Are you looking into whether or not you need to replace your guitar nut? Not sure if it is time yet?
How long does a guitar nut last?
A guitar nut should last for many years – sometimes for the entire lifespan of the guitar. In some cases, a guitar nut will last for at least a decade or two. The main factors that contribute to the lifespan of a guitar nut is the material it is made out of, how often the guitar is played and how it is stored.
This applies to both acoustic guitars and electric guitars.
Does A Guitar Nut Affect Tone?
Yes, depending on the type of material the nut is made out of. A bone nut or Tusq, for example, has a brighter and superior tone when compared to a plastic nut. We actually have another article on different guitar nut materials and what each does for our guitar tone.
How To Check The Nut On your Guitar
Check to see if it is cracked or broken in any way. Look for any signs of wear and tear. This includes discoloration, blisters, cracks, crevices and even loose string slots. Check to see if your nut is level or slightly above the fretboard when the strings are pressed down onto the nut.
You should also check the height of the strings on the fretboard to make sure that they are a good distance from the frets. I like to use a guitar string for this – if the string fits under the first fret, you should be good.
Signs Of A Bad Guitar Nut
A bad nut will have loose string slots. If you can lift up the string without too much effort, then this is usually a sign that the nut needs to be replaced. The nut should not be cracked or broken because that can cause tuning issues; this is also considered an indicator that it is time to replace your guitar nut. The height of your strings on both sides of the fretboard should also be even.
If you guitar seems to have poor tuning stability, it also may be a sign of a bad nut.
When To Replace Your Guitar’s Nut
The best time to replace a nut is when you notice the signs mentioned above. You should replace your guitar nut if it is cracked, broken or when the string slots become loose. Changing the nut will make sounds much cleaner when playing.
Is It Worth Replacing A Guitar Nut?
Yes. A new guitar nut is very cheap for the benefits it provides. A new nut will improve the tone of your guitar, making it much clearer when playing. When installed properly, it will also provide you with more comfort when fretting the strings. A new nut will also provide a better fit on the neck of your guitar and will increase the life expectancy of your guitar while also making it more comfortable to play.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Guitar Nut?
Guitar nuts are cheap. Expect to pay between $10 – $15 assuming you are gong to replace it yourself (which is a simple job that most people can do).
How To Replace A Guitar Nut
Replacing a guitar nut is actually quite easy. Especially if you start with a preshaped nut for electric guitars like these GraphTech Tusq XL nuts available on Amazon.
- Measure the spacing between the strings with a ruler. I like this small luthier tool that includes a ruler among other measuring applications for your guitar.
- Take off the strings.
- Measure the width of the nut.
- With the two measurements on nut width and string spacing that you just took, you should now know the right size of nut you need for your guitar.
- Remove the guitar nut that you are going to replace. Sometimes, it will just slide out effortlessly. Other times, you may need to work it out of the slot with other tools. However you get it out, just be careful not to damage the guitar neck or fretboard.
- Make sure all of the glue is removed from the slot.
- Drop the new nut in the slot.
- Install the two E strings and check the height of the strings.
- If it is too high, you will need to sand the nut down from the bottom using a 220 and 320 grit sandpaper. Take only a little at a time to make sure not to overdo it.
- Recheck the nut height.
- Check for any overhang on the nut. Sometimes it will be a bit too long and you will have to sand off some of the length from the ends.
- Add a couple small drops of glue into the slot and set the nut back into it.
Install the rest of the strings and just add enough tension to hold the nut in place while the glue dries.
- After 30 minutes you should be good to go! Get the guitar in tune and play!
Help, I Made A Mistake When Replacing My Nut!
Nut Slot Too Narrow
Did you accidentally take too much length off your nut? Unfortunately, once you remove material, you can’t put it back so you will need to start over with a new nut.
Guitar Nut Filed Too Much
If I accidentally sand too much off the bottom of the nut, I would just get a new one and start over again. However, if you do not want to do that, you can use a small shim under the nut to raise it up a bit and get it at the right height.
Ultimately, it is up to you when the time comes to replace your guitar’s nut. You can always replace it if something needs to be taken care of or if it is time for an upgrade.
If you are changing the nut, make sure you do not make any mistakes in its sizing. Also ensure that you mark the old nut for reference when replacing. Usually, I like to mark both sides of the string slots with white out or tape because I tend to forget how things go in order.