One buzzing string...how do I fix it?!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by idontknowanything, May 25, 2015.

  1. idontknowanything

    idontknowanything Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2015
    So, I know this is a simple matter of geometry, but I'm being driven nuts by my low E string buzzing and could use some help if one or more of you would be so kind.

    A little context: the guitar is a telecaster that I built using a mighty mite body and neck, and all Fender licensed parts. I first assembled it a few years ago and the buzzing was bad enough everywhere that after raising the saddles I found the guitar unplayable. So I let it sit.

    Fast forward to a month ago when a friend of mine who is a luthier gave me some tips. I see him once a year, so he's not a regular resource for me. I bought a straight edge and rocker, straightened the truss rod to remove the neck relief and found that just as he suggested, the frets were not leveled by Mighty Mite. I leveled the frets, crowned them, and then used the rocker for every single string position to identify and eliminate the remaining raised frets. I checked again after crowning and repolishing everything. So, now the frets are level.

    I reinstalled the neck (I also tried with a .001" brass shim on the body side of the neck heel), set the neck relief to around .01", checked the nut slots and they are in line with what I've read is correct. All my measurements work out, from the relief, saddle height, fretting at 2nd fret to check 1st fret clearance, fretting at 1st and 15th to check relief clearance. But still the low E buzzes like mad when fretting between 5 and 13. I've tested with .001, .003, and .005 shims to raise the low E at the nut, I've raised the saddle (I'm using vintage brass saddles), nothing seems to help. Do any of you have any suggestions? I'm dying here, but really want to learn how to identify and fix this problem.
     
  2. Steve Foley

    Steve Foley Member

    Messages:
    1,768
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Sunny Central California
    Could be the slot in the saddle, or at the bridge - sometimes a slot that's too wide can allow the string to buzz.

    Does buzz go away when fretted? Not the nut slot.

    Try sliding the string one way or another on the bridge.

    If the slot is not exactly level, or sloping away from the fingerboard, it can allow buzz. Lift the string from the slot at the nut, and see if there is evidence that it's not seating right - if there's space between the string and slot, at the fingerboard side of the slot, that needs to be corrected. Same at the bridge; if there's slope toward the pickups or fingerboards, this can buzz. The string needs to take off cleanly at the nut or bridge, with no gaps at the last support points.

    Might be a loose or high fret? Try a fret rocker at all frets, and see if you spot anything.

    Check the nut, bridge, and frets with a good magnifying glass. I've spotted sloped slots, and maybe a burr or two, on the bridge, with a magnifier.

    Could be a loose truss rod or screw somewhere that that frequency sets off, too.

    I had one brand of strings, that I don't use anymore, that gave me fits along these lines. try changing string brands, and see what happens. (PM me if you are interested in the brand, they work great for many folks, so I'm not going to cast dispersions).

    Just a few random ideas to check.
     
  3. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    6,993
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    St. Louis, Missourah
    All of the above and also make sure your pickup height is not too high on the bass side. I have chased buzzes before, lowered the pickup a tad and gone. Rarely but could be?!
     
  4. RockinRob

    RockinRob Member

    Messages:
    989
    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2013
    Is the string resting against the pole piece in the bridge? U using monster gauge strings?
     
  5. Steve Foley

    Steve Foley Member

    Messages:
    1,768
    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Location:
    Sunny Central California
    Another thought is the springs. Sometimes the springs in Les Paul type bridges can set up a bit of a rattle. Stretch or replace them, they're cheap.

    If there are no springs in this type bridge, maybe the saddle's vibrating on the intonation adjustment screw. try a little white grease or vaseline, but be careful not to make a mess - just enough to gunk up that screw, and see it that deadens the rattle.

    Same with pickup springs. Stretch or replace them - maybe one's "just right" to vibrate in there. Maybe a piece of foam under the pickups, or a piece of surgical tubing, instead of springs

    Same with tuner or pick-guard screws, but less likely. Tighten them snug.

    Sometimes, it's just the frequency that piece of wood resonates at, and that's just all there is to it. You may have to live with it, then. Maybe a crack in the wood somewhere that's getting set off at that frequency.

    Frankly, I lean toward the "too wide of a nut slot" or incorrect angle or burr at the nut or bridge saddle slot, as being the most likely culprit.
     
  6. Mike9

    Mike9 Supporting Member

    Messages:
    10,326
    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2006
    Location:
    Ghent, NY
    If it's buzzing between 5th and 13th it's not the nut. OP - did you level the fretboard, or just the fret tops? I always level the board this requires buying, or making a notched straight edge. Rock the low side of the frets with the neck under pitch tension. I've seen frets lift under tension and cause the problem you are experiencing. Sight down your neck and check to see if you have a little twist. You can shim the pocket at the front as well and only on one side if need be. Don't forget to check your saddle for a burr, or other anomaly.
     
    Last edited: May 28, 2015
  7. idontknowanything

    idontknowanything Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2015
    Hi folks,

    I got tied up for about a week and haven't been back here since posting. In answer to the questions, the nut slot is okay, as is the height at the first fret. I used a notched straight edge and the fretboard is straight. I leveled the frets from there and used a rocker on every fret, every string position. Then I strung up and set the relief to around .01" I tried a little more, too. I got some rocking on frets 17-22 under the low E string only, so I leveled and recrowned them. The rocker now reads perfectly everywhere. But I still get a nasty buzz on the low e.

    The slot widths, depths, and tapers all are by the book. The saddles are vintage style brass rods, and I did not notch them. It buzzes when I try muffling the string between the fret and the nut. And when I try and mute any spot where there may be a vibration.

    Now, if I play with a soft touch, it's mostly okay. But when I strum at all, the buzzing is really annoying.
     
  8. burns

    burns Member

    Messages:
    1,643
    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Location:
    from Parts Unknown
    Just a guess - maybe the tuning peg?
    Also have you tried it without the shim?
     
  9. idontknowanything

    idontknowanything Member

    Messages:
    13
    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2015
    The tuning pegs are fender locking tuners, and I tested it for vibration. Not a bit of movement there. I've tried with and without the shim. Very frustrating...
     
  10. bnguitars

    bnguitars Member

    Messages:
    41
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2006
    Location:
    OC CA
    Hi, I had a similar problem months ago, after doing everything I could do with no success I noticed the string had a very subtle kink that was causing the buzz. I don't know what in the world my client did to put a kink on the string but anyway... Have you tried a fresh new string on it?
    Good luck!
     

Share This Page