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Fret Buzzz


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Alright, so I have had my guitar for 5 years, and every winter I get some problems with the frets.

first of all, and what I'm wondering most about, is fret buzz on the first five frets. I know this is because the neck is actually too straight, and if I mess with the truss rod, the action around the 12th fret is too high (acoustic levels.) and the buzz is still there, but on fewer frets. If I raise the bridge, I get more or less the same problem.

I figure, sanding them down a little might help, but since it's over several frets, it could also just mean that it'd be totally ruined. I suppose I could... take off the fretboard or something, and try to warp the wood to the correct position, but... I don't want to do that. At all.

there is also a tutorial on this site describing purchasing a tool as well as an LED, and discovering the location of the buzz this way, but shouldn't this work just as well with a D battery and the LED?

Whatever I do, I have a few scrap guitars around to practice on. But I guess none of them suffer the same problem, so testing wouldn't apply.

Other winter problem is that the bottom of the frets cut my index finger. I think what I'm going to do to remedy this is double up on painters tape, with the metal bare, then get fine grit sandpaper and take it down a little.

Any suggestions, thoughts, or improvements?

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Is this a bolt-on neck? If so you could place a thin shim in the neck pocket then loosen the truss rod a touch, this will help rais eaction at the lower end and give you more acceptable action above F12.

Sounds to me though that it's the nut that needs a little shim, and we're probably only talking less than 1/2 a mm.

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I know this is because the neck is actually too straight,

Wrong.If the neck is REALLY straight,it is not the problem,Your setup is.

I have zero neck relief on ALL of my guitars,and very low action,with no problems ever.Either your nut is worn out or set wrong,your frets are not level,or you have a backbow...

It sounds like you are clueless,so you need to either take it to a pro or read the tutorials on the main site and set your mind to "learn".I don't mean that to sound rude...but it sounds as if you may cause new problems if you touch it without learning how first.

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I know this is because the neck is actually too straight,

Wrong.If the neck is REALLY straight,it is not the problem,Your setup is.

I have zero neck relief on ALL of my guitars,and very low action,with no problems ever.Either your nut is worn out or set wrong,your frets are not level,or you have a backbow...

It sounds like you are clueless,so you need to either take it to a pro or read the tutorials on the main site and set your mind to "learn".I don't mean that to sound rude...but it sounds as if you may cause new problems if you touch it without learning how first.

I beg to differ. If the neck is flat and your have low action I.e. 3/32" on the treble side and 4/32" on the bass side, you will get buzzing on the bass strings and probably some amount of buzzing on the high strings in the lower registers. It just depends on how hard you play and what your tolerance level is. Even with a bit of relief in the 0.009 range, you'll still have some amount of buzzing. The buzzing is worse with thin gauged strings compared to heavier gauged strings. Tuning can also be a factor i.e. Eb vs concert pitch.

The original poster didn't say whether the first 5 frets buzzed on open strings or fretted. That would be crucial info.

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Very, very slight buzzing when open. It is a bolt on, I use 11-48 gauge strings. During moister months, the problem is less noticeable, so I don't really want to have something to move in and out every few months, nor do I want to make permanent changes that make things worse during the summer. I guess I could try even heavier strings, but I feel like the additional diameter would counteract the extra tension.

As far as my setup being "wrong"- I've taken it to several professional luthiers over the last few years with the same result every time- it buzzes slightly less, and the action on the 12th fret is the larger part of a centimeter. If I wanted that, I could do it myself and save $15.

A guitar neck is usually set at an angle with the body, therefore, a perfect neck will counteract that angle on the first few frets, so the guitar between the nut and the bridge should be a wide "u," rather than a wide "v." This isn't just some conclusion I came up with myself, it's something I've been told by real professionals, but they've also told me it wasn't something it would be worth their time or my money to fix. Theres a lot of very experienced luthiers in my area, including William Cumpiano himself. Same result with every one.

Beyond that, it's completely unnecessary to be rude to someone on a guitar repair forum.

Edited by weekendofsound
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I beg to differ. If the neck is flat and your have low action I.e. 3/32" on the treble side and 4/32" on the bass side, you will get buzzing on the bass strings and probably some amount of buzzing on the high strings in the lower registers. It just depends on how hard you play and what your tolerance level is. Even with a bit of relief in the 0.009 range, you'll still have some amount of buzzing. The buzzing is worse with thin gauged strings compared to heavier gauged strings. Tuning can also be a factor i.e. Eb vs concert pitch.

The original poster didn't say whether the first 5 frets buzzed on open strings or fretted. That would be crucial info.

This might be the case for your own guitars, but certainly not for mine, or many that I work on. My main strat that I'm often playing unplugged (not picking very lightly) has around .002" to .004" relief @ 7th fret. High E : 1/32" (+ about .005"), Low E : 3/64" @ 12th fret. Does not buzz. Does have perfectly leveled frets. 12" radius.

Honestly, if I was doing final "quality control" on a fret job, and got buzzing with 12th fret action of 3/32" treble, 4/32" bass, I'd find out what the hell went wrong with my fret-work, because that would probably be the only answer for that problem.

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I beg to differ. If the neck is flat and your have low action I.e. 3/32" on the treble side and 4/32"

This might be the case for your own guitars, but certainly not for mine, or many that I work on. My main strat that I'm often playing unplugged (not picking very lightly) has around .002" to .004" relief @ 7th fret. High E : 1/32" (+ about .005"), Low E : 3/64" @ 12th fret. Does not buzz. Does have perfectly leveled frets. 12" radius.

Honestly, if I was doing final "quality control" on a fret job, and got buzzing with 12th fret action of 3/32" treble, 4/32" bass, I'd find out what the hell went wrong with my fret-work, because that would probably be the only answer for that problem.

I would love to try that guitar and hear it not buzz with 1/32" action.

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The only thing that changes is temp. ,so the neck has to be moving ,maybe a slight expanding of the fret board wood is causing your problem.Your tight setup does not need much to buzz.It is like everything I run into ,it is not broke and it is not well,hard to pin point problem.Sounds like you have very good people to ask and they have not fixed it for you.Not sure what to recommend.Maybe a controlled temp. room. or put in a room with idea temp and see if it goes away.If it does your neck is moving.

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Not the only guitar with action like that.

A couple listed here (scroll down) :

http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Nuts,_saddles/i-5350.html

Also on one of the Erlewine videos they set up a new Danelectro with 1/32" action on the high E. I think the low E is 3/64", but not certain.

Of course. And Yngwie plays 0.008" strings. Never said it wasn't possible. Practical? Again... all about pers prefs. I'd never play 0.008". Tried 'em and didn't like it. Same thing with lower action. don't like it because of the side effects. Not talking about fretting out... which is a different thing... general buzzing when playing something like an Am7 real hard at the 5th fret.

Maybe the original poster's neck has a rising heel which could be causing some of the buzz. That's a common problem on bolt ons.

Try getting the neck flat as possible with a straightedge in playing position and see where high/low spots are. Playing the guitar may have worn some frets down more than others.

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After reading through the posts several time it sounds like you are not very knowlegable on the subject an will probably do more damage than anything. Your first post says that the neck is too straight, so you get the fret buzz. But then later you say that the relief at the 12th fret is almost a centimeter. That is about 3/8" of an inch. That is pretty darned bowed, so how are you considering the neck straight. My guess is that anytime you took it to a luthier, you asked to the adjust it to remove the buzz, and not do a full and proper setup, and fret work if needed. It sounds like you need to have the work done by a professional, and instead of having them adjust out the buzz, have them remove the buzz completely with whatever it takes. I would probably take it in this sequence.

Remove strings, and adjust the neck so the fret board is perfectly flat.

Have the frets leveled, you probably have some high frets on there some where.

Have a full setup done starting with a new nut and the bridge at it's lowest point.

Adjust the bridge and nut to remove as much buzz as possible.

Then adjust the truss rod to remove any final remaining buzz in the middle of the neck.

The key though is to start with the fret board as close to level as possible and then get the frets level. A poorly fretted neck is going to make a quality setup difficult. And going right along with that, have the nut not properly setup will make it impossible to achieve a quality result. The problem is, this may turn into a very costly repair. If the neck can not be adjusted flat, then you will need to have the frets removed and the board leveled. Instead of a $15 setup, you are more likely looking at a few hundred dollars to have it fixed.

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Your first post says that the neck is too straight, so you get the fret buzz. But then later you say that the relief at the 12th fret is almost a centimeter.

Just so you know, the action is not the same as the relief in the neck.

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Which is exactly why I called it the relief at the 12th fret. He is adjusting the truss rod which only adjusts the relief in the neck. The action is how high the strings are located off the neck which is adjusted with the bridge and the nut. Typical setup is to adjust the action based on a straight neck and then add relief to eliminate the remaining buzz, due to the eliptical string vibration that is the most extreme in the middle of the string. The O.P. referred to the action at the 12th fret which is going to give a reading more of the relief. The action is measure towards the ends of the neck. Even though relief is best measured around the 7th fret and not the 12th.

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Your first post says that the neck is too straight, so you get the fret buzz. But then later you say that the relief at the 12th fret is almost a centimeter. That is about 3/8" of an inch.

What I SAID was that when I take it to professionals to correct the problem, they just raise the action a lot to a point where it's uncomfortably high for me to play, and the buzz is still present. I, therefore, just put the action back to a comfortable position so I can use the rest of the neck, and then lower it in the summer, when it is much less a problem. In having discussed it with multiple professionals, none suggested I have them do anything to it.

I'm talking about a minor annoyance here. The guitar still plays. It doesn't need a new nut, if it did, I presume someone who has looked at it would have suggested it, or fretwork, when I asked them about these things. When I put a straightedge up to it, in theory, the neck is perfect. frets 12-22 are perfectly flat, while a ruler placed on 1-11 will show a little bit of space under them.

But it still buzzes.

Also, I really do appreciate the input of those who have actually listened to the problem, rather than just having a quick read and being insolent.

Edited by weekendofsound
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