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  1. #1
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    Peculiar Fret Buzz

    I have a guitar that for a good while has been literally perfect. Straight neck, no buzz, wonderful player. All of a sudden, the 1st string, when played on the 1st fret has a "klank-buzz" sort of sound. The 2nd string has a little, strings 3-6 seem fine. I've never had a moment's problem with this guitar.

    We have had a shift to much more humid weather here. Is it possible the 2nd fret has simply raised up a bit on the treble end? I used a fret rocker and confirmed it does seem the 2nd fret is a little high, or maybe the first is a little low? This is a pretty new guitar so i don't think it's wear.

    I'm fearful if it's just humidity related, and I re-dress the fret, when dry weather comes it'll be too low and buzz on the 3rd fret, and so it goes.

    Any suggestions or ideas?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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  3. #2
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    You could put a small "shim" - made of paper for example into the nut slot to fix the problem temporarily and see what happens when the weather changes before you do anything that's not easily reversed...
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    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  4. #3
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    Have you tried adding just a little relief with the truss rod?

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThatRhythmMan View Post
    Have you tried adding just a little relief with the truss rod?
    Other than raising the bridge saddle, I've done nothing yet.

    I wanted to get some suggestions first.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO View Post
    You could put a small "shim" - made of paper for example into the nut slot to fix the problem temporarily and see what happens when the weather changes before you do anything that's not easily reversed...
    I don't understand why shimming the nut would help. I'm talking about fretting a note on the first fret and having the string buzzing on the second fret. The nut would have nothing to do with that, would it?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  7. #6
    Low fret or a high fret same symptoms you just have to work with it to determine which. I really think if it in the shop based on the neck being otherwise straight and relief good, and finally the action is what you like, a simply dressing of first 5 frets. You do not need to take of hardly any fret material and going over it and polishing them down I bet will do the trick. If the 2n fret is high as you begin to dress them that will be the target. If the material comes off from that point you just go light, the re-crowning and polish should get you clean sound.

    I probably did not explain this very well because as much of a science it can be it also has to do with experience of doing it many times. One thing to note is to make sure if it is a high fret that the fret is properly seated and solid in the slot. Sometimes I have even take my fret radius caul and press the fret tight like I was installing a new fret. I can do this because I use my very old but top quality heavy-duty drill press. My set up allows for much more pressure on the frets to seat than those hand clamp ones that Stew Mac sells.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    Low fret or a high fret same symptoms you just have to work with it to determine which. I really think if it in the shop based on the neck being otherwise straight and relief good, and finally the action is what you like, a simply dressing of first 5 frets. You do not need to take of hardly any fret material and going over it and polishing them down I bet will do the trick. If the 2n fret is high as you begin to dress them that will be the target. If the material comes off from that point you just go light, the re-crowning and polish should get you clean sound.

    I probably did not explain this very well because as much of a science it can be it also has to do with experience of doing it many times. One thing to note is to make sure if it is a high fret that the fret is properly seated and solid in the slot. Sometimes I have even take my fret radius caul and press the fret tight like I was installing a new fret. I can do this because I use my very old but top quality heavy-duty drill press. My set up allows for much more pressure on the frets to seat than those hand clamp ones that Stew Mac sells.
    Thanks for the advice. I have the tools, and I've done fret dressing on cheaper guitars... but this one's a Gibson ES175 and I do not want to mess it up! But I could do a very light dressing of the first 5 without getting into deep water.

    Thanks for the advice!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  9. #8
    Also, probably no material is going to be coming off the 5th fret. Dressing to the 5 really means you see where the material is coming off as you file. If high 2nd fret the material will immediately start coming off that fret probably on the treble side based on your description. Then once anything starts coming off frets 4-5, you stop dressing and crown what you removed and polish. In effect you really are only working in a small area to get it ironed out.

    A sacrifice to the FRET GODS might help but it violates the first commandment.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark View Post
    Also, probably no material is going to be coming off the 5th fret. Dressing to the 5 really means you see where the material is coming off as you file. If high 2nd fret the material will immediately start coming off that fret probably on the treble side based on your description. Then once anything starts coming off frets 4-5, you stop dressing and crown what you removed and polish. In effect you really are only working in a small area to get it ironed out.

    A sacrifice to the FRET GODS might help but it violates the first commandment.
    Good reminder. I recently had to do this one; it turned out fine!

    Peculiar Fret Buzz-sandys-nagoya-before-jpg
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  11. #10
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    If you are new to fret leveling it is a good idea to mark the fret tops with a sharpie so you can see any low frets more easily as you level the fret tops. A sharpie is also handy to mark the fret tops when doing the recrowning. If you work slowly you should be OK. Use a few strips of masking tape between the frets to be on the safe side. The tape makes clean up easier also.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    If you are new to fret leveling it is a good idea to mark the fret tops with a sharpie so you can see any low frets more easily as you level the fret tops. A sharpie is also handy to mark the fret tops when doing the recrowning. If you work slowly you should be OK. Use a few strips of masking tape between the frets to be on the safe side. The tape makes clean up easier also.
    Yes indeed. Part of my procedure. I'm still a beginner, so literally I have a written out list of the process and steps! If the guitar does not magically right itself by this weekend, I'll likely do it. I'll post the results for your enjoyment.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  13. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Cushman View Post
    If you are new to fret leveling it is a good idea to mark the fret tops with a sharpie so you can see any low frets more easily as you level the fret tops. A sharpie is also handy to mark the fret tops when doing the recrowning. If you work slowly you should be OK. Use a few strips of masking tape between the frets to be on the safe side. The tape makes clean up easier also.
    Oh the Sharpie forgot to mention that.

    Matt, Bill Hollenbeck use to keep me in line now you have that job.......I am trainable.
    specializing in repair and setup, does your guitar play like it should?

  14. #13
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    i'd doubt the humidity popped the 2nd fret..more likely the neck straightened out a tad...the first sign of not enough relief is buzzing at the first few frets...other possibiity is that the nut slut is a bit low...tho if the problem suddenly appeared, it's more likely neck relief

    humidity and temp swings can wreak havoc on necks

    turn trussrod ccw a hair and it should work

    luck

    cheers

    ps- a fret rocker only works accurately after you've adjusted the trussrod for the neck to be perfectly straight..no bow or backbow...and ideally with no strings on
    Last edited by neatomic; 02-19-2018 at 06:02 PM. Reason: add-

  15. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by neatomic View Post
    i'd doubt the humidity popped the 2nd fret..more likely the neck straightened out a tad...the first sign of not enough relief is buzzing at the first few frets...other possibiity is that the nut slut is a bit low...tho if the problem suddenly appeared, it's more likely neck relief

    ...
    Again, the buzz is not at the first fret. I finger the first fret and the buzz is on the SECOND fret. I don't see how the nut slot has anything to do with that. The open string is fine. I just don't see how the angle of the string passing over the first fret then clearing the second fret is affected in any way by the depth of the nut slot.

    But then it wouldn't be the first important thing i didn't know. Can someone explain if something is wrong with my question here?
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  16. #15
    Lawson ,
    I recently had a similar issue with one fret that lifted slighlty on a used guitar I recently purchased. I used a small pc of wood and rubbed over the fret while exerting pressure on the fret and supporting the neck. Sort of like burnishing the fret into the slot. It took several attempts - but in my case problem solved. Might be worth trying if you explored all other suggestions. Even if you attempt a re- dress the fret must be seated, so no harm in trying this.


    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  17. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman View Post
    Lawson ,
    I recently had a similar issue with one fret that lifted slighlty on a guitar I recently purchased. I used a small pc of wood and rubbed over the fret while exerting pressure on the fret and supporting the neck. Sort of like burnishing the fret into the slot. It took several attempts - but in my case problem solved. Might be worth trying if you explored all other suggestions. Even if you attempt a re- dress the fret must be seated, so no harm in trying this.


    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
    I wondered actually if there was something I might try short of taking metal off with a file. Problem with metal is it can't be put back on! I do have a clamp for seating frets I got when I was thinking learning to replace frets (I have an old beater that needs frets). I could see about gently using that to push the fret back. Maybe that would do the trick.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  18. #17
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    ok, i never sd the "first fret!"!!??...

    i also said, its most likely not enough neck relief..an 1/8 turn on the trussrod and this would probably be over by now

    the nut slot being low definitely affects things as it changes the whole angle of your string..tho it usually affects/buzzes the area around the 5th fret most..tho buzzing just about anywhere is possible..why i said it would be the second thing to check


    lastly as far as fret height...the fret up is always where it buzzes..so if u press the first fret and the 2 buzzes its because the 2nd fret is too tall..tho i repeat, i do not think that is the issue here

    also i'd change the string before doing any fretwerk


    hope that helps

    but there's a protocol....esp without any trussrod adjustments things have to be done in order...you dont just start out sanding frets

    turn the trussrod!!

    cheers

    ps- and lastly if the fret did indeed pop..then the fix is reseating the fret..not a levelling..you could level that fret perfect..and it'll pop a bit more in a week and you'll be back to buzzing
    Last edited by neatomic; 02-19-2018 at 07:40 PM.

  19. #18
    You are correct. I would not be removing any metal until I was certain fret was seated. If you have the clamp thats great, put it on fret 2 and proceed slowly.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  20. #19
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    the underside of a fret has nibs that catch the wood walls of the slot...once that relationship is compromised, no amount of clamping is a guaranteed permanent cure...another temp/humidity change can have that fret popped again in no time


    if you are wary of adjusting trussrods, you shouldnt be fooling with frets

    cheers

  21. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman View Post
    You are correct. I would not be removing any metal until I was certain fret was seated. If you have the clamp thats great, put it on fret 2 and proceed slowly.

    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
    Absolutely. I'm not totally ignorant here, but fret work I've done in the past was a no-brainer as to what needed to be done. This case was more delicate, so I sought the brain-trust here.

    I do understand the protocol, but thanks all the same for reminding me. Never hurts. Checklists exist for a reason, right? Check.

    I'm going to get some strong lighting and magnification and really examine that fret-end before I do anything else.
    Peculiar Fret Buzz-img_0113-jpg
    Attached Images Attached Images Peculiar Fret Buzz-img_0113-jpg 
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  22. #21
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    My first check would be the relief. That can be affected by humidity and temperature. Before doing anything, check the relief and make sure it's adequate. You don't need much, but make sure the string, when fretted (capo'd, easier) at the first and 14th frets, assuming the neck is attached at the 14th fret, use whichever is at the body end) doesn't touch any frets in between. Too much tension on the truss rod often bows the neck back, and often at the lower frets, from 1 to 5. Backing off on the truss rod just a little is often all that's needed. I just went through that on one of my guitars - it suddenly started buzzing on the lower frets, IIRC 2 to 5 or so. About an eighth of a turn of the truss rod nut fixed that. I would never start doing difficult things before I knew it was necessary, and had already tried the easy stuff.

  23. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    Absolutely. I'm not totally ignorant here, but fret work I've done in the past was a no-brainer as to what needed to be done. This case was more delicate, so I sought the brain-trust here.

    I do understand the protocol, but thanks all the same for reminding me. Never hurts. Checklists exist for a reason, right? Check.

    I'm going to get some strong lighting and magnification and really examine that fret-end before I do anything else.
    Peculiar Fret Buzz-img_0113-jpg
    Lawson,
    Never doubted your intelligence or knowledge base - that speaks for itself . Good luck with your efforts . Im confident you will solve the buzz.


    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk

  24. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by QAman View Post
    Lawson,
    Never doubted your intelligence or knowledge base - that speaks for itself . Good luck with your efforts . Im confident you will solve the buzz.


    Sent from my GT-N5110 using Tapatalk
    I know, but we often forget (I do anyhow) that others really don't know what we can do, and so an excess of caution is never to be despised. I'm going to take this very slowly. I've never worked on frets on a guitar that cost more than $400, so I'm going the least invasive, most reversible route possible.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  25. #24
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    If you think the fret has lifted there will be some evidence of this. If the fret has lifted there will be a gap between the board and the fret. Can a piece of paper slide under the fret? A fret that wont stay seated will have to be glued in or replaced.

  26. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    I don't understand why shimming the nut would help. I'm talking about fretting a note on the first fret and having the string buzzing on the second fret. The nut would have nothing to do with that, would it?
    Sorry - my bad - should have read your post more carefully....
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  27. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOMMO View Post
    Sorry - my bad - should have read your post more carefully....
    No problem; I over-reacted. You were just trying to be helpful. That counts!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

  28. #27
    I once had an annoying string buzz which made no sense and it went away when I put a new string on.

    I think the old string had got a bit tarnished and maybe a bit worn where it went over certain frets, so it was uneven and vibrated 'out of kilter' if that makes sense, just enough to buzz on a fret somewhere.

    The new string vibrated 'true' and didn't buzz.

  29. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    No problem; I over-reacted. You were just trying to be helpful. That counts!
    You didn't over-react - no worries...
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A long journey starts with the first step...and although I have long forgotten about my destination I'm still enjoying the journey.

  30. #29
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    Buzzes can happen if the windings get loose, and the core vibrates inside the windings slightly differently. This is one of the main reasons for using hex cores, it helps prevent the windings from loosening. But since they aren't 'traditional' some people avoid them, so some manufacturers still offer round cores. I tend to avoid those. YMMV.

  31. #30
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    So friends, the truss-rod tweak solved it. About 1/8 or a hair more and all's well. I can't feel any difference in the action or playability, notched rule still shows the fretboard dead-straight, so this must have been a matter of a couple thousandths of an inch.

    Thanks for all the kind advice!
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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    IME it doesn't take much if you already have a good setup. I've had to tweak a couple of my truss rods in the past few days. The humidity has been so high that some doors are swelling and becoming tight. Guitar necks can only absorb moisture from one side, if finished normally, since the finish won't let moisture through but the fretboard will. Thus they tend to bow backwards as the moisture gets into the fretboard. If you have your action very low, and I keep it as low as I can without buzzing, then you will need to adjust the trussrod every now and then as the weather changes. I've had to adjust a Benedetto, a tele clone, and the Wu lately. None of them required much more than an eighth of a turn, but that small adjustment certainly made a difference.

  33. #32
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    One small step at a time is a good way to solve problems like this. Glad it's OK now!

  34. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell View Post
    IME it doesn't take much if you already have a good setup. I've had to tweak a couple of my truss rods in the past few days. The humidity has been so high that some doors are swelling and becoming tight. Guitar necks can only absorb moisture from one side, if finished normally, since the finish won't let moisture through but the fretboard will. Thus they tend to bow backwards as the moisture gets into the fretboard. If you have your action very low, and I keep it as low as I can without buzzing, then you will need to adjust the trussrod every now and then as the weather changes. I've had to adjust a Benedetto, a tele clone, and the Wu lately. None of them required much more than an eighth of a turn, but that small adjustment certainly made a difference.
    I should have known-I had the identical issue with my Epiphone Elitist Broadway a few months back when we got the late summer/fall rains and high humidity: first and second frets started clanking.
    - Lawson
    "Whenever you come near the human race, there's layers and layers of nonsense." - Thornton Wilder, Our Town

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    I love it when a plan comes together!

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    If you're setting the neck to near zero relief (your notched rule showing the fretboard dead-straight) it becomes more difficult to notice when the neck goes back bent, and a little bit of that can be the root cause of your original complaint.

    Can you live with very slight relief? It generally works very well and allows for string excursion without buzz (assuming frets are OK.)
    AND the key thing is with a little relief, it becomes simple to just depress a string at fret 1 and (perhaps) the body joint fret so you can verify the relief has not changed. As opposed to the zero relief scenario, where the string would be touching the frets whether it was zero or went back bent. I know you had the rule tool, but with a little relief set you'd be able to check it on the fly, without fussing with tools.

    If there was a fret issue, and you can localize it, the "fret rocker" technique is OK for confirming location of high spots
    .
    But I hate those cheap sheet steel gizmos the guitar parts places sell, I've taken to using a set of stainless precision dowel pins. These pins are accurate, and make a very solid clack with the smallest amount of uneveness that permits the rocking.
    Bought a few different lengths of the 3/8" diameter pins from Mcmaster for around $3 ea, and they work very well to help chase high spots that need attention. Reset your neck to zero relief with strings off for the fret work.

    Glad it was an easy fix this time, and no frets were shortened as a result!
    John

    Peculiar Fret Buzz-90145a632l-gif

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