Fret Buzz - Why Can't I Setup my Strats To Play Like My Gibsons?

M

Member 37136

When I setup a Les Paul, they play great for me with very minimal to no fret rattle when playing with my normal attack, but when I setup my Strat's to those same specs and play with the exact same attack they buzz and rattle like crazy?

Why is that?


Maybe it's about more than just "attack." I don't know about you, but both of my hands react to Gibsons and Fenders completely differently. Could it be that the action that works for the way you play a Les Paul just doesn't translate to the way you approach a Strat?
 

Guitarworks

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12,003
OP - It's all about geometry and how flexible it is on a given guitar.

I've been setting up Gibsons and Fenders for decades. The frustration you're feeling is rooted in the fact the Fender design platform offers inherently more flexibility than the Gibson design platform. It's one of the reasons I have never been a huge fan of the Gibson design platform - it's too rigid. Unlike a Gibson (especially a Les Paul), the Fender design elements were not inspired by the design elements of a violin (elevated top carve, set neck, sharply angled neck joint, pre-radiused elevated bridge that stands on two legs, separate tailpiece). To get the results you seek, there are more criteria that need to be met on a Gibson than on a Fender.

To optimize low, flat, buzz-free, effortless action on a Fender that needs no fretboard work, I can:
- Adjust neck relief.
- Raise or lower the bridge unit.
- Raise or lower individual saddle height.
- Raise or lower the pocket floor.
- Raise the incline of the pocket floor from the already low-action-conducive shallow 4°, or lower it to an even more low-action-conducive flat zero grade / 0°
- Adjust any part of the pocket floor.
- Recess a vibrato unit or hardtail bridge unit into the body at the bridge area (already at zero grade) if necessary along with the lowered pocket floor.

On a Gibson that needs no fretboard work, I can do only the following:
- Adjust neck relief
- Raise or lower the bridge unit

That's it. I can make none of those other adjustments on a Gibson.

Like an acoustic guitar, the neck on a Gibson can be underset or overset. And that's permanent. Whichever you get, you're stuck with. Neck joint angles vary because they're hand-fitted at Gibson. So in order to make the plays-like-a-dream action happen, you need to hope that the neck joint angle, fretboard radius, and predetermined saddle radius all happen to meet at the correct spot in the geometry necessary to get that low flat buzz-free effortless action. If they do, great! - you'll have a Gibson that plays like a dream. If they don't, which happens a lot IME, you'll likely be struggling and making unnecessary sacrifices to get that action.

EDIT: Sorry, OP. My apologies - I misread the question. I thought you were trying to get your Gibson to play like your Fender.
 
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Fireball XL5

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Just had one of my Strats refretted a few months back. Fretboard leveled, new bone nut that's cut well ( strings barely clear the first fret when strings fretted at 3rd fret), frets leveled and PLEK'd. I do have a fret rocker and checked the frets and can't find any high spots??

Setup same as my Les Pauls with the same relief and string height (.005" measured at 7th with straightedge spanning first fret to body joint, string height at 12th set to 3/64" treble, 4/64" bass). Strat plays very buzzy both acoustically and when amplified. Les Paul plays fine. Only fret buzz on Les paul is if I play quite aggressively. Minimal to none with my normal attack. The Strat buzzes with even the most light attack.

Again, this isn't just the case with one Strat and one Les Paul. I have found this across the board with every Strat I've owned over the years. I've sent them to pros to have the frets leveled. I've sent them to pros to have them refretted. I've had them PLEK'd. Still can't set them up as low and with as tight of tolerances as my Les Pauls. Maybe I'm unlucky?? I've always just chalked it up to Strats being more prone to fret buzz, but would like to know why?

FWIW, I tend to use fret buzz & fret rattle interchangeably and mean the same when I use the term. Either way (buzz/rattle), it's apparent both acoustically and amplified with my Strats, but not my Les Pauls when set at those same tight tolerances.
 
M

Member 37136

Something to do with that pesky trem? Does the same thing happen with Telecasters? :confused
 

Tone_Terrific

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The only variable to be addressed here is action height.
Relief has an effect on string height/action, too.
There are no other variables. Neck angle does not alter string geometry vis a vis the tops of the frets. Fret size certainly does not.

So we are looking at string to fret clearance on a note by note basis.

We can all strike a string hard enough that it slaps against the frets.
The effective curve introduced by relief on Strats my be less optimized to the actual string excursion than on LP's.
That would mean greater chance of string/fret interaction.
Strats also tend to emphasize top end noise through the pups.

What else can it be?
BTW- when setting up any guitar that has good fretwork there is a certain amount of tweaking balance that is needed on a case-by-case basis.
I don't know of any way to measure this. Just go for the best compromise. :dunno
 

Masa

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714
I don't know why you can't set them up the same way. Pretty much all my guitars (no matter if it's a LP, SG, Strat, Tele) have the same action, 3/64" - 4/64" at the 17th fret. If it doesn't work, I'd check and level the frets.
 
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I bet if you block the trem, remove springs, change the saddles for graphtech and use humbuckers you will make the sizzle disappear almost completely without touching the action or relief.
 

J Factor

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Here's something to add that took me a fair amount of time to sort out:

Vintage-style single coils have magnetic pole pieces - as opposed to humbuckers and some ceramic single coils which use bar magnets at the base. Those vintage-style magnetic pole pieces offer a much stronger/more focused magnetic field at the string, which can cause more string pull than you might expect. Even if it's not causing enough of the "strat-itis" warble tone to bother you, that magnetic pull might be significantly affecting the string buzz.

I spent years playing my MIM Strat with the stock modern ceramic type single coils so I didn't believe it myself, but it was a real head-scratcher when I first switched to vintage style single coils and I had to jack my strings way up to stop them from buzzing. I couldn't understand what might have changed, or why my Strat with previously clean super-low action suddenly had to be played like a junky toy guitar. I spent weeks playing with the setup and couldn't quite get my finger on it, until I ended up dropping the pickups down flush with the pickguard. All of a sudden the fret rattle/buzz was gone, even though I hadn't heard that telltale warble at all. Before lowering the pickups, the fret rattle/buzz was audible both acoustically and through the amp.

Even with a tight radius, if the frets are level and the neck is straight, you can get nice low action with the right setup. The radius only becomes an issue with big bends. However, your Gibson's humbuckers use a bar magnet at the base and offer a much more spread-out magnetic field with less immediate string pull even with the pickups set high, and that might be where the two really differ. I recommend dropping the pickups as low as you can to see if that improves things.
 

Fireball XL5

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Have my pickups set pretty low already - 8/64" from bottom of string to top of outside poles. Measurement taken with strings fretted at last fret.

Thanks to everyone who's posted so far. I currently have my #1 Strat setup with .009" of neck relief and a sting height at the 12th fret of just a hair over 5/64" bass, and a hair over 4/64" treble. Bridge set to float 1/8" off body with 3 springs. 10-46 gauge strings.

Even at those less tight tolerances, it's more buzzy than my Les Pauls set with much tighter tolerances. FWIW, I've had this specific guitar refretted and PLEK'd.
 

Elantric

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Fender 9.5" Fretboard Radius requires higher action for string bending , vs Gibson's flatter 12" radius -due to physics of vibrating strings
 
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Fireball XL5

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Where is the buzzing occurring? Is it on the frets towards the nut? Or someplace else?

When I set them up to the same tight tolerances as my Les Pauls they buzz everywhere. Not specific to one part of fingerboard. Again, this is not just one specific guitar having issues, I've found this with every Strat I've owned.
 

Fireball XL5

Gold Supporting Member
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3,086
Fretboard Radius

A few have mentioned this, but I fail to see how fretboard radius would affect a straight string as far as buzzing? Radius is certainly an issue when bending but not talking about what happens when you bend strings.
 

Beauchamp

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What J Factor said, the magnetic structure of the pickups alters the string vibration, how the pu's are set is important. Gibson magnets are much farther away from the strings than Fenders. See what happens if you lower the strat pickups all the way into the body and does that help. The sounds of the two brands (even when played acoustically), is due to the magnetic issues as much as anything else.
 

Jedi

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I have my Fenders set up with the necks pretty straight and action is low. All comes down to the fretwork IMHO. All my working guitars are re-fretted which cures a lotta of issues. YMMV
 

Fireball XL5

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I have my Fenders set up with the necks pretty straight and action is low. All comes down to the fretwork IMHO. All my working guitars are re-fretted which cures a lotta of issues. YMMV

Like I've mentioned... Have gone that route - Multiple times and with different Strats over the years.

Fret leveling, re-frets, PLEK, etc...

Still, I have to set my Strats with a more forgiving setup than my Les Pauls to avoid fret buzz. Again, maybe I've been unlucky (??), but I've sent my Strats to some pretty well known "heavy hitters" known for their for fretwork.

And it's not that my Strats play awful or anything like that... BUT... I can't get them to play well at the tight tolerances I can set my Les Pauls to.
 

sixty2strat

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One option to keep action height down on a Strat is to use larger gauge strings. Larger diameter strings also have less vibration movement than smaller diameter strings, given the same scale length.
Interesting my strat that buzzes the least has lt top heavy bottom strings. Forgot my reason for getting it set up that way in the mid 90's. But of my 6 strats it has never had a buzz issue. Been thinking of doing that to the rest.
 




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