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I saw this in the comments section on the question "Do acoustic or classical guitars need to be set up?"

The saddle material makes a difference in the sound of an acoustic too.

I have a bit of a buzz in my low E (after taking a plane to my saddle one too many times.) It isn't bad, but I've been thinking of starting over with a new blank. What should I be looking for when getting a new blank? Material, shape, size, etc. I'm completely new to doing this, so some advice would be appreciated.

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3 Answers 3

If you don't have a lot of experience in shaping and setting of the saddle, there are plenty of aftermarkets out there, usually much better than the original material (and eco-friendly) that are compensated and have the proper radii for most common acoustic manufacturers.

A saddle that is pre-shaped will nearly "drop-in" to your current setup and more than likely cure your low E buzz you are having. Also, the saddle may be a hair taller than the previous, allowing you to carefully shape the bottom of the saddle (use a straight surface for even de-shimming - so you don't have another problem with you low E) to get a more comfortable-playing guitar in the end as well.

Although it's not the only one out there, GraphTech puts out some incredible stuff, that if the original guitar didn't come with the coordinating saddle or nut, will often sound better and have a "fuller" harmonic overtone range too. They cover nearly every major acoustic manufacturer as well. Not to mention their blanks for the more daring shaper and intonation/setup perfectionist.

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Between bone and plastic saddles I much prefer bone saddles, both because of their hardness and its ability to transfer the vibrations.

Plastic ones have to be treated very carefully when sanding the bottom to get the right height. Especially on a belt or disc sander, the material can warm up, causing it to soften and expand, resulting in a concave bottom after the material has cooled and contracted again. When put into the bridge, the string tension pushing down isn't always enough to result in good contact with the bottom of the bridge slot because of that concaveness, resulting in a sound that is not balanced.

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This is good to know, since I tend to use either a small block plane or a disc sander to modify the height of the bridge. Will a block plane work on bone as well, or is it too hard/brittle? –  Anonymous Jan 21 '11 at 19:57
    
I think it's too brittle so you'd get chipping, plus run the risk of turning the edge on your plane. –  Anonymous Jan 21 '11 at 20:23
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Many saddles are made of either two things; bone or hard formed plastic. You can get a nice and perfectly decent sound from a plastic one, but a bone saddle provides a tone and sound that is just that little bit nicer. Bone saddles are just that little bit more expensive though.

Saddles also come in two different variants: straight and compensated. 'Straight' saddles are straight lines with a rounded top surface that the strings lie over. Compensated ones have recessed and prominent sections (particularly where the top B and E strings are) which aid the intonation, which can be hard to manage on an acoustic guitar. Personally I would go for the compensated saddles.

When it comes to action height, you can always file off the bottom side of the saddle if the saddle means the action is too high for your preference.

Hope this helps.

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