What am I doing wrong with my setup? (stubborn fret buzz)

Discussion in 'Tech-Talk' started by neandrewthal, Sep 14, 2021.

  1. neandrewthal

    neandrewthal Strat-Talk Member

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    I find on some guitars I just can't do anything to get rid of the buzz but raise the saddles. This is fine when they happen to set very low but on a few it's just ridiculous.

    First I adjust the truss rod so there is a small amount of relief seen on my straight edge. This picture is not the best example because I adjusted from too much relief to none and then backed off a bit before snapping this picture but the relief hasn't really appeared yet.

    I don't have measuring shims but a general rule of thumb I've been following to double check is when I capo the first fret and press down a fret near the truss rod anchor I will be able to easily insert a guitar pick (standard yellow one) between the string and a fret in the middle with little resistance but just enough resistance that it will not fall out if I let it go.

    But I find tightening or loosening the truss to above and below this zone usually only has a small effect on buzz for better or worse and I often have to resort to raising the saddles. On this particular Strat the action is set quite high but the wound strings buzz pretty much from open to high up on the fretboard. The thin strings are mostly ok and they don't quite choke but don't sustain as much as I feel they should on bent notes high up on the fretboard. I can't detect any noticeable twisting of the fretboard. In this kind of situation where there is buzz all over the fretboard could it just be that one fret like the 18th or something is too high?

    Untitled.jpg Untitled2.jpg
     
  2. Intune

    Intune Senior Stratmaster

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    If you have the wound strings buzzing when hitting them open and not fretting then your nut is cut too low.
     
  3. Groundwire

    Groundwire Strat-Talker

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    This sounds like a high fret to me. Or maybe a couple high frets. Take a straight edge and Rick it over sets of 3 frets at a time. I suspect that somewhere in the middle of the board, you’ll find a high fret or two…
     
  4. Intune

    Intune Senior Stratmaster

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    Oh yeah a high fret(s) could definitely be a issue when fretting notes and getting a rattle/buzz. If you get the buzzing happening when just hitting open notes then it’s a nut issue, too low.

    @neandrewthal you say you’re getting a buzz open and fretted. I’d start with the nut first, make sure the slots are not cut too deep. Take care of this buzz first then move onto checking the frets. You’d have to have extremely high fret(s) to get a buzz on open strings with that high of action.
     
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  5. Leofender

    Leofender Strat-Talk Member

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    Ok... So it's a matter of elimination...
    Is it really fret buzz, because the string height is high.

    TEST 4 BUZZ
    CAPO Fret 3 now fret 1, is there clearance at all?
    Repeat at Fret 12, check clearances back up to nut....
    Repeat at Fret 21 as above.

    TEST FRET LEVELS
    Use that steel string guage to test 3 frets... Lay across 3 frets. Is there a wobble at all? It should not rock. Try along entire fretboard. Rotate guage on short edge up at the bridge end, or use a shorter straight edge.

    Here are some "unlikely" read very common sources of extraneous buzzing. When you have exhausted the obvious fret buzz sources... Often it's obvious AFTER you discovered that the problem is some other place!

    TEST RESONATED BITS
    It could be a loose scratchplate, bridge, saddle or tuner collar rattle! Check it out.
    Read on...

    TUNER WASHERS
    These can rattle as they are directly vibrating with the strings. The nut can and does loosen itself.
    So...
    Remove tuner hex nut, use PVA Wood Glue to secure washers on to the headstock. Gently screw the hex nut back, wait 1 hour minimum. Tighten after glue has hardened. A shim of PVA will now be under the washer, boom!
    Tuner posts can wobble in the tunnel, check axial play? Check it out.

    SPRINGS BUZZING
    Check to see if the buzz is from the back side. The pictures and description does not specify guitar model. I am assuming it's a Strat, not certain though.
    The trem block and hardware all vibrate strongly with the strings. So check this out, strike the syrings with gusto, check for signs of buzzing here abouts.
    A piece of soft foam inside springs can tame rattles, or slip a sqare underneath the spring set to mute any unwanted buzz. They are a counter tension device, and thats all...

    TREM CHECK
    Is the back of the top side making contact with the guitar top? If Yes... Bad. No... Good. Is the plate secure to the trem block? This too can loosen itself. Tbe block is screwed into the flat steel saddle tray... Check it out.

    Every single bit of hardware on your instrument is subject to vibrations at 100s to thousands of cycles per second. Even a strap button can buzz... Check everything out and put your ear right up close to ID the source of the buzzing. Easy to say, not so easy to do.
    Good hunting!
     
  6. 3bolt79

    3bolt79 Dr. Stratster

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    My friend, check to make share the tuners are snug, and don’t rattle. I don’t think I would take a chance on gluing the washers though. It sounds like an accident waiting to happen to me.
     
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  7. Ebidis

    Ebidis Providing the world with flat bends since 1985

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    You need a fret level.
     
  8. bam-boozle

    bam-boozle Strat-Talk Member

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    Sounds like a nut/fret level combination
     
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  9. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    First thing is, you have to realize that fret buzz is relative. If you hit the strings hard enough, you will get buzz no matter how high you go. The goal is not to place the strings so high that they won't buzz if you hit 'em with a freight train. The goal is to set them with no choking out and an acceptable amount of buzz during your normal playing. Whatever that means for you. So if you are a bombastic rhythm player and you don't accept buzz--you will need your action set pretty high. If you have a feather touch and you don't mind some buzz if you dig in a little--you can set it very low.

    In the photo, you have very little relief. Like, none--no light shines under that notched straight edge. But ignore the straight edge, set relief based on your frets. Fender recommends 0.010" relief--with a capo on the first fret and the string pressed down on the highest--somewhere there in the middle you should be able to slide a feeler gauge (or the end of an old .010 string) between your string and the fret with slight drag but without visibly moving the string. 0.010" is just the recommendation. If you don't have a feeler gauge, just use a high e string. I suspect you need more relief (loosen the truss rod) and when you get there it'll buzz less.

    Then go back and re-check for buzzing. If open notes still buzz after you get the relief right, your nut is cut too low.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
  10. Intune

    Intune Senior Stratmaster

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    This is exactly what should be done. Get the open string rattle, buzzing checked out first. Set relief and action, check the nut for proper height at each string.

    No point in going straight into a major fret level if the nut is cut too deep. Get the open string buzz sorted first.
     
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  11. StratUp

    StratUp Senior Stratmaster

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    Lots of good advice here, so I will skip that. But FYI - typical relief around the 8th with teh string fretted at the 1st and 17th should be around .010. A Fender thin pick is closer to .020. So that's twice what you want. Doesn't sound like much, but minor tweaks are sometimes all the difference in playable vs. not. If the center of the neck is too bowed, you'll buzz out when fretting in that area.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2021
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  12. pn8830

    pn8830 Strat-Talker

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    Once I came across this video. Changed my views to an extent. I find fret leveling to be extremely useful to combat fret buzz.

     
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  13. Intune

    Intune Senior Stratmaster

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    Also the first thing he says in the video is “what it is and what it isn’t”. The OP has buzzing open and when fretted. So as he says in the video, 2 different things.

    If you have buzzing when open, I’d put the fret level tools away until you get that sorted first. You wouldn’t need a fret rocker tool to find a high fret when hitting open strings, you’d literally see a badly lifted fret. Which is unlikely.

    This is a great video, lots of great info.
     
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  14. neandrewthal

    neandrewthal Strat-Talk Member

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    Thanks everyone for all the suggestions! Before I continue I just want to clarify a couple of things:

    In my OP I did mention that it's not the best visual example because I adjusted from too much relief to no relief and then backed off but when I snapped the picture I had just loosened the truss again but the relief had not showed up yet. I will try with a .009" string though (I don't have any 10s).

    To be fair I did say that I want the pick to slide in easily, but not unimpeded and I wanted the tension to be able to hold it there between the fret and the string without dropping it. Whether this is a good proxy I don't know (it probably isn't) but it's not the same as aiming for a .020" clearance.


    Wow, thanks for the detailed suggestions. What I found is tightening the pickguard screws made a massive difference and tightening the tuners made a small difference (I think). Between those 2 the open string buzz is gone and I am now left with what I am pretty sure is the fret buzz. It has a more pure, metallic and sitar like sound than what I was getting before. It's also now more focused towards the middle/high end of the fretboard which would lend credence to the theory that there are some high frets near the top.

    I do get some wobble across a couple of points near the top of the fretboard when rocking the string gauge across 3 frets. However, I tested a couple other guitars and I get this to some extent on every guitar I've tested so far and it's not hugely worse than ones that don't give me problems with string buzz.
     
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  15. Bob Spumoni

    Bob Spumoni Senior Stratmaster

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    Great advice here. Some degree of "buzz" is just kind of in the cards with some guitars, particularly if you're a little obsessed with low action. I'm sure some will see this view as deeply irreponsible or derelict, but life does go on (buzzing at times as it goes).
     
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  16. Intune

    Intune Senior Stratmaster

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    Yup all my guitars have low action and do rattle a bit unplugged but that’s just how I like it. Plugged in you don’t hear any rattle so that’s all the matters really.
     
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  17. Leofender

    Leofender Strat-Talk Member

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    YES!
    I agree with you about uneven frets being present on most guitars. It's simply the crude way the frets wire is installed... By banging away with a hammer, untill seated! WTF! Last time I used a hammer it was for nails, not a musical instrument!!! You'd think that a more sophisticated fitment process would exist, given that the highest quality wood, finest finishing methods and careful polishing goes into the thing!! So it's no surprise then, that random quality issues plague some guitars... Meh!

    I'm very glad you found a source of buzz coming from the Scratchplate... Great work.

    The fret buzz is something you can redress with some higher saddle altitude or neck relief... Or some combination of the two. Most pleasing is the control you gain by doing this yourself. You are better off, no one can do it yourself, like you can... Do It Yourself... Lol
     
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  18. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    A .009 is great. That's smaller than a 10, obviously--but still very close, and IMO close enough. If the string you are using as a measuring tool will pass between the installed string and the fret with slight drag and without moving the installed string, you're there. Fender's spec is a general recommendation, many people prefer either more or less.



    Yeah, IDK if that's a good way to measure. I really doubt if this method can produce consistent results--or what that result would be, with a more proper measurement.




    So you had some rattles, sympathetic vibrations from loose stuff on the guitar. In addition to some fret buzz. Glad you got the vibration/rattles part of it sorted out.

    The truss rod has no effect on frets above the body join; if it's buzzing way up there it has to be different issue.
     
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  19. ThreeChordWonder

    ThreeChordWonder Senior Stratmaster

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    A truss rod will rattle if it's slackened off all the way.

    If it does need to be totally slack (a) use lighter strings and (b) snug the nut up until it's just tight.
     
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  20. ThreeChordWonder

    ThreeChordWonder Senior Stratmaster

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    I think you'll find in this day and age most frets are installed, by the factories at least, using some sort of press, not a bunch of people sitting there with hammers.

    However, wood is wood, and some woods will dry, expand, contract, etc. differently to others. It's quite possible therefore that some frets might lift, or rather the surrounding wood shrinks away from the frets.

    Tapping frets down gently with a rubber mallet before getting the files out is surely a better way to proceed. It's easy to file metal away, not so easy to superglue the filings back.
     
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