Every guitar player encounters buzzing on their guitar at some point. This is a common problem that is easy to fix. If you play acoustic this can be a big problem.
If you play electric its not as big a deal because the buzzing doesn't usually carry through to the amplifier. In this post I'll explain the different causes of guitar buzz, and then guide you step by step on how to fix it.
Common Causes of Guitar Buzz
1. Pickup Height (Too High)
- Pickups are too high and contacting the strings and creating a buzz.
2. Neck Relief:
-Your guitar neck is too straight or has a slight back bow thats causing your strings to vibrate against the frets. (This can also create dead spots on the fretboard, where notes don't ring out.)
3. String Action (At the Bridge)
- Your Bridge is a little too low causing the strings to vibrate against the frets.
4. String Action (At the Nut)
-The nut slots are cut too deep allowing the string to contact the 1st,2nd, or 3rd frets.
This style is adjusted via The key here is to find the sweet spot between lowest bridge height and string buzz. (It is common practice to have the treble side a bit lower due to the smaller string diameter, meaning you can have nice low and comfortable action.)
1. Checking Pickup Height
-This isn't as common a problem as the rest of the list, but it is the easiest to check for and fix. That is why it is first.
Start by fretting and picking each string individually while watching each pickup. Is the string contacting the pickup or it's pole pieces when you fret and pick the string?
If no, move on to Adjusting String Action (At the Bridge). If yes continue to the next step.
Using a phillips head screwdriver, rotate the pickup height adjustment screw for both sides of the pickup counter-clockwise until the string no longer contacts the strings.
2. Neck Relief
-This is the most common problem. To determine if this is your problem, you'll need a capo (don't worry, you can also just use your left hand). This is the most precise way to check your neck relief.
Sit with the guitar in your lap as if playing it and put the capo on at the first fret. (If you have no capo, just depress the string with your left hand.)
Look at where the guitar neck meets the body and depress the closest fret with your right hand pinky. ( ex: Strats & Teles 17th fret, Schecters 17th fret, Ibanez RG 19th fret)
While still fretting, look for the halfway point between the first fret and your pinky's fret then depress the string at that midpoint fret. (Use the index finger of your right hand.)
When you found and depressed the midpoint fret you should have noticed a tiny gap between the string and the top of that fret (1 mm or less). If the string is already touching that fret without depressing the string, then your neck is too straight and is causing fret buzz.
Repeat this for each string. Remember you want to see a tiny gap between the string and the top of the fret.
(When adjusting truss rod, only rotate 1/4 turn, then wait 10 minutes. Small adjustments can make major differences.)
This is the easy part. Use an
Retune and check the neck relief just like before.
If it needs more string clearance, repeat steps 1 and 2 until you can slide a piece of paper between the string at fret at that midpoint.
3. Fixing String Action (At the Bridge)
-Having fixed or ruled out insufficient neck relief in Step 1 you can move on to String Action (At the Bridge). This step is only needed if you still have string buzz after checking the neck.
This is adjusted one of two ways depending on the type of bridge you have. Go to theto determine your bridge style.
For Fender Style Bridge:
Begin by lowering the two saddle screws a half turn counter-clockwise at a time. The saddle will move closer to the body. (Using an
Retune the string and play up and down the fretboard to check for buzz and deadspots.
If you are hearing string buzz, the saddle is too low. Raise the saddle a half turn, retune, and fret notes all the way up the neck to check for buzz.
If there is no buzz and you want the action lower still, then repeat this process until you are satisfied with the string's action.
For Gibson/Tune-o-matic Style Bridge
This style is adjusted via the screws on each side of the bridge. The key here is to find the sweet spot between lowest bridge height and string buzz. (It is common practice to have the treble side a bit lower due to the smaller string diameter, meaning you can have nice low and comfortable action.)
Start by lowering both bridge bolts ½ turn clockwise.
Retune and check for string buzz.
Fret each note up the neck to find any potential dead spots. If there is no buzz and you still want lower action, repeat this process until you are satisfied.
4. Fixing String Action (At the Nut)
-This is not a very common issue unless the guitar was not setup properly from the factory. If the nut is too short, or the the slots are cut too deep, you may get string buzz at the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd fret.
Fixing the string buzz at the nut involves adding more material to the nut slots.
Make a paste out of nut material dust (bone, TUSQ, and super glue).
Remove the strings from the slots and add the paste mixture into each slot that needs it.
After it is dry, put the strings back in the slots and check for string buzz.
If the slots are now too high, slowly and carefully re-cut the slots with a nut file.
Reinstall strings, check for buzz, and thats it.
I hope this post helps you to work on your own guitar. Its not as hard as you might think. Plus once you learn it, you aren't likely to forget it. The amount of money you save on a professional guitar tech will add up over the years. If you put your mind to it, you can do just about anything. Thanks for reading!
For more in depth info on guitar setup check out my
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