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The necessity of a perfectly slotted nut?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by AudioDwebe, Feb 10, 2016.


  1. I've read pretty routinely here a out the importance of getting a properly slotted nut. Then I got to thinking about the basses with a zero fret, where the string sits on a flat piece of metal with the string guides (for lack of a better word) between the nut and tuners to keep the strings from moving around.

    So with a regular nut, as long as there's a tiny indent to keep the strings from moving around and you have a decent amount of break angle, you wouldn't necessarily need to have half the string in the slotted nut, right?

    Personally, I think the zero fret is the way to go, given a choice. You can change string gauges, go to tapewounds, try some piccolos and not have to worry about the nut slots.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    A good nut slot or zero fret is all about how much clearance the string has over the first fret.

    90% of all instruments I've played have had far too much clearance from the factory. It should be almost identical to the amount of clearance you have over the 2nd fret when playing at the 1st.

    People who worry about slots being too wide are concerned with the wrong thing.
     
    CharlieC, JLS and rufus.K like this.
  3. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Zero frets aren't flat.

    Properly slotted nut means the height is correct. Many nuts are cut such that only 40% of the string is covered. As long as it doesn't jump out, it's fine but at least 40%ish pretty much guarantees it will stay anchored.

    They're is no detrimental effect to having the strings deeper in a nut though. So I don't see why you would think that tiny notches is the way to go. However a bridge slot is deep enough so that would be about minimum I would go. Wouldn't look right though.
     
  4. I totally agree with you guys about the nut depth. I've had many basses, to include some rather boutique ones, where the nut slot was way too high. I notice this more so on the fretless basses I've had.

    I have a few basses with a zero fret. Could have sworn they were like any other fret, flat. I'll have to double-check.

    I'm not saying tiny notches were the way to go, just that I don't think precisely filed slots are as important as many make out. For instance, I've read a lot of recommendations over the years for a new nut when using different gauge strings.
     
  5. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    If the string sits in the bottom (so action at the first few frets is good) and doesn't rattle, then no need. But it the slot is too narrow for a bigger string then yes it needs to be opened Up. If it's a smaller string and it rattles, it will need attention either replacement or re-build the slot with ca and soda or bone dust.
     
  6. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    Besides being wide enough to prevent binding and have good action height, as stated, the main points about the nut slots are that they are round at the bottom for firm string seating and the bottom of the slots are slanted down toward the peg head to give a good break angle. This helps keep the strings from buzzing in the slots. I currently have 9 four string basses set up for BEAD (.130-.070") and can change to EADG (.105-.050") with no problems.
     
    lz4005 and Zooberwerx like this.
  7. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    With regard to the nut itself, anything over half the string diameter serves no purpose. Not only that, but the remaining material is unsupported by the string. If it receives a blow to the outside it could cause the end of the nut to break off.

    When proper depth is achieved it is prudent to cut and reshape the top of the nut so that no more than fifty percent of the string is buried in the nut.
     
  8. wcriley

    wcriley

    Apr 5, 2010
    Western PA
    I've never understood the thing about strings slipping out of nut slots.
    If a string is going to slide out of a slot, it would be at the bridge...and bridge saddles usually have very shallow slots.
     
  9. lz4005

    lz4005

    Oct 22, 2013
    You don't bend strings near the bridge. There can be much more sideways pressure near the nut because of that. There's also usually more downforce due to break angle at the bridge than at the nut.

    The length past the saddle is usually less than the length past the nut as well. Makes it less likely to move sideways if it is anchored closer.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
    96tbird likes this.
  10. bassbenj

    bassbenj

    Aug 11, 2009
    You may or may not know this but a Plek machine also cuts the nut. I had my Conklin 7 string Pleked and I must say that the nut job the machine produced was a beauty to behold! Perfectly sized, perfectly angled slots, much more the way God intended than the hand filed version that was originally there. So warm fuzzies abounded. However, I didn't really notice any difference in action or tone with the perfect nut verses the old hand-filed one. So mostly its about how well it works rather than how perfectly it's cut.
     
    mech likes this.
  11. mech

    mech Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2008
    Meridian, MS, USA
    It'd probably be a 12 hour drive for me to even get close to one. :) I know there is shipping but there is a local part time luthier that used to work for a manufacturer that does wonderful fret work.
     
  12. wcriley

    wcriley

    Apr 5, 2010
    Western PA
    Good points about downforce and length beyond the slots.
    But, I don't know of anyone who bends strings on a bass guitar near the nut. I see more people with an aggressive plucking/picking technique near the bridge.
     
  13. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Don't you ever grab hold of G and give it a good pull? Or C? Or F?

    That's the stuff that gets you hired next month.
     
  14. wcriley

    wcriley

    Apr 5, 2010
    Western PA
    Not sure if by "pull" you mean bend or snap.
    Maybe I'm a wimp, but I don't even attempt bends below the 4th or 5th fret.
    When I snap string, I do it with my right hand nowhere near the nut.
     
  15. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Pull. Shake. Bend. All the same thing. Except shake is an exaggerated vibrato so it's a bunch of bends.

    Pull is a pull off without the off.
     

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