Folk and country strummers alike should know how to install acoustic guitar saddles. While this piece may not need replaced as frequently as your strings, the saddle of your guitar—much like the nut—is crucial to hold the strings in place and mute the loose vibrations on your frets. Over time, the saddle can wear down and cause an unpleasant buzz on the tone of your strings. Fortunately, acoustic guitar saddles are available at most guitar retailers and other stores that sell musical equipment, and these parts can be replaced using a couple of simple household tools (and a replacement saddle, of course).
What you need:
- An acoustic guitar
- A replacement saddle
- Pliers or tweezers
- A ruler (or other straightedge)
- A nail file or sandpaper (optional)
- Remove the strings from your guitar. In order to access the saddle, you will need to temporarily remove the guitar strings. Unwind the machine head on the headstock of the guitar, either clockwise or counterclockwise depending upon how the string is wound. Loosen the string until it can be easily uncoiled from the tuning machine. Slide the string through the bridge and set it aside. Repeat for each string. Note that this would also be a convenient time to simply replace your strings, as well.
- Remove the old saddle. The saddle is a small, thin piece of bone or white plastic located parallel to the bridge at the bottom of your guitar—the saddle can also sit inside the bridge itself. The most common type of acoustic guitar saddle is known as a "drop-in" saddle, and this piece is very simple to replace. Using a pair of tweezers or pliers, gently pinch the saddle and pull upwards to remove it from the guitar. Be careful when removing the saddle because these pieces are occasionally glued in place, and a rough pull could damage the bridge or the body of the guitar.
- Check the bottom of the new saddle. If the bottom of your new saddle is uneven, it can unbalance the strings and cause the same buzzing problem as a worn out saddle. Align the flat bottom of your saddle with a ruler or other straight, flat edge. Look for any rough edges. Note the the top of the saddle is a clearly curved surface and should not need filing.
- Sand or file the new saddle. If your new saddle is already flat, skip to step 5. Using sandpaper or a nail file, gently rub away the uneven edges on the bottom of your saddle. Take it slow, and regularly check the surface against your ruler to avoid grinding away too much of the material.
- Drop the new saddle in place. Settling the new saddle in place is as easy as it sounds. Fit the new saddle into the empty slot where your old saddle was located. Do not glue the saddle in place; it should fit comfortably into the niche. Re-string and retune your guitar, and you'll be ready to play with a crisp and buzz-less acoustic tone!
Tips: Plastic saddles may be more difficult to file down than bone saddles. If you do not want to purchase ivory saddles because of concerns, "bone saddles" are often made from the bones of oxen or cows. These animals are bred and slaughtered for food, after which their bones are sold and used to make guitar saddles. Longer, bridge-fitted guitar saddles may need to be glued in place. If your saddle seems loose, contact your favorite local guitar tech to determine the appropriate method for your guitar.