Long time back, I had heard that guitarists often keep two saddles for each of their (acoustic) guitars, which they swap when the action became too low or high due to the rise and ebb of humidity. Though theoretically I understood the concept, practically I couldn’t get my head round it because I had never experienced it.
I own a few acoustic guitars and they are well-made, solid wood instruments which I play on a monthly rotation basis. Now, because they belong to me, they are set up well, are well looked after, and are provided enough protection. Around a month back, I pulled out one guitar, tuned it up and was horrified to find that I could not even play open strings for they were actually sitting on the fretwires!
I scratched my head trying to figure out what could have gone wrong with the neck or with the saddle for the strings to sit on the fretwires, but then realised it would take time figuring out. Instead, I put this guitar back and pulled out another one.
The next one too was suffering from the same malaise. The strings were so low that it seemed someone had taken out this guitar’s saddle and had put in another guitar’s saddle.
Saddled (pun intended) with two guitars that refused to play, I got down to working on them. Both necks were absolutely straight while both saddles were too low. I took out those saddles and installed new ones.
Here is the difference in height between the new and the old saddles.
Remember, both instruments used to play perfectly earlier (with a lower saddle). So, what changed? The more I thought about it, the more I scratched my head. We are going through very, very dry weather. Even as I write this post on Saturday evening, the weather app on my phone shows the relative humidity at 16%!!
We have had days where it climbed to 33% but by and large it has stayed between 15% and 30%. Right! Dry weather. That would mean the wood is (read guitar neck too) losing humidity. Wood drying would mean it is more likely to contract. That would mean the neck would curl upwards. But that would mean the action on the guitar would rise and not fall to make the strings sit on the frewires!!!
More head scratching! Long story short, I don’t have an answer. If you can explain it to me, please do write in.
Anyway, I took out new bone saddles; they are nice and tall ones, and believe it or not, I just needed to remove in the vicinity of .020″ from both of them for the guitars to begin playing perfectly again.
Here are the two guitars sporting the new saddles. The old saddles have gone into the respective cases, to be used as and when the need so arises!