Fret buzz might not completely ruin the sound of your guitar, but the persistent buzzing is frustrating enough to put many of us off our playing.
The background sound is annoying rather than painful, and you might think you can live with it for a little while. But eventually, you’re going to want to fix your fret buzz.
Fret buzz occurs when the strings vibrate against the frets, rather than over them. Fret buzz might be a result of how you’re playing, or an issue with the guitar.
It happens because there isn’t enough room for the string to vibrate freely.
The resulting buzzing noise doesn’t exactly affect the quality of the note, but it does add a background hum to the music.
All guitars are different and fret buzz can be caused by many reasons, so you may have to experiment to remove the sound completely. Take a look at our guide for some top tips on fixing fret buzz.
You’re Fretting In The Wrong Place
We’ll begin with some hands-on issues that might be the reason for your acoustic guitar suffering from fret buzz. One potential cause might be that you’re fretting notes in the wrong place.
Your fingers should be just behind the fret. If they’re too far back, or too far forwards, this might be the cause for your additional noise.
Play around a bit with where you place your fingers when you fret, and listen for differences in sound. It might be that this is all you need to do to remove your fret buzz.
You Aren’t Applying Enough Pressure
When the strings don’t make enough contact with the frets, possibly as a result of light contact from the fingers, it can result in a background buzz.
You’re especially likely to hear this when learning barre chords, as the fingers have to cover multiple strings on a single fret. Over time, you should build up the stamina to remove the buzz.
Try playing some isolated chords and notes, and listen out for when the buzz appears.
If you’ve been playing for a while and fret buzz is a new problem, you might still want to experiment with your pressure. You might have changed how you play without realizing.
You’re Strumming Too Hard
A hard strike to the strings can cause them to vibrate in a wider arc, with an up and down motion instead of the standard side to side.
Emphatic strummers are more likely to have an issue with fret buzz than delicate pluckers. If you find fret buzz becomes a problem when you play with more enthusiasm, consider toning down your strumming style.
So, these are the reasons why you might be causing fret buzz, and they’re all fairly quickly fixes. It’s worth checking for these before undergoing a costly and potentially unnecessary fix.
But there are some build reasons that might cause your guitar to suffer from fret buzz.
The Frets Aren’t Level
Fret buzz is caused when the string catches on the fret, so if your frets aren’t the same height, the string is more likely to strike.
Uneven frets are the result of natural wear and tear, as frequent playing puts pressure on the material. One uneven fret can be the source of all your buzzing woes.
Uneven frets can be fixed. This process is typically known as fret dress, or fret leveling, and we recommend asking a professional. It takes about two hours, and your buzzing should be fixed.
If you’ve had to have the frets leveled several times, a total re-fret might be necessary, or they’ll end up too low. Again, we would recommend hiring a professional guitar technician.
The String Action Is Wrong
The term string action refers to the distance between the base of the string and the top of the fret. If this gap is too small, you’re likely to experience fret buzz.
There’s no set distance for perfect string action, as it depends on how you prefer to play, but too high can ruin the note, and too low can cause buzz.
String action can be fixed at home. Relieve the tension by loosening the strings, and then tighten again at the saddle.
Measure the gap along the neck, to make sure everything is even.
The Neck Needs More Relief
You might think that a guitar neck is perfectly straight, but it actually has a slight dip near to the center. This small dip around the eighth fret is known as the neck relief.
If the dip is too big, it can cause issues, but fret buzz is more likely caused by a bend the other way.
When the neck has a hump, this is known as a back bow, and the lack of relief will often lead to strings catching on the frets.
Neck relief can be fixed by altering the truss rod. Loosening or tightening the truss rod will adjust the relief of the neck, removing the awful fret buzz.
This can be done at home, but only if you have a decent amount of experience with guitars.
Otherwise, you might prefer some professional help. Neck relief does change over time, and humidity can often be the source of your back bow.
Ask A Technician
Can’t figure out your fret buzz? Speak to a technician. They can take a look at every aspect of your acoustic guitar, and see exactly what’s going on.
Adjusting neck relief and string action isn’t always easy, so technicians can ensure you don’t make a problem worse. And if it’s an issue with your frets, this isn’t an easy home fix.
Fret buzz isn’t a serious issue, but it is the sort of minor annoyance that quickly becomes frustrating. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be a tricky fix. In fact, you can often stop fret buzz by simply adjusting how you play.
If that doesn’t make a difference, speak to a technician, and they can get your acoustic guitar setup right.