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Acoustic Guitar

5 Factors That Could Be Causing Fret Buzz (and How to Fix It)

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Sometimes having the guitar of your dreams that sounds like it came from heaven is simply not enough. Sometimes, you might find yourself in the situation where the strings are buzzing against the frets.

What is fret buzz, you might ask yourself. Shortly, the sound made by a guitar string that is rattling against a fret wire. Usually, this happens when it is played or plucked. This annoying sound can happen on both acoustic and electric guitars and can be quite disruptive and unpleasing to your ear.

You must also know that the “buzzing” takes place upwards on the guitar neck, around the 9th and 10th fret. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other places as well. When the strings vibrate into the fret that is standing next to what you are playing, and not vibrating over it, you can hear the dreaded fret buzz – the sound of metal on metal. Your guitar strap shouldn’t be part of the issue, but being comfortable is always a priority.

Here are seven factors that can cause fret buzz. Some of these you probably know but some are a little less known.

1. Improper Technique

In many cases, it is not the guitar’s fault, but the guitarist’s. That may happen if you don’t press the strings down hard enough, or you fret too far behind the intended fret. Don’t let this frustrate you too much because it’s the thing that is the cheapest to fix. Another aspect to your technique that could be causing fret buzz is not placing your fingers properly. If you play too close to the end of the fret for example, the strings won’t have enough room to vibrate as they should, causing the next fret to vibrate and resulting in fret buzz. To prevent that, you should try and place your fingers somewhere in the middle.

2. Warped Guitar Neck

Guitars have a natural curve that facilitates optimum tension of the strings, but sometimes the neck can warp. If the neck has begun tilting on itself, some strings might begin to buzz. You can verify this by looking at the neck of the guitar, towards its bridge, and if you don’t see a flat surface, but a curved one, then you need to have the truss rod adjusted. The neck also might need to be repaired. If the neck needs repaired or you are un-comfortable making truss rod adjustments, it is best to take your guitar to a luthier or person that knows how to repair guitars.

3. The Action is Too Low

One of the most common causes of fret buzz is that the action is set too low. Every bridge has height adjustment set screws and it only takes a few turns to get your action raised. Try baby steps (quarter to half turns) and catch the point where the buzzing stops. You can also try looking straight down the fretboard towards the body of the guitar and if the bridge seems to be a bit uneven, then simply adjust the string heights to even out the action.

4. Improper Adjustment of the Truss Rod

The truss road is the metal pole that goes through the center of the guitar neck and makes the neck hold the proper curvature. If the tension on your truss rod is not correct, and there is a difference in the neck curvature, then the strings might buzz or even snap. If the neck is bowed downward in the shape of a valley the truss rod will need tightened. If it is bowed up in the shape of a hill then it will need loosened.

Remember righty tighty, lefty loosy applies here. Again if you are not familiar with truss rod adjustments we recommend taking your guitar to a luthier or guitar tech. Also remember that tightening it too much can cause the neck of the guitar to crack.

5. Loose Tuning Pegs

Loose tuning pegs can be very hard to find but result in an extremely annoying rattle. This rattle is usually higher pitched than normal fret buzz but can be confused for it. Try checking your tuning machines after every string change to make sure they are tight and not rattling. This is also a good place to start your check if you are having some buzz or rattle.

Fret buzz can be annoying, especially if you are just learning to play the guitar and don’t know what is causing it. With a bit of help and practice, you can stop the strings from buzzing against the frets.

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