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Does a slight fret buzz, not heard through the amp, still effect tone?

still.ill

Member
Messages
3,240
Anytime friends play any of my guitars, they always remark how easy it is to play them...

It seems though that I might be "sacrificing" tone for action, I get buzz (the low E string is usually the culprit, but it doesnt really show go thru the amp, so I'm happy. Though I wonder if even the buzz doesn't show thru the amp, is some part of the tone killed because the strings are just so close to the frets? I usually get my base setup from my fav guitar tech, and then just lower it a teensy bit more, with dead straight necks.

I don't have those really precise feeler gauges to measure so I thought I'd let the more experienced TGP members eyeball it

Strat




335



P:S----- Notice noone has made a topic saying
"If you could change one thing about the 335, would you?"
Proof that 335's are perfect. :omg
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,248
You're gonna get a million answers here because what is "too low" is completely subjective. People are simply going to tell you what THEY like.

It's a non-question. Do you like it? Fine leave it alone. Do you not like it? Change it. You're already changing what your tech did. Fingers don't have feeler gauges.
 

still.ill

Member
Messages
3,240
You're gonna get a million answers here because what is "too low" is completely subjective. People are simply going to tell you what THEY like.

It's a non-question. Do you like it? Fine leave it alone. Do you not like it? Change it.
I know, i wanted to see what the "subjective consensus" was if lack of a better term. I like it of course, but I wanted to see what other people like.
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,248
OK so the title of the thread is really "How do you like your action?"

In my case (and I'm really not trying to be a dick here) I don't care how anybody else likes their action and don't need some sort of external validation or consensus. I know what I like and set my guitars up accordingly.

I would have to pick up your guitar and play it to tell you if I liked the set up or not.

It's all personal.
 

craigoslo

Member
Messages
419
He askes a valid question. Does a slight fret buzz, not heard through the amp, still effect tone(sustain, fatness etc.)?
 

sliberty

Member
Messages
4,022
I keep the action on my guitars a little bit higher than the "slips out from under my fingers while bending" point. I find that very low action results in bends slipping too frequently. if the action is a little higher, I can dig in more, and the string stays put. This point varies from guitar to guitar. so I can't tell you how many 32nds this equates to. The factors that seem to have the most influence over this are fret size (height mainly) and fretboard radius.
 

Flyin' Brian

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
30,248
He askes a valid question. Does a slight fret buzz, not heard through the amp, still effect tone(sustain, fatness etc.)?
Yes he does. And the simple answer is to raise the action to remove the buzz and see how much difference there is in the sound and is the change in feel worth the trade off. Then pick one.

To answer his question, I like a very low action, I have zero buzz with it and I never had the technique of bending "under" the adjacent strings. I use 11s on a 24.75" scale with a 12" radius, no relief and medium jumbo frets. I don't pick very hard at all. I haven't broken a string in 30 years. I have no idea of the measurement of string height. When seasons change if I notice a difference, I change the height and maybe tweak the truss rod.

Hope all that helps.
 

sshan25

Supporting Member
Messages
4,129
You're gonna get a million answers here because what is "too low" is completely subjective. People are simply going to tell you what THEY like.

It's a non-question. Do you like it? Fine leave it alone. Do you not like it? Change it. You're already changing what your tech did. Fingers don't have feeler gauges.
This. There is no other valuable response. Don't do things because others say to. Do what works for you.
 

pitbull45

Member
Messages
741
To my eyes and tastes, the action on the 335 looks a bit high past 12th fret. If you put a little more relief in the neck, you could probably lower the action some
 

MjS88

Member
Messages
280
I don't know about tone, but low, slightly buzzing action does affect sustain (a little bit).
 

EADGBE

Senior Member
Messages
12,338
It may cut sustain slightly. I don't like any buzz myself. But a couple of my guitars have some slight buzz. I just haven't gotten around to raising the bridge to get rid of it yet.
 

bluegrif

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,093
It's going to come down to how you play. My luthier used to set up most guitars with very low action. Many techs will do this so the guitar plays as easily as possible when it leaves the bench. The desired result is the customer telling all his friends how the guitar now plays unbelievably easily and still sounds great, thereby enhancing the techs rep. But the truth is, very low action may not work well for players who play hard with an aggressive attack. This is a generalization of course, but in most cases it holds true.

My Dad, a pro since the 40s, played with a very light touch. He was a great player and it suited his style. The action was very low and there was a fair amount of fret buzz when unamplified. But plugged in, with him playing, it sounded great. I, OTOH, play much harder. On his guitar, if I didn't adjust my playing drastically, notes would clank and buzz and fret out under bends. In short, his setup was entirely unsuitable for my style.
 

groovington

Member
Messages
2,852
After all the initial posts about the semantics of the question, it seems as there are some thoughtful answers here, and I agree with them...

Yes, there is a point when the action is too low that the slight fret buzz that isn't perceived through the amp, is indeed effecting the length of sustain you get. I don't know if it qualifies as "tone," but it should be considered.

To hear the difference in tone of low and high action, I suggest adjusting one of your guitars accordingly. You're guitar will get louder as you raise the action. I think that does add to the quality of tone it produces. And then as you lower it back down, you'll hear it quiet back down, but yet maybe still a minimal account as far as the end result of "tone" we hear after the signal has passed through the pickups, cable, pedals, and amp. But I think it definitely comes into play, especially as the louder/higher action set up will allow more frequencies to be heard.

And finally, technique is a huge part of your guitar's tone and is directly related to set up. Low action needs a lighter touch, while high action allows one to really dig in. You really have to consider how your right hand and your left hand both interact with the guitar in different ways depending on how your guitar is set up.

My jazz guitar is set up with very low action because I use a light touch when playing jazz. Also, when playing jazz, I'm not gonna be doing any big bends so I don't have to worry about that kind of stuff. With my set up on my jazz box, I feel like my tone and sustain is maximized even with a very low action setup. Now on my strats and LP's that I'm playing more rock, blues, and funk with, the action is slightly higher because I will dig in and use heavier pick attack quite more frequently. I'll also do lots of bigger bends. Action is slightly raised on these guitars, but in no way would I say it is high action (or even medium for that matter). And when I'm playing rock music on these instruments, I still can lighten my attack and left hand finger pressure to still caress the strings and coax some nice bloom out of sustained notes that will require no fret buzz that may kill sustain.
 

thegoochie

Member
Messages
171
It depends on how hard your attack is and how hard it buzzes. As one of the posters mentioned, it could potentially affect your sustain by cutting the vibration of the string slightly however I don't think it affects overall tone if it is not an audible buzz through the amp.

Ultimately it is something that you have to be ok with as far as playability for your comfort vs your perception of tone quality.
 

still.ill

Member
Messages
3,240
After all the initial posts about the semantics of the question, it seems as there are some thoughtful answers here, and I agree with them...

Yes, there is a point when the action is too low that the slight fret buzz that isn't perceived through the amp, is indeed effecting the length of sustain you get. I don't know if it qualifies as "tone," but it should be considered.

To hear the difference in tone of low and high action, I suggest adjusting one of your guitars accordingly. You're guitar will get louder as you raise the action. I think that does add to the quality of tone it produces. And then as you lower it back down, you'll hear it quiet back down, but yet maybe still a minimal account as far as the end result of "tone" we hear after the signal has passed through the pickups, cable, pedals, and amp. But I think it definitely comes into play, especially as the louder/higher action set up will allow more frequencies to be heard.

And finally, technique is a huge part of your guitar's tone and is directly related to set up. Low action needs a lighter touch, while high action allows one to really dig in. You really have to consider how your right hand and your left hand both interact with the guitar in different ways depending on how your guitar is set up.

My jazz guitar is set up with very low action because I use a light touch when playing jazz. Also, when playing jazz, I'm not gonna be doing any big bends so I don't have to worry about that kind of stuff. With my set up on my jazz box, I feel like my tone and sustain is maximized even with a very low action setup. Now on my strats and LP's that I'm playing more rock, blues, and funk with, the action is slightly higher because I will dig in and use heavier pick attack quite more frequently. I'll also do lots of bigger bends. Action is slightly raised on these guitars, but in no way would I say it is high action (or even medium for that matter). And when I'm playing rock music on these instruments, I still can lighten my attack and left hand finger pressure to still caress the strings and coax some nice bloom out of sustained notes that will require no fret buzz that may kill sustain.

Extremely informative. I'll probably raise the action slightly on my strat after reading this.
 

Surfreak

Member
Messages
2,555
Perhaps the wide angle distorts the perspective, but it looks like your action is too high above the 12th fret. Maybe a bit of neck relief and lowering the saddles would help.

The short answer to your question is yes. Fret buzz does affect the amplified tone. You might not hear the buzz itself when plugged in, but the sustain, "note bloom" and note separation in a chord are all affected.

How noticeable this is, it depends on your technique, touch, pickup selection and amp: if you play aggressively on the neck pickup on a clean amp you will hear the buzz itself, and the overall tone will be "choked" for lack of a better word.
If you palm mute with the bridge pickup on a Diezel at full gain you won't.

My advice is, make getting rid of the fret buzz a priority, adjust the action accordingly, and build your finger strength to play comfortably with the new set up. You won't regret it.
 

snow and steel

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,112
I don't know about tone, but low, slightly buzzing action does affect sustain (a little bit).

+1.

If its buzzing, that means its hitting a fret as it vibrates which would lower the time it vibrates naturally.

I can almost guarantee you if you had a Pro Level set up done you could keep the low action and ditch the buzzing. There is either a minor truss rod adjustment needed, or you may one or two frets that are slightly high and need a gentle tap back into proper seating - that is especially common on new guitars [or guitars that never had it done to them when they were new].
 

fenderlead

Member
Messages
4,569
Anytime friends play any of my guitars, they always remark how easy it is to play them...

It seems though that I might be "sacrificing" tone for action, I get buzz (the low E string is usually the culprit, but it doesnt really show go thru the amp, so I'm happy. Though I wonder if even the buzz doesn't show thru the amp, is some part of the tone killed because the strings are just so close to the frets? I usually get my base setup from my fav guitar tech, and then just lower it a teensy bit more, with dead straight necks.

I don't have those really precise feeler gauges to measure so I thought I'd let the more experienced TGP members eyeball it

Strat
Anything that can affect the strings vibration pattern would have an effect on the fundamental tone and overtones (tone).

How much effect some fret buzz will have on the tone is hard to say without measuring it with frequency analyzers and robotic string pluckers.

Just use your ears.
 






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