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Does saddle material make a tonal difference?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by B String, Jul 26, 2016.


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  1. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Looking for opinions here. I'm using an aluminum bridge with brass saddles. My G string seems to be just a tad weaker than the other strings. I've ruled out string, pickups, string height, etc. I'm told that changing the saddle from brass to steel would make an audible difference. Does the saddle material make a much of a difference in tone and volume? Opinions?
     
  2. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    Just curious - who mentioned the noticeable difference when changing from brass to steel?
     
  3. testing1two

    testing1two Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    If we're just talking saddles, you won't hear much of a difference, if any. I've swapped brass saddles for vintage threaded steel saddles and didn't notice any significant change in tone. If you change the entire bridge from brass to steel or aluminum or titanium the difference is much more noticeable. On anything other than a traditional Fenders brass has always been my go-to but many people I respect prefer the brightness and responsiveness of aluminum. I tried a titanium bridge on a p-bass and while the increase in sustain was impressive, it added brightness that wasn't pleasant on my particular bass so I went back to steel.
     
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    A weak G string can be caused by a number of reasons, but I seriously doubt that changing the saddle material is going to fix it. Play with your pickup height to see if you can get a more even response
     
  5. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Thanks. I tried a number of other things. No go. BUT, I just got a steel saddle and replaced the brass saddle. It seemed to work. There's an ever so slight tonal change to the string, but if I didn't tell you, you'd never know. It has however seemed to bring the volume and note strength in line with the others. Yippee!
    I remember changing the bridge on my James Tyler bass many years ago from a Wilkinson to a Hipshot aluminum with brass saddles. It changed an already good bass into a fantastic bass. It was Tyler's idea. (He'd been experimenting)
     
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Somehow I think that replacing the saddle only changed the string balance because the string was removed and reinstalled. It may have removed a twist in the string or corrected a bad break angle. A saddle swap just cannot raise the output of a string.
     
  7. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm not saying it raised the volume exactly. The string just sounded a bit weaker or not quite as full as the others. I might try putting the old saddle back next time I change strings. I might also try changing all the saddles just to see what happens. In any event, its working good now.
     
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    That's all that matters.
     
  9. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Ha... I appreciate that comment.
     
  10. neckdive

    neckdive

    Oct 11, 2013
    You could swap it without moving or changing the string. Detune a few steps, lift and put something slight taller under the string to act as a temporary saddle. Unscrew the current saddle and replace.

    This would eliminate the string as a variable.
     
  11. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    That's almost exactly what I did.
     
  12. neckdive

    neckdive

    Oct 11, 2013
    Are the height screws made of the same material? Since they are the direct contact point to the bridge plate, they could be eliminated or tested as a variable.
     
  13. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Changing saddle screws might have a tiny effect, but it wouldn't be audible. There's no one magic bullet. You can change the saddles- maybe a sonic difference, but it won't be anything other than subtle. You could change the entire bridge and there would be more of a change, but not huge. You could then change the nut to brass and maybe you might notice a wee change. How about a new neck made from magic tone woods?

    Perhaps the change you are looking for is a new bass. At some point the economics of modification are sketchy at best. Not that you shouldn't try some mods. Go ahead - it's only money.

    This is not aimed at the OP, or anyone else in particular. I've just seen too many clients that were pursuing the sound in their head by doing mod after mod on their instrument, only to become so disatisfied that they ended selling at a loss. Maybe the best course of action is to stop listening to that sound in your head.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2016
    1stnamebassist likes this.
  14. Yes, and just play the thing. Most of you audience wouldn't know if you switched from a pbass with flats, to a Rick with rounds anyway. I switch basses and strings all the time for my enjoyment, but I don't believe anyone else will care either way. But yeah, if something sounds really funky in a not so good way you should address that no doubt.
     
  15. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    A friend and mentor of mine from outside the music world often says, "It's never going to be perfect."

    Sage advice.
     
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Almost perfect advice.
     
  17. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Virtually none of what we do to our instruments (or amps) have any effect on the audiences experience. It can however make a huge difference on OUR experience. I agree that polishing a turd can only take you so far. The bass I'm concerned with in this post is about as far away from being a turd as it gets. This is a brilliant bass with the slightest perceptible flaw that was bugging me. It turned out to be a cheap, easy and effective fix. My friend the concert violinist can feel the slightest change in his fiddle after being worked on. He has that close a relationship with his instrument after countless hours and years of playing it. Many serious bassists I know have that same close relationship with their basses.
    Having said that.... But ultimately I think it goes back to the old Zappa line..."Shut up and play yur guitar"
     
  18. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Better lucky than smart sometimes.

    And a win is a win.

    Glad it worked out for you. :thumbsup:
     
  19. I had that problem a couple of times.

    The solution I found was:-

    (a) replace the string with a better one or a gauge that works.

    (b) raise the pickup (or lower as the case may be) on the G-side.

    (c) Sometimes just taking the string completely off and re-installing it can work.

    (d) Check neck relief.
     

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