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  • fret buzz

    I'm new at guitar- have been taking lessons for a little over a year. I was recently told my guitar was out of whack and I should have new strings and a set-up done. This I did. Now I am getting a fret buzz along the 5th and 6th strings. This doesn't happen all the time, only occasionally. This never happened before. Is it my fingering at fault or a bad set up?

  • #2
    Well, here we go -

    Welcome to the pit of the unplugged.

    Occasional buzzing could mean the neck relief is wrong placing the strings too close close to the board, or a fret wire is raised, or the saddle is too low, or the nut slots for the 5/6 strings are too deep. If the event is occasional then I'd suspect variances in the humidity of your locale are causing the foregoing to occur. If I had to get one of those suspected items checked, and you're happy with the playability of the guitar, I'd get the saddle raised (shimmed) to get some additional height at the bass side over the fret board.
    Last edited by Idunno; 06-22-2014, 12:43 PM.
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    .

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    • #3
      and just to add to the fun, there are a lot of techs and luthiers out there that are less than adequate at their craft... a good set up would have left you with NO buzzing strings (unless you play really hard)... a good tech would make sure the things Idunno mentioned in his poast.. at least my luthier does...
      poast something...

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      • #4
        since I still can't edit from an ipad I will add that should read, a good tech or luthier would have seen to it that the things mentioned by idunno were taken care of in the setup...
        poast something...

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        • #5
          ok, so I need to find a competent tech and have the guitar set up again

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          • #6
            You can also do your own setup. Most of us hereabouts do and we can talk you through it. First thing will be to take some measurements. Measure how high the strings (especially the 1st and 6th but really all six) are above the 12th fret. This is called the "action." Put a capo behind the 1st fret, hold down the low E at the body/neck joint (usually the 14th fret on a steel string guitar), and measure the clearance between the string and the 7th fret (you'll need feeler gauges for this). This is called "relief." Finally, take a credit card, place it on each fret running parallel to the strings, and see if you can rock it. If you can, you have a high fret and it will need to be corrected, either hammered down or filed ("dressed"), a job I don't recommend for beginners (I've been doing setups for years and I still don't do fret work). Bottom line, you might as well do it yourself as to pay someone to do it wrong.
            Last edited by DeepEnd; 06-22-2014, 02:54 PM.
            Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
            Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
            Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
            Person-2-Person on the Web

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            • #7
              Yes. This time go in knowing exactly which fret is buzzing (called "fretting out"). You might find one of the fret wires to be higher than adjacent wires by placing a straight edge on top of the fret wires. One may cause the straight edge to rock (teeter-totter). If they're all the same height then the truss rod may need a slight loosening to give greater relief (bow). Note that the effects of adjusting the truss rod do not yield instantaneous results. The string tension needs a little time to conform (bend) the neck after adjustments are made. You can also Go-Ogle the acoustic guitar string height on the web. I don't keep those numbers in my head but there are standard (ideal) heights for the bass and treble sides, respectively, taken at the 12th fret. I think the numbers are given in 32nds of an inch.
              Last edited by Idunno; 06-22-2014, 02:54 PM.
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              .

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              • #8
                Looks like Idunno and I walked on each other but the "standard" action height is 2/32" on the treble side and 3/32" on the bass side. Personally, I'd hesitate to call those figures "ideal" because that varies with how you play. If you do light fingerpicking, you can have the strings lower than if you bang out Bluegrass. Also, Idunno and I differ in our definition of "fretting out." When I speak of "fretting out," I mean holding a string down will cause the string to come in contact with another string further up the line. If you fret a string and the pitch changes more than it should, this is what's happening. This typically happens on the upper frets, particularly where there is a "hump" at the neck/body joint. Give us enough information and we'll tell you how to do your own setup like a pro.
                Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                Person-2-Person on the Web

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by reichorn View Post
                  ok, so I need to find a competent tech and have the guitar set up again
                  While you're getting good advice from these guys, considering the fact that you're still reportedly a guitar novice, I think you've come up with your own best solution with the above comment. While learning to set up and/or repair your own guitar will eventually come to you, it might be a bit early to attempt these things.

                  It would be interesting to know what kind of guitar you own? I mean no offense, but is it a quality instrument? You might need to look at that aspect of the problem. It might be better to bite the bullet and pick up something a little nicer than attempt to correct issues that are just not fixable considering the instruments build quality. Jus' sayin'...

                  If you want to attempt to do your own tweaks/mods, there are tons of videos on YouTube on setting up guitars and many of them are quite good. Actually watching somebody else do something is better than being "told" how to do it any day.

                  Good luck with your project.
                  _________________
                  Strangers passing in the street
                  By chance two separate glances meet
                  I am you and what I see is me . . .

                  Roger Waters
                  Echoes
                  from the MEDDLE LP

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                  • #10
                    I have a Martin 000X1AE- a Mexican made Martin that is at the low end of their line, but still a decent guitar (I think). I think I may get some proper tools to do the measurements suggested and go from there. In the meantime I'll look for a good tech to give me advice.
                    Thanks to all for the advice.

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                    • #11
                      It's a nice idea to learn how to do basic stuff--or at least take measurements--on principle. You may find all your guitar needs is a minor tweak of some kind. You should also acquaint yourself with the effects of humidity on acoustic guitars: http://www.premierguitar.com/article...ts_Your_Guitar. I'm glad to see you've started on a decent guitar. Assuming it's relatively new, it's unlikely to have significant issues. A lot of the time the suggested solution to any problem more serious than being out of tune is to buy a more expensive guitar.
                      Official HCAG “Theory-Challenged Hack”
                      Member of the IBANEZ ACOUSTIC ASSASSINS
                      Proud Member of The Alvarez Alliance
                      Person-2-Person on the Web

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by DeepEnd View Post
                        .... A lot of the time the suggested solution to any problem more serious than being out of tune is to buy a more expensive guitar.
                        Just to set the record straight. I was not suggesting he buy a new guitar. Only asking for clarification on whether the OP was playing a cheapo. While one person's definition of cheap may obviously be different than another's, my question is why spend time and effort repairing a guitar that is not worth time and effort. That's all. He reported owning a Martin. In my experience, the Mexican Martins are pretty good starters and that cleared up my question. I would not suggest that he replace it unless it suffered some structural breakdown that required cost prohibitive repairs.
                        Last edited by recordingtrack1; 06-24-2014, 12:48 PM.
                        _________________
                        Strangers passing in the street
                        By chance two separate glances meet
                        I am you and what I see is me . . .

                        Roger Waters
                        Echoes
                        from the MEDDLE LP

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by reichorn View Post
                          I'm new at guitar- have been taking lessons for a little over a year. I was recently told my guitar was out of whack and I should have new strings and a set-up done. This I did. Now I am getting a fret buzz along the 5th and 6th strings. This doesn't happen all the time, only occasionally. This never happened before. Is it my fingering at fault or a bad set up?
                          Reichorn, welcome to HCAG. I'm a little late to this party (I've been on the road the past two weeks) but I wanted to add a couple of thoughts to the responses that you've already received.

                          There can be a multitude of reasons that guitars make buzzing sounds - diagnosing it is a matter of eliminating each possibility and then fixing whatever is causing it. I'm going to go thru a bunch of different things to look for and then how to fix them. You said it didn't buzz before the work was done and does now - we can assume that your tech did something but lets just go thru all the steps.

                          First, always make sure the guitar is stable with respect to humidity - if its not, anything you do to it will just have to be redone. Next, make sure there are no structural issues - there shouldn't be with a new guitar, particularly if it didn't buzz before.

                          Now lets see if we can figure out where and why it buzzing. Learning this will eliminate many of the following steps, but I'll list them anyway. Does the guitar buzz when the strings are open (unfretted). If so the cause might be low nut slots (we'll come back to that) or something mechanically loose - tuner nuts, pickguard, possibly a broken brace. A common cause particularly after restring is that the ball ends of the strings are not pulled up tight against the bridge plate - loosen the string, remove the pin and reseat the ball.

                          If the open strings sound OK, then fret each string at each fret and play all the way up the fretboard. I just put the guitar on my work bench and run up the neck, playing each note until I'm above the 14th fret. Does it buzz at one particular fret? Sometimes it will even skip a note in the series. Does it buzz on several frets? If so, which end of the fretboard (near the nut or near the upper end)? Do all strings buzz or just one or two (I know, you said the 5th and 6th but I'm being general).

                          Next, before I do anything else, I like to measure the starting conditions (your tech should have done this but you never know). You will need a few basic tools - a set of automotive feeler gauges, a machinists rule marked in 64th of an inch, the truss rod allen wrench that came with your guitar (probably 5mm for a Martin), a capo. Measure the clearance of each string to the top of the 12th fret - I find that shining a flashlight from the side will help cast a shadow on the machinist rule - write down each the value for each string. If you want, measure each string to the first fret with your feeler gauges - most of the time that isn't the problem but it is part of doing a "setup". Now put the capo on at one and hold the high E down at 14 - measure the clearance between the string and 6th or 7th fret (sometimes it helps to have a helper). Write down everything
                          .
                          Here are Martin's specifications for setup - (different techs may vary slightly):
                          Action at 12th fret - Low E 3/32 minimum, 7-64 max, High E 1/16 min, 5/54 max
                          Nut clearance - Low E 0.018 to 0.024, High E 0.014 to 0.016
                          Relief 0.005 to 0.010.

                          If the guitar buzzed at just one fret take the strings off. Take a short straight piece of metal and try rocking it on that fret (it should be just long enough to span three frets - a couple of inches). If it rocks on a fret look carefully - is there a gap between the fret and board? The fret is held in place by little metal tangs - sometimes they pop up slightly. If so try tapping it down with a plastic faced hammer. Sometimes you have to wick a little CA glue in from the end to hold it down.

                          If the fret is high and seems to be all the way down it needs to be leveled and crowned. This takes special tools - best to take it to someone who can do if for you (or let me know, I can do a tutorial on crowing frets).

                          If it buzzes on several frets and none of them seem to be high then it can be too much or too little relief. The general rule is that if it buzzes in the first few frets you probably need a little more relief, if it buzzes at the upper end of the board you need less. With the strings on, loosen the middle two so you can get your allen wrench into the adjuster (its inside the soundhole - you will have to reach up in side). Tightening the adjuster removes relief (righty-tighty), loosening it put more in. Go no more that one eighth of a turn at a time - it is very sensitive - then tune up the strings and measure. You are shooting for that 0.005 to 0.010 range (I prefer to be closer to 0.005). Adjusting the relief WILL change the action but that is not what the truss rod is there for - set the relief first, then go on to the action.

                          Now remeasure the action at the 12th fret. If it is too high you can remove the saddle and sand a little off the bottom - calculate how much you want to lower it and remove twice that from the bottom of the saddle (I do it in small steps and measure each time). If the action is too low you can shim the saddle with a piece of hard wood or plastic but your guitar has a transducer - better to buy or make a new saddle.

                          Lastly, you can check the nut slots either with feeler gauges or simply by tapping each string over the first fret - you should hear a little "ping". Working on a nut requires some special tools - if it is too low you are best to have a pro make you a new one. Same with lowering the action at the nut - it takes special files and a certain amount of knowledge to get it right - fortunately the factory nut is usually OK or a hair high.

                          Those are the main components to a good "setup". When done I like to write down all the final settings and date it - that way you will know if anything changes. You can vary things slightly - if you strum hard you might want the action slightly high and a bit more relief, if you are a delicate fingerstyle player you can set it on the low side. A good tech should take all this into consideration when she does the work for you, unfortunately many don't (and many don't even know how to do all the steps). Go thru the above, report back what you find and let us know if we can help further. Its not rocket science but needs to be done carefully - the results are a sweet playing buzz free guitar that will be a joy to play.

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                          • #14
                            I'll add two more things to my long winded discussion above that you can do without any tools. A quick and dirty way to check you neck relief is put the capo on the first fret, hold down a string at 14 and tap it over 5, 6, 7, and 8. If you get a nice little "ping" sound you at least have some relief. Then try sliding a business card under the string at 7 - it should be a tight fit (a typical business card is about 0.010 thick). If it is loose or you can put two cards under the string you have too much relief.

                            And to check for high frets move up each string fretting at each fret and tapping over the next fret. Again, you want a nice little metallic ping - that tells you that you have some clearance and it should not buzz. No ping, probably a high fret or not enough relief.

                            Here is a handy little graphic of relief - you need some to allow the envelop of the vibrating string to not hit the fretboard, but too much and it will hit near the neck to body joint.

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