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Chasing abnormal fret buzz

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Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby Mark Wybierala » Sat Feb 04, 2017 3:49 pm

Every once in a while I run into situations where I encounter a certain type of fret buzz that is not related to neck or fret geometry. I have truly properly leveled the frets and have enough relief in the neck. Listening carefully, its a unique type of fret buzz. The problem is on the wound strings -- typically worse on the low E. Initially the picked string sounds clear but there is a fret buzz that occurs in about 1/3rd of a second or less after the initial pick -- never upon the initial pick. In this particular case, I'm dealing with a 7-string guitar and the problem is on the low-B and low E-string which is a .060 and a .046. This delayed buzz happens on every fret and the strings are clearly elevated higher than they would normally need to be. I've ruled out the pickups by lowering both of them as far as I can without them falling off the adjustment screws. The bridge is a tunematic style.

I've posted this type of problem before but maybe I might get someone new to read it with a different insight. I suspect that the problem is a result of reflected vibrations from the neck, body or bridge or a conspiracy of multiple issues causing the string to acquire what I would describe as standing waves. Does anyone have any idea how to reduce this problem.
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby David King » Sat Feb 04, 2017 4:27 pm

Is the buzz happening behind the fretted note? I.e. sympathetic vibration between nut and finger i.e. the nut is too low?

Check for a dead flat fret plane from the 12th fret up. Bolt-ons will often have an imperceptible ski jump at the heel that will buzz on every note.

You can always try changing the headstock mass with a C-clamp to see what that does.
I sometimes find that I'll get weird buzzes with brand new strings until I get them perfectly in tune and intonated, then suddenly it all goes away.
My other trick is to slack the strings and the truss rod overnight and then start the setup fresh with the saddles set to their lowest positions.
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby Brian Evans » Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:21 am

What scale length are you using, and what is the action measurement at the 12th fret? What I think is happening is the vibration of the string is normalizing. As you pick it, the string is vibrating more in one plane than any other, but quite quickly it vibrates in a more uniform motion. Anyway, I have heard this before with low action, under-tensioned strings, short scale and aggressive picking (ie, my gibson melody maker with bendy strings and I am playing hard...)
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sun Feb 05, 2017 2:13 pm

In your initial post you said you have checked all the setup issues, such as too low action, too low at the nut, and so on. I'm going to take that as truth.
The buzz happens at all frets?

It could be a loose spring or saddle in the T.O.M. bridge.
It could be a tuner vibrating.

If your nut is not cut correctly, ie: ramped down slightly toward the fret board, strings can buzz there also.
If your nut slot is too deep, the string can buzz against the sides of the slot. There should be almost half the string above the top of the slot.
A slot that is too wide can do the same thing.

It could be bad strings. This is doubtful, but does happen.

There are so many things that can cause a buzz, you have to check them all.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby Mark Wybierala » Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:32 pm

Nice well thought out replys -- I can tell that you're trying to help and thank you. The buzz is coming from the actual fretted string and isn't a sympathetic vibration of something else. I wrapped a rag around the neck over the strings that are below the fretted position and its not the length of string below the fretted note. The buzz is coming from the string. On some electric guitars you can put the action so low that the guitar sounds terrible acoustically but because of the players style, you don't hear the buzzy/tinny noise when amplified. This type of buzz is clearly heard through the amplifier. I put a big clamp on the headstock and the amount of buzz is reduced and changed. The scale length is 25.5. Open strings ring clear. The nut slots are well refined. This guitar has a tilted back headstock with 7-in-line tuners like an Ibanez RG. I removed and inspected the TOM bridge and despite it being an inexpensive guitar, the bridge and saddles are quite solid. The strings are anchored via a string-though the body with no tailpiece. I removed the neck and inspected the neck pocket making sure that the through-the-body holes for the neck bolts were large enough to not prematurely cause the screws to bind before they pull the neck in secure. I replaced the strings with another brand of string and there is no change. --I've seen defective strings do odd things also.
I've seen this exact behavior a number of times before. I really don't think that there's anything that can be done but I'd really like to understand the issue. I wish there was some way to visually record the action of the string and watch it in slow motion.
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby Bob Gramann » Mon Feb 06, 2017 5:40 pm

There is a way to record for slow motion if you have an iPhone 6 or later. I don't know about Android phones. When you being up "camera" on the phone, slow motion is one of your choices along with "square," "photo," and others.

I know you've been thorough, but check your relief and try increasing that if it's small. Sometimes, I can get lower buzz free action overall when the relief is larger than I usually set it. Someday, I'll understand why some guitars need more relief than others when every thing else seems to be equal.
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Re: Chasing abnormal fret buzz

Postby David King » Tue Feb 07, 2017 1:54 am

A strobe light will also show you how the string is moving. There may even be a strobe app for phones that will let you let you advance and retard the phase.
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