First a little background: I bought a guitar about a year and a half ago. It was one of the best sounding guitars I had ever played. It was very responsive. It had sweet complex overtones but it still had a nice focus to the sound. The action was close to 7/64" 12th fret E string. A tad high for my typical setup, but certainly not a problem to play. The saddle was tall, the nut action was close to ideal, the relief and neck angle was good. All it needed was a lower saddle and all should be well. It was middle of winter, it was a new guitar, and it sounded great, so I wasn’t in a hurry to change anything. Then I had some family health issues for most of last year and the guitar didn’t see much action for a while. When I went back to play it, it sounded much less lively. New strings helped, but I wasn’t finding that magic in it. I figured either it didn’t sound that good when I bought it (and I was just a bit nuts) or it “went to sleep.” From the start, it was a guitar that would improve significantly after a few minutes of warm-up time. I put a tonerite on it and it got better, but I never reached that magic tone I thought it had when I bought it. I figured I might have been just overly enthusiastic when I bought it. It was still a great sounding guitar, but just not as magical as I had thought.
Last night a question was posed about mando setup problems. I got out my measuring stuff to give an answer. One thing led to another and I decided to fit a lower saddle for the guitar. I measured before I started and it was just over 7/64" low E at 12th fret. Everything else was basically unchanged from when I bought it. I measured the old saddle and did some mental math on what I would need to do. I left the new saddle a little thicker than the old one for a snugger fit. My plan for lowering was to stop a smidge before I got to my target, then creep it down a bit at a time. When I got to my planned stopping point, the bottom wasn’t quite square, so I had to square it up (reducing the height a bit more). As a result, it was actually below my target a bit (a lucky mistake). I put it in and BAM! Just like that, the magic tone was back. And now the guitar played awesome as well. It now is a hair under 6/64ths at the 12th fret of the E string.
I don’t know what could make the tone change like that while going lower on the action. The only change was the saddle. It is a different chunk of bone, so it could be just better material. The break angle does look more ideal. The old saddle was a smidge looser, but there wasn’t any play previously… in short these were all good moves but there was nothing changed that I would have thought caused issues with tone. After I got it tuned back up I sat there for an hour past my bed time just listening to the guitar. I was back in love again. I am going to have a buddy who played it last week play it again to see his reaction before I change the strings. I want to see if maybe I am just nuts again.
Again, I can’t really explain the tonal changes, but just figured I would reiterate what has been previously said by many. It’s amazing how much difference a setup change can do.