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Brass Nut vs. The Others

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by brianerwin, Nov 12, 2012.

  1. brianerwin


    Oct 21, 2012
    Looking at the warwick website, I see They have a Brass Nut on their new basses.
    I like the idea of a brass nut and I am wondering not only is hthe best out there for any bass but what other suggestions would you have for nut material?
    What's a good nut for basses?
    Changed title for a better reply.
  2. Other than a brass nut being more durable, I see no advantage to it.
  3. El-Bob

    El-Bob Supporting Member

    Oct 22, 2006
    Hamilton, ON
    But it sounds like Brasssss! :(
  4. aproud1

    aproud1 Don't surround yourself with yourself. Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2007
    Cincy, OH
    It is pretty durable and is supposed to sound brighter when playing an open note. I really like the Tusq nuts as they are really tough, easy to work and smooth when setup. I would use brass but don't really have any great reason to.
  5. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    A certain Mr. Sadowsky of the bass and the preamp fame says they give tuning problems. I'd imagine he would know!

    See this vid:

    At about 37 minutes in!

    In all fairness if you want a zero fret 'sound', that's probably the best option. - Like an MTD kingston:

    A brass nut may allow you that or very close while keeping the bass stock (or not needing more than a new nut to be stock) - feel free to try it. It's your bass. :D
  6. brianerwin


    Oct 21, 2012
    Aside from it being durable, there aren't any advantages?
    I was thinking there might be some kind of a warmer tone, being that
    Brass is sort of a soft metal.
  7. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    The only effect on tone is when a string is played OPEN. Once fretted the nut has no effect on tone. Any good hard material can be used for a nut. One that is inexpensive and easy to work/adjust is even better. If brass is so good (I can include other materials here) why are upright basses still built with traditional ebony nuts?
  8. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    There is nothing new except the history a person doesn't know. Brass nuts and other hardware were all the rage in the late '70's, in a misguided attempt to get more sustain and tone. The theory was more mass = more damping = less "bleed off" of tone, hence, = more sustain.

    The fallacy is that all instruments, including solid bodies, resonate. Fortunately, most luthiers have been enlightened to this fact and choose woods and hardware with complimentary resonances, and the industry as a whole backed off from brass and went back to traditional bone or composite nuts.

    As above, the nut only affects the open note resonance, tone and sustain. Does the player actually want that one note per string to be so much different from the rest of the fretted notes and have that one note per string stick out like a sore thumb?

    Brass is not harder than the steel strings it supports over the nut slots. It will wear. And unlike bone, which will keep its "witness point" if properly cut, brass will round over with time, and lose intonation. Worse, depending on the player's body chemistry, it will corrode due to the zinc in the alloy. So if the player likes his instrument after a few years to look like a verdigris statute, great. If not, then my advice is to stick with bone or one of the accepted composite materials for a nut.
  9. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    if anything it would be the opposite effect, since you'd be comparing it to non-metal nut material like bone or synthetics. as much as any nut material actually changes the tone, it would be brighter.

    it also needs to be maintained more than other materials, like keeping it lubed with a tiny bit of oil, or it will indeed wear or (with guitars at least) start to "grab" a little.

    all in all, it's kinda faded away as a nut material for a reason.
  10. brianerwin


    Oct 21, 2012
    OK! This one has been very educating to me. Thanks for all responses.
    I would also think that since a brass nut would wear or grab, putting oil
    on it would make the string like a cutting tool. If you oil a sharp cutting tool
    as you would a metal turning tool as it cuts, it keeps it cool and keeps it sharp
    making it cut better. Even though a bass string would not cut like one of those tools
    it would certianly allow it the opportunity to grab and possibly take out very fine
    slivers out of the brass.
    I agree with the majority here.... It sounds like it is far better to use a composite or
    stock nut on our bass than to use brass for just one note to sustain and stick out.
    I would rather have an even tone accross the whole bass instead.
  11. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    getting nit-picky here, but the oil would allow for less wear, not more. there's no actual "cutting" going on here, just wear from friction.
  12. brianerwin, the whole idea behind oil is to create a layer of oil molecules between two surfaces so they don't touch (on a molecular level, if you will), thereby reducing friction and wear. Oil = less wear, not more.
  13. Growly Lytes

    Growly Lytes

    Dec 4, 2009
    Downunder Oz
    Bass player
    I dont see how a Brass Nut could give you tuning problems...why would it ?
    Once its set, its set forever.
  14. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    Machine oil as a nut lubricant is never recommended on a musical instrument because it can seep into the wood and deteriorate it. Always use graphite instead, usually just rubbing the tip of a sharp pencil through the nut grooves a few times is sufficient.

    As far as the different nut materials and their tone:
  15. Because unless the slots are cut perfectly, to the exact sizes of the strings, angled correctly and polished, the strings will tend to grab and stick-slip during tuning. That's a problem.
    To the issue of tone -- it was thought that a brass nut would make open strings sound more like fretted notes(not less), as the witness points would be a similar hardness/density. Turns out it has little, if any effect.
  16. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    this concern is legitimate, but it's easy to apply enough oil to a brass nut slot to do the job without risking it getting on the wood, it's not a big deal.

    i won't put oil on a bone nut for the same reason, though; the nut itself could absorb the oil and soften.
  17. brianerwin


    Oct 21, 2012
    ok maybe that was a little too extreme of a example, but I would be concerned about it catching. I don't want to ruin a string or the nut. Besides it would take a long time to wear and a lot more movement than regular tuning would be.
  18. atomicdog


    Jun 18, 2011
    Other materials include aluminum (Danelectro) and carbon fiber (Reverend).
  19. iiipopes


    May 4, 2009
    No matter how small an amount it may seem, it will seep eventually and damage the fingerboard and neck at the nut, and if the oil soaks into the wood, then if you have to replace the nut then the oil will repel the glue necessary to make the repair. Please don't use oil. Use only dry lubricant.
  20. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I'm not certain -Roger Sadowsky said that it had caused that issue on guitars (see the link in my first post here, post #5)
    He'd know pretty well I'd imagine. ;)

    I've always read that a good nut lubricant is the graphite & clay mix in pencils. Seems to work with just a sprinkle.