As the guitar ages, it's subject to a few frets that buzz — be it an electric or acoustic guitar. Fret buzz may also be described as string buzz as it causes the guitar strings to vibrate against a fret on the neck instead of vibrating over it. This, in turn, producing an annoying sound.
Causes of Fret Buzz
1. Low String Action
Action height is a common cause that leads to fret buzz. Avoid putting excessive pressure on the strings as they tend to get fatigued quickly. On the contrary, if the action is fairly low, the guitar becomes more susceptible to fret buzzing. The action can be adjusted up, setting it as low as possible or exaggerating the amount of fret buzz you can tolerate. The string's height can be adjusted using the bridge saddle.
2. Insufficient Neck Relief
Fret buzz may also occur because of little to no neck relief or backbow, coupled with intonation issues. A backbow can easily be spotted with a tab test or sighting the guitar neck. In case the neck life is off, you'll need to adjust the truss rod — be sure to retune before the adjustment.
3. Damage Due To Humidity
Where you store your guitar is an essential factor discussed when considering string buzzing. Humidity levels are common causes of fret buzzing as they lead to cracking or warping around the neck. If the damage is severe, the neck may have to be repaired or replaced. Consider investing in a guitar case, humidification system, or hygrometer to eliminate the chances of neck warping and cracking.
4. Constant Tuning
You heard it right; constantly tuning your guitar from one note to the next can significantly impact the guitar's neck.
Apart from the defects in the guitar that cause it to malfunction, you could also be making use of a faulty playing technique that further enhances strings buzzing:
Buzzing may occur when inadequate pressure or weight is used to fret the strings causing the strings to make inadequate contact with the frets. Moreover, your finger's location must not be at an equal distance between any two frets but somewhat leaning against the higher fret. This technique ties with plucking and strumming fingers, which is also a culprit for string buzz. If the pickups are too high or the actions are too low, plucking or strumming harder will only make the buzzing inevitable.
Is The Fret Buzz Normal?
While some may find even the slightest bit of fret buzz uncomfortable and distracting, others don't mind a little fret buzz, given that the action is kept low. Here's how you can determine whether the buzz you're hearing is usual or not:
Excessive String Buzz:
The string buzz prevents the buzz from sustaining, and the pitch fails to change even when playing adjacent frets. Moreover, you can hear the buzz through the amp.
Bearable String Buzz:
If the string buzz remains inaudible through the amp, it doesn't affect how well the note sustains, and the note only buzzes during the note's initial attack are signs that suggest that the buzz isn't abnormal.
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