Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

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Guitartech
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Guitartech » May 7th, 2010, 2:33 pm

If I understand the problem correctly, the buzzing is only on the D String? If this is the case, even though the string is new, I would start by checking the underside of the string for dings or dents where it makes contact with the fret. I get a lot of people that bring their guitars to me because of a buzzing issue and sometimes find that it is a bad string or strings. Also, I would inspect the frets for excessive wear, grooves or low spots where the strings make contact. Either of those issues can cause buzzing.

If the buzzing is on multiple strings around the 12th and 14th fret I wouldn't jump to a truss rod issue just yet. Normally buzzing in that area is not a truss rod issue. If the truss rod was too tight you would be likely to have buzzing towards the lower frets somewhere around the 3rd to 7th frets.
If the truss rod was too loose you would be likely to have high action in the middle of the neck. (Note" an extremely loose truss rod can cause buzzing in the higher frets but the relief would have to be substantial.)

Occasionally, I see guitars( Les Paul's included) that have a small hump where the neck meets the body causing the fingerboard to rise slightly in that area creating fret buzz when the guitar is set with low action. If this is the case, You may want to have any high frets leveled so the problem goes away but keep in mind this would have to be determined by an experienced luthier. I would not touch the frets unless that is indeed the problem.

When I setup Les Paul guitars assuming there are no fret or neck issues, I generally set the neck relief around .003 to .005 @ the 7th fret. (10 gauge strings) I like a fairly straight neck. My string height is aprox. 4/64 on the low side and 2 to 3/64 on the high side depending on the guitar and string gauge of course.

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by TRGuitar » May 8th, 2010, 7:58 am

Guitartech wrote:My string height is aprox. 4/64 on the low side and 2 to 3/64 on the high side depending on the guitar and string gauge of course.
Wow! That is some seriously low action. :shock: I like my action low but you got me beat. There was a thread around here a while ago about higher action giving you better tone. I'll asume you don't buy into that.
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Guitartech » May 8th, 2010, 12:32 pm

Wow! That is some seriously low action. :shock: I like my action low but you got me beat. There was a thread around here a while ago about higher action giving you better tone. I'll asume you don't buy into that.[/quote]

Actually, I do believe giving the strings a little room to breath does indeed produce better tone. I have no problem with moderate action but convincing my customers is sometimes another issue all together.

Here is a perfect example:

Say a guy walks in and wants his guitar setup with low action which is often. The first thing that enters my mind is what kind of player is he. If he has a light touch and good picking technique I will be able to make his guitar play like butter. On the other hand, if he has a heavy hand and a hard attack the low action will be a train wreck for him because his style wont support that kind of setup. There are lots of other things that come into play like scale length string gauge the way they want the guitar tuned and so on. Explaining this to a customer is sometimes harder than setting up the guitar.

Just try to explain to a kid that 9 gauge strings on a short scale guitar tuned in C standard with the strings dead low on the neck isn't exactly the best formula for a buzz free guitar.HA! That being said I can normally keep everyone happy with a little food for thought.

Personally I like low action if I'm just jamming or playing a local gig. If the frets are good and everything is dialed in my guitars sound great. If I am recording, my action is usually a little higher because I do believe moderate action does indeed produce better tone. Tone can be very subjective from one person to another. That's what is great about forums like this one, We all get a chance share our thoughts. Take Care. 8)

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Ande » May 8th, 2010, 6:50 pm

On the "action discussion," I have to say this is really interesting.

Most players I know who are low action guys are also light string guys. Which, at least on my guitars, is buzz city.

I'm finding that slightly heavier strings seem more stable, and let me set the action awfully low without buzz.

I've just tried 11s on my main axe, and am loving how low I can set the action. (neck relief there, but so slight I can't quite measure it, string height just over 2/64 on one side, just over 3/64 on the other. No buzzing! (I can make it buzz, of course, by beating it too hard, but I wouldn't say that I ordinarily have a light touch, either. I like the heavier strings because they seem to take a slightly heavier touch without buzzing or sounding bad.)


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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by TRGuitar » May 8th, 2010, 7:05 pm

You are right on guitartech, that is what is great about these forums. I set my action where I do for one reason. I need to be able to grab the strings to bend them, otherwise they would be lower as I use 9's and thin picks. I have a very light touch yet play some heavy music. I am not one of those heavy string high action for tone people, although there is nothing wrong with that and they sound awsome when playing. I'm a low action, light string light touch guy.
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Guitartech » May 9th, 2010, 4:28 pm

The no buzzing is partly due to the fact that on top of being a good neck, more mass means, it will take more tension to bring the heavier strings to the same pitch therefore changing the elliptical movement of the strings.

Theres nothing like the slinky feel of 9 gauge strings but you can get good results by using heavier strings as long as you don't mind the different feel and heavier tone. I normally play 10's but do have a couple guitars with 11's and they sound great.

Scale length also plays a part in how strings act and sound. I'll save that for another post. Peace.

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by abcxyz » May 9th, 2010, 11:26 pm

We DO need discussions like these, so that we can feel comfortable while dabbling with our guitars!

On a side note, I wonder how Billy Gibbons sets up his Pearly Gates. Through videos the action on it seems pretty low to me...

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by cnev » May 10th, 2010, 10:53 am

Interesting and it makes sense but TR how can you play heavy music with alight touch...I'm being serious. I know when I used to play with Wes a year or so ago he'd always tell me I was playing to light and to really bang those strings and although I don't bash away at the strings it's hard not to get into it a bit when your playing a hard driving rock song.

I probably don't have the lowest action around and normally use 10's on my guitars. The Strat doesn't buzz at all but the Epi LP does a bit, you really can't hear it when it's plugged in though so not a big deal.

A frined on mine had his Strat set up with the lowest action I've ever seen. The strings looked like they were touching almost every fret but it played well. I don't really remember it wa over a year ago but I'll never forget how low he had it set.
Last edited by cnev on May 11th, 2010, 4:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by TRGuitar » May 10th, 2010, 9:54 pm

I dunno? Thats a good question. Ask Tony Iiomi. :lol:
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by abcxyz » May 11th, 2010, 8:52 am

This is the video I am referring to - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jxmDYw3mr

On a side note...can I play as smoothly as this on a Fender Strat?

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by nathanponzarmusic » May 28th, 2010, 8:24 am

Hi everyone,

I just found this forum today and I am happy to have found it. I have been having buzzing issues with my acoustic guitar (a big baby taylor, which is a 15/16 size guitar with a bolt on neck). Finding this guitar was like a gift from god as it sounds exactly the way I want it for the type of music I play. Anyways, I've been playing it for a little over a year now, and about 2 weeks ago out of no where (seemingly) it started to have buzzing issues, primarily on the lower frets of the bigger strings (epicenter seems to be A string 3rd fret). The buzzing was not normal fret buzz (well, it had some of that too, but that's not the issue at hand). It is a very subtle buzz that occurs when I thumb the string or when I attack with a "pumping" type of strum (for lack of a better word, basically, strumming in a percussive type of way). It doesn't occur right away, it must ring for a bit.

Alright, I took it to 2 guitar shops. The first one never heard the buzz I was talking about. I kept telling him I still heard it and he ended up giving the neck so much concavity (and high action) that my 4 year calusses on my my fingertips were insufficient to prevent pain after playing for a few minutes. Then I found a better shop (Midwest Guitar), and they heard the buzz I was talking about, but said that it was so minute that they were surprised I was worried about it. Thing is, it shows up pretty vividly when recorded, and recording is my main focus, so it's a big deal for me. He tried a number of different tests, and concluded he didn't know what was causing it and said all he could do would be to give it a proper set up. I got it back yesterday. He had ended up taking off the bolt on neck and sliding a small piece of cardstock paper between the neck and body to allow him to tighten the truss rod without aggrevating the buzz further. It ended up fixing most of the buzz that he didn't know the source of.

Alright, sorry for so much background info, but here are my questions to this thread... Now that the action is lower, it doesn't seem to sound as... smooth as it used to. When playing in a slightly percussive style, I get a decent amount of run-in-the-mill fret buzz on the lower frets where I did not before I had the guitar worked on, mind you, the annoying buzz I originally got it worked on for is still gone. The guitar plays like butter, more so than it has since I bought it a year ago, more so than I really need. I checked concavity using the fret-the-1st-and-14th-fret-and-observe-the-gap-between-the-7th-fret-and-depressed-string technique and you can barely see a gap whatsoever, and it's obvious that the new buzz is caused by a normal string vibrating against the fret situation. Like I say, I had this guitar for about a year with no problems of this sort whatsoever, nothing has changed about my playing technique or the strings I use.

Do you think it would be a good idea for me to try loosening the truss rod just a slight amount to see if I can get the new buzz to go away? I am thinking that giving the neck a bit of give will also restore the tone back to what it has been before these issues, which is concurrent with some of the posts in this thread about having a slightly more moderate action for better tone.

Thanks to anyone who takes the time to read this lengthy post!

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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Hyperborea » May 30th, 2010, 10:57 am

nathanponzarmusic wrote:Do you think it would be a good idea for me to try loosening the truss rod just a slight amount to see if I can get the new buzz to go away? I am thinking that giving the neck a bit of give will also restore the tone back to what it has been before these issues, which is concurrent with some of the posts in this thread about having a slightly more moderate action for better tone.
Everybody's playing style is different and some like a little more relief and some like a little less. You could loosen the truss rod nut a bit and see if it improves the buzzing for you. It would be best if you could measure the relief and keep track of how much you started with and ended up at. You can get some leaf feeler gauges at Sears for about $6 that would do the job. You can also use a fine tip marker to put a line on the truss rod nut so that you can get back to the original setting easily.

I found the Taylor truss rod adjustment sheet on the web - http://www.taylorguitars.com/global/pdf ... stment.pdf They suggest a relief of 0.010" which is roughly a playing card thickness so if you don't have feeler gauges that would work. Remember to measure in playing position - gravity will affect your measurement if you have the guitar on it's back.

Be sure to take it easy and turn only a small amount at a time - maybe no more than a 1/4 turn or better still less. Give it a minute to settle in, tune it, measure it again, and try it out.

If you don't feel absolutely comfortable about doing this you should also be able to take it back to the tech who did the setup and ask him to add more relief if the setup was recent. The tech that I use locally has a 1 month adjustment policy after any work - just bring it back in and he'll readjust it. Not everybody is so generous but a truss rod adjustment is pretty minor.
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Ricochet » May 30th, 2010, 11:53 am

Yes, that's as it should be.
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Re: Lowering Action and Avoiding Fret Buzz?

Post by Aluciano » May 9th, 2012, 7:24 am

Guitartech wrote:If I understand the problem correctly, the buzzing is only on the D String? If this is the case, even though the string is new, I would start by checking the underside of the string for dings or dents where it makes contact with the fret. I get a lot of people that bring their guitars to me because of a buzzing issue and sometimes find that it is a bad string or strings. Also, I would inspect the frets for excessive wear, grooves or low spots where the strings make contact. Either of those issues can cause buzzing.

If the buzzing is on multiple strings around the 12th and 14th fret I wouldn't jump to a truss rod issue just yet. Normally buzzing in that area is not a truss rod issue. If the truss rod was too tight you would be likely to have buzzing towards the lower frets somewhere around the 3rd to 7th frets.
If the truss rod was too loose you would be likely to have high action in the middle of the neck. (Note" an extremely loose truss rod can cause buzzing in the higher frets but the relief would have to be substantial.)

Occasionally, I see guitars( Les Paul's included) that have a small hump where the neck meets the body causing the fingerboard to rise slightly in that area creating fret buzz when the guitar is set with low action. If this is the case, You may want to have any high frets leveled so the problem goes away but keep in mind this would have to be determined by an experienced luthier. I would not touch the frets unless that is indeed the problem.

When I setup Les Paul guitars assuming there are no fret or neck issues, I generally set the neck relief around .003 to .005 @ the 7th fret. (10 gauge strings) I like a fairly straight neck. My string height is aprox. 4/64 on the low side and 2 to 3/64 on the high side depending on the guitar and string gauge of course.
would it make a difference if I use 10-46 and 10-52 gauges in term if term of the relief you mentioned?
2- Where you measure the relife clearance? at the 7th fret while you depressing the fret where the neck meets the body, and the first fret?
Thanks for this forum it is very informative for me, as I do the setup myself.

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