

It has REALLY flowed under the string pressure. That's a good sign that the plastic material is so soft that it acts as a resilient string damper. As the string vibrates, the saddle uses up more than its share of the energy flexing and bending microscopically.

Speaking microscopically, let's look closely at this one:

This is a great time to try out my new close-up lens:

Wow! See how much the saddle has flowed under the string pressure.

Heat and/or time have caused terrific deformation in the saddle. This guitar will most likely have better treble response with a new hard bone saddle, or the equivalent.

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