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FAQ: Guitar fret Buzz?


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A:  If you pluck a string, either open or fretted, and receive a complimentary zingy, buzzing sound with your note, you've encountered guitar fret buzz.  Fret Buzz occur when your strings vibrate against the fretboard when plucked.  It's an undesirable effect that we want to get rid of as quickly as possible. 

When buying a new guitar, this is one of the first things you should check for - play different strings on different frets and listen for buzzes.  If fret buzz develops at a later stage on a guitar you've been playing for a while, here are a few things you can do to sort it out:

Tune - Use an electronic tuner to ensure that your strings are tuned properly.  If your strings are tuned too flat, its tension is automatically lower which means it can vibrate against the fretboard.  An electronic tuner will ensure that your strings are not too loose and eliminate possible fret buzz from this cause.
Replace strings - If your strings are old, or if you're still playing on the same strings your guitar shipped with, replacing the strings with a new set might solve your fret buzz problem.  Older strings have less recoil in them (especially if they are corroded), and can cause bad intonation and guitar fret buzz.
Action - The distance between the strings and the fretboard is called 'action'.  The higher the action, the more difficult to fret strings properly.  We therefore want to get the action as low as possible without causing fret buzz.

If the action on your guitar is so low that it causes your strings to vibrate against the frets, you need to take your instrument to a reputable music store and have a technician look at your guitar.  Having your instrument set up properly will remove guitar fret buzz and give your guitar a fresh sound.
Adjusting the Truss rod on a Guitar
Adjust guitar neck - One of the most common reasons for fret buzz is an uneven or bent guitar neck.  Hold the guitar horizontally in  front of you, with the neck pointing away from your face  and observe the line of the neck.  Is it aligned parallel  to the strings or does it have a slight bend in one area?  A convex or concave curve in the neck leads to uneven frets.

To fix this, you need to adjust the neck relief.  This can be done by loosening or tightening the truss rod through the nut located on the guitar neck (check picture) or inside the sound hole.  Unless you have the correct Allen key and know what your doing, it might be best to have a guitar technician or luthier do it.  It's a very inexpensive adjustment and can be done in any music store.

Adjusting the Tross rod on a acoustic guitar using an allen key.  This is one of the easiest ways to even your fretboard, but can also damage your neck if done incorrectly, so if you're not sure, rather let a professional do it.
Q: My guitar is making a strange buzzing sound when I pluck the strings.  What's up?
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