It's Fret Buzz!
July 21, 2012 2:57 PM   Subscribe

How to get rid of that annoying Fret Buzz. Lots of serious technical information on fixing your guitar, combined with a dash of silly humor. (SLYT)
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium (24 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Fizz at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2012

Too bad buying some nut files will help you get rid of that annoying $150.....if you are lucky, though, you won't need to fool with that.
posted by thelonius at 3:16 PM on July 21, 2012

Kept stringing me along. About halfway through I was ready to ring his neck.
posted by hal9k at 3:20 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I liked Buzz, but there is a No Buzz version just under the video--just click on it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:22 PM on July 21, 2012

I'd rather slot the bridge and use unslotted pins if you're going to go to the trouble of shimming the bridge plage (which is probably unnecesary on a guitar that new unless it's been abused). It's much better for the long-term health of the bridge plate and soundboard. At hte minimum, replace the plastic pins with bone or something harder that doesn't deform.
posted by jimmythefish at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Let's make that a little clearer.

posted by charlie don't surf at 3:41 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

After watching the full NON-ANNOYING video, I'm not sure I trust my local guitar shop to do something like this. I'm not sure I'd trust THIS guy to work on my guitar. I think something is missing here. My understanding is that the truss rod has rotational tension on it, to make the neck bend asymmetrically, to compensate for bad intonation in tempered tuning. In other words, a guitar has straight frets that are a compromise, a tempered tuning that is mostly in tune over the widest spectrum of notes, but is a bit off tune on some notes. So the neck has a slight twist to put the higher strings back in tune. Maybe I misunderstand that, I don't mess with guitar repairs. Anyway, I would have liked to see a look straight down the neck from the top, before and after the truss rod adjustment. Wouldn't loosening the rod reduce the neck curvature, and mess up the intonation? Is this guy reducing buzz at the cost of intonation?
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:58 PM on July 21, 2012

So the neck has a slight twist to put the higher strings back in tune

charlie, intonation has really nothing to do with a truss rod adjustment. Truss rods are there to adjust what's called the neck relief - the relief between the neck and the strings. If the strings are too close to the frets, they buzz against them when they vibrate. Strings need some room to vibrate - the 'bow' that's in the shape of the neck as it extends towards the nut is there to allow this. You can get fret buzz from a neck that is too tight and pulled down relative to the bridge/soundboard such that there is not enough relief. This can change over the course of a year due to changes in humidity etc. so modern guitars have adjustable truss rods - this wasn't always the case and necks were built stiffer and/or players had different saddles depending on the time of the year to compensate for this change in relief. I recently gave my D28 a quarter turn to adjust for some buzz over the winter and it did exactly what I wanted it to do.

Typically you shouldn't need to adjust a truss rod except to compensate for a seasonal change. It's OK to do it to a guitar you're servicing because there's no way of knowing if it's been adjusted in the past (most people don't even know what a truss rod is, let alone adjust it). The better thing to do is to make sure the soundboard/bridge/nut situation is fine before fiddling with the truss rod. On most new guitars there is plenty of nut and saddle left so a truss rod adjustment is all that is necessary, but older guitars which may need a neck reset can often limp along with new saddle/nut work for a while and can be harder to set up (and also are probably old enough that they don't have an adjustable truss rod anyways - Martin didn't start putting them in until the early 80s).
posted by jimmythefish at 4:43 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Perfect timing as I am facing this ish myself and this looks like the most complete treatment I've seen.
posted by telstar at 4:57 PM on July 21, 2012

The main idea with truss rod adjustments is to make small ones - a quarter turn at most. If that seems to be ineffective, off you go to a specialist.
posted by thelonius at 5:28 PM on July 21, 2012

A bridge plate is not just protection for the top, it's a brace to be considered with the whole bracing system of the top. Most, if not all, of the serious builders I know use a bridge plate. They may differ in how it's applied, but they all use one. It has nothing to do with abuse of the top, though that is a side benefit. I do agree that the holes should be slotted, and not the bridge pins, you'll get better performance from your guitar that way.

As to the truss rod. it really does need to be set by someone that knows what they're doing. Just wanking around with it and seeing what it does isn't the way to adjust it. You need to use a straightedge, and actually measure what's happening. Serious guitarists who can't keep their guitars properly humidified in the case, and have to deal with extreme seasonal changes either have two saddles, one for summer and one for winter, or they have an adjustable neck angle. String tension is going to be the same, as is the stiffness of the neck as well. The nut slot is the same, and fret dressing is going to be the same. Those are all things which will affect truss rod adjustment. What changes with humidity is the dome of the top. (Yes, the top is domed in spite of being called a "flat top". At building time it's usually in the 20-25 foot radius, but varies by builder.) The top expands and contracts with humidity. Since the outside edge is fixed, the top domes more or less with humidity. That raises and lowers the bridge creating the need for different saddles, or adjusting the neck angle.

The acoustic guitar seems simple, but it's a complex system. Getting the best performance from it takes some knowledge. If you have a 200 dollar plywood guitar, it's not really that great of a loss when you screw it up beyond recognition. It's a different story with that 2000 dollar or more custom job. Don't spend big bucks on a guitar, and cheap out on set-up. Hiring a proper luthier is cheap considering everything.
posted by Eekacat at 6:06 PM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Interesting to compare the video with this article on acoustic guitar setup.

Both make me want to leave it to someone who knows what they are doing.
posted by motty at 6:15 PM on July 21, 2012

Thanks, jimmy. Due to some recent posts on MeFi, I have been really geeking out about guitars and I'm practicing a lot more. But now I wonder what this twist is all about. I looked down the neck of my '76 Les Paul Deluxe, from the nut to the bridge, and it looks like there is a very slight twist. I poked around the net and found a lot of amateur, conflicting advice about neck twist. But I did see a pic that would give an example of what I'm talking about. Here's a rather twisted Les Paul Custom. It looks to me like he could just fix that problem by adjusting the bridge, which is a Tune-O-Matic and you can adjust the height on either end so it could be parallel with the nut. It looks to me like his neck isn't actually warped, it's just the bridge that's not set correctly so it gives the illusion of a twist.

My LP seems to have the slightest twist the other direction, clockwise at the nut. But it is hard for me to tell for sure. My LP was stolen and it sat leaning against a wall in a warehouse for 10 years before I tracked it down, so it could have gotten a warp. Or it is entirely possible I bought this guitar new with a warp, and the salesman convinced me this was normal. The mid-70s were bad years for Gibson.

Judging from the (mis)information on the web, it looks like the truss rod does have some effect on neck twist, but I can't tell. I like a really low action but I never really thought about fret buzz since it isn't so noticeable on an electric. I never noticed any problems, but I will listen for it. I guess this is more of an acoustic guitar problem. I checked my only acoustic, a 1960 Gibson L-2 3/4 size, it doesn't have a truss rod, and fortunately, no buzz either.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:55 PM on July 21, 2012

Brett Fuzz was the name of my psychobilly alter-ego, back in the day. Probably.
posted by Decani at 8:18 PM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

No guitar tuning thread would be complete without a reference to Jack Endino's opus Guitar Tuning Nightmares Explained.
posted by intermod at 9:53 PM on July 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

intermod: "No guitar tuning thread would be complete without a reference to Jack Endino's opus Guitar Tuning Nightmares Explained."

Also there's this guy who's made some dough off the whole intonation thing. I've never played on a Feiten setup but I hear it's as close to perfect as you can get.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:02 PM on July 21, 2012

Also, truss rod adjustments tend not to settle right away. I know for some of my Strats I had to adjust and let them sit overnight for the bow to take. I used to be afraid of doing them from all the horror stories I heard but they really can make a huge improvement to a seemingly shitty axe.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:07 PM on July 21, 2012

I'm curious about this.

Charlie — that neck is warped. Not a lot, but it ain't straight. The relief looks fine, but the neck twists away toward the treble side. Futzing with the height adjustments on the bridge is only going to produce staggered string heights at best. You don't want this, you want a gentle consistent curve through the string range that follows the neck radius. I'd ignore it, but I'm a bass player, and we're crude that way.
posted by Wolof at 2:06 AM on July 22, 2012

We have calluses you can slice meat or bake a pizza on, and our strings can be used for abseiling.
posted by Wolof at 2:14 AM on July 22, 2012

I take great delight in telling people that if you actually managed to get a guitar perfectly in tune, everywhere on the neck, you would have violated the laws of physics.

It seems to work as a pretty good excuse not to bother at all.
posted by Grangousier at 2:17 AM on July 22, 2012

You'd need something like 45 frets per octave to have a guitar that could play chords in almost-perfect tune
posted by thelonius at 3:42 AM on July 22, 2012

One of the neatest guitar inventions I've seen recently in the Evertune bridge, which uses a saddle attached to a spring to make sure that the string tension is always exactly the same.

I have a guitar with the buzz feiten system and, not being someone who has a pro tech setup all of my guitars every few months, it hasn't made that much of a difference to me.

My take on all of this is that tuning issues are part of the challenge and charm of the guitar, and the ridiculous lengths people go to to try and get guitars in perfect tune are past the point of diminishing returns.
posted by ianhattwick at 9:51 AM on July 22, 2012

Looking at my LP again, it doesn't seem to have enough warp to detect without precision instruments, so it's not worth screwing around with. It has pretty good intonation but I figure it could always be better.

That Felten tuning system looks interesting, but it appears to me that you can get most of that effect using the Gibson Tune-O-Matic bridge, which can move the bridge position of each string separately. Combined with a TP-6 precision tailpiece, that might give even more control, I want one. I'm not quite sure what that Felten "shelf nut" is supposed to do. I've been thinking of having my nut replaced, I have come to believe that my LP's low E notch is cut incorrectly, it's too close to the edge, it's too easy finger the E string and accidentally push it off the side of the neck.

I am generally of the same opinion as ian, this stuff all has diminishing returns. But I really want to have a PLEK setup done on my old Les Paul, and from what I hear, it does have a significant affect on playability and intonation. I care more about playability.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:00 AM on July 22, 2012

If you're interested in the Feiten intonation system, here's a video of Buzz himself explaining the theory behind what it does. (I've known about it for years, but never understood how it worked until now.)
posted by Enron Hubbard at 11:45 AM on July 22, 2012

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