To know guitar fret buzz causes and repair is crucial for any guitarist. You came to my post because you need information regarding this problem. I will try my best to explain everything to you in the simplest possible terms.
One of the most annoying problems with a guitar is fret buzz. Even how good your electronics are, or how good your guitar is, if you have fret buzz, you and your audience will not be happy. Notes will be choked, dead or choked while on a bend.
I am going to share my knowledge and my experience about fret buzz causes and repair being a guitar player and a guitar technician for more than 17 years.
What Causes Guitar Fret Buzz, What Is The Repair Needed?
1) Problems on the nut
If the guitar fret buzz happens on open strings, it could be caused by the nut. These are the scenarios:
- Multiple open strings buzzing on first fret.
If there are multiple strings that buzz on the first fret, it could be caused by the nut set too low. The check the proper height of the strings, use a feeler gauge and measure the space between the top of the first fret and the bottom of the strings is .018 inch or .45 mm. If you noticed that most of the strings are below the mentioned dimension then it is confirmed the nut is set too low.
How to fix?
If it has a locking nut like a Floyd Rose it is easy to fix by removing the the lock nut allen screws and the nut screws and shim the nut.
If you have a non locking nut, those that have a bone nut or other material, I suggest you bring your guitar to a guitar tech as you might damage the finish of your guitar when removing the nut.
If most of the string heights are more than the above mentioned dimension while there are strings that are buzzing, then we have another problem. Please proceed to next step.
- Open string buzzing on first fret
If most of the string heights are more than the above mentioned dimension while there is an open string that are buzzing, that string slot is too deep.
How to fix?
You can try to use heavier gauge strings, but if the problem still exist, the nut has to be replaced.
- Buzzing on the nut
If the string heights has the above mentioned dimensions, but the string buzz at the nut, this could be caused by a string slot too wide at the nut.
How to Fix?
Try to use heavier gauge strings, if the problem still exist, then the nut needs replacement.
2) Fret Problems
- High Frets
It is usually caused by a fret or frets higher than the one next to the fretting finger towards the bridge. This scenario is true if the neck relief is good. There is a very simple tool to check for high frets. Check this out.
This tool is very simple to use. Just select any edge to sit on top of three adjoining fretwires. Rock the tool, if it rocks that means the center fret wire is high. It is that simple and no rocket science required.
I am not recommending that you do your fret leveling unless you have a guitar technician watching you do that as a hobby. I have to re-fret my friend’s guitar because he kept filing until his fret wires are too low. By the way, I am not trying to scare you into not doing it because nobody taught me at first. I just use common sense.
- Loose Frets
Guitar fret wires have a barbed tang to keep it in place in the guitar fret slots when installed. Some manufacturers will just install the fret wire utilizing the barbed tang to keep it in place.
Some manufacturers have their fret wires glued in the slot of the guitar fretboard. This method is better because you have the barbed tang plus the glue to keep the fret wire in the slot. Fret wires sometimes become loose in the guitar fret wire slot.
This issue can be checked by tapping on the guitar frets using a small piece of wood (the handle of the crowning file is very suitable). The frets should sound solid. If you hear like a rattling sound, then that fret wire is loose. The subject fret wire should be re-installed.
3) Guitar Neck has no Neck Relief
A guitar without neck relief will have fret buzz. To check this, put a capo before the first fretwire and press the string after the last fretwire. Do this on both lower and higher strings.
There should be a gap between the string and the top of the eight fret wire. If the string is touching the fret wire, then the truss rod should be adjusted.
How to Fix?
The truss rod is turned counterclockwise to add neck relief thus removing the fret buzz. Adjust your neck relief using these dimensions. Do not adjust more than a one fourth of a turn at a time.
- 15-17 inch Radius = .008 inch (.20 mm)
- 9-12 inch Radius = .010 inch (.25 mm.)
- 7.25 inch Radius = .012 inch (.30 mm )
4) Bridge saddles set too low
This issue mostly happens when a player needs a low action setup. If you raise the bridge saddles and the fret buzz is gone while the string action is still acceptable, that solves the problem.
Can We Just Live With Fret Buzz?
If the string action is raised and the fret buzz disappears, and the string action is acceptable to the guitar player, it does not matter. If you are a shredder, then those frets are better leveled so you can have a low action set up and yet you will not have fret buzz.
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