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fret buzz

Question:

I have massive buzz problems on the 18th or 19th fret of my Mexican Jazz on all four strings; the higher on the neck I play, the more horrifying it gets.  Installing lower-gauge strings (I went from 45-65-85-105 Fenders to 40-60-80-100 Ken Smiths) seems to have made it worse.  The neck is pretty damn straight and I have no intonation problems whatsoever, and I’d really prefer not to raise the action; I don’t dig in very hard, normally, and my pickups would practically fall out if I raised them any higher.  I know that a little buzz is desirable for that Geddy Lee super-duper-growly tone, but not this much. This leaves me one option, so far as I know: a fret job.  How much would it cost to get that fret shaved down a few thousandths of an inch?  I really need to get this done, as the buzz is coming through a lot when amplified.

Response:

Before you do anything drastic, try some action adjustments first.  You say your neck is "pretty damn straight", but the symptoms you’re describing can be caused by too much neck relief.  If your neck has too much relief, i.e., it bows too much, then fret buzz will tend to occur at the high end of the neck, as you describe.  When there’s too much relief, your strings are high at the head end of the neck, instead of at the bridge end.  Then, to make the action reasonably low, you lower the saddles.  The end result is your neck and strings end up like an archery bow (picture it from the side) — low at both ends and high in the middle.  Therefore, you get buzz at the high frets. Try tightening your truss rod and take out some relief.  You will then have to raise your saddles a bit to keep the same string action.  If it improves the condition at all, tighten the truss rod a little more, raise your saddles a little more to keep the action consistent, and see what happens. It’s definitely worth a shot.  Don’t forget to loosen your strings a little before tightening the rod, and then re-tune again before you check your action. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than fret work.

Response:

The > neck is pretty damn straight and I have no intonation problems > whatsoever, and I’d really prefer not to raise the action

You named the problem right there.  The next should not be straight.  The neck should be slightly bowed.  As you press on a string to be played, it brings the string between your finger(s) and the bridge closer to the frets. This is why most necks of guitars and basses should be slightly bowed to allow for this natural occurrence.  I would recommend adjusting the neck to achieve this bow and trying that out. Tim…

Response:

- Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > Before you do anything drastic, try some action adjustments first.  You say > your neck is "pretty damn straight", but the symptoms you’re describing can > be caused by too much neck relief.  If your neck has too much relief, i.e., > it bows too much, then fret buzz will tend to occur at the high end of the > neck, as you describe.  When there’s too much relief, your strings are high > at the head end of the neck, instead of at the bridge end.  Then, to make > the action reasonably low, you lower the saddles.  The end result is your > neck and strings end up like an archery bow (picture it from the side) — > low at both ends and high in the middle.  Therefore, you get buzz at the > high frets. > Try tightening your truss rod and take out some relief.  You will then have > to raise your saddles a bit to keep the same string action.  If it improves > the condition at all, tighten the truss rod a little more, raise your > saddles a little more to keep the action consistent, and see what happens. > It’s definitely worth a shot.  Don’t forget to loosen your strings a little > before tightening the rod, and then re-tune again before you check your > action. > It’s a lot easier and cheaper than fret work.

Actually, you’re right–there is too much bow.  My roommate, who’s an architecture student, has a super-straightedge that he uses for drawings, and it shows that there is indeed quite a bit of relief.  I’m taking my axe to the mechanical engineering studio today (I was going there anyway to do a class project; no, I’m not that big of a dork), since they’ve got feeler gauges and Allen wrenches of all kinds and wonderful straightedges and just all sorts of good stuff, so hopefully I can finally fix this problem.

Response:

Well, I went and adjusted my truss rod (straightened it…the neck was really bowed), and gave it a good two-thirds of a turn clockwise.  It eliminated much of the buzz, but there’s quite a bit still there on the 18th fret, which indicates a high fret to me–especially considering that I have the saddles raised just about as high as they go. It’s not worth it to get a fret job for a $340 bass, though.  I’ll probably just stay below the 15th fret and get an MTD Grendel or a Warwick Corvette next summer.

Response:

If I’m not mistaken, just as with tuning strings, don’t you have to turn the truss rod past the desired position, and then tighten it back up to the appropriate mark?

– Hide quoted text — Show quoted text -> Well, I went and adjusted my truss rod (straightened it…the neck was > really bowed), and gave it a good two-thirds of a turn clockwise.  It > eliminated much of the buzz, but there’s quite a bit still there on the > 18th fret, which indicates a high fret to me–especially considering > that I have the saddles raised just about as high as they go. > It’s not worth it to get a fret job for a $340 bass, though.  I’ll > probably just stay below the 15th fret and get an MTD Grendel or a > Warwick Corvette next summer.

Response:

That’s what I did, essentially.  I tightened it about a sixth of a turn at a time. – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > If I’m not mistaken, just as with tuning strings, don’t you have to turn the > truss rod past the desired position, and then tighten it back up to the > appropriate mark? > Well, I went and adjusted my truss rod (straightened it…the neck was > really bowed), and gave it a good two-thirds of a turn clockwise.  It > eliminated much of the buzz, but there’s quite a bit still there on the > 18th fret, which indicates a high fret to me–especially considering > that I have the saddles raised just about as high as they go. > It’s not worth it to get a fret job for a $340 bass, though.  I’ll > probably just stay below the 15th fret and get an MTD Grendel or a > Warwick Corvette next summer.

Response:

Was it 1/6?  Or maybe 3/18?

– Hide quoted text — Show quoted text -> That’s what I did, essentially.  I tightened it about a sixth of a turn > at a time. > If I’m not mistaken, just as with tuning strings, don’t you have to turn the > truss rod past the desired position, and then tighten it back up to the > appropriate mark? > > Well, I went and adjusted my truss rod (straightened it…the neck was > > really bowed), and gave it a good two-thirds of a turn clockwise.  It > > eliminated much of the buzz, but there’s quite a bit still there on the > > 18th fret, which indicates a high fret to me–especially considering > > that I have the saddles raised just about as high as they go. > > It’s not worth it to get a fret job for a $340 bass, though.  I’ll > > probably just stay below the 15th fret and get an MTD Grendel or a > > Warwick Corvette next summer.

Response:

Press down on the first fret on your E string at the same time pressing down on your 20th or last fret on your E string.  Look at the top of the 8th fret and the bottom of the E string.  You should be able to slide a credit card between it.  If there is no space, you need some relief.  If there is too much space, you to tighten your trust rod.  Remember when you make neck adjustments to give it about a day to adjust because the wood needs to settle.  Go to www.Fender.com and there is a setup guide somewhere.  I’ve got my Mexi Jazz since January and only had to adjust the neck twice. – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > I have massive buzz problems on the 18th or 19th fret of my Mexican Jazz > on all four strings; the higher on the neck I play, the more horrifying > it gets.  Installing lower-gauge strings (I went from 45-65-85-105 > Fenders to 40-60-80-100 Ken Smiths) seems to have made it worse.  The > neck is pretty damn straight and I have no intonation problems > whatsoever, and I’d really prefer not to raise the action; I don’t dig > in very hard, normally, and my pickups would practically fall out if I > raised them any higher.  I know that a little buzz is desirable for that > Geddy Lee super-duper-growly tone, but not this much. > This leaves me one option, so far as I know: a fret job.  How much would > it cost to get that fret shaved down a few thousandths of an inch?  I > really need to get this done, as the buzz is coming through a lot when > amplified.

Response:

It fits in just perfectly.  I’m not getting any string buzz through the amp anymore, so I’m content. – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > Press down on the first fret on your E string at the same time pressing down > on your 20th or last fret on your E string.  Look at the top of the 8th fret > and the bottom of the E string.  You should be able to slide a credit card > between it.  If there is no space, you need some relief.  If there is too > much space, you to tighten your trust rod.  Remember when you make neck > adjustments to give it about a day to adjust because the wood needs to > settle.  Go to www.Fender.com and there is a setup guide somewhere.  I’ve > got my Mexi Jazz since January and only had to adjust the neck twice.

Response:

You may have a high fret.  However, you might want to try just nudging that truss rod a little more before you start filing.  You got improvement with the adjustment you made so far, so you’re obviously going in the right direction.  Someone else here described the method for checking proper relief — Have you done that?  I press the string at the 1st and 17th fret, then check clearance at the 8th and 9th frets.  Depending on your credit card, I think that thickness may be too much.  Go for 1/32", and if you then have buzz problems at the low end of the neck, come back a little.  Or, just go by ear — you’re essentially trying to balance the neck so it doesn’t buzz at either end, so just take out relief until you just start to get buzz at the low end, then come back a little, regardless of the clearance at the 9th fret.  In fact, considering that less-expensive basses are not going to have consistent quality fretwork, that may be the best approach, rather than counting on numbers and measurement.  Nothing against Mexican J-Basses, I have one, but the fact is you’re working with a less-precise instrument to begin with. When relief set-up can’t get you what you want, then get out the file and go to work on any high frets you find — but be gentle, thousandths of an inch make a difference.

Response:

If the buzz is at the the 18th and 19th frets it’s not likely a neck relief problem. If you have buzz ABOVE the 10th fret or so then it’s an action issue. – First get the neck DEAD STRAIGHT. – Adjust the action where you want it for 12 fret and above (you will get buzz on the lower frets) – Now add some relief to the neck. Just enough to remove the buzzing on the lower frets. Now he said that it is JUST the 18th and 19th frets. If that’s true some minor fret dressing may be in order. A tech should charge very little for this. . . I’ve had them do it for nothing. What you do is take it in for their evaluation not scheduled to be repaired. While they are evaluating it they will either recommend a repair job (for which they will charge you) ot they will make some minor adjustments for which they may not. – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > The > neck is pretty damn straight and I have no intonation problems > whatsoever, and I’d really prefer not to raise the action > You named the problem right there.  The next should not be straight.  The > neck should be slightly bowed.  As you press on a string to be played, it > brings the string between your finger(s) and the bridge closer to the frets. > This is why most necks of guitars and basses should be slightly bowed to > allow for this natural occurrence.  I would recommend adjusting the neck to > achieve this bow and trying that out. > Tim…

Response:

Well, after 24 hours, the neck settled in and is almost perfectly straight. Even though I have the saddles up almost as high as they go, the action is insanely low and I have never felt so comfortable playing my bass before.  It’s no MTD, but other than the thumb-sticking problem from the candy-coated neck, I had no problems peeling off fast, wicked licks.  This is proof of the adage that a cheap bass that has a great setup will feel and play vastly better than a boutique bass with a crappy one.

Response:

>    The neck will also settle after an adjustment is made.  This is why it takes several >minor adjustments over the course of a week or-so to get the action just right. >This type of job should be trusted to a professional.  You can permanently damage your >axe if you don’t know what you’re doing.

It’s not that tough to adjust the truss rod, the string height or the intonation for that matter. The only way you can do damage to your axe is by overtightening the truss rod. If you have buzz you are going to be loosening the truss not tightening. I bit the bullet a year ago on adjusting my own stuff. It’s not rocket science, the amount you have to turn the truss rod to adjust for seasonal changes or new strings is minimal. I gues the point is try it yourself, if it doesn’t seem to be working you can always bring it in to get it adjusted, there won’t be any permanent damage. John

Response:

- Hide quoted text — Show quoted text ->    The neck will also settle after an adjustment is made.  This is why it takes several >minor adjustments over the course of a week or-so to get the action just right. >This type of job should be trusted to a professional.  You can permanently damage your >axe if you don’t know what you’re doing. > It’s not that tough to adjust the truss rod, the string height or the >    The neck will also settle after an adjustment is made.  This is why it takes several >minor adjustments over the course of a week or-so to get the action just right. >This type of job should be trusted to a professional.  You can permanently damage your >axe if you don’t know what you’re doing. > It’s not that tough to adjust the truss rod, the string height or the > intonation for that matter. The only way you can do damage to your axe is > by overtightening the truss rod. If you have buzz you are going to be > loosening the truss not tightening. I bit the bullet a year ago on > adjusting my own stuff. It’s not rocket science, the amount you have to > turn the truss rod to adjust for seasonal changes or new strings is > minimal. I gues the point is try it yourself, if it doesn’t seem to be > working you can always bring it in to get it adjusted, there won’t be any > permanent damage. > John > by overtightening the truss rod. If you have buzz you are going to be > loosening the truss not tightening. I bit the bullet a year ago on > adjusting my own stuff. It’s not rocket science, the amount you have to > turn the truss rod to adjust for seasonal changes or new strings is > minimal. I gues the point is try it yourself, if it doesn’t seem to be > working you can always bring it in to get it adjusted, there won’t be any > permanent damage. > John——-

I came across an article at Harmony Central called ‘How to do your own bass setups’ by john Galt that was an excerpt from The Bottom Line, Issue #133, Feb. 9, 1992. You can find it at: http://harmony-central.mit.edu/Bass/setups.txt Hope this helps! Jay

Response:

hey.  I purchased a Dean bass about four months ago and just changed my strings to 45-100 gauge, I believe ghs bass boomers, one step down from the gauge on it when I bought it.  I took it back to get the neck tension adjusted after putting the lighter strings on, and a week later the frets were buzzing again.           If anyone could tell me what is causing this I would greatly appreciate it.  

Response:

> hey.  I purchased a Dean bass about four months ago and just changed my > strings to 45-100 gauge, I believe ghs bass boomers, one step down from the > gauge on it when I bought it.  I took it back to get the neck tension > adjusted after putting the lighter strings on, and a week later the frets > were buzzing again.   >    If anyone could tell me what is causing this I would greatly > appreciate it.  

     Check your action.  It’s probably set to close to the frets – - too good, in other words.  If so, raise the strings away from the fret- board.  This should work.  If it’s an old bass,  there may be other problems, like warpage or needing to be re-fretted.      Before doing anything, get a second, third, and fourth opinion, however.  Good Luck…..                            -mlh

Response:

> hey.  I purchased a Dean bass about four months ago and just changed my > strings to 45-100 gauge, I believe ghs bass boomers, one step down from the > gauge on it when I bought it.  I took it back to get the neck tension > adjusted after putting the lighter strings on, and a week later the frets > were buzzing again. >       If anyone could tell me what is causing this I would greatly > appreciate it.

    A couple of things could be doing it.  When you change to a different gauge string (lighter) you change the tension on the neck.  Lighter strings – less tension.   As the neck relaxes, the bow in the neck flattens out a little.  If you adjust the truss-rod to correct the neck-bow and the strings are not stretched in first, you will have to continue to make minor adjustments to the truss until it stops.       The neck will also settle after an adjustment is made.  This is why it takes several minor adjustments over the course of a week or-so to get the action just right. This type of job should be trusted to a professional.  You can permanently damage your axe if you don’t know what you’re doing.     Another cause could be fret-wear.  If your frets are pitted they will buzz because the string is hitting the side of the pit when it vibrates.  Have your frets dressed by a pro as well, unless you know what you’re doing.     I’m don’t claim to be an authority on the subject, but I just went through this same problem (changed from Blue Steel medium-lights to DR lights) and this is what my guitar tech told me.   He’s working on it right now, it’ll be about a week!!     Best thing you can do is have someone who knows what their doing take a look at it. Steve Noto – bassist – "Charlie Don’t Surf" http://www.vivanet.com/~dojo "The mental processes behind the way one creates their art is far more important than the level of technical skill." – Derek Tearne –

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can the gauge of my strings affect fret buzz, any suggestions would be appreciated

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Ok, I just baught a Washburn MB-5 today, I noticed that there was alot of fret buzz on the B and E string’s. This problem was cured simply by Re-Adjusting the intonation on these string’s. When you go to a larger gauge string you may find this to be a problem, but easily solved! – Hide quoted text — Show quoted text – > can the gauge of my strings affect fret buzz, any suggestions would be > appreciated

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