Guitars, whether electric or acoustic, are made of different parts. When buying a new guitar, you might consider the tonewood, the neck, the strings, the pickups, the bridge, and the headstock. But, you rarely think about the nut. So, to help you understand everything about guitar nut, let’s begin with the Tusq Nut vs Bone argument.
Guitar nut seems to be a tiny little thing that’s just there to elevate the strings. But, it has a crucial part as it controls the spacing of the strings, the distance from the edge of the fretboard and the height of the strings on the first fret. So, though it’s small, it’s has a very important role which can’t be replaced by anything.
The nuts are made of different materials, including bone, fossil ivory, plastic (including Corian, Micarta, and Tusq), metal, graphite, brass, and ebony. The most common and probably the best guitar nuts are those that are made of bone and fossil ivory (this is banned).
However, Tusq material quickly gains popularity and challenged the position of the bone material to be the best guitar nut. In fact, renowned guitar makers like Taylor, Gibson, and Tacoma are now using Tusq nuts and saddles.
Will the bone nut material remains the best or will Tusq be a good alternative? This article will reveal everything about Tusq nut vs bone.
What is Tusq Nut?
A brand name for an alternative guitar nut material, Tusq attempts to replace bone as the best nut for acoustic guitars. They are made of high-quality polymer molder under high levels of pressure and heat to mimic or even exceed the qualities of bone nut.
Through this precise engineering, they are found to have better sustain, more volume and more consistent and effective than bone. With this, they deliver a rich tone and crystal clear bell-like high-end response. Since it’s consistent, there are no dead spots or flats and is a very rigid material.
What is Bone Nut?
As the most popular and probably the best material for nut construction, the bone nut is widely installed on high-end guitars. It’s hard, dense, and light material that offers incredible resonance and better sustain when properly installed. It offers remarkable strength against mechanical shocks and it’s very reliable especially when lubricated.
Any bone can be used for the nut, for as long as it’s dense and works well. However, recently, the cow bone or American buffalo bone is more preferred, specifically on the femur and humerus bones or from the pelvis or tibia. Asian-made guitars have nuts from water buffalo or camel.
Nothing is as sexy as a well-polished bone nut. And, as the “king of nuts,” it offers a well-balanced tone, especially on open strings. All bone nuts are carved from scratch to fit the guitar. Since they are made from organic, real bones, there may be some inconsistencies and dead spots. Still, bone has proven its worth over the years.
Tusq Nut vs Bone: Similarities and Differences
When comparing plastic and a bone, it’s clear that the bone will dominate. However, Tusq is not just any plastic. So, let’s compare their similarities and differences in terms of performance, looks, and overall tonality.
Based on the specifications, Tusq and bone nuts are the same in terms of sustain, volume, and resonance. Though Tusq is technically plastic, yet through its high-precision process, it offers a consistent and uniform slab or nut. Since bone is an organic material, it can have soft spots and the density throughout the material is inconsistent. So, in other words, Tusq is denser and more consistent that bone.
Since bone nuts are natural, they look sexy and retains the color of the bone it’s taken from. However, Tusq can also be processed to imitate the structure and color of the bone nut. In terms of appearance, they are identical. If you want to know if your guitar nut is a bone or a Tusq, this YouTube video shows two very simple techniques on how to identify the nut material:
Although it’s hard to determine the effect of the nut material on the overall sound of the guitar, some say that Tusq offers a brighter tone compared to bone. However, this will not always the case as the guitar sound doesn’t only depend on the nut, but a lot of other factors.
Tusq Nut vs Bone: Advantages and Disadvantages
Like any nut material, the bone and Tusq nuts have advantages and drawbacks. Some players want to stick to a bone nut, while others want to try this modern nut material. If you want to change the nut of your guitar, you should know that it’s a bit expensive, especially if you’ll ask a luthier to do it. Anyways, there are a few advantages and disadvantages for both Tusq and a bone nut.
+ They have more consistent density throughout the material
+ Easy to shape
+ Better than a plastic nut
+ Has more volume and better sustain
– Has thinner response, though they claim to have better bass response
+ Easy to use and to setup
+ Last longer than Tusq
+ Not that costly
+ Great when working on string relief, angling and slotting
+ Self-lubricates and keeps the string in proper tuning and pitch
+ Has a warmer and smoother tone
– Inconsistent density and may have dead spots since it varies from the source
Overall, Tusq nut vs bone argument offers a lot more information to everyone. Both are excellent materials for nut construction. Which is better? That’ll depend on the player. There isn’t much difference in terms of sound, unless you have a very trained ear. You don’t need to change anything about your nut if you find it perfect for your guitar.
Using either Tusq or bone varies from guitar to guitar. Some guitars are better with Tusq nut, while others are awesome with the traditional nut material. So, what you should do is try and compare. You can change your guitar nut from bone to Tusq and vice versa, and check which is better for you. Remember, the nut material only has a tiny effect on the overall sound, but it has a very important role in your guitar.