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String rattle across fretboard. Causes?

Discussion in 'Tele-Technical' started by drett, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. drett

    drett TDPRI Member

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    Hi, I have partscaster Strat that rattles consistently up and down the fretboard and for all strings. I can't really hear it through the amp unless I play really hard, so it is not the biggest deal in the world, but my tele partscaster doesn't do this at all and they are set up almost exactly the same. Truss rod is adjusted to about .010 bow on the 6th fret with strings depressed on the 1st and 17th frets. Action is just a tad higher than what Fender recommends on their spec sheet.

    So, this is kind of a theoretical question. With everything equal, why would one guitar have this rattle and another not? Regarding string rattle, most people on the forums recommend adjusting the truss rod and or raising the action, but I don't think this is my problem. The only difference I can see between these two guitars is that the frets on the rattling strat seem to have a wider crown than does the tele. Could this be the likely culprit?

    To anticipate responses a bit, yes, I can live with it but I'm still curious as to possible causes of the problem. Also, I know that without being able to see the guitar up close, noone can diagnose the problem, but mostly I'm wondering what the possible culprits might be.

    Oh, and I have a shim in the strat neck pocket, increasing the neck angle somewhat. I doubt neck angle could have anything to do with this but thought I would mention it.

    Thanks for any advice and speculation!
     
  2. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

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    Same strings on each?
     
  3. drett

    drett TDPRI Member

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    Yep, should have mentioned that. Strings are the same. Both have .010s, though the strings on the Strat are a little older. Maybe a string change would help, but it's been doing this for a while, even with fresh strings.
     
  4. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

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    Well... if the relief and action are the same... as are the the strings... that leaves the nuts.

    Fret the strings just beyond the second fret... and compare the gap between the strings and the first fret. The "rattle guitar" may have a lower nut.
     
  5. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    Rattling when strings are not fretted: nut slots too low

    Rattling when strings are fretted: high frets.
     
  6. drett

    drett TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for the responses.

    I think I can safely rule out the nut, since when I play the strings open, that's where I consistently get NO rattle. Also, I doubt my problem is one or two high frets, since the rattle occurs so consistently across the fretboard, unless I misunderstand something. (If I had some abnormally high frets, I would more than likely get no rattle when fretting those high ones, right?) I'm still wondering worn frets or poorly crowned ones can cause this rattling.

    And I ask partially because I've seen lots of people noting that their Fender and Fender-style guitars do this, while few say it happens with their LPs or whatever. And I've never seen an explanation as to why. Is there something about Fender designs that make them more prone to this rattling? The longer scale, maybe, or the neck angle?

    I thought I would draw on the collective expertise here at TDPRI for a possible answer.
     
  7. KokoTele

    KokoTele Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    A couple high frets in the upper registers could easily cause this.

    It could also be that the fretboard above the 17th fret ramps up towards the strings, almost like there's a bend in the neck where it meets the body. This is not at all uncommon.

    You may be able to detect this by sighting down the edge of the fretboard, or by using a good straight edge against the frets.
     
  8. piece of ash

    piece of ash Friend of Leo's

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    Are your neck screws tight?

    Are you bending the guitar as you play it fretted?
     
  9. Thinlineggman

    Thinlineggman Tele-Afflicted

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    Sounds like a high fret, or a neck-shim is needed. I had a problem like this with an old bass and I had to put a small shim tilting the nut end of the neck up.
     
  10. mellecaster

    mellecaster Former Member

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    You say you are showing .010 of Neck relief....Humor me and loosen the Truss rod a 1/4 turn, and see what happens ?
     
  11. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Poster Extraordinaire

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    You really can't set up a neck with specifications alone; you need to play it and adjust it until the fret buzz goes away. I'd say the nominal .010 relief is just a starting point, try a little less and see if that particular guitar plays better. I'd also say that with different size frets, your eyes could be playing tricks on you as far as the action is concerned. Also, measuring relief using the string is not as accurate as using a machinist's straightedge, so try that and see if the two guitars are really the same (if that's important to you). If you can't get the action as low as you like it, then a fret dress might be in order.
     
  12. davmac

    davmac Tele-Afflicted

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    If I was faced with this problem the first thing I'd try an do is locate where the buzzing/rattle is coming from. Get your ear close to the fretboard and see if you can pinpoint the source. This may help you narrow it down. And don't forget to listen across the whole guitar. I've had what I initially thought was a fret buzz that turned out to be a strange rattle on the D string tuner.

    Next I'd get a sheet of paper and, fretting at, say the 12th, slide the paper under the string at the 13th, fold and adjust the thickness of the paper until you can just feel it grab, then use this "feeler gauge" to the check frets on each string - fret at n, feeler gauge under fret n+1.

    The other approach that may be worth considering, esp when you've got rattle on all strings, is to raise the action until all the rattle is gone, and then, one string at a time, gradually reduce the action to the point where the buzz starts. Then you're only looking for one problem to solve. Rinse and repeat until action on all strings is down to something you're happy with.
     
  13. Big Burly

    Big Burly Tele-Meister

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    Play the guitar unplugged. Pick a string and fret it at the 1st fret and play it (fingers or pick, no matter). Then do the same for the 2nd fret all the way down the board on the same string. You should notice that the buzz stops on a certain fret. That means that the fret just in front of it (and maybe more ahead of it) is/are high. Mark the fret under this string with a Sharpie.

    Now continue up the same string fretting, playing, and if it is still buzzing, mark as I said above.

    Now, do this for all of your strings.

    What you will see is either one high fret or several high spots on different frets.

    If you see this, you need to straighten the neck, and do a fret leveling.

    One high fret can make all of the strings buzz. Sometimes there are more than one buzzing fret.
     
  14. drett

    drett TDPRI Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions above. I've had a chance over the last few days to play around with some things. Here is a list of them:

    1. I loosened the truss rod a quarter turn to see if that would help. It did on the first 5 or 6 frets but then got worse or higher up the neck, which would make sense, I suppose as you add curvature to the neck.

    2. After resetting the truss rod to where it was before, I raised the action to the point where the rattling stops at what I've deemed to be a normal picking strength. I'm all the way up to about an 1/8" at the 12th fret and though I think that would be defined as "high" action, I'm actually finding it not terribly uncomfortable play, and I kind of like the extra "pop" of individual notes.

    3. I also listened closely around the fretboard to see if I could locate where the rattle was coming from, in case it might have had to with the bridge saddles or the tuners, and concluded that it was definitely a fret rattle. The fact that I have no rattle when playing the strings open is another indication that the tuners and the saddles are not the issue.

    Anyway, I'm faced with the fact that the neck on this guitar simply cannot handle a low action with little to no fret rattle. A professional fret leveling or neck replacement will probably be in my future. At least now I will know how to better describe my problem and what I want when taking it to a tech/luthier.

    For now, I have to see if I can get the intonation working and raise the pickups a bit. Finicky things, these guitars.

    Thanks again,

    Dave
     
  15. RussBert

    RussBert Tele-Holic

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    Dave you're fighting the fact that all you need is have the frets leveled. Read the sticky at the top of this page and who knows, you might even try it yourself
     
  16. Brooks A Hood

    Brooks A Hood Tele-Meister

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    I would like to know more about the strat.
    1. What pickups are in it ?
    2. Pickup heights ? (using the 22nd fret method)
    3. String height @ the 1st fret? (bare minimum 1st and 6th strings)
    4. String height @ the 12th and 22nd frets ? (again 1st and 6th strings)
    5. Relief as measured from 1st to last fret on both sides of the fingerboard.
    6. String type and guage.

    You can also evaluate the "fret plane" by holding down the 6th string @ the 1st and 12th and slowly running your right hand index finger up the neck to the 21st or 22nd fret while watching the gap @ the fret where it is the most. For example, if the 6th fret is where you see the most gap between the 1st and the 12th, and the gap increases as you run your finger towards the 21st or 22nd, then something may be off.
     
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