This week’s article is more self-explanatory than ever, it literally is an article all about fret buzz. So that’s nice for ya.
No but joking and formalities aside- a lot of you have been telling me about your horrific buzzing frets, so I thought I’d delve into my knowledge to help you understand and fix fret buzzing.
A QUICK WORD ABOUT NYLON-STRINGED GUITARS
Before you begin reading this article- if by chance your Guitar is nylon-stringed, particularly if it is a Flamenco- style Guitar, then it is more likely that you will experience “good” fret buzz because the action is set lower than normal. Many Flamenco Guitarists like a certain amount of Fret Buzz because it gives their playing a slight aggressiveness- similar to Amplifier Distortion on an electric Guitar. Obviously though there is a line between good and bad and so if you own a Flamenco-style guitar then that decision lies with you! If you think it is creating “bad buzz” and you wish to get rid of it then read on!
Death to fret buzz!
WHAT IS FRET BUZZ?
Fret Buzz tends to happen around the 9th or 10th fret upwards on a Guitar neck, closer to where the neck meets the body. It can happen in numerous places, or on one single fret for one single string- it really does depend with this one.
Anyway- fret buzz is what happens when your Guitar String vibrates onto the fret next to whatever you’re playing (rather than just vibrating over it) so you get an annoying, dirty buzz sound. The noise you hear is essentially metal (string) vibrating or “buzzing” onto more metal (a fret).
This phenomenon can be caused by 2 things- one of which is more easy to fix than the other:-
-A sloppy guitar
Sloppy Playing- you might be happy to know- is the easier and cheaper method of fixing this. I hope for your sake that your buzzing is down to you rather than your oh-so-expensive Guitar. If you’re playing sloppily then all you need to do is fix your technique! A clue to this may be if your strings buzz all over the neck rather than just in certain places.
To fix this- you either need to press down harder on the strings or fret in a different position. Pushing down harder on the strings may be necessary if you’re accidentally muting some of them. This is a common mistake when beginners try to fret chords- they may accidentally be not pressing hard enough- or their fingers may be overlapping and causing strings to be muted- giving off a light buzz.
The other problem could be finger positioning. If you play close to the end of the fret (the end closer to the Guitar’s Body) then you aren’t giving the string much room to vibrate freely and it has more chance of hitting that next fret as it vibrates, causing a fret buzz. It is highly recommended that you place your fingers in the middle or towards the start (end closer to the headstock) of frets. It makes your playing more accurate and eliminates your chance of fret-buzz derived from sloppy playing techniques.
Now- if neither of them things apply to you then the Fret Buzz is down to a fault in your Guitar. This is where it starts to get complicated.
POSSIBLE REASONS FOR FRET BUZZ
This is when your neck has begun to Tilt in on itself- causing buzzing in some strings but not others. If you look down the neck of the guitar towards the bridge and instead of the surface being flat the surface begins to curve- then you have a “Propeller Neck” (a neck that curves like a propeller- if you hadn’t guessed) and you need to take it to a Guitar Shop for Repair, I offer my condolences in advance though as many Guitars affected by this are permanently damaged!
On the contrary to “Propeller Neck”, your Guitar’s neck may not bend correctly lengthways! Now even though they look pretty much straight- Guitar Necks have a slight bend to them on purpose to allow the strings optimum tension and whatnot. It’s horrifically complicated stuff and not worth getting into- but your fret buzz could be down to this- especially if it is unified across all strings rather than just on one or two of them.
-Low Action/ Intonation
If your Guitar has action that is too low then it’s just common sense that you’re gonna end up getting some fret buzz. For those of you who don’t know- having low “action” or “intonation” on a Guitar basically means that the strings lie closer to the fretboard- making the strings easier to play but inevitably causing the odd fret buzz about town .
Another possible reason for it is the dreaded Flattened Frets! This is when your Guitar is fairly old, and the strings have ended-up creating slight grooves in the frets over time. These grooves are actually a nightmare and counterproductive for the whole physics of guitars, and wreaks havoc on a strings ability to vibrate freely and create a solid tone. If your Guitar is aged and this has happened then I would suggest getting your Frets replaced at a Guitar Shop!
Okay so you’ve had some possible reasons for your buzzing ways- so here’s some possible solutions for you!
HOW TO GET RID OF FRET BUZZ
This is definitely the most common problem and most common way to fix this. If your Guitar Action/ Intonation is set too low that you will get some fret buzzing. It’s different for different guitars, but every Bridge has a height adjustment part- which can normally be adjusted with a simple screwdriver or something! If you can find the bridge adjustment then you want to HEIGHTEN your bridge slightly to stop the buzzing. You may want to do it in small stages and keep playing Guitar to see if it has stopped every time you make an adjustment. Remember to be careful and not too hasty! A guitar is hideously more complicated than it looks and we don’t want to change it more than needs be!
You might also want to try the “looking down the sights” method to see if your bridge is lay flat in parallel with your fretboard (this could cause buzz on certain strings if they were uneven with each other). You simply get your Headstock and look straight down your fretboard towards the body (as if looking down the barrel of a shotgun) and see if the bridge is even or not. Carefully adjust it if it appears uneven and this could stop your fret buzz, particularly if it only occurs on certain strings.
TRUSS ROD ADJUSTMENT
Your Guitar’s Truss Rod can be a similar problem! What is a Truss Rod you ask?
A Truss Rod is basically a big metal pole that runs through the centre of the Guitar Neck. It helps the wood to maintain its slight curvature that we mentioned earlier. Sometimes the Tension on the Truss Rod is incorrect and the difference in neck curvature can cause snapping strings. There are a lot of people that advise messing with your Truss Rod to fix Fret Buzz- but I don’t recommend it simply because if you make it too tight then you can crack your Guitar’s neck! The possible damage you could cause your Guitar is just too high! Taking it to a Guitar Repair place would in this case be your best option.
TUNING PEGS/ HEADSTOCK TIGHTENING
Occasionally the buzz could be down to your Tuning Pegs! If the Tuning Pegs are loose then there’s a strong chance of this actually. Make sure them and their screws/washers etc are all screwed on nice and tight before you go sticking strings on ’em! God knows what you could do to the poor string! Putting ’em on unsuitable pegs, shame on you.
LOOSE STRING SNIPPING
This admittedly is the least likely cause- but it could still be a cause for you.
Put simply- if you don’t snip your strings after you’ve changed ’em and you have loose strings bouncing around your headstock- you be as well cutting them ends off. It looks better, stops ’em getting in the way and helps to minimise the chance of any more fret buzzing.
So there’s some possible solutions for you! I know it’s a cop-out but if all else fails then you’re best off just taking your Guitar to a repair shop. You don’t want to risk damaging it beyond pair- which is easily do-able! I recommend checking out some YouTube videos on the topic if you’d like some visual aids too, searching “Fret Buzz” alone will give you a lot of tutorials and help to choose from. I hope I have helped you to possibly diagnose the cause of your Fret Buzz anyway, have fun playing.
Death to Fret Buzz!