Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Brand new strings sounding dead/Cracked bridge pins

Continuing the discussion from Elixir vs. D'Addario XT (Long Lasting Strings):

Thought I should start a new topic (don’t know how to split them). The Elixir Polywebs did sound fine when I put them on but that didn’t last long. There’s almost no corrosion/wear on the strings at all but the bottom two wound strings (A and E) sound and feel dead and plunky. I thought maybe I had wound/seated them wrong so I took them off and reinstalled them. Didn’t help much with the E string but when I brought the A string up to pitch… Hooray! Normal sounding!

That lasted about 2 minutes.

So now I’m not sure what to do next… the guitar is only 3 months old and came set up by @Jake at the General Store so I’m guessing it’s not a setup issue. Thoughts?

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Weird for something to work fine to get dead in 2 min. Wonder if the string is getting slightly displaced at the bridge that the sound changes??

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When you insert the ball end into the bridge pin hole, are you pulling on the string as you insert the pin? The ball end should be touching the underside of the bridge plate. If it’s getting stuck on the bottom of the pin, I can see how that might cause this problem.

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Yes, I am pulling up on the string as I insert the pin.

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So upon removing some strings last night, I noticed that my bridge pins are worn down and some are actually cracked. The A string bridge pin is the worst, which makes sense since the A is the most dead sounding. Is it normal for bridge pins to crack/wear down?

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There you go… As far as I know, no for wear. And you need to carefully and gently handle it while installing strings to keep it from breaking.

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Not on a three month old guitar! Can you post a picture?

If yours are plastic, you may want to upgrade to better bridge pins anyway to bone or horn (tusq) or even ebony depending on what color you prefer.

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Can’t post the photos as it says they are too big.

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I once had a 1964 Gibson with the original pins. Other than them being slightly bent, they were fine. So, I’m going to say that that’s not normal. Let me ping Jake and see if he can pop in and help you out.

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Thanks, Mark!

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Here we go. Resized the photos.

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That actually looks like a common bridge pin in these guitars, which is why a lot of folks get aftermarket ones. However, I have to say that is not your issue (or I’m 99% sure). The ball end of the string will go up into that groove and seat nicely and I don’t see how it could cause your string to sound dead. To test this, switch your bridge pins around so see if another pin makes your A string sound the same. Bridge pin material does matter, but making your string dead like that? I don’t think so.

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Yeah, I did try a pin from another guitar and it sounded the same. Probably going to get some more durable aftermarket ones anyway, though. Back to square one…

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So many things could cause new strings to have a “dead/dull” tone including (but not limited to) bad strings (it happens sometimes with wound strings that have even slightly loose windings), strings of a different/lower tension that causes the neck truss to flatten too much, strings of a different gauge that sit differently in the nut slot or over the saddle, or even just a slightly popped fret under the E/A strings (can happen anytime, especially in dry weather “like winter”.

To rule out the “bad strings” theory, try a different E and A string and see if the ring comes back. If not, then you may need to look at the way the strings are seated over the first few frets.

Like Ben, I doubt the string pins are the cause (if the string is properly seated against the bridge plate, it should sound fine). However, feel free to get a decent set of pins, but stay away from brass! :astonished:

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Hey @DrGuitar1, thanks for your reply. Out of the four last sets on the guitar (all the exact same gauge) only one consistently sounded right, and that was the Elixir Nanowebs. The other three were two sets of D’addario EJ17s and one set of Elixer Polywebs. Also, we don’t get dry conditions at all where I live; the humididty is a constant 65-70% where I keep my instruments. To me, the frets look fine, but I don’t really have much experience with how frets should look.

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Hmmm… My recommendation stands, try another E and A string; something really bright like 80/20 bronze. If it still sounds dead, see if they sound dead when you fret the string. If not, it is possibly the nut slot.
So you live in an area with consistent 65%+ humidity. It could also be that the top wood is too humidified to sound properly. Folks (like me) who live in areas of changing humidity notice that during times of high humidity (like you describe), the guitar will often sound dead while low humidity will bring the guitar sound back to life. Ideally, you would want to keep the guitar in an area/room that is about 45% relative humidity.
About the frets: feel at the end of each fret to see if they have pushed out of their slots at all. Usually you can see this with some magnification or feel it with your fingernail. If you have frets that have popped out even slightly, this can cause the strings to sound dead (by removing energy from the plucked string).

Good luck.

Hey Mike, those are 80/20 bronze on there. Jake actually recommended to go with a different material like phosphor bronze. I’ll try running a dehumidifier in the room and see if that helps. It does still sound dead when fretted (or at least capoed). Thanks!

Phosphor bronze is a great material for strings; they last longer than 80/20 and have a nice even tone. 80/20s tend to have more highs and lows. Coated strings can sound dead right out of the bag, so try replacing the coated E and A with an uncoated 80/20 E and A. The nanowebs have a thinner coating compared to the polywebs, but try uncoated first to see if that changes anything. Most music stores will sell you single wound strings (like uncoated 80/20s) for about $2 each. That is a cheap test and the first one to try.

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I just had a thought. One warm day, I picked up a guitar in my office and it sounded AWFUL. I looked at it, played it. Asked my wife (she agreed). I checked the string seating, looked for loose frets, took it apart, looked for cracks, loose braces. Couldn’t find a thing. Took it out to a table in another room where there was better light. I still didn’t find a thing. Strung it up with new strings, sounded awesome. Went back to my office, it sounded terrible :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

It turned out, I was running the overhead fan (which I almost never did). It made the guitar sound terrible. The point being, it could be the environment. Like Doc/Mike said, could be humidity or something similar.

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In the summer I tend to run the ceiling fans EXCEPT when I play the guitar. Those spinning blades create waves of air that don’t play nice with refined sound waves.

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