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Gibson LP Special fret buzz question

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by gregulator450, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Let me start by clarifying that I set up and repair electric guitars as a side business, and I have well over a hundred successful setups under my belt. Not saying I'm the best out there, but I have a lot of happy customers, some of whom are professional players. Last weekend I set up a brand new 2020 Special, TV Yellow, for a repeat customer who has become a friend, and in my follow-up communication with him last night he's claiming an odd fret buzz situation.

    It started out with, "When I fret down on the 10th fret, the string hits fret 9 and produces a pitch/buzz, not unlike a ring modulator." The conversation then progressed to this issue: when he frets an E cowboy chord, the A/D/G strings buzz between the 2nd fret and the nut. Open strings don't buzz, just the fretted strings. Between the 2nd fret and the nut.

    A string mute strap installed between the nut and first fret fixed the issue, but deadened the open strings (obviously). He also stated that the guitar didn't develop this condition till last night, so Saturday, Sunday, and Monday it was awesome.

    I have never heard of this in my decade of setting up guitars, and even longer being the perpetual intermediate player that I am. When I played the guitar after I set it up, I got no buzz whatsoever, except when my fret hand got blatantly sloppy, which slop keeps me in that perpetual intermediate stage.

    Here are the setup specs: Gibson 10-46 strings
    Neck relief: 0.008"
    Action at the 17th fret w/ 1st capo'd: 4.5-5/64" at both low and high E's
    Action at the 1st fret varied between 0.028" and 0.035"

    Customer claimed the frets had been Plek'd at Gibson; I couldn't confirm that. FWIW, I couldn't find any flaws in the fretwork.

    My finished specs are as follows: D'Addario NYXL 9.5-44 strings
    Neck relief: 0.004"
    Action at the 17th fret w/ 1st capo'd: 4/64" at the low E, 3/64" at the high E
    Action at the 1st fret
    E = 0.018"
    A = 0.017"
    D = 0.016"
    G = 0.015"
    B = 0.013"
    E = 0.009" (yes, I took a couple too many strokes with the file)

    Possible causes that I can think of:
    1. The neck may not have been done "settling in" to its truss rod adjustment. I only had the guitar for about 20 hours from drop off to pick up, Friday night to Saturday afternoon, and the setup was done on Saturday morning, just a few hours before the customer picked it up. If it was still acclimating to the adjustment I made, it could have ended up in a zero-relief or negative-relief position. In hindsight I could've left the neck relief at 0.008" and it would've been fine; I just like to get the neck as straight as the fretwork will allow without creating unnecessary string buzz.
    2. We recently had our two weeks of winter, and starting on Saturday afternoon, a strong chinook wind came through and melted our foot of snow in two days. Average temps are up 20-25 degrees from last week and the RH has changed, though I didn't keep track of how much. Just the kind of thing that could warrant another truss rod adjustment.
    3. Playing style*. I may be reaching here. Whenever this customer has played in my presence, he always softly strums jazz chords and picks out single note melodies. However, he told me after the fact that he's playing reggae/pop lately. I know that some of what he's playing involves chop chords doing reggae, and may be hitting the strings harder than he does when he tests out his guitars at my place. However, I am not sure how that would create a ring modulator effect between a fretted note and the nut.

      *Playing style is the main reason I always offer free follow up adjustments with every setup I perform. I rarely get to see my customers play in their natural environment, so I feel it's right to offer the extra service to get their guitars just right.
    At my suggestion (due to his telling me that he's playing reggae), the customer has slightly raised the bridge action; I suggested this as soon as he told me he was playing reggae and not soft jazz, which was before the buzzing issue started.

    I have also advised that neck relief should be rechecked and possibly adjusted, and I have offered to go to his house or the music shop he works at to make the adjustment (at no cost, of course). He has decided that the nut needs to be replaced and has gotten an RMA to return the guitar since he's still in the 45-day return window. I offered to make a new nut for only cost of materials but he declined. Interestingly enough, he actually got the company who sold him the guitar to pay for my setup work because the guitar didn't feel quite right when he received it.

    So, after that long-winded explanation, have any of you all experienced this sort of string noise? If you have, what fixed it? What are your opinions based on the information I've provided? Rather than being an arrogant "setup expert" I'm looking at this as an opportunity for improvement.

    Also, if there are any suggestions for dropping this amount of info in a more concise manner... LOL
     
  2. Collin D Plonker

    Collin D Plonker Tele-Afflicted

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    Why would he get fret buzz behind the fretted note? There is something off with tge neck (not the nut, as he is convinced). I know you checked that the frets are level, so that leaves relief or warp. Did you check fret level across the board, or just three frets?
     
  3. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Checked across the board. The whole guitar was in top shape, aside from some random tooling marks on the edge of the fretboard. I really think that with our sudden drastic weather change coupled with my rather (aggressively ) straight truss rod adjustment the neck developed a slight back bow. But, now I can't check because the guitar is already packed and waiting for shipment back to the retailer. I have a feeling it will get back to AMS and they will find a great-playing LP Special in the case. o_O
     
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  4. clayfeat

    clayfeat Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah, I think you did fine. He just didn't like the guitar.
     
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  5. Collin D Plonker

    Collin D Plonker Tele-Afflicted

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    Yeah. Could be user error. You'll never know, though. Next time he comes in give him a little more relief and action.
     
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  6. bendercaster

    bendercaster Tele-Afflicted

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    Fret buzz behind the fret doesn't make any sense. It sounds like a playing technique issue or like he just needs to plug it in and turn up his amp, or both.
     
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  7. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I would have gladly "disposed" of it for him. It is a fantastic guitar.
     
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  8. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I hope so. I have to give the benefit of the doubt on truss rod adjustment, but that still doesn't make complete sense in my mind. If the neck had even a slight backbow, the strings should theoretically lay down on the frets between the fretted not and the nut, and not be able to ring, right?

    Starting to remind me of a situation I had when I was lacing and truing wheels for motocross racers- one kid for whom I built wheels claimed to experience head shake (wobbling/shaking in the steering/front forks area) and blamed the wheels. He kept trying to fix it and ended up having the spokes so tight that I am surprised they never snapped under the excessive tension. I asked him at what point he was experiencing head shake, thinking it would be in long, wide-open straightaways or braking bumps, etc.

    He said, "Oh, only when I'm in the air over really long jumps."
    WTF.
    For the record the wheels were perfectly round and within 0.002" of true when I delivered them. Some wobble might have been understandable if the wheels were oval or way out of whack. I told his parents that I would never build another wheel for them if they ever let him so much as look at a spoke wrench again, and that all responsibility for wheel failures was on them.
     
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  9. bendercaster

    bendercaster Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm my experience, back bow might cause fretting out in the lower, first to fourth frets, but that's because when you fret there the string is fretting out somewhere toward the middle of the neck.
     
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  10. El Serio

    El Serio TDPRI Member

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    That's what the Epi Junior I adjusted last night did. Had so much back-bow, you couldn't play an open note.
     
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  11. gregulator450

    gregulator450 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    I figured it was a stretch to consider that, but I feel like I have to look at all possible options...
     
  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Greg, I haven't waded thru all this thread but your setup specs from the first post look pretty reasonable. One little trick I like to do is next fret clearance. Fret a string at one and play it, if it doesn't buzz they you have adequate clearance at the next fret. Measure that - it might be two or three or four thousands, maybe more. Now fret that string at two and measure the clearance at 3, if it is at least what you measured at 1/2 then it shouldn't buzz either. Go right on down the board, as long as the clearance stays the same or increases it shouldn't buzz.

    Several things might happen - it might get smaller, then bigger again - that usually indicates a high fret. It might decrease over several frets, usually near the neck body joint - that can be the dreaded "14th fret hump" (I'm an acoustic guy). Or it might indicate too much relief. If the next fret clearance simply gets progressively smaller you probably have too low an action at 12. If it gets progressively greater you might be able to lower the action.

    The nut is out of the picture during this test - I both measure the 1st fret clearance as you have done (my targets are 12 or 14 thou on the first string going up to maybe 18 on the sixth) but I alway check the "back fret clearance" at the first fret - hold each string down at the third fret (it will also be contacting two) and measure the gap at one. You should have something, it might be very small but if you tap on the string over the fret you should hear a ping.

    Just some ideas.
     
  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'll add to the above that I usually do kind of a quick and dirty version of the next fret thing. Fret one and measure that gap with a feeler gauge. Now just move down the neck fretting each one in sequence and wiggling the same feeler blade, you will feel if it gets tighter, looser or stays the same. Then do the next string, then the next. I look for patterns, not hard and fast values. Sometimes I won't even use the feeler - I'll just tap the next fret and kind of judge whether its getting tighter or I have the same gap.
     
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