String buzz even with high neck relief and action

Boreas

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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
Good luck! Unless there is an obvious twist, be prepared to leave the guitar at the luthiers for an extended period to allow it to suck up a little moisture before he starts in on it. Make sure he is aware of the lack of moisture in your house and he may give it more time to adjust.

Play it before taking it home and make sure your issues have all been addressed. Just take it over in the corner and play for 10-15 minutes at least. Take your time.

But be warned - whatever the luthier does will be undone when the neck returns home if the humidity has not been addressed. That needs to be a winter priority up in the Great White North.
 

fushifushi

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But be warned - whatever the luthier does will be undone when the neck returns home if the humidity has not been addressed. That needs to be a winter priority up in the Great White North.
Are some guitars more susceptible to humidity than others? My Strat and Dean guitars are playing just fine right now, no extra buzzing or action issues. I don't doubt that the dryness has has certain effects on them, but they aren't exhibiting nearly the issues of the Tele.
 

Boreas

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Are some guitars more susceptible to humidity than others? My Strat and Dean guitars are playing just fine right now, no extra buzzing or action issues. I don't doubt that the dryness has has certain effects on them, but they aren't exhibiting nearly the issues of the Tele.
Every piece of wood is different.

Has this neck ever worked properly without buzzing? I was assuming it is a new neck. Warmoth makes great necks, but that doesn't mean they have never created a piece of firewood. If they made the neck out of overly green (improperly dried) wood, it is likely junk. All the dimensions, especially fret slots, may be off if it has dried even more since being cut.

Fret slots expand when a fretboard shrinks and the frets can become loose, move, and even pop up. This can literally change with every cold front that comes through. If the slots were cut with the wood still "green" it will likely require a refret with thicker frets to keep them tight. They may be able to be glued down, but if they are all loose, probably better of with a refret. But that would be WARMOTH's problem, not yours.

Also, some neck blanks have a natural twist in the grain and can be more susceptible to twist with moisture variation. Same with straightness on a neck that isn't twisted. Some necks even have to be shimmed under certain humidity conditions, depending on how it interacts with the neck pocket. Yes, they can move a lot, depending on the quality of the blank.

Your other guitars were made with decent wood or you would be having trouble with them as well. If you end up keeping this neck, you may find it needs to stay in a properly humidified case when not in use. This would be especially important if you had good-quality acoustic guitars to keep the tops from deforming or cracking.
 

fushifushi

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Every piece of wood is different.

Has this neck ever worked properly without buzzing? I was assuming it is a new neck. Warmoth makes great necks, but that doesn't mean they have never created a piece of firewood. If they made the neck out of overly green (improperly dried) wood, it is likely junk. All the dimensions, especially fret slots, may be off if it has dried even more since being cut.

Fret slots expand when a fretboard shrinks and the frets can become loose, move, and even pop up. This can literally change with every cold front that comes through. If the slots were cut with the wood still "green" it will likely require a refret with thicker frets to keep them tight. They may be able to be glued down, but if they are all loose, probably better of with a refret. But that would be WARMOTH's problem, not yours.

Also, some neck blanks have a natural twist in the grain and can be more susceptible to twist with moisture variation. Same with straightness on a neck that isn't twisted. Some necks even have to be shimmed under certain humidity conditions, depending on how it interacts with the neck pocket. Yes, they can move a lot, depending on the quality of the blank.

Your other guitars were made with decent wood or you would be having trouble with them as well. If you end up keeping this neck, you may find it needs to stay in a properly humidified case when not in use. This would be especially important if you had good-quality acoustic guitars to keep the tops from deforming or cracking.
Awesome, thanks for the info! You're correct that this is a brand new neck, and the low E has buzzed since I assembled the guitar earlier this month.
 

Boreas

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Awesome, thanks for the info! You're correct that this is a brand new neck, and the low E has buzzed since I assembled the guitar earlier this month.
I think I would contact Warmoth before taking it to a tech and follow their advice. Depending on what the tech does, it could void your warranty. If Warmoth approves it beforehand, it should be OK. I don't know how they work - they may pay for repairs, require you send the neck to them, or not cover anything and say it is humidity-related. Good luck!
 

Telenator

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Warmoth is a good company, but likely to cause more frustration than help.

The answer to these things is always something simple once you figure out what going wrong.

Just for the sake of clarity, my suggestion was to flip the saddle over and replace the height from the top. Not just turn them around while leaving the screws in the place. That would not make the difference. I can see where the strings are pinched in the saddles as they sit now. Your last post about fret 2 also indicates a nut slot that has worn too deep but, one problem at a time. I know it can be frustrating, but you'll get it!
 

fushifushi

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Warmoth is a good company, but likely to cause more frustration than help.

The answer to these things is always something simple once you figure out what going wrong.

Just for the sake of clarity, my suggestion was to flip the saddle over and replace the height from the top. Not just turn them around while leaving the screws in the place. That would not make the difference. I can see where the strings are pinched in the saddles as they sit now. Your last post about fret 2 also indicates a nut slot that has worn too deep but, one problem at a time. I know it can be frustrating, but you'll get it!
Sure, I'm happy to try the saddle thing again. For clarification, by flipping the saddle over you mean turning the side facing the guitar body up so that it is facing away from the body? The way these saddles are designed, if I flip it over that way the intonation points will be reversed. In other words, the E saddle point would be closer to the frets and the A saddle point would be further from the frets. That doesn't seem to be the correct orientation for an E-A compensated saddle, unless I'm wrong.

Or do you mean flipping them along the other plane so the E and A positions switch places? That does work for this design and is what I tried the other day. However, I didn't fully unscrews the height screws when I did it. You're saying to fully remove the screws and then screw them back in from the top?

Thanks!
Jason
 

Telenator

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OK, closer examination of the photo reveals that the saddles are practically sitting down right on the ashtray.
The neck set angle on the guitar needs to be such that you have sufficient saddle height for adequate string height adjustment and optimum tone.
Your saddles are really low implying that the neck angle is negative and needs a small shim placed flat in the neck pocket next to the heel wall, closest to the neck pickup. This will make you have to raise all the saddles for clearance while increasing the break-over angle of the strings. Your sustain will improve, reducing string buzz, and this will help the saddles clear the ashtray mounting screws if need be to achieve proper intonation.

The height adjustment screws also appear to be in the wrong saddles. They should be in pairs of equal lengths, (or appropriate offsets) and then sit just below the surface of the saddle when the saddle heights are properly adjusted. The neck set angle needs to be set correctly for smooth performance without peeling skin from your hand during bridge muting. Your mounting screws have big crowns standing tall from the tops of the saddles. This all needs to be sorted out.
 

fushifushi

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Here's an update. I brought my Tele to a luthier today (the guy who made my Strat shine last year), told him about its recent history and that it's been in my dry house. Here's what he said:

- No twists in the neck.
- The nut was indeed cut too low, so a new one should be cut. The slot wasn't the correct size for the high E gauge, causing it to get pinched. He also said a new nut should never be filed this low and then filled back in with filler. That's just not an appropriate solution.
- He measured my neck relief to be lower than what I was measuring the other day with my feeler gauges. I'll chalk that up to inexperience on my part.
- The buzzing is due to the frets needing a dressing. The buzz I was getting on the low E and A was not due to my heavy attack because he was getting the buzz too. He said that a 10"-16" compound radius neck (which is what mine is) should be playing much better than this, should be able to get nice low action with minimal buzzing.

He told me that if I wanted him to fix my Tele without doing a fret dressing he would say no because I would only be disappointed with the results. I respect that he was this blunt, and I was already expecting to have to get the frets dressed because it's the number one thing people say about new necks around here. So I left the Tele with him to cut a new nut, dress the frets, and set it back up. Fingers crossed this does the trick.
 
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Freeman Keller

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Glad you are making progress. I'm going to say something once, then I will shut up. When you first started posting about all of this I gave you a link to a thread that I wrote a long time ago on doing setups. Its back on your first page. It is a systematic evaluation of the the guitar that starts with whether it is properly humidified, then structurally sound, the the frets are checked, then all the little parts of the setup are measured. I believe I offered to send it to you as a pdf so you can print it out and take it to your shop.

I'll bet you didn't look at it. I don't remember you asking me for the pdf. I'm glad you finally found someone who you will listen to.

Now I'll crawl back under my rock.
 

fushifushi

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I'll bet you didn't look at it. I don't remember you asking me for the pdf. I'm glad you finally found someone who you will listen to.
Incorrect, sir! I did indeed read it, enjoyed it, and attempted to follow some of your protocols. I simply hit a wall with my ability to measure everything and diagnose the guitar. I needed to take this to someone to work on it for me. I wish I could have followed your instructions and resolved all this myself. Alas, I fell short. I've appreciated your presence on this thread very much!
 

Freeman Keller

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In that case I apologize. Its just that I put a lot of time into that document and in my opinion, it works if you follow it. Sounds like your repair tech knows what to do.
 

Boreas

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Here's an update. I brought my Tele to a luthier today (the guy who made my Strat shine last year), told him about its recent history and that it's been in my dry house. Here's what he said:

- No twists in the neck.
- The nut was indeed cut too low, so a new one should be cut. The slot wasn't the correct size for the high E gauge, causing it to get pinched. He also said a new nut should never be filed this low and then filled back in with filler. That's just not an appropriate solution.
- He measured my neck relief to be lower than what I was measuring the other day with my feeler gauges. I'll chalk that up to inexperience on my part.
- The buzzing is due to the frets needing a dressing. The buzz I was getting on the low E and A was not due to my heavy attack because he was getting the buzz too. He said that a 10"-16" compound radius neck (which is what mine is) should be playing much better than this, should be able to get nice low action with minimal buzzing.

He told me that if I wanted him to fix my Tele without doing a fret dressing he would say no because I would only be disappointed with the results. I respect that he was this blunt, and I was already expecting to have to get the frets dressed because it's the number one thing people say about new necks around here. So I left the Tele with him to cut a new nut, dress the frets, and set it back up. Fingers crossed this does the trick.
Let us know how it turns out!
 

itstooloudMike

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I’m very interested in how this gets resolved, as I’m currently waiting for a new neck for my own Tele. Please keep us posted on what wasn’t right.
 

Thumper

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I‘ve never been able to sight down a neck and spot a problem unless it was a really gross issue.
But…you can get fret rockers, 24“ straight edges and feeler gauges at a reasonable price nowadays.
(Yes it’s money, but so is that pedal you’ve been lusting after.)

Checking for high or flat frets is always the first thing I do.
Stew Mac and others have good tutorials on leveling frets.
Once that is checked / corrected, then I set up.

Note: I don’t like rulers for setting the action, it works for a lot of folks, but I couldn’t get repeatable results.
(The lines on string rulers are ballpark .005” thick and where your eyeball is can change the measurement).
I use machinist’s pin gauges under the strings and can sneak up to any string height .001 at a time.
(I use the pin gauges constantly for lots of other stuff in the shop as well).

I saw a few mentions of the nut in reply’s…this is always my first move on a set up.
This is my method, it keeps me out of trouble… Remember the numbers are approximates,your mileage may vary.

1. Tune the Guitar to the pitch it will be played at. If strings are shot, change them out now.

2. Measure the string clearance at the first fret when fretting at the third with a real feeler gauge.
(My prefered minimum on a set of 10’s) is .006 on the first two (B & E) and I shoot for a .001 more (7,8,9 grand) on each larger string, ie .010 on the low E.
A lot of new guitars I see have funky nuts.… it won’t play right if the nuts not right.
But…You only get one shot at cutting the depth, go slow measure often.

3. Adjust the truss rod for relief. On electrics with 10’s , I used to set .008 at the 8th with a feeler gauge and ground neck gauge.
After decades, I finally took Dan Erlewine’s advise and now run “most” of my truss rods fairly low, .003” at the 8th fret. I think Dan is right, the guitar sounds better and plays easier. (It does require good fret work).

4. Retune

5. Set bridge / saddles to desired playing action. (Depends on string gauges, style of playing, magnets in pickups and personal taste.
I start at the high E string…set it high enough to feel right, sound right and play right for the string guage, style of playing and personal preference of the player.

I measure under the open string at the 12th fret.
On a set of 10’s I shoot for around .063” (4/64) to start.
On a decent neck with humbuckers I will end up around .078” (5/64) on the open low E at the 12th fret.
Again string height depends on all of the factors above.

6. Retune

7. Set intonation with the best tuner you can afford.
I check the Open string and then fretted at 12th fret with normal fingering pressure.
I don’t use harmonics.

8 Retune

9. Check pickup height and pole adjustments.

10. Play the snot out of it and make sure it’s right before you hand it back to the owner.

Cheers
 

Audiowonderland

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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
Had the frets leveled yet?
 

Brek01

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interested also, as my strat as received, had no fretbuzz when played with a gentle touch, which is not my ham fisted way.
I get a lot of buzzing played how i play. So do people tend to play electrics really gently? As i had a guitar setup by a really good tech and had same issue.

I had to raise the height of the strings. Which doesn't bother me as all my guitars are set like that. I am not a shredder, but do a lot of bending one tone or more.
 

Wound_Up

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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.

I think that's where you're going wrong. You can't assume a technician is a pro just because they're a technician. You can't just assume everybody is a "pro tech". Many aren't. They just think they are. If you're getting a guitar back that sounds like a sitar on multiple strings, THAT AINT NO Pro. No matter how long they've been doing it or how much they charge. If they can't cut a nut, they probably shouldn't be a technician.
 

voskarp

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I am no expert at all, but I have had a few guitars that could not be tamed without a neck shim. IMO that is probly what you are dealing with.
My Classic 60's Telecaster was impossible to make totally buzz-free (unless crazy high action) until i put a reverse .5° shim in the neck pocket, and lowered the relief a little (went from 10-46 to 9-42 and didn't adjust the relief). Just the change in relief didn't make it.

Now its super sweet!
 
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