String buzz even with high neck relief and action

fushifushi

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Hi everyone,

I'm trying to set up my partscaster Tele (MJT body, Warmoth neck, 10-16" compound radius). The problem is that the low E buzzes too much when fretted (no buzz when strummed open). Even when I use a softer attack I still get buzz. The A also has a bit of buzz when fretted but it's an amount I can live with.

Initially there was not much neck relief, so I've gradually added relief and raised the saddles in an attempt to reduce the buzz. Now the neck relief and action are pretty high and still there's buzz. I'm not sure where to go from here. Here are the specs I'm measuring.
  • Relief - 0.018" (measured by capo-ing the first fret, fretting the 21st fret, and using the biggest feeler gauge at the 8th fret that doesn't nudge the low E string)
  • Action on low E - 8/64ths (measured at 17th fret)
  • Action on high E - 5/64ths (measure at 17th fret)
My numbers seem high compared to Fender's suggested baseline specs. I understand that every player is different and that it's okay not to follow these baseline specs, but isn't 0.018" relief and 8/64ths on the low E pretty dang high, plus the fact that it still buzzes a lot? I guess I could be playing with an incredibly hard attack but I really don't think that's the case.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Jason
 

Milspec

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How long has it been doing this? Could it just be your technique?

I had an old acoustic that was left to me by a neighbor where I had a similar issue. I finally convinced myself that there must be a loose brace or something and took it to my tech. He picked it up, played it, and no buzz. It was me the whole time.
 

KokoTele

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The high relief is contributing to the problem, though may not be the cause of it. There was a recent thread where FreemanKeller posted a good illustration of why adding relief to a setup will increase buzzing.

To diagnose what's going on, get the neck as straight as you can, then set the action at 4-5/64" If it's still buzzing with light playing, you have high frets somewhere that need to be taken care of.

It's not uncommon for new necks to need a level & crown. (Warmoth doesn't do it.) It's less common--but not unheard of--for new necks to have frets that weren't seated properly.

Shimming the neck doesn't fix fret buzzing. If it seems like it did, it's a red herring and something else changed to fix the buzz.
 

edvard

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I second what's already been said, but I have to ask: what gauge strings do you use? A too-light low E can 'swing' too loosely, causing buzz. Of course, too large of a gauge can also swing wider due to mass, so it's a bit of a balancing act. Maybe try one of those hybrid sets that have the first three strings from your normal gauge, and the larger gauge strings from the next heavier set. Not a cure-all, just part of the recipe.

And of course, if you're already using hybrids and/or 11s or heavier, feel free to ignore me.
 

fushifushi

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Thanks everyone for your responses! I'll give you a little more background. I just got the Tele back from a guitar tech on Saturday. The Warmoth nut was cut high, so the slots needed to be filed down and the guitar needed a good set up. When I went to pick it up from the tech, 3 or 4 strings buzzed like a sitar when strummed open. The tech added filler to the nut slots and filed them down again so I wasn't getting the sitar buzz.

Then when I played the guitar more at home I found that the low E and A were buzzing too much when fretted. This is what led me down this path of increasing the relief and action on the low strings. I was really hoping that taking my partscaster to a reputable tech would take it to the next level, but it hasn't. I would have been open to getting the frets leveled if the tech thought it needed it, but I doubt he put much attention into my guitar since it came back sounding like a sitar.

How long has it been doing this? Could it just be your technique?
This is a newly assembled partscaster, so it hasn't been going on long. I suppose it could be my technique. Maybe I should sit down with a guitar tech, show him how I play, and get his diagnosis. But like I was saying, even playing with a soft attack on the low E produces an irritating amount of buzz, and that's with high relief and action.

To diagnose what's going on, get the neck as straight as you can, then set the action at 4-5/64" If it's still buzzing with light playing, you have high frets somewhere that need to be taken care of.
Flatten the neck, set the action to where you want it, and start again.

Ok, I'll start again and report my findings. I'm fine with having someone do a fret level if that'll fix the issue.

what gauge strings do you use?
D'Addario 10-46 gauge
 
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KokoTele

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Buzzing is also a matter of degrees. If it's not choking out the notes or reducing sustain, that's sometimes called "fret rattle" instead of buzzing. For an electric, my usual standard is that these rattles don't come through the amp. Even with perfectly leveled frets and a perfect setup at factory standard string height, it's nearly impossible to get rid of all the rattles unless the player has a light touch.

About 1 out of 10 players who learn in the rock/blues tradition have a touch that light. Shredders and jazz players often do.
 

tomasz

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Start with straightening the neck more, setting up string height at nut, then, relief, action.. John Suhr explains his method here, which should be pretty easy to follow:




I find Warmoth necks coming pretty good from factory, with slightly high nut action. If yours does not have a high fret, the setup should be pretty straightforward
 

MilwMark

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Did the tech do a fret level and dress? Most won't just do that but will check if if they get anomalous buzz after relief/action is right and ask customer if they want fret dress/level. But some don't want to be perceived as trying to upsell if they don't know the customer well.
 

Boreas

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1. I have always found it difficult to switch back and forth between acoustic and electric and NOT get fret buzz on the electric until I tone my attack and fretting pressure down for the electric. This being said, I can't hear it when I switch on an amp, which is the whole idea behind an electric - not how they sound acoustically.

2. If you have a twist in your neck, you will chase your tail until it is diagnosed.

3. As @KokoTele states above, anyone who plays an electric with any gusto will likely have buzz, unless it is set up for slide!
 

scook

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Some good advice above, only things I’ll add: I’ve had guitars this time of year with similar issues with temperature and humidity changes. Once they’ve acclimated and are tuned back up they were fine of at least better off and less buzzy.

I also have some electrics that buzz somewhat when I play them unplugged but aren’t noticeable when plugged in.

Is this guitar shaped differently than other guitars you own? I once had an issue with a guitar where the issue ended up being the bridge and body shape altered my picking hand motion and killed any semblance of technique
 

beninma

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If your tech screwed up the nut by filing the slots too low (you said they were too high from Warmoth) then I would seriously question that tech and I wouldn't trust him/her to work on your frets.

Anyone who is doing this as a business should never ever be filing the nut slots so poorly that the open strings buzz and then handing it back to the customer. And if a pro tech did that with my guitar I would not accept a "fill the slots" fix.. I'd demand a new nut.

Who knows how many issues your build has.. seems like you need to take it to a true pro and just have them go through everything cause this guitar is too challenging for someone learning. The guy I go to would probably ridicule me for doing my own build and having it be so screwed up but then would fix all the issues rapidly and with little drama and make it perfect.

The most recent guitar I worked on/setup was a $180 Squier and it didn't have anywhere near this degree of issues.
 

David C

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If your tech screwed up the nut by filing the slots too low (you said they were too high from Warmoth) then I would seriously question that tech and I wouldn't trust him/her to work on your frets.

Anyone who is doing this as a business should never ever be filing the nut slots so poorly that the open strings buzz and then handing it back to the customer. And if a pro tech did that with my guitar I would not accept a "fill the slots" fix.. I'd demand a new nut.

Who knows how many issues your build has.. seems like you need to take it to a true pro and just have them go through everything cause this guitar is too challenging for someone learning. The guy I go to would probably ridicule me for doing my own build and having it be so screwed up but then would fix all the issues rapidly and with little drama and make it perfect.

The most recent guitar I worked on/setup was a $180 Squier and it didn't have anywhere near this degree of issues.
Amen.
 

fushifushi

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Buzzing is also a matter of degrees. If it's not choking out the notes or reducing sustain, that's sometimes called "fret rattle" instead of buzzing. For an electric, my usual standard is that these rattles don't come through the amp. Even with perfectly leveled frets and a perfect setup at factory standard string height, it's nearly impossible to get rid of all the rattles unless the player has a light touch.

About 1 out of 10 players who learn in the rock/blues tradition have a touch that light. Shredders and jazz players often do.
I'm definitely from the rock/blues tradition, so my technique probably does generate more buzz. But like I've said, even at a soft attack the buzz is happening on the low E. Here's another point of reference. I had been playing my friend's Tele for the past few months until my partscaster was ready. Our Teles are very similar, except that his Tele doesn't have the same action and buzzing problems as mine.

Start with straightening the neck more, setting up string height at nut, then, relief, action.. John Suhr explains his method here, which should be pretty easy to follow:
This video looks great. I'll try out his method. Thanks for sharing it!

Did the tech do a fret level and dress? Most won't just do that but will check if if they get anomalous buzz after relief/action is right and ask customer if they want fret dress/level. But some don't want to be perceived as trying to upsell if they don't know the customer well.
The tech called me to say all he thought it needed was a nut filing and set up. I said go for it. Then he called to say it was done.

Is this guitar shaped differently than other guitars you own? I once had an issue with a guitar where the issue ended up being the bridge and body shape altered my picking hand motion and killed any semblance of technique
I had been playing my friend's similar Tele for the past few months without these buzzing issues.

If your tech screwed up the nut by filing the slots too low (you said they were too high from Warmoth) then I would seriously question that tech and I wouldn't trust him/her to work on your frets.

Anyone who is doing this as a business should never ever be filing the nut slots so poorly that the open strings buzz and then handing it back to the customer. And if a pro tech did that with my guitar I would not accept a "fill the slots" fix.. I'd demand a new nut.

Who knows how many issues your build has.. seems like you need to take it to a true pro and just have them go through everything cause this guitar is too challenging for someone learning. The guy I go to would probably ridicule me for doing my own build and having it be so screwed up but then would fix all the issues rapidly and with little drama and make it perfect.
I'm going to hold my tongue here, but I did feel like this was amateur hour. Surprising because the guy has been a reputable tech in the area for a couple decades and two of my musician friends independently and enthusiastically recommended him to me for this project. This was supposed to be me taking it to a true pro and having him set this thing up beautifully, but I don't think I conveyed that to his shop well enough. In the end, this felt like yet another mediocre production line set up job. There is another proper luthier that I've gone to before who can probably do what I need. I didn't go to him for this project because 1) he's twice as expensive as any other techs and 2) my friends spoke glowingly of this other guy. Lesson learned.

But who knows? I'm still going to flatten the neck out and start again. Maybe I and my tinkering are more the source of the problem than the tech.
 

scook

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I have seen techs that are amazing at certain types of set ups, certain guitars, etc. but not universal in their abilities.

Might be worth checking out another tech.

When I was younger and actually played a lot I had one tech for acoustics and one for electrics.
 

Freeman Keller

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The high relief is contributing to the problem, though may not be the cause of it. There was a recent thread where FreemanKeller posted a good illustration of why adding relief to a setup will increase buzzing.

To diagnose what's going on, get the neck as straight as you can, then set the action at 4-5/64" If it's still buzzing with light playing, you have high frets somewhere that need to be taken care of.

It's not uncommon for new necks to need a level & crown. (Warmoth doesn't do it.) It's less common--but not unheard of--for new necks to have frets that weren't seated properly.

Shimming the neck doesn't fix fret buzzing. If it seems like it did, it's a red herring and something else changed to fix the buzz.


Thanks Koko, here is that illustration

Neckprofile.JPG


It is very simplistic but shows what happens with many guitars. String tension pulls in relief from the nut to the neck heel, at which point the neck can't flex any more. Depending on how the neck is built one of several things can happen at the body joint, the plane of the neck can continue with apparent relief, it can hump up (ski jump) or drop off. The more relief you have the worse it can be - its always an issue with acoustic and some set neck guitars.

I'm not going to go thru the whole discussion, its been done a dozen times. My personal targets for setups is (1) perfect frets and geometruy, (2) as low a relief as I can get away with, typically 0.005 or so, (3) low action at the 12th fret (I measure it there because its half way to the bridge and the math is easy) of somewhere around 0.060 on the high E and 0.090 on the low. (4)I like first fret action between 0.015 and 0.020. These numbers change with the guitar and player, but they are good buzz free starting points.

I someone is interested in how I go thru a step by step analysis of any guitar (before I do any work on it) and then how I go about doing a setup you can look at this


If you like that little thread it has been turned into a document that is easy to use in your shop and my little spreadsheet is also available, PM me an e-mail addy and I'll send it.
 
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telemnemonics

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Fretted at what fret?
You say the low E buzzes when fretted; where though, everywhere?
Too much relief adds buzz on upper frets but not on the first few frets.
Adding relief is not moving toward a solution BTW.
 

KokoTele

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I'm going to hold my tongue here, but I did feel like this was amateur hour. Surprising because the guy has been a reputable tech in the area for a couple decades and two of my musician friends independently and enthusiastically recommended him to me for this project.

Every pro has a bad day/week/year/whatever sometimes. The good ones will back up their work and make it right. Give him a call and see what he says. If you go see him or someone else, bring the guitar that plays right.

I just recently worked on a guitar that had some fret buzzing issues that I thought I'd straightened out, but I missed that a couple of frets were coming unseated. I had to go back and redo my work after repairing that issue. (Fortunately, the customer hadn't picked it up yet.)
 




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