#1
Just finished a bridge repair(hairline crack) on my Yamaha A1R and also swapped out the plastic saddle and nut with tusq. Graphtech doesn't make a drop in tusq saddle for Yamaha guitars so I got the size they recommended. After an hour of sanding, I got the saddle to a near perfect fit and action. The guitar sounds amazing. It sounded good before but I was surprised at how much this change improved the tone, volume and sustain(new strings helped too I'm sure). However when I checked the intonation at the 12th fret, every string was sharp. Intonation was nearly spot on with the old saddle but I really like tusq and don't want to go back to the plastic. Any suggestions?

On a sidenote, don't polish the neck if you polish your guitar. I did this and now I don't like the feel, a little sticky.
#3
The tusq saddle was compensated but I noticed the top isn't the exact same shape as the original plastic one. The angled part where the b-string rests is the same but the rest of the saddle from g-e has a slight bevel to it, where as the original one just had a rounded shoulder. I just assumed all compensated saddles were the same regardless of model. Maybe I'm wrong about that? I also had to sand the width of the saddle down a little bit, tried to take an even amount off both sides. I'm guessing that one of those issues is the culprit. The only thing I can think of now is to get a tusq saddle blank and send it to a professional along with the original to get an exact match - which case I'd end up spending a bit of money for an inexpensive part. For the life of me I can't understand why Yamaha would use a plastic saddle and nut on an otherwise fantastic mid-level guitar.
#4
Just thought of something, since the new saddle has a beveled top edge while the old one had a rounded edge. Maybe I should have sanded all of the excess width material off the front instead of both sides.
#5
Sounds like you should try a new blank and sand the top of the new one to match the old design then fit for height.
The note will be sharp at the twelfth if the resting point of the string on the saddle is too far back because of the bevel.
Or look for a blank that doesn't have the bevel.
#6
Most of the time, you won't need to adjust the contour of the top of the saddle. When adjusting the height of the saddle you should sand the bottom of the saddle not the top. If you need to change the contour in order to adjust intonation then you should do so 1 string at a time, filing from the front (the side closest to the neck) if the string is pulling sharp or from the back if the string is pulling flat. It sounds to me like you may have adjusted the saddle wrong and which means you either need to put a shim under it and then re-contour and readjust action or you need to simply start again with a new saddle.
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#7
The action is a hair higher than the previous saddle. I'll try sanding it down a little and see if that helps before I buy a new one.
#8
There are all kinds of compensated saddle designs. Contour of the top of the saddle that the strings rest on and the gauge of the strings are important. Some guitars have no compensation other than angle and don't need it. Good action is important, the lower the action the less bending out of tune the strings are subject to, especially the third compared to the second.
You should contour the top of the saddle to match the saddle design that worked before, or (very complicated but best) determine each string's resting point individually and contour accordingly, very tricky and precise work!
#9
Intonation is always problematic on a guitar - it's the nature of the beast. Equal temperement tuning is an approximation anyway so within say, a chord, there are often slight differences in intonation bewteen individual strings. And on stringed instruments, the intonation goes astray as the string length is shortened by fretting - and the affect is greater on thicker strings. And, of course, the mere act of fretting a string can cause intonation changes - try fretting the 6th string at the 5th fret then press a little harder - you can hear the note going sharp - same thing can happen when you bend a string and that often unintentionally happens when you are fretting chords.

It was the main reason that guitars and similar fretted instruments fell out of favour during the classical music period. Prior to that fretted instruments - guitars, lutes, theorbos, citterns, etc. - were used extensively. Nowadays the stringed instruments used in classical music are either unfretted (which means the player can compensate for poor intonation) or are of a "one string per note" form like the harp.
#10
I'm going through a very similar thing with intonation right now myself. I never did anything to an acoustic guitar more involved than changing strings and an occasional truss rod adjustment. I have an Ibanez Artwood acoustic electric. I've always liked it but felt like it just wasn't as loud as it should be and the action was a bit high. A few months ago I decided to try sanding my saddle to lower the action. After research and asking questions I removed the "stock" Ibanez saddle. The bottom wasn't flat at all. So sanding the bottom not only lowered the action but now that the saddle bottom was flat the guitar was noticably louder. Sounds MUCH better and is MUCH easier to play. I was VERY happy. Then I decided to try a bone saddle. A guy copied the top of my saddle on a bone saddle. I installed the bone saddle and it sounded a bit better but getting the original plastic Ibanez saddle flat had the most effect. Intonation was great on the Ibanez saddle and the bone saddle both. I decided I wanted to try a tusq saddle. I found one on ebay for about $9. There were different saddles compensated for different type guitars. I got one as close as I could find to mine. I put it in and the tusq made a significant different sound than the bone did. The tusq on my guitar resulted in a crisper sound. But, the intonation on strings 4-6 is a bit sharp at the 12th fret. The string contact points on strings 3-6 are in a straight line along the front of the saddle. The top of the bone saddle gradually moves to the back of the saddle making the intonation good at the 12th fret. So I'm going to sand or file the top of the tusq saddle to match the bone one. But this saddle has a slope down toward the back of the saddle. I might have a lot of fret buzz if I do this filing on the lower pitch strings. This is because I already sanded the bottom to get the action right. I have some ebony shims to glue to the bottom of the tusq saddle. So, if filing the top lowers the action too much I can use the shims to raise the saddle then re-sand to get the action right. This sounds like the perfect solution. But actually doing it correctly will require patience which I am short of sometimes. I also have considered getting another new saddle and copying the top of the saddle like my bone saddle for intonation. Then I can sand the bottom to set the action. The only real difference with this is I'd have a solid tusq saddle with no shims. I'm pretty sure the shims won't create a different sound but I don't know for sure. Also, everyone I've talked to about changing saddles or anything really on an acoustic guitar might have different results in different guitars simply based on the type of wood, shape, etc. of a single guitar. Some have even said slight differences can be heard even if the guitars are the same make and model.

Having said all this even now with the intonation off a bit the guitar sounds good and I can't hear any problem with tuning or string pitch. Most of my playing is below the 7th or 8th frets.

So far I've been 100% happy with the changes I've made. Really all I've done is lower the action by sanding the bottom of 2 or 3 saddles. I have been so shocked at the difference (improvement) in sound and playability of my guitar I now understand why some people have suggested having a brand new guitar put through a check and setup if any changes can improve it. I've always assumed a brand new $500+ acoustic guitar is already as good as it could be. I couldn't have been more wrong. I was seriously considering spending $1000 or more on a Taylor or Martin or another high end guitar sometime in the near future after lots of shopping. Now my guitar is playing and sounding like a completely different guitar. I have spent less than $50 on it. Of course I still want another guitar. Who doesn't???

NOTE THAT MIGHT BE HELPFUL: Someone on Acoustic Guitar Forum suggested checking intonation by putting a capo on the second fret and then checking pitch at the 14th fret instead of using the open strings and 12th fret. I did that and the difference in pitch is significant. Using my Snark tuner on the head stock the tuner shows the pitch being more sharp on the 14th fret. Don't know the significance here but maybe if getting the intonation accurate using the 14th fret the intonation might be more accurate because it creates a larger window for accuracy. I hope that makes sense.
Jack
#11
Quote by jack04581
...[ ].... I have an Ibanez Artwood acoustic electric. I've always liked it but felt like it just wasn't as loud as it should be and the action was a bit high....[ ]....
Ignoring the poor saddle to bridge contact which was causing your volume issue, a high action and heavy strings are what make an acoustic loud! You ask any "bluegrasser". (Dem guys particularly like Martin dreadnoughts. Y'all just jack up the action, slap on a set of mediums, and wail away on them. They call 'em, "banjo killers").
Last edited by Captaincranky at Jun 28, 2016,
#12
Quote by Captaincranky
Ignoring the poor saddle to bridge contact which was causing your volume issue, a high action and heavy strings are what make an acoustic loud! You ask any "bluegrasser". (Dem guys particularly like Martin dreadnoughts. Y'all just jack up the action, slap on a set of mediums, and wail away on them. They call 'em, "banjo killers").


Guys actually LIKE high action? I know about the slide guys, but regular pickers?

Masochists!
#13
Yes, lots of guys like high action. It is particularly common among people that play a lot of live gigs. Higher action puts more pressure on the soundboard making it vibrate more resulting in more volume. It also give more room for string movement so you can strum harder without buzz. Both these things make it easier to get the volume you need to be heard over a band with fewer feedback issues. Depending on the way you play, higher action can also make bending easier because you can push the string under the surrounding strings rather than just bending 2 or 3 strings like most electric players would do. Like cranky said, it's super common in bluegrass and I would add acoustic blues, and folk players to that list too.
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#14
The NOTE jack04581 gave makes perfect sense. And if the intonation is sharp the resting point of the string on the saddle is too close to the 12th (or 14th) fret (forward). The top of the saddle should be ramped up toward the rear.
Strange thing, my Yamaha FG200 beater gets huge compliments which I attribute to perfect intonation and no chords are out of tune. No other guitar I've had is this "true" (except possibly the electrics with individually adjustable saddle points). It has an angled but otherwise uncompensated saddle.
I had a Framus acoustic once with individually adjustable saddle points.
#15
Quote by skido13
The NOTE jack04581 gave makes perfect sense. And if the intonation is sharp the resting point of the string on the saddle is too close to the 12th (or 14th) fret (forward). The top of the saddle should be ramped up toward the rear.
Strange thing, my Yamaha FG200 beater gets huge compliments which I attribute to perfect intonation and no chords are out of tune. No other guitar I've had is this "true" (except possibly the electrics with individually adjustable saddle points). It has an angled but otherwise uncompensated saddle.
I had a Framus acoustic once with individually adjustable saddle points.


I took the tusq saddle out a couple of days ago and put the bone saddle back in so I could file on the tusq to see how filing it worked out. I plan to file the top of the saddle to try to get the intonation better. I'm pretty sure I will need to glue a shim or two to the bottom of the saddle. So I'm looking forward to doing this simply for the learning and experience factor. But truth be told after putting the bone saddle back in the guitar I'm really happy with it. I have always thought with more skill or ability a guitarist can get a better sound or hear more subtle changes than I can. Anyway, at the moment I believe I am just as happy with the bone as I am with the tusq saddle. I remember thinking the tusq created more "umph" on the higher strings. Now with the saddle back on there I didn't notice just the opposite. I don't seem to hear the changes I remember changing back to what they were before (possibly). Maybe my anticipation of some sort of change caused me to hear changes from the tusq saddle that weren't there or at least weren't as dramatic. Doesn't really matter I don't guess. Both sound great. I think the most important thing I've learned is no matter what material the saddle is made of (original plastic, bone, tusq) the biggest improvement was achieved by sanding the original saddle, getting it flat. That increased the volume and also made all strings have a more equal sound. Bone and tusq and other improvments in material will be an improvement I'm sure but I'd also guess that if the bottom of a bone or tusq saddle wasn't flat the benefits of better materials won't matter. This is my thinking based on almost no experience working on acoustic guitars. Any advice to help me make fewer mistakes of correct my thinking is greatly appreciated.

Jack
Jack