What happens to strings without the nut?

Discussion in 'Luthiery, Modifications & Customizations' started by bostjan, Jan 14, 2021.

  1. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've tried asking people I know IRL and searching google, and it seems like no one knows the answer to this...

    If I have an instrument that has a drone string, i.e. a string that is only ever played open, what is the purpose of the string nut? What happens to the string if it's only clamped at the bridge and at the tuning post? Does it damage the string? Does it pull itself out of tune?
     
  2. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    I don't know about on other instruments, but on a guitar without the nut the strings will rest on the front of the fretboard.

    If you have something where the tuner and the bridge keep it off the fretboard and in a straight line I don't see why it would be a problem.
     
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  3. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    I've noticed that non-guitar instruments, like lyres and tanpuras and harps, all (seemingly) use something to stop the string before it gets to the tuner. I figured there must be some practical reason, but don't know exactly what it is. It might be a different reason in each case. I'm going to give it a try, so I guess I'll find out.
     
  4. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    It helps compensate for the windings around the post, to keep the string in place. It's not 100% necessary, especially for drone strings, it just gives you a little more leeway as far as windings around the post and for adjust height if wanted.
     
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  5. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    That's pretty much what I thought. I feel much more confident about that since you answered. Thanks @MaxOfMetal !
     
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  6. MaxOfMetal

    MaxOfMetal Likes trem wankery. Super Moderator

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    :cheers:
     
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  7. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    Only reliable positioning of the string.
    1. Nothing apart from the position of the string changing according to how it is wound on the post.
    2. No.
    3. No. The pitch stability will actually improve because there is now no length of string beyond a point of friction (at the tuner end).
     
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  8. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    One way to help with that is make sure you only tune up. If you're tuning and get the string a little sharp and just tune down to the right note, the string can catch in the nut and string behind the nut will be looser than after the nut. Then it can slip and go out of tune.
     
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  9. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    I was thinking about this thread after my last post and have partly changed my opinion.

    The nut slot also provides a firm support for that end of the vibrating string.
    The break angle causes a downforce at the slot that firmly holds the string at the middle of the slot, just like at the bridge saddle.

    If the string runs direct to the tuner post, it is coming over the edge of a cylindrical post, which therefore does not create such a firm support, there is a slight tendency for the string to slip side to side as it vibrates, losing energy and losing sustain.

    Also, a tuner post is not a firmly anchored part, it is slightly loose in the tuner. Of course, string tension holds it somewhat firmly in place, but it is still an unconnected floating part. So it is a less firm support for that end of a vibrating string.
    Perhaps this is why many instruments use a nut for strings only played 'open'.

    So i expect using a nut improves tone and sustain a little.
     
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  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Wow. So, I tried making a simple drone instrument with a buzz bridge carved out of delrin and no nut, and the sustain was pretty bad. I went ahead and took a nut file to slot a scrap piece of delrin to make a nut, and the sustain is now something like three times better. Also, the strings don't do the little bwow thing they were doing before (i.e. there was an apparent dip in tension after plucking that took a fraction of a second to resolve).

    I think it's conclusive enough to say that the nut serves a very important function for drone strings.
     
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