Dare to Think!

Fret Buzz

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

One of the most common guitar problems is “Fret-Buzz”. The most frequent cause of this annoyance is unwanted contact between the bottom of the string and the top of one or more frets. It can also result from loose hardware, bracing or sympathetic vibrations; although not as common as frets gone bad. Here is a short list of the most common causes (in my opinion) with some suggested remedies.

  1. Open String Buzz:
    Buzz occurs when string is not fretted. Can be caused by nut slots gone out of spec and should be examined first. If slots are too low, worn, or cut incorrectly, replace and/or heighten nut. Finish by doing a full setup.
  2. Buzz Close to the Soundhole:
    If the buzz seems to come from the 12th fret or higher, check the f/b (fingerboard) with a straight-edge for warping. It may need fret leveling of the upper frets or the f/b itself may need planing.
  3. Single Buzz:
    If the buzz exists only on one fret on one string, look for a popped up fret. Using a fret-rocker (from Stew-Mac), check all frets around the spot creating the noise. Also look for humps or dips in the f/b in the same area. If you need to replace one or more frets, make sure to re-level and redress all frets in that area to avoid new problems.
  4. Buzz Entire Board:
    If it buzzes at all points of the f/b and hard fretting removes the problem, then check the fret height (relief) and worn down fret wire. Adjusting truss rod for higher action and/or heavier gauge strings may solve the problem.
  5. Buzzes on Hard Fretting:
    If it only buzzes when playing hard, then check for poor setup, insufficient neck relief, and incorrect string gauge. The problem will usually be resolved by adjusting the truss rod for more relief and/or heavier strings. Always remember to properly setup after any major work.
  6. Make sure saddle is totally rounded on top without any flat areas. This causes buzzing!

The above suggestions are general Guidelines employed by most Luthiers when dealing with Fret Buzz; Pain in the (guitar) Neck.


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