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Frettbuzz because of the weather???


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I just got one of my neck-thru guitars professionally set up. Initially it had some serious fretbuzz due to uneven frets, but after it left the music store, it played PERFECTLY. The action is as low as it can get without any fretbuzz through the amp.

 

All of a sudden I pick up this guitar a week later, and it's unplayable! There's fretbuzz in just about all the open strings.

If I press on the first fret, there's no sound coming through. All I hear is buzz.

 

Could the neck have moved? If so, how should I fix it safely? I'm not too keen on taking it back to the guitar tech again.

My other guitars seem to be fine.

 

It's coming to the end of winter where I am, although it was ridiculously cold in the room the past weeks. My heater (far away from the guitar) is turned on everytime I'm in the room.

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I would take it back to where you got it setup. I don't think that would be unreasonable.

 

For me, I notice a change in my guitars as the seasons change - almost to the day. Sometimes they suddenly become unplayable and need adjustment.

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Well, weather conditions certainly effect the materials of the guitar but that is more likely to play tricks on the tuning. Wood contracts and expands at a far greater rate than the metal of the frets so, for example, one may notice sharp fret ends in the winter time; the wood has contracted more dramatically than the fret material. But, if all of the frets were level in relation to each other than the only reason the guitar's setup would go haywire would be if there was uneven contraction along the neck.

 

To eliminate weather as a factor keep the room the guitar sits in at a steady temperature at all times. Fret buzz from frets 1 through 12 needs truss rod adjustment while buzz from frets 12 and up needs bridge height adjustment. Theoretically if it's cold in the room the wood would be stiffer and there could be less bow in the neck, resulting in a straight neck and therefore not enough relief for the strings to move without buzzing on the frets.

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I would take it back to where you got it setup. I don't think that would be unreasonable.

If I could avoid that, it would be much desirable since it's quite a drive to get there. Also, my previous repair was for my wiring issue and uneven frets, he didn't touch anything else. Hence, it would count as a new repair :(

 

 

 

I did a bit of read up on threads relating to the same problem. Apparently, if the weather stabilises, the guitar should fix itself? I could probably use my heater more often I guess....

 

I know this sounds ironic, but in my years of playing guitar, I've never ever touched a trussrod before. (sooner or later I'll have to learn how to fiddle with it eventually)

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I have a Squier Strat where winter is the enemy. For the past 3 years when the heater is turned on the fretboard dries out and the neck and becomes a sawfish that can and will cut through flesh.No amount of oil helps. I file the ends flush so it is playable and the next year it needs filing again.This will make winter number 4. If I have to file it again the neck will be replaced and become a club or wall art.

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Well it's really easy (and more importantly, safe) to check if it's the truss rod which it sounds like to me.

 

Press down on the first fret (actually a capo or helper monkey works well). While holding that fret down (I usually do the D or G string) press down the last fret. What we are doing here is making a straight edge to check the relief. Relief is the amount of bow in the neck and you almost always want just a little bit to counteract the pull of the strings on the neck. Anyway at around the 7th fret there should be enough room between that fret and the string to fit a business card in there. If it is hitting then you don't have enough relief and need to loosen the truss rod. If there is a huge gap then you've got too much and need to tighten it.

 

Don't adjust anything and report back here just in case something funky is going on. The main thing that would worry me is that you said it's only the open strings which is usually a nut related issue (could be truss rod I suppose). If the nut slots are too low then it will buzz, but the fretted notes will be fine. If it's in the first 5 or so fret positions it's usually the truss rod. If it's in the upper register (say about 12th fret and higher) it's usually the truss rod too, just different direction.

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Did you change strings?

A change in gauges or string manufacturer will change the tension on the neck and cause buzzing.

It would most likely be theres less stress on the neck. Loosening the truss slightly will fix it.

Just be sure to scribe the truss nut at say 12:00 or 6:00 before tweaking it.

This will allow you to get the exact same tension back and dont loosen it more than 1/4 turn.

You're likely only going to need 1/8 turn from maybe 12:00 to 11:00 to fix it.

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Humidity is the most likely culprit. Changes in humidity cause wood to swell or shrink, which in turn changes the tension on the trussrod.

 

In winters where you stay below freezing for extended periods, humidity levels drop sharply. Some houses have humidifiers in their HVAC to help combat this problem, but I've seen relative humidity readings as low as 25% - and this will play havoc with any wooden instrument (and cause hardwood floors and cabinets to separate and/or crack).

 

In summer, the exact opposite can happen - I saw over 70% in my house last week (forgot to run the dehumidifier:facepalm:).

 

Here's the issue - if the shop where your guitar was set has a radically different humidity than you house/apartment, the neck will change when you bring the guitar home. There's nothing the tech can do about that except to do the work at your house.

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Thank you guys so much for your responses!

 

Humidity is the most likely culprit. Changes in humidity cause wood to swell or shrink, which in turn changes the tension on the trussrod.

I'm not too sure if that applies to my situation though. I've got a few of those disposable de-humidifiers in the room which aren't even full yet.

Also, I live in Sydney so the winters aren't even that extreme

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Humidity is the most likely culprit. Changes in humidity cause wood to swell or shrink, which in turn changes the tension on the trussrod.


In winters where you stay below freezing for extended periods, humidity levels drop sharply. Some houses have humidifiers in their HVAC to help combat this problem, but I've seen relative humidity readings as low as 25% - and this will play havoc with any wooden instrument (and cause hardwood floors and cabinets to separate and/or crack).


In summer, the exact opposite can happen - I saw over 70% in my house last week (forgot to run the dehumidifier:facepalm:).


Here's the issue - if the shop where your guitar was set has a radically different humidity than you house/apartment, the neck will change when you bring the guitar home. There's nothing the tech can do about that except to do the work at your house.

 

Good theory and many do believe it but it just isnt true.

Humidity does not penitrate a finished neck nor a rosewood fretboard that has natureal oils and fretboard oil applied.

It also wouldnt happen very quickly, it takes many months to change the humidity level in raw wood from the air alone.

 

What causes neck movement is all temp changes, not humidity. Most homes maintain a regular humidity level with AC or heating.

What causes relief changes is The steel truss rod and the wood contract at different temps

and will cause backbow when its cool and forward bow when its warm.

Warm expands steel lengthing the rod, cold contracts steel tightening the rod. Thats it for the most part.

 

The other items of course are the pull of the strings. String guage changes is a biggie.

 

The other which many dont realize is the number of string turns on the tuners will have an effect on thinner necks.

Ever change strings, and they play real good right after changing them then you pick up the guitar a few days later to find things screwey?

 

Heres the reason.

Its all about the string breakaway angle from the nut to tuning post having tension on the neck.

You will have less pull on the truss with only one turn on the tuners vs wrapping several turns on the posts.

The greater the breakaway angle, the more downward pressure on the nut.

(up to a point where there is no more downward force applied as you get closer to a 90 degree angle)

 

I learned many decades ago, if you dont want truss shifting, first, replace only one string at a time.

Releasing all pressure by removing all strings will cause a complete settling to occur.

Second measure the string length before you pass it into the post hole.

 

I use a simple method depending on the guitar type.

For say a Tele, I start with the low E string.

 

I hold the string out tightly past the 6th tuning post.

I measure the length off with my thumb and 1st finger using the 4th tuning post as a measurement.

When I go to the 5th string, I measure off the length of three tuning posts. Since the string diameter

is thinner, it takes more wraps to get the same distance down the post as its wrapped.

 

I add the length of 1 post for each string as I go up in gauge and It seems to work fine

for having even tension on the nut from all strings. The top two strings on a Tele have a string tree

so measuring off the length isnt critical for the angle, but it does make for a longer life stretching strings in.

 

On a Les Paul headstock I have to use different string length but the method is simular. The goal is to use a consistant method

whatever it may be so you have the strings wrapped down the tuning post equally between string changes so you dont have

to tweak the truss every string change.

 

This "is" mainly for thinner necks that are sensitive to tension changes.

Boat necks may see much less stress from the strings and may not change however you wrap the posts.

 

With a guitar setup dead on with the correct truss tension, When you snap a string and the others will go up in pitch when one breaks.

The neck also tends to flatten at the same time. Thats normal for most guitars (I'm ruling out a floating trem where this is much more extreme)

 

Once you have a consistant string wrap method, stick with it religiously. You'll find all your truss tweaking come to an end.

 

Even with necks that don't move much, having even string height from the headstock to the bottom of the string wrapped on the post

you'll find you have a much more consistant feel and tone from the strings.

especially in the lower registers where that tension is apparent close to the other side of the nut.

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There should be a small gap in there at the 5-7th fret which is good...I suppose. I mean it doesn't explain what's going on though. It is a bit on the tight side for my preferences, but relief is more a personal thing because it changes the way the guitar feels and everyone has a bit of a different opinion and taste.

 

Adjusting the truss rod isn't rocket science, it's just like a screw, you loosen it to loosen the tension that is fighting against the string pressure. Turn it the other way and it straightens the neck out more. There should be a little bit of a bow in there which is what we were measuring with the credit card.

 

Personally I would go ahead and loosen it about 1/4-1/2 a turn and let it sit for about an hour to see if it helps.

 

A quick test is to fret a chord near the headstock, play it to where it gets some buzz and then push the headstock away, almost like you're trying to fold it towards the front of the guitar (don't go apeshit here ;)). This will simulate a bit more relief. If the buzz goes away or lessens I'd wager that it just needs a truss rod tweak.

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I did what you suggested by placing a capo on the first fret and pressing down on the last fret. I'm not sure what you meant by fitting a business card in there because it doesn't slide through just by itself, but it does if I exert some force.

I can't really see anything on the middle strings, but from fretting it, I can see a tiny gap in around the 5th - 6th fret on the sixth string. Does that confirm the neck has moved?

the card should slide thru easily, just barely touching the 7th fret and the string that you're fretting. hopefully a gap similar to the space you see with the 6th string (sounds like you've got decent relief there...). try sighting down the neck and check 6th string side against 1st string side for any glaring differences (use string as reference). do all the strings buzz, or just some of them? if all buzz, and there's "business card" relief on all strings @ 7th fret, try raising bridge by 1/4 turns (side that buzzes or both sides). it's usually better to gain clearance by loosening truss a little and raising action a little rather then doing it all with just one or the other.

if you end up adjusting truss (card doesn't slide easily), let neck "settle" for at least a couple of hours before checking it and readjusting. loosening truss will increase the relief (string tension bows neck), tightening will decrease relief (back bow). loosen strings before tightening truss tho. no more (probably less) than 1/4 turn each adjustment.

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You just need to make little bit of a truss rod adjustment to add some relief. It doesn't take much for the action to get tweaked due to environmental changes when your guitar is set up for extreme low action. You just need to adjust the truss rod according to how the action was affected.

 

If you're experiencing buzzing and/or dead action, add relief. If the action is noticeably higher then you normally like, take away relief by flattening the fretboard a bit. You should not have to adjust anything else to compensate for changes caused by weather. You should just get used to making these adjustments yourself if you like your action set very low.

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Here's some sites with some info that I've used over the years. It isn't always as cut and dry as they make it seem so it's a matter of gathering as much info as possible and just nuking it. I do think that this is going to be simple since it was playing great before the weather change though. I have to re adjust mine at least twice a year on just about every guitar with a mahogany neck.

 

http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Technique/Setup/BuzzDiagnosis/buzzintro.html Specifically this page: http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/Luthier/Technique/Setup/BuzzDiagnosis/Relief/relief.html

 

http://www.projectguitar.com/tut/trussadjust.htm

 

http://mysite.verizon.net/jazz.guitar/guitarsetup.htm#Truss%20Rod%20Adjustment

 

http://www.fretnotguitarrepair.com/repair/acoustic-guitar/buzzing.php

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Thanks everyone for the responses and links.

 

A quick test is to fret a chord near the headstock, play it to where it gets some buzz and then push the headstock away, almost like you're trying to fold it towards the front of the guitar (don't go apeshit here
;)
). This will simulate a bit more relief. If the buzz goes away or lessens I'd wager that it just needs a truss rod tweak.

Yes that works pretty well! It's a little hard for me to test it properly without 3 hands to fret a note, so I just tested it with open strings.

Pushing the headstock forward towards the front of the body does reduce the string buzz a little.

 

So I'll probably do some truss rod adjustments and report back after a few hours.

 

 

Just to the MAKE SURE I don't do anything rash here. Please correct me if what I'm about to do is wrong:

1) Remove all three screws on headstock

 

2) Use hex key and turn counter-clockwise. 12 o'clock - 9 o'clock ?

(Did you guys mean 1/4 turn? One of the links actually suggested 1/10 turns at a time)

 

3) Wait for a couple of hours and test the guitar

 

 

:lol:

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As long as you keep track of how far you've turned it you can always go back. The only thing that can go bad is if it's absolutely not willing to move and you have the wrong size and strip it out a bit. People talk about breaking truss rods and stuff, but if you're backing off of it I would have to say that it's impossible since you're reducing tension. When people have a neck that is bowed inwards and there isn't enough truss rod to straighten it out properly and start cranking on it is when they run into trouble. You don't have this issue.

 

But 1/10th of a turn isn't going to do anything IMHO. 1/4 is a good start or you'll be there for the next week. ;)

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Humidity and temperature can cause changes in neck relief which is what I suspect in your case. Mahogany seems to be more susceptible than maple. I have two almost identical necks made by the same manufacturer. One is maple and one is mahogany. I need to make a seasonal adjustment in the mahogany neck and not the maple neck.

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Bad news! It's been almost half a day already and that 1/4th counter-clockwise turn didn't make a difference!


Should I go 1/2 ? I'm not sure what to do now...

Yes, go another 1/4 turn and leave the strings loose overnite. You're correct by going slow.

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Bad news! It's been almost half a day already and that 1/4th counter-clockwise turn didn't make a difference!


Should I go 1/2 ? I'm not sure what to do now...

 

You may need to apply a little persuasion when adding relief similar in manner to what Ashasha mentioned earlier about checking relief. It's possible that you may be able to back the nut off entirely without the neck moving at all. That's what happens with my SG. With that guitar I just back the nut off until it turns freely, then I make the neck move and then tighten the nut to get the relief that I want.

 

You could end up waiting forever for the thing to move if it's going to be extremely stubborn. Even if you go so far as to put on a heavier set of strings in an attempt to make it move, it still might not move anytime soon. Sometimes you have to use the force.

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You may need to apply a little persuasion when adding relief similar in manner to what Ashasha mentioned earlier about checking relief. It's possible that you may be able to back the nut off entirely without the neck moving at all. That's what happens with my SG. With that guitar I just back the nut off until it turns freely, then I
make
the neck move and then tighten the nut to get the relief that I want.


You could end up waiting forever for the thing to move if it's going to be extremely stubborn. Even if you go so far as to put on a heavier set of strings in an attempt to make it move, it still might not move anytime soon. Sometimes you have to use the force.

Yeah, Dan Erlewine 'helps' necks along all the time. The neck is strong, unless you stand on it or something you aren't going to hurt it most of the time. I believe it's called persuasion.

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When I lived in SoCal my setups were always pretty stable. There might be a few weeks in the winter when there were some minor issues but nothing that required a new setup. Besides, in SoCal there's really nothing you could call truly a winter anyway.

 

Once I moved to the midwest it was a whole new ballgame. I found I needed a setup for winter and another again in spring. That wasn't so bad when I just had 3 or 4 guitars. Now I've got 25. No worries though as we also have a baby grand piano and that requires we run AC in the summer and a humidifier in the winter. Stability has been restored! Once I setup a guitar now, it stays setup.

 

AC in summer. Humidifier in winter.

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Mahogany seems to be more susceptible than maple.

Not in my case though. My guitar is actually neck-thru with maple neck.

 

Alright I just did another 1/4 counter-clockwise turn. I'll report back in another couple of hours.

 

 

Again, thanks guys so much for helping out!

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Okay it's been over 5 hours with normal string tension and the buzz still isn't fixed!

So far, I've already done a 1/2 counter-clockwise turn in total. I'm not too sure if the buzz on the first few frets has improved or not, but it's still there.

 

I'm not exactly sure which frets are buzz-free, but any of the frets from the 12th fret towards the body is 100% clean!

 

 

What should I do now? :(

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