Tusq vs. Bone for Your Guitar Nut [HERE’S the Actual Tone DIfference]

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If you have been in the world of acoustics for quite some time, you must be aware that it is not an easy choice when it comes to making a purchase of a guitar.

However, if you are familiar with these acoustic accessories, you should know that there is a lot you will have to familiarize yourself with before finally making a buying decision. 

Guitars are not as simple as you would like to think they are. They not only come from different brands and companies, but they also have tons of other specs that you should know.

Taking into account these specs will be enormously helpful for you in the end, as you will be better equipped to make an informed decision according to your requirements. 

Some of the most common technical terms used frequently in guitars are strings, tunings, saddles, tonewoods, pickups, the body material of the guitar, and so forth.

You might be dazzled to know that in each of these things I just mentioned, there are a lot of options that you will have to choose from. 

The strings will be of different thicknesses, the saddles will be of different materials, and tonewoods will impact the sound of your guitar differently.

So, it would be fair to say that you have got a handful of things to know about regarding guitars and their individual parts. 

While everything that, when assembled, makes up a guitar deserves excellent elaboration; this blog is going to be only about one thing; guitar nut.

In this guide, we are going to cover topics such as what is a guitar nut, how many kinds are there, what are the pros and cons of each of these, and how you should decide which one to buy for your guitar. 

Lets see first what a guitar nut really is.

Guitar Nut

The guitar nut is a very small part in the guitar’s upper body that might seem insignificant at first, but you must know that this part holds great importance for the overall functioning of your guitar.

In simpler words, if a guitar nut stops doing what it is supposed to do, you won’t be able to use the guitar and produce music anymore. 

If you want to locate the guitar nut accurately, find the first fret and look just above that. You will see a very small line of the material above the first fret, which will be extending all the way horizontally of the fretboard.

That’s the guitar nut. Let me tell you very clearly that this is an extremely delicate part of the guitar. It will only be one or two centimeters thick and requires gentle handling. 

Lets see how is this guitar nut important. First of all, this nut is important at its holds all the strings of your guitar very firmly. In this nut, you will find five or six grooves (the same number as the number of strings in your guitar).

Each string sits entrenched in this groove comfortably. These grooves are responsible for producing the tension between the strings when you are playing the guitar; hence, you hear the sound of the music you create. 

These nut grooves help the strings to resonate accurately and also prevent them from touching each other during their vibration, as it would impact the music significantly.

Take a closer look at the guitar nut next time you are playing the guitar. You will see how delicate this part is and how this small piece allows the strings to vibrate yet not collide with each other.  

The second reason why this guitar nut is so significant in the optimal functioning of your instrument lies in the material of the guitar nut that you have been using.

The tuning of the guitar is also impacted positively or adversely, depending upon the kind of guitar nut incorporated into your instrument.

Most of the common and renowned types of guitar nut materials and bone and tusk, both of which we are going to look at, thoroughly throughout this guide.

Bone Nuts

Bone nuts, as the name suggests, are guitar nuts made from bone. One of the most common forms of bones being used in the making of guitar nuts since very ancient times is ivory (that’s the material the tusk of the elephants and some other animals, such as walrus, is made of). 

Bone has been the preferred choice of many music professionals when it comes to guitar nuts, particularly because it contributes a lot to the guitar’s crisp, clear, and low-frequency sound.

In other words, the guitar strings resonate perfectly when embedded in a bone nut. 

Are Bone Nuts Better?

Bone was underscored heavily in the olden time for the manufacturing of guitar nuts, especially because there was no other material that could supplant bone.

However,r today, a lot of man-made materials have been invented which can be replaced with bone. Also, the use of bone, no matter how great, comes with a few shortcomings. 

First, since bone is a natural material, it has some natural flaws. Think of your teeth to understand this. While your teeth help you chew food, there must be some teeth in your mouth that are irregular or, perhaps, crooked.

The same is in the case of bone, which comes primarily from animals, especially elephants. The natural inconsistencies of the bone lead to inconsistent sounds of the guitar, in spite of the fact that both are used in both the guitar nuts. 

Because the bone used in guitar nuts comes primarily from elephants, it is also seen contemptuously by many preservation enthusiasts.

Some campaigns have also been witnessed in history, advocating against the use of ivory tusks for making guitar nuts. Musicians also experience difficulty in music production with bone guitar nuts.

If the bone in the guitar nut is hollow from the inside, the deep resonance will not be produced in the sound, which is a serious drawback for music production companies. 

When it comes to bone nuts, there are other serious shortcomings. Since bone is a naturally dry material, it needs to be lubricated with a special fluid from time to time so that the strings can work efficiently while being embedded in the nut.

However, if you ever forget to lubricate the strings and the nut, it will be a disaster because the strings will not be able to move as smoothly as they should. 

When there are so many disadvantages of a material, it is only fair to look up to something that fills in for all the shortcomings of the bone nut.

Thankfully, the musicians of today have got TUSQ nuts easily accessible. Lets see how are these TUSQ nuts better than bone ones.

Is TUSQ Better than Bone?

The most well-known reason as to why tusq nuts are much better than bone nuts is found in the fact that the former does not need to be sourced from animals, whereas the latter has always been sourced from animals.

What is TUSQ Made Of?

Tusq, unlike bone, is made of synthetic material, which is why it produces consistent sound. Made from organic polymers, the material of tusq does not contain any oil or animal by-products.  

You must be wondering who discovered this material and how? Well, tusq was invented by a tenacious designer in the late 1980s.

Dave Dunwoodie (the inventor) had been working at Graphtech, a guitar gear company, for years when he finally invented this synthetic material and named it tusq. 

This material was built with the aim that it should perfectly mimics the rich quality of sound that is produced by bone material, such as ivory.

Luckily, tusq was able to do just that and has now successfully supplanted bone in the majority of the guitars being sold worldwide today.

Bone Vs. Tusq As A Nut Material. Pros & Cons?

Do you remember all the shortcomings of bone that we just talked about a while ago? Let’s see how tusq wipes all those disadvantages conveniently.

Because tusq is made from a 100% synthetic polymer, it does not need to be lubricated from time to time, so you do not need to worry about the strings getting stuck in the nut. 

Secondly, because the entire material is made synthetically, problems regarding the hollowness of the nut can be canceled out.

Carefully manufacturing these tusq nuts in a factory leads to a perfect consistency of tones in the sound of your guitar. No doubt Dave Dun Woodie created a masterpiece.

What are the advantages of a Tusq nut Vs. Bone Nut?

  • Because tusq is manufactured synthetically, it can be relied upon, whether you are performing in your home studio or a live performance on a stage. 
  • The sound generated by tusq nuts is consistent, which is not the case with bone nuts.
  •  Some of the tusq nuts, such as TUSQ XL, have a self-lubricating feature which further accounts for the convenience of these materials. 
  • Although natural materials are given more precedence when compared to synthetic ones in other cases, the majority of guitar manufacturing companies use tusq as a standard. Some of these companies include Gibson, Taylor, and Tacoma.

Tusq Nut vs. Bone: Differences

Now that we know what tusq nuts and bone nuts are let’s recap how they are different from each other.

Physical differences between TUSQ and Bone

The main physical difference between tusq and a bone nut is that while the bone nut is natural and may have inconsistencies in sound, tusq is an artificial material and allows for a consistent and reliable tonal quality in the guitar.

The material used in tusq is also free from all kinds of animal by-products, which keeps preservation enthusiasts away.

Practical Differences Between TUSQ and Bone

The most practical difference between the functioning of a guitar with a tusq nut with that of a bone nut is that tusq nuts are reliable in their working.

Since bone nuts have soft spots, you never know when the tonal qualities of your guitar may become compromised. 

With a bone nut, you will see that some of the strings may have a buzzing sound at times, which again advocates for the unreliable nature of bone nuts. Also, with a tusq nut, you will not have to lubricate it every now and then.

Tonal Differences Between TUSQ and Bone Nuts

With tusq, you get an even and consistent tone, whereas, with a bone nut, you will hear an unpleasant ringing sound.

Tusq has increased robust volume and better chances of staying intact even after a long time when compared with a bone nut.

Price

Because bones are sourced naturally, they will definitely be more expensive than the tusq nuts, which can be manufactured artificially.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is TUSQ different from TUSQ XL?

Although the material used in both the names is the same, TUSQ XL has a PTFE technology that enables the materials to self-lubricate so that the strings embedded between the nut can move along smoothly. 

Why are Bone Nuts Better than Tusq Nuts?

Because bone nuts are found naturally, they have more chances of producing inconsistencies in the guitar’s tonal qualities and losing their stability with time.

On the other hand, the sound produced with a tusq nut is much more reliable and consistent, creating a better tone.

Also, a bone is more prone to excessive wear and tear, which makes tusq a better choice, as it carries minimal risk of wear and tear.