String buzz even with high neck relief and action

Wallaby

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Hi @fushifushi ,

At this configuration, without changing anything from what you just posted, is the relief the same at the 8th fret on the low E and A as it is on the high E?
 

fushifushi

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At this configuration, without changing anything from what you just posted, is the relief the same at the 8th fret on the low E and A as it is on the high E?
When I measure it now, I get 0.007" at the 8th fret on the low E and 0.008" at the 8th fret on the high E. Seems like the neck is still settling in from the truss rod adjustments.
 

telemnemonics

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I'm wondering if the neck has a twist but with the relief close to the same under both E strings it seems not.
Can't see from here what's going on!
 

telemnemonics

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Here's an update. I've reduced the relief on the neck and adjusted saddle heights to get it closer to baseline specs (and closer to how it came home from the tech).

MEASUREMENTS:
- Relief - 0.008" (capo 1st fret, hold down 21st fret, measure at 8th fret)
- Action on low E - 5/64th at 17th fret
- Action on high E - 4/64th at 17th fret
- First fret action on low E - 0.016"
- First fret action on high E - 0.012"

HOW IT PLAYS:
This set up feels great under the fingers! Super fast and comfortable. Licks are much easier than when I had high neck relief and high action.

HOW IT SOUNDS:
- Low E - 5/64th at 17th fret. Buzz city from 1st to 14th with the lightest useable attack. After the 14th there's still buzz but it's not as prominent. The buzz is worse with this set up than with the high neck relief and action. I consider this amount of buzz unusable.
- A - 5.2/64th at 17th fret. Buzz across all frets with light attack but much less prominent than on the low E. Whereas the amount of buzz on the A was acceptable with the high neck relief and action, it's not acceptable with this set up. Just sounds exactly like a guitar that needs to be taken to a tech for attention.
- D - 4.5/64th at 17th fret. Great. No problems.
- G - 5/64th at 17th fret. Has that sitar sound when played open, and a few frets have a slight buzz or more like the beginnings of fretting out. On the whole I'm okay with this string except for the sitaring when played open.
- B - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome, strong, clear.
- E - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome except the 16th fret is fretting out a little. Still, pretty happy with this string.


Here's a picture of my saddles. The strings aren't touching the height screws. I didn't follow the second part you said about filing the backsides of the saddles.

full
Your saddles are not the same as I was thinking but that doesn't really matter, just no need for filing them here.
Is the buzzing heard through the amp or just unplugged?
 

KokoTele

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Here's an update. I've reduced the relief on the neck and adjusted saddle heights to get it closer to baseline specs (and closer to how it came home from the tech).

MEASUREMENTS:
- Relief - 0.008" (capo 1st fret, hold down 21st fret, measure at 8th fret)
- Action on low E - 5/64th at 17th fret
- Action on high E - 4/64th at 17th fret
- First fret action on low E - 0.016"
- First fret action on high E - 0.012"

HOW IT PLAYS:
This set up feels great under the fingers! Super fast and comfortable. Licks are much easier than when I had high neck relief and high action.

HOW IT SOUNDS:
- Low E - 5/64th at 17th fret. Buzz city from 1st to 14th with the lightest useable attack. After the 14th there's still buzz but it's not as prominent. The buzz is worse with this set up than with the high neck relief and action. I consider this amount of buzz unusable.
- A - 5.2/64th at 17th fret. Buzz across all frets with light attack but much less prominent than on the low E. Whereas the amount of buzz on the A was acceptable with the high neck relief and action, it's not acceptable with this set up. Just sounds exactly like a guitar that needs to be taken to a tech for attention.
- D - 4.5/64th at 17th fret. Great. No problems.
- G - 5/64th at 17th fret. Has that sitar sound when played open, and a few frets have a slight buzz or more like the beginnings of fretting out. On the whole I'm okay with this string except for the sitaring when played open.
- B - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome, strong, clear.
- E - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome except the 16th fret is fretting out a little. Still, pretty happy with this string.


Here's a picture of my saddles. The strings aren't touching the height screws. I didn't follow the second part you said about filing the backsides of the saddles.

full

At this point, you really need someone to watch you play it and inspect the neck and frets in person to see what's going on. I think you've adjusted everything that that can be adjusted.

For reference, action is measured at the 12th fret. 5/64" at the 17th fret translates to a hair under 4/64" at the 12th fret. (You can measure wherever you want, but when comparing to factory specs or someone else's setup, you need to use the same reference point.)

Are you certain that the neck pickup is low enough that it's not causing the problem? (Happens more often than you think.)
 

Wallaby

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Things about measuring relief with a capo and using the string that trip me up -

Placing the capo halfway between the nut and the 1st fret the "normal" way results in the string bending and arching over the fret. The arch formed by the string is visible and I feel leads to an inaccurate measurement.

You can try putting the capo ON the 1st fret instead, in a way where the padding of the capo aligns with the peak of the fret and doesn't press down on the string between frets 1 and 2. Visually the string should cross the peak of the fret in a straight line, not arched upward or downward.

I also find it difficult to press the other end of the string down, manipulate the feeler gauge above the fret ( not between them ) in a way that's level and not tilted *and* determine by feel if there's clearance between the gauge and the bottom of the string, since the string is flexible. It's hard to do that all at once IMO, and I feel that rather then relying on "feel" it's necessary to visually view the gap with a magnifier and a backlight.

And making the measurement with the guitar in a playing position rather than flat on its back on the bench makes it a even trickier - there's a lot going on! I'm not saying your measurement isn't accurate, but it all kind of makes me wonder.

Do your frets all have nice rounded tops, and don't spring or flex or move when you press each one down at every fret on the bass and the treble side of each fret?
 

Wallaby

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This is actually how I measure relief. Something not stressed in the article that I think should be is that the straight edge should be exactly parallel to the run of the neck - you can ( very ) gently press the straight edge alongside one of the strings to get it parallel.


Another thing you can do with the straight edge as long as you have your tools out is to check the string clearance at a lot of fret locations to see if you have a twist or dip or corkscrew happening.

You can also tighten the truss rod and remove relief until it's flat. You can measure the relief as it gets smaller until it disappears, or you can adjust it into a back bow ( the straight edge will rock lengthwise ) and then gradually loosen the truss rod by small amounts ( 8th-turn or less ) until it stops rocking.

Assuming that your frets are actually level and well-seated.

Personally with your neck I'd adjust it flat, as flat as possible under string tension, and set action to 5/64" at the 12th fret and see if it buzzes when noting each string at each fret clean and careful and consistent, unplugged in a quiet room. When the relief is removed from the equation you might get a better picture of what's going on with the levelness of your frets. You'll probably have to raise your saddles a bit.

If you can get a clean note at the 1st fret when the neck is flat and the frets are actually level you *should* be able to gradually lower the action until it buzzes somewhere and then raise back up slightly.

If there is still buzzing after that, I'm out of ideas related to the neck geometry and the condition of the frets.
 

Boreas

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Here's an update. I've reduced the relief on the neck and adjusted saddle heights to get it closer to baseline specs (and closer to how it came home from the tech).

MEASUREMENTS:
- Relief - 0.008" (capo 1st fret, hold down 21st fret, measure at 8th fret)
- Action on low E - 5/64th at 17th fret
- Action on high E - 4/64th at 17th fret
- First fret action on low E - 0.016"
- First fret action on high E - 0.012"

HOW IT PLAYS:
This set up feels great under the fingers! Super fast and comfortable. Licks are much easier than when I had high neck relief and high action.

HOW IT SOUNDS:
- Low E - 5/64th at 17th fret. Buzz city from 1st to 14th with the lightest useable attack. After the 14th there's still buzz but it's not as prominent. The buzz is worse with this set up than with the high neck relief and action. I consider this amount of buzz unusable.
- A - 5.2/64th at 17th fret. Buzz across all frets with light attack but much less prominent than on the low E. Whereas the amount of buzz on the A was acceptable with the high neck relief and action, it's not acceptable with this set up. Just sounds exactly like a guitar that needs to be taken to a tech for attention.
- D - 4.5/64th at 17th fret. Great. No problems.
- G - 5/64th at 17th fret. Has that sitar sound when played open, and a few frets have a slight buzz or more like the beginnings of fretting out. On the whole I'm okay with this string except for the sitaring when played open.
- B - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome, strong, clear.
- E - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome except the 16th fret is fretting out a little. Still, pretty happy with this string.


Here's a picture of my saddles. The strings aren't touching the height screws. I didn't follow the second part you said about filing the backsides of the saddles.

full
Having baseline measurements is good.

Have you gotten the humidity (and neck) stabilized? That must be done first, then re-measure and re-assess.

When things start to change around the 14th fret, a neck hump should always be a consideration. A twisted neck needs to be ruled out. Loose/popped frets are a likely problem as well. Straightedges and rocker gauges are your friends.

More pix showing string clearance in the problem areas can be helpful. Make sure the frets are in focus. Get down low and shoot some across the fingerboard. Also, pix of the nut from several angles.

But start out with a properly humidified neck and not a neck that changes daily with humidity levels. All bets are off if frets are loose because of overly-dry wood.
 
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fushifushi

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Is the buzzing heard through the amp or just unplugged?
I did a quick and dirty test by recording my amp and walking out to the room so the acoustics don't get picked up on the mic. I could hear the buzz in the recording. Admittedly the buzz isn't as loud through the amp as it is acoustically, but still clearly audible. I'll do a better isolated recording tonight to double check.

At this point, you really need someone to watch you play it and inspect the neck and frets in person to see what's going on. I think you've adjusted everything that that can be adjusted.
I agree. I'm planning to call the luthier I've worked with before and having a conversation. He's the kind of guy who will want me to come into his shop and discuss the concerns I have.

For reference, action is measured at the 12th fret. 5/64" at the 17th fret translates to a hair under 4/64" at the 12th fret. (You can measure wherever you want, but when comparing to factory specs or someone else's setup, you need to use the same reference point.)
Thanks for the tip! I had seen that Freeman measures from the 12th fret as well. I was going by these Fender factory specs and reference points.

Are you certain that the neck pickup is low enough that it's not causing the problem? (Happens more often than you think.)
Yes, I tested that by dropping the neck pickup way down. Got the same buzz.

Thanks also @Wallaby and @Boreas for your responses too. Have to run now though. Will chime back in soon.
 

cousinpaul

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I haven't heard the term used in quite a while but maybe the OP's guitar could benefit from a bit of fret fall-away on the heel end of the neck.
 

Freeman Keller

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Thanks for the tip! I had seen that Freeman measures from the 12th fret as well. I was going by these Fender factory specs and reference points.


I do that for two reasons. First, it makes the math simple since its half way between the nut and saddle, and second by doing it at the 12th fret on every instrument it makes comparisons easy.

You are going to get lots of responses, I'll stay out of the picture. I'm concerned when you say it buzzes at the first fret on the low E string, does that mean with the string unfretted? That is a nut slot issue, but 0.016 should be OK for first fret clearance. I would do the "back fret" and "next fret" measurements - back fret will tell you about the nut slot, next fret tells you a lot about the reset of the neck.

Good luck, I'll keep quiet.
 

telemnemonics

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Well this is an odd problem!

The thing about buzzing due to low action is the action must be low, and it seems to not be the case.

The thing about buzzing due to bad fretwork is that a high fret will buzz when you fret one fret behind the high fret, but then when you fret at one of the high frets, the note will be clear and buzz free because the fretted note is sounding off a high fret and cannot buzz on any fret.
There is simply no way for frets 2 through 17 to be high.

Or put another way, a bad fretwork buzz, when fretted at the first fret, indicates the first fret is low and the second fret is high.

Have you tried checking frets with some sort of straight edge like a credit card?
When one starts adjusting their own guitars, a few straight edge tools are the first on the list to get and use.
I don't buy those things called fret rockers because I look down my long nose at over priced guitar specific "tools". But the idea still needs to be employed if trying to understand your own guitar problems.
Otherwise, making adjustments if like robbing a pharmacy and popping random pills.

I'm also not a fan of using the strings as straight edge, and even with the aluminum staright edge I use, I doubt I could discern between .007 and .008 relief, but it sure is easier to measure by feel or the resistance of the feeler gauge snug or loose between fret and edge.
When I try that with a string, try to not touch the string or to see the string move indicating the feeler gauge is bigger than the space, while knowing that my hands are not micrometer accurate with angle of the feeler gauge to ensure I didn't bump the string as opposed to the gauge being perfectly parallel to the string?
For me it's a slower path to a less accurate result.

My bane this season is a Warmoth fatback with SS 6100 frets.
Some frets are high, the neck is huuuuge for a .009 set but easily gets relief with the new-to-me side adjust which is a single action two access point system.
So I've never used the foolish dual nut side adjust and I've never had SS frets OR the Fatback which I was a bit concerned might not be pulled into any relief by light strings, as the neck is full shouldered full inch the whole length.

Anyhow, the fact is that if there are high frets, only some frets will buzz, and if all frets buzz, it's a mystery!

Those saddles have a little exit corridor the string could possibly buzz against the "walls" of but the design is proven so that seems unlikely.
I was filing saddles that way in the '90s before the Tele community concluded that the Tele design was "broken".
I prefer plain jane stock saddles but have all sorts in the parts bins.

Can you hear where the buzzing comes from?
One end or the other?
First fret buzz, from the left or from the right?
 

Freeman Keller

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Don't forget that there are lots of other things that can "buzz" on a guitar. Loose parts, tuner bushings, wires inside the cavity, a wonky string.... I had a loose pickguard on an acoustic that drove me batty.
 

moosie

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Thanks for the tip! I had seen that Freeman measures from the 12th fret as well. I was going by these Fender factory specs and reference points.
I used to follow that, too, until I realized literally no one else was recommending that. I prefer the 12th also because a) I play more in that region than the 17th. And b) There's no chance of neck joint weirdness (on different guitars with different numbers of frets clear of the body). Heck, with an acoustic, the 17th is well onto the body.

This is actually how I measure relief. Something not stressed in the article that I think should be is that the straight edge should be exactly parallel to the run of the neck - you can ( very ) gently press the straight edge alongside one of the strings to get it parallel.
I've done it this way for years. As you say, it's difficult to get an accurate relief measurement off the capoed string. With the guitar in playing position (otherwise gravity will have it's way with your setup), one hand holding down the string, the other sliding the feeler... am I pushing the string slightly? Or not?

I don't use the capo to set relief, but if I did, I'd place it right on top of the fret. Not behind. For the reasons you state.

The "common knowledge" against the straightedge is that it won't work if your frets aren't level.

It doesn't require perfect frets, just that the straightedge isn't rocking, or lifted off the fret on either end.

And for very out-of-level frets, why would you be setting relief without fixing this first?
 

Telenator

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Here's an update. I've reduced the relief on the neck and adjusted saddle heights to get it closer to baseline specs (and closer to how it came home from the tech).

MEASUREMENTS:
- Relief - 0.008" (capo 1st fret, hold down 21st fret, measure at 8th fret)
- Action on low E - 5/64th at 17th fret
- Action on high E - 4/64th at 17th fret
- First fret action on low E - 0.016"
- First fret action on high E - 0.012"

HOW IT PLAYS:
This set up feels great under the fingers! Super fast and comfortable. Licks are much easier than when I had high neck relief and high action.

HOW IT SOUNDS:
- Low E - 5/64th at 17th fret. Buzz city from 1st to 14th with the lightest useable attack. After the 14th there's still buzz but it's not as prominent. The buzz is worse with this set up than with the high neck relief and action. I consider this amount of buzz unusable.
- A - 5.2/64th at 17th fret. Buzz across all frets with light attack but much less prominent than on the low E. Whereas the amount of buzz on the A was acceptable with the high neck relief and action, it's not acceptable with this set up. Just sounds exactly like a guitar that needs to be taken to a tech for attention.
- D - 4.5/64th at 17th fret. Great. No problems.
- G - 5/64th at 17th fret. Has that sitar sound when played open, and a few frets have a slight buzz or more like the beginnings of fretting out. On the whole I'm okay with this string except for the sitaring when played open.
- B - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome, strong, clear.
- E - 4/64th at 17th fret. Awesome except the 16th fret is fretting out a little. Still, pretty happy with this string.


Here's a picture of my saddles. The strings aren't touching the height screws. I didn't follow the second part you said about filing the backsides of the saddles.

full
You may simply need to flip the E - A saddle over and re-install the height screws from the top. Looks like that will get the intonation slots where they need to be at a better "break-over" point. The saddles don't necessarily have to be straight.
 

fushifushi

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Do your frets all have nice rounded tops, and don't spring or flex or move when you press each one down at every fret on the bass and the treble side of each fret?
Frets look fresh and round, and I didn't see any frets that flex at the edges. Thanks for all your other suggestions about measurements and methods.

Have you gotten the humidity (and neck) stabilized?
Nope, I'm afraid my home environment is uncontrolled and probably not suited for precision guitar diagnostics.

I'm concerned when you say it buzzes at the first fret on the low E string, does that mean with the string unfretted?
No, the low E doesn't buzz unfretted unless I hit it really hard. It does buzz when I fret the first fret though.

Have you tried checking frets with some sort of straight edge like a credit card?
Yes, I've done that a couple times in the last couple days. I didn't find any rocking.

My bane this season is a Warmoth fatback with SS 6100 frets.
Nice to know that even experienced folks have a bane or two!

Can you hear where the buzzing comes from?
One end or the other?
First fret buzz, from the left or from the right?
That's really hard for me to tell. As I pluck the string and move my ear along the neck, it sounds like it could either be at the bridge or at the frets immediately following the fretted notes. I asked my wife where the buzz sounds like it's coming from when I fretted around the 8th fret, and she said somewhere around the upper frets. But she also couldn't really tell. Blind leading the blind.

Don't forget that there are lots of other things that can "buzz" on a guitar. Loose parts, tuner bushings, wires inside the cavity, a wonky string.... I had a loose pickguard on an acoustic that drove me batty.
I've been looking out for loose bits like that. Would love the solution to be that simple.

You may simply need to flip the E - A saddle over and re-install the height screws from the top. Looks like that will get the intonation slots where they need to be at a better "break-over" point. The saddles don't necessarily have to be straight.
I flipped the E-A saddle around, didn't change the buzzing. I'm going to borrow my friend's Tele saddle tomorrow, which I know doesn't buzz on his guitar. I'll install it in my E-A to hopefully rule out whether it's my saddles.

Thanks everyone for your patience and generosity. At this point, I think I've prodded this guitar with feeler gauges enough. Tomorrow I'll test out the other saddles but I'm expecting the buzz to still be there. They say the simplest theory is often the right one, so I suppose it could be my heavy attack after all which would explain buzz along all the frets. That just seems strange given that 1) even when I play gently I'll get buzz on the E and A and 2) I've played other guitars with similar set ups without as much buzz.

I'm going to call up the luthier, have an initial chat. Will report back! The good news is that this guitar is feeling so awesome. I know it's gonna be a beautiful player once a pro can get it ironed out.
 

Boreas

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Nope, I'm afraid my home environment is uncontrolled and probably not suited for precision guitar diagnostics.
I am afraid then that until you get a humidifier, you will likely need to put up with random buzzing or a higher action. Hopefully it settles down when Spring comes!

Have you sighted down the neck or checked with a straightedge to rule out a twisted neck?

BTW, have you contacted Warmoth? Perhaps they had a run of overly green necks or something. A twisted neck may be covered under warranty, but I have never dealt with them.
 

fushifushi

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I am afraid then that until you get a humidifier, you will likely need to put up with random buzzing or a higher action. Hopefully it settles down when Spring comes!

Have you sighted down the neck or checked with a straightedge to rule out a twisted neck?

BTW, have you contacted Warmoth? Perhaps they had a run of overly green necks or something. A twisted neck may be covered under warranty, but I have never dealt with them.
Given the less than ideal humidity conditions in my house plus the fact that I don't feel confident in assessing neck twist (or just about any other parameters of a guitar), I think I'll bring the guitar into my luthier for his assessment. If he tells me the neck is twisted then calling up Warmoth would certainly be in order.

Thanks for the suggestions!
Jason
 




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