Help me help a friend - fret buzz/rattle

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by Nadnitram, Jun 26, 2020.

  1. Nadnitram

    Nadnitram Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,647
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Location:
    Temple of Gozer
    Is there an order of things I can have him check to rule out problems?

    I have never met (face-to-face) this online acquaintance, nor have I seen the guitar in question. I am trying to help him diagnose and fix his problem.

    He recently bought a Player Series neck from The Stratosphere. Somebody else installed it for him and "set it up." However, as he describes it, it has "much fret buzz, more like a rattle, all the way up the low E, A D and some on that nasty G." The guy who did the install/set-up is of no help, insisting the frets need leveling.

    My first thought is neck angle -- not seated properly, or debris in the pocket, or a poor shim, or a bad micro-tilt adjustment.

    Anyway, I seem to be unable to find a published checklist to help me diagnose, but I know some of you are really good at this stuff. Any help you can provide is appreciated.
     
    Stratafied likes this.
  2. macoshark

    macoshark Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    1,043
    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2016
    Location:
    arizona
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  3. problem-child

    problem-child Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Location:
    Left Coast, USA
    The items you point out to check are valid. Some less probable than others. Check those and then move forward. I would check the relief first, then get measurements on the string height to the top of the twelfth fret. This just to get a baseline or starting point once relief is confirmed to be correct.

    Check for twist in the neck, unlikely but possible. Also check the arc of the saddles to ensure they follow the radius of the fretboard. There can be some deviation here and there probably is on most guitars, but that deviation should be planned and intentional.

    After that I would say we need to look at the frets. This can be a bit tricky unless you (your friend) know what you are doing. If he had someone else install the neck and do a set up, I'm going to guess that addressing or even identifying a fret issue will be beyond him.

    Not everyone that says they are a luthier is in fact a luthier. Putting together parts and doing set ups does not make one so. The point is, finding the correct person to work on fret issues is a critical step to satisfactory problem resolution and long term enjoyment.

    Best of luck!
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  4. Nadnitram

    Nadnitram Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,647
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Location:
    Temple of Gozer
    Ha! We had almost that same conversation. What qualifies someone to be a "tech"?

    He did reply since my last post: "low E and the D rattle/buzz from 21st fret and every fret on down, A rattles/buzz from 20th fret and every fret on down."

    Every fret -- that's got to be a clue, right?
     
    dirocyn likes this.
  5. 33db

    33db Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    3,224
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2018
    Location:
    Earth
    Point him to youtube, a visual of how to deal with the issue would be helpful.
    Fast forward to 1:00 for actual tips.
     
    Baelzebub likes this.
  6. problem-child

    problem-child Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Location:
    Left Coast, USA
    I thought I might provide more detail here... I have had a few Strats that came to me with buzzing issues. Here is the way I sneak up on the problem to gather some data on the offending element.

    Check the other items as discussed first.

    Get an allen wrench that will fit the saddles. On the buzzing strings, raise the saddles by turning each of the two grub screws on each of the saddles 1/2 turn. Re-tune the guitar and check for buzz. If the buzz is still present, repeat.

    If the buzz is gone, lower the saddle by 1/4 turn. Re-tune and check again. If it has returned, raise the saddle by 1/8 turn. If it hasn't, try going lower by an 1/8th turn.

    The bottom line is, we are using these ever decreasing adjustments to find out where the lowest possible buzz free set up is. You may end up with a set up that is less than ideal but that is okay. We are trying to analyze the problem and find the offending part or parts.

    You may find that you can eliminate the buzz and get to an acceptable set up using this method, or maybe not...

    During this process you may end up with the buzz being isolated to a particular area of the fingerboard. Make notes of this. You can then further investigate by using a fret rocker to check the frets above this location.

    Hope this helps.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  7. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Dr. Stratster

    Messages:
    12,195
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Location:
    USA
    soo hard to tell without hearing and seeing it.. What some people would call "buzz" really isn't much of a buzz when plugged in. Sometimes it's as simple as raising the saddles or adjusting the truss rod a hair.. could be a badly cut nut.. so hard to tell without any reference. Does he have a video of it?

    They'd have to be pretty jacked up fret(s) to make the whole guitar unplayable after adjustments. I've played some pretty junky guitars.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  8. BuddhaFingas

    BuddhaFingas Strat-O-Master Gold Supporting Member

    Age:
    58
    Messages:
    760
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2019
    Location:
    Chino Hills, CA
    Thinking out loud here...

    Isthe friend a newer player? Does the problem change when fretting more firmly?
    Could possibly be a technique thing (finger placement/force)
    Testing with a capo for controlled force might help control for that & rule it out.

    Does the problem change with picking force?

    Assuming a 22-fret neck, if he's buzzing on every fret "on down" to the first that's a major clue, pointing to neck angle, saddle height, or neck relief. Suggests his buzz is originating at the 22nd fret.If he tests unplugged with his ear close to the fretboard, can he localize where the buzz is actually happening?

    When testing flat on a table rather than in playing position, is the problem better-worse-same?

    His problem strings in the OP are all on the low side. Thicker strings. Inadequate clearance over something, most likely the last fret.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  9. problem-child

    problem-child Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Location:
    Left Coast, USA
    Yeah that is a clue. If by down we mean toward the nut, then I would first check for a shim at the body end of the neck pocket. If it is there remove it and then do a normal set up to get the string height back to the desired level. See what happens... If no shim check the mico tilt.

    If no shim and no micro tilt, again check relief. If relief is good I would loosen the neck bolts and then tighten the ones closest to the bridge first, then tighten those closest to the nut end of the guitar. This really won't buy you much, but on occasion it is enough. Slim chance though.

    I don't like doing this, but as a last ditch effort after everything has been checked and eliminated you could place a shim in the side of the neck pocket closest to the nut. I have used this as a further diagnostic tool. I personally would never do that as a permanent fix, but I bet there are some that would.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  10. problem-child

    problem-child Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    1,434
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2008
    Location:
    Left Coast, USA
    One last thing... I chased a buzz for hours on a new guitar and it turned out that the nuts (10mm) on the tuners were loose.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  11. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

    Messages:
    4,039
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2014
    Location:
    Michigan
    .

    Have him watch Daves world of fun stuff, Sam deeks, and Frudua videos. More than one from each site. Then he will understand the order of operations and setup starting points to get his problem solved.

    .
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  12. Groovey

    Groovey Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,906
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    WV. USA
    I have had the neck on and off my partscaster more than a dozen times. One time, I didn't have it seated correctly. I would check this first.

    I would look down the neck to see the relief. Is it crazy bowed or back bowed? If it seems reasonably straight, I would proceed to the saddles.

    I'm not an engineering kind of guy. I eyeball slot of measurements. Like relief and action. There are plenty of vids out there to give you the exact relief measurements and action specs. Fruda and Fender come to mind.

    Then, if seated correctly, I would raise and lower the saddles as described above.

    I'ves seen shims mentioned. Coincidentally, I have a shim in this very well setup partscaster The width of a piece of sandpaper. It's not a problem.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  13. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985

    Age:
    54
    Messages:
    19,273
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Location:
    Alabama
    So why are you doubting him? If he knows what he's doing, and the setup is good, a fret level is the next logical step, and is never going to hurt.

    You can check the hight/level of the frets with a credit card. Use it like a "fret rocker".
     
    dirocyn and Nadnitram like this.
  14. Nadnitram

    Nadnitram Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,647
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Location:
    Temple of Gozer
    You make a valid point.

    The owner of the guitar is local to me. While I have never met him, I have met the tech (the owner/operator of a one-man shop), and he didn't exactly inspire confidence. However, I don't know how the whole transaction shook out.

    Mostly, though, I'm stuck on the buzz/rattle all the way from fret 1-21. The simplest answer to that is that, no matter where it's fretted, the string is buzzing on fret 22. How high would fret 22 have to be to cause buzzing or rattling all the way down the neck? That's why I suspect there's something wrong with the neck angle.

    I could certainly be wrong -- that's why I brought it here.
     
    dirocyn likes this.
  15. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985

    Age:
    54
    Messages:
    19,273
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Location:
    Alabama
    If the last couple or few frets are high (ski jump), a problem that is not at all uncommon, then you get that kind of buzz. What you are describing is typical of a "ski jump".

    If this is indeed the problem, no amount of neck angle adjustment will fix it. The frets would need to be leveled, and typically a bit of "fall off" from the 12 fret and above will fix the issue.
     
    3bolt79 likes this.
  16. Nadnitram

    Nadnitram Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,647
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Location:
    Temple of Gozer
    I have no problem with a well-placed shim.

    I've seen several guitars, though, with unneeded shims. Those guitars have exhibited the same symptoms as the guitar in question, which my be why I'm obsessing over neck angle.
     
    Groovey likes this.
  17. Nadnitram

    Nadnitram Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    5,647
    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2017
    Location:
    Temple of Gozer
    That makes sense. Would he be able to see the ski-slope by eyeballing the edge of the fretboard?
     
  18. Groovey

    Groovey Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,906
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    WV. USA
    True. I should have said my shim is at the fore edge (toward the nut.) We don't want to raise the aft edge of the neck.

    If this is the solution.
     
    Nadnitram likes this.
  19. Groovey

    Groovey Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,906
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    WV. USA
    It''s mall slope. If it's just a slope at the last few frets, it may not be visible at a glance. This is where a fret rocker would help.
     
    Nadnitram and Ebidis like this.
  20. Groovey

    Groovey Most Honored Senior Member

    Messages:
    9,906
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2016
    Location:
    WV. USA
     
    Nadnitram likes this.