The saddle is the part of an acoustic guitar where the strings are fixed to the guitar. Saddle pegs hold the strings in place and the saddle dictates string position. The saddle of an acoustic guitar performs a similar function to the bridge on an electric. However many electrics have a separate bridge and saddle. In such cases the saddle serves only to hold the strings in place while the bridge dictates their position. Yamaha acoustic guitars typically have compensated saddles that sit at a slight angle. Modify your saddle to adjust the intonation, action or appearance of the guitar.
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Things you need
- String winder
- Wood file
- Slotting file
- Angled palette knife
- Replacement saddle
Test the intonation. Poor intonation is the most common reason for modifying your saddle. Tune your guitar to concert pitch using a guitar tuner. Play the low E string open and check the pitch on the tuner. Play the same string an octave higher at the 12th fret and check the tuner again. If your guitar has correct intonation, the tuner will give the same reading for open and 12th-fret notes. If the octave note gives a flat reading, the intonation is flat and the length of the string between saddle and nut must be increased. If the intonation is flat, the length must be reduced. Saddle mods are one way to do this.
Remove all of the strings. Use a string winder to save time. Put the saddle pegs in a place where they won't roll away or get lost. It's smart to keep them in order as the grooves for the low strings are wider.
Modify the saddle. Most acoustics in the Yamaha range, including the popular L series, have glued-in set saddles. If you are aiming to reduce string height you don't need to remove the saddle. Carefully file down the crown of the saddle. Only file away a very small amount of material from the crown. Redefine the string grooves using a slotting file. If you want to increase the height of the saddle, you need to remove it. If you wish to modify how it sits on the guitar to correct the intonation, remove it.
Pry the saddle away from the body of the guitar. Use a hairdryer to partially melt the glue, then carefully lift the saddle away using an angled palette knife. Replace the saddle for a thicker, compensated saddle. The thicker saddle will increase the height of the strings. If you wish to compensate for low intonation, put the new saddle 3mm behind its original position. If you wish to compensate for high intonation, reduce the string length by placing it 3mm in advance of the original position.
Put on the low E string. Intonation issues are most acute on the thicker strings, so use this string to test the intonation. If the intonation is still out or your modifications have overcompensated for the original problem, move the saddle back slightly toward its original position.
Tips and warnings
- It's quicker and easier to replace a set saddle than it is to make it higher.
- If you can't get the saddle off, refer this task to a guitar tech or luthier. It's a tricky job and a clumsy attempt at removing the saddle can damage your guitar.
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