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So this is something I've been hunting down for months.  On every guitar I build, there is a buzz when playing power chords on the wound strings. I have older guitars that do not buzz and I'm fairly confident it is something I am doing wrong rather than playing technique.

I set my relief to about .010 at the 7th fret (straight edge across the length of the frets)

I set my action high, aim for 4/64th of an inch on the low E string (capo on the first fret measure the 17th). I typically raise it up much more because of the buzz. 

There is no buzz on any individual notes, Only when playing power chords fairly hard. 

I have the frets to what I believe is level (fret rocker doesn't rock). 

Open strings dont buzz, so the nut I presume is fine, same with the hardware (tuners, saddles, etc.)

 

I realize this is hard to troubleshoot over a forum, but if anyone else has this issue, Or can think of a better way for me to learn how to fix without just paying a pro to do it, I would be very appreciative to hear.

thanks

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, WayneJohnson said:

I set my action high, aim for 4/64th of an inch on the low E string (capo on the first fret measure the 17th). I typically raise it up much more because of the buzz. 

4/64ths is about 1.6mm. That seems unusually low to me. For reference if I measure the action the way you describe it, the guitar with the lowest action I have here is 2.3mm or about 6/64ths, and that's pretty low. Not saying a guitar can't be set lower than this, but 4/64ths could be pretty difficult to achieve reliably and be buzz free while playing power chords on the wound strings with a heavy picking hand.

 

2 hours ago, WayneJohnson said:

I have the frets to what I believe is level (fret rocker doesn't rock). 

A fret rocker will only tell you if the adjacent fret is high. It wont tell you if the fret height is changing gradually over the length of the neck. Your buzzing may be occurring further up the neck rather than immediately in front of the fretted note. This can happen if the neck has a subtle twist/warp/deformation, or if the fret leveling job took off more on the lower frets than the higher, giving a ramped effect to the fret crowns.

Try comparing neck straightness of your builds with one of your known-good factory made guitars. Using your long straightedge, take 5 or 6 measurements along the length of the necks with a set of feeler gauges and compare the values.

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7 hours ago, curtisa said:

Try comparing neck straightness of your builds with one of your known-good factory made guitars. Using your long straightedge, take 5 or 6 measurements along the length of the necks with a set of feeler gauges and compare the values.

Sounds silly, but I never thought of doing this.  I love this idea!  So simple yet repeatable.  I woke up this morning and immediately created a new "set up" form word document adding the action of every single fret.  I'm going to measure all of my builds with this new method and see if I can pin point the issue. Hoping to see a raised tongue or "s shape curve under tension that is causing issues. Will report back.  Thanks for the great idea!

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I'm not really a fan of fret rockers. I have one and I just use it to tap frets like a tuning fork to check for seating problems!

I agree that super low action becomes problematic when strumming hard. A common tactic in studios is to set action high just for the purpose of recording when the player strums hard in order to avoid buzz. Have you tried sighting the neck down the length to check for twist or other strangenesses? Certainly, old Fenders have a tendency to develop that S-curve, or a hump ahead of the heel.

Quite likely not important in this case, however I add "falloff" to my fretwork above 12th. Just a slight hair once the rest of the neck is levelled. This is more to allay fretting out in bends than mitigating buzz from hard power chords.

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On 6/19/2020 at 9:32 PM, WayneJohnson said:

There is no buzz on any individual notes, Only when playing power chords fairly hard.

little late to the party but always room for one more I figure...

if there is no buzz when playing each note soft... but there IS buzz when playing the sm note loud... it's string buzz not fret buzz. 

I set my actionas low as possible.  So all my guitars... despite relief... will have string rattle if you go pete townsend on them.

your hand built guitars are probably better than your factory made... so take a bow, then decide if you want to raise your action or learn to play lighter. 

 

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8 hours ago, mistermikev said:

your hand built guitars are probably better than your factory made... so take a bow,

a bow... Is there any relief in your necks or are they dead straight? A tad of relief will keep the action low, yet provide some more space for the strings to vibrate freely especially over the lower frets.

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I was just about to post this exact thing. A flat neck is not optimal, even though it shows small spaces between the strings and the frets. Strings vibrate in a parabola with maximum deflection between the nut/fretted note and the bridge. If the buzz is coming from somewhere in the middle of the vibrating string, it's a relief issue. I've always advocated against necks that are "too stiff" since they don't naturally develop enough relief under string tension, often requiring double-acting truss rods to act in the wrong direction to their natural balancing force to induce relief from upbow.

A good setup requires an understanding of the player's tendencies; one that requires touch-sensitive low action in the upper registers will rarely play well in the lower ones with a contrary hard playing style. It's often one or the other. Given that you seem to be noticing this in all your builds, I would hazard that it is not your building skills at fault. More that it is expecting two normally contrary expectations. Of course, if you are developing some sort of weird S-curve in the neck then this is a complete different issue to mitigate.

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5 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

a bow... Is there any relief in your necks or are they dead straight? A tad of relief will keep the action low, yet provide some more space for the strings to vibrate freely especially over the lower frets.

"take a bow" is what I meant there. 

Yes, I put relief in my necks to compensate for the string vibration max at the middle of the string.  I don't get string rattle unless I really get aggressive and my action is typically between 1/32 and 1/16. 

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3 hours ago, mistermikev said:

"take a bow" is what I meant there.

I know. But it was that single word that made me think about relief so I took the bow out of the context. Sometimes a three-letter word can open an entirely new door. Like "key"...

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5 hours ago, Bizman62 said:

I know. But it was that single word that made me think about relief so I took the bow out of the context. Sometimes a three-letter word can open an entirely new door. Like "key"...

sorry, thought you thought I mean bow as in relief.  funny how the same spelling has two pronunciations and meanings... but they really are the same thing - "to bend at the middle".  my language is silly.That there is whay they're doing with their words.  hehe

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10 hours ago, mistermikev said:

my language is silly.

Not any sillier than any other language. Languages evolve, mix, change... Etymology can be funny!

Just this morning I read an article about the net dictionary of the oldest Finnish words. Among other interesting things it explained one reason for the "risky" words between Finnish and Estonian which are very close. Similarly to "bow" there's lots of words that have a totally different meaning but when you start to think about it many of them actually mean the same from a different angle.

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Hey guys, 

sorry to take so long, I have measured one of my builds vs a well playing commercial instrument.  The commercial guitar is an older 1987 Charvel with a compound radius and a Floyd Rose floating trem.

 

 My build that I measured is not even close, more of a PRS style, with a one piece wrap around bridge. The bridge and the neck are 12 degree radius ( not compound).  So, understandably, this might not be a great comparison. 

Measurements were taken when outside temp was 82 degrees and relative humidity was 53. 

 

Charvel:                                                   home build

2nd fret: .003                                              .004

3rd fret: .006                                              .004

4th fret:  .008                                            .008

5th fret: .009                                             .010

6th fret: .010                                             .013

7th fret: .011                                               .014

 

so there is a lot more relief in this home build.  The difference in the 3rd fret seems strange.  The obvious next step would be to lower the relief and try to get it to match better, however, this build is off to the paint booth once the humidity calms down, so I will wait until it is painted, dried and buffed to remeasure this particular instrument.  

In the mean time, I'm going to measure one of my strat style builds. However, I have the same issue where it is not apples to apples based on the straight string pull of the strat style vs the super start Charvel measurements.  Guess I need to somehow get my hands on a few more commercial builds to complete the comparison.

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It's clear from your measurements that the neck has some relief in the first half of its length, which is good, but I'd still be curious to see what the differences are like further up the neck. As mentioned earlier, your buzzing could be occurring much higher up.

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13 minutes ago, curtisa said:

It's clear from your measurements that the neck has some relief in the first half of its length,

@curtisa, could you please reveal how you can tell relief from a high bridge?

@WayneJohnson, just for clarification how do you measure relief? By the measurements it seems you're measuring the clearance between the string and the fret. However, if you press (or put a capo on) the first and the last fret (or the last fret before the neck joint), the clearance in the middle will tell the relief.

You can also use a long-ish (16-20") straightedge to both see the relief and the levelness of the frets. With a light coming from the side, straighten the neck and see if there's any light coming under the frets, checking this at least from both sides and the centerline of the neck.

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31 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

@curtisa, could you please reveal how you can tell relief from a high bridge?

The OP has listed the gaps between the first 7 frets and a straightedge placed on the neck. The gaps are increasing the further up the neck he measures. As far as I can see that's indicating the neck is gently curving forward as it should be under string tension. Ergo, there is some relief in his neck (at least in the first half dozen frets anyway).

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Yes, the first step in the measurement process is to eliminate string height contribution from the nut. Partially this is why I always elect for zero frets, however I try and use a higher fret wire size for these so a capo is still needed at 1st. Anyway, I digress. Measuring the relief is to identify how much space the strings have to vibrate in before they hit the frets, so the strings need to be in this position. Capo, definitely.

It doesn't matter (measurably) if you're measuring a single radius or compound for relief; strings follow a straight path under tension and the distance to the fret crown directly under the strings is what you're looking at. Relief is all about the breathing room that the strings have, preferably something that allows parabolic deflection to vibrate freely without buzzing against frets.

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9 hours ago, curtisa said:

The OP has listed the gaps between the first 7 frets and a straightedge placed on the neck. The gaps are increasing the further up the neck he measures. As far as I can see that's indicating the neck is gently curving forward as it should be under string tension. Ergo, there is some relief in his neck (at least in the first half dozen frets anyway).

Wouldn't the same happen with a dead straight neck if the bridge is higher than the nut?

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sorry, I only posted the first part of the measurements for brevity (and laziness).  I couldn't find a way to add a table here,

Here is the complete measurements of the two instruments.  Keep in mind the home build action is pretty high right now.

Also, yes, I am measuring as @Curtisa recommended.  I prefer using a straight edge rather than a string as a straight edge.  I find that the string will move and can throw off my measurements, giving me a false reading if I am not super careful.  The straight edge is very rigid and you can "feel" if the feeler gauge is a good fit or not, without worrying if there was some movement in the string while measuring, or needing to worry about the nut height. Just my preference, I'm sure many out there get along fine with the string method. 

Charvel:                                                   home build

2nd fret: .003                                              .004

3rd fret: .006                                              .004

4th fret:  .008                                            .008

5th fret: .009                                             .010

6th fret: .010                                             .013

7th fret: .011                                               .014

8th fret: .011                                              .015

9th fret: .010                                              .015

10th fret:  .009                                           .015

11th fret: .009                                            .015

12th fret: .009                                             .015

13th fret: .0008                                           .014

14th fret: .007                                             .014

15th fret: .007                                             .011

16th fret: .006                                             .009

17th fret: .005                                              .008

18th fret: .003                                            .004

19th fret: .025                                           .003

20th fret:  --                                              --

21th fret: .   --                                            --

             

                 

 

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Thanks, unlike the first measures that definitely shows there's some relief in both necks.

On 6/20/2020 at 7:32 AM, WayneJohnson said:

There is no buzz on any individual notes, Only when playing power chords fairly hard. ---
Open strings dont buzz, so the nut I presume is fine

My limited knowledge tells that your nut may be pretty high giving the open strings space enough to ring cleanly.

So why do the power chords buzz? Obviously there's too little space for some reason. Since single notes can be played hard without buzzing it must be the mechanics of strumming a power chord. That makes me think about the combined power of six strings compared to a single one. The neck may give in and bounce back in such a manner that the strings hit the frets. Actually the vibration pattern of the neck is similar to that of the strings, only less visible. When adjusting the truss rod, did you tighten it back when loosening it for the relief? Or have you just tightened it during the building process so that it doesn't rattle? Truss rods should be treated the same way as strings, always tightening to the right pitch. 

Another thing that can give the strings too much slack when they combine their power is the trem. Tightening the springs should help if that's the issue. Testing if that's what causes the buzz is even easier, simply prevent the movement with a block.

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There's a lot to be said for following a step by step setup check, beginning to end and to the letter. If gone into with a realisible end goal, most problems are rattled out or identified in this manner.

Overall it looks like there is a reasonable amount of relief given that we're seeing a curve centred around fret 11 or so, taking into account fret distances. This is fine, and more than the Charvel has dialled in anyway.

Is the buzz definitely fret buzz and not truss rod rattle? Get your ear (or somebody else's) close to the instrument and identify exactly where the sound is coming from. Without good diagnostic information, this is sort of like throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks right now. At the very least we can make a reasonable assumption about the relief being adequate.

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Thanks for the input gents.  

I don't believe it is truss rod rattle.  It doesn't rattle when I play open strings regardless of how hard I play them. I could be wrong, but I am thinking that would rule out truss rod or other hardware related issues.  

The bridge is a wraparound Gotoh 510, so no trem springs to worry about. 

 

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2 hours ago, WayneJohnson said:

that would rule out truss rod or other hardware related issues.

A rattling truss rod is one thing, a rod that gives in with all strings strummed is another. Since you didn't say you already did that I suggest you to tighten it just a smidgeon. Just that much that the last direction it was moved is into tightening, like 1/12th of a turn. So little that you can't see any change in the relief.

That said, as @Prostheta said this is like throwing ideas at the wall.

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