We’ve all experienced it. You’re just playing away on your electric guitar, having a grand old time, when you notice that something is amiss.
Some kind of weird buzzing sound. You don’t know exactly where it is coming from, but it is definitely there, and now that you have noticed it, you can’t unhear it, and it is distracting you from actually playing your guitar.
After searching for what feels like too long, you go back to pick up your guitar, and you realize where it is coming from Your fretboard!
Fret buzz is an annoying little thing that can put a hold on your enjoyment of playing and learning how to play guitar.
And if you don’t know where it is coming from and, more importantly, how to fix it, it can be an incredibly frustrating sound that makes it next to impossible to focus on anything, much less playing the guitar.
Fortunately, it is a problem that every guitarist has dealt with at some point whilst they are learning, which means that many other people know how to deal with and fix it.
In this article, we are going to explain what exactly fret buzz is, what causes it, as well as how it can be fixed.
What Exactly Is Fret Buzz?
To put it simply, fret buzz is an issue that guitars can have when the string that you are currently pulling on vibrates in a way that creates that incredibly annoying sound.
Whilst the vibration of your guitar strings is what gives your instrument its distinct sound, the strings will normally vibrate over the fretboard.
The buzzing sound occurs when the string is vibrating in contact with the fretboard instead, causing that tingling or buzzing sensation that can make it very hard to focus on your playing.
Fret buzz can happen to both acoustic and electric guitars as they start to age, so it is a useful skill to learn how to identify its cause, no matter what type of guitar you use most often.
What Causes Fret Buzz On Your Guitar?
There can be a whole range of reasons that you are starting to hear more fret buzz coming from your guitar.
One of the main factors that can cause fret buzz is if the frets of your guitar themselves are uneven.
Frets are the small strips of metal that are embedded in and run across a fretboard. It is by pressing the strings of your guitar against a fret that your guitar strings can generate multiple different sounds.
However, aside from the upper ‘fall-away’ fret that is intentionally built like this, all the frets on your board should be the same height as each other.
When a guitar string is normally pulled, the vibration that comes from it should have enough room to generate a sound without contacting any of them.
A taller fret that is not at the correct height will come into contact with the string, causing both the string and the fret to buzz when they make contact. This is why you can sometimes feel a fret buzz as much as you will hear it.
How To Fix This
If you have determined that the cause of your fret buzz is from the frets themselves, the simplest solution is to perform a full fret leveling on your fretboard.
This procedure can take a few hours to complete, but once it is done, you’ll notice that pretty much all the buzz you were picking up before is now gone.
Make sure that it is the fretboard that is causing the fret buzz before you commit to this procedure. You don’t want to assemble your board again to find out that the buzzing is still there once you’re finished!
A Too Low String Action
Despite the name, fret buzz isn’t just caused by contact with the fretboard itself. As we’ll see here, there are plenty of other things that can affect your guitar’s performance.
String action refers to the height of your guitar string at a specific fret. Because the notes your guitar makes are dependent on your string hitting a fret at the right height, this is an important measurement to know in general.
Having measurements for your strings at each length can help you determine what action you need at which length, which can depend on your playing style.
If your string has tension problems, then you may find that it vibrates against the fretboard when playing, rating the sound.
How To Fix It
This issue is relatively easy to fix, at least compared to fixing the entire fretboard. Simply loosen the strings of your guitar a little, and then slowly re-tighten them whilst you are making adjustments to the string’s saddles on the guitar’s bridge.
You should find the string that is causing the fret buzz if string action is to blame
Not Enough Relief For Your Guitar’s Neck
Whilst it might look like a guitar’s neck is straight when you first look at it, a closer inspection shows that they should have a very small dip in the center of the neck, which allows for the string to vibrate against the frets properly.
If the neck of your guitar is bending back to fair, creating a hump, then you may find that there is not enough relief to allow the strings to vibrate properly, creating the fret buzz. This is known as ‘back bow’ but most musicians and guitarists.
How To Fix It
If you have determined that this back bowing is the use for your buzzing, then you need to give your guitar neck more relief. This can be loosening the truss rod in your guitar’s neck.
There are a few ways your fret buzzing can occur. But hopefully, with this guide, you have managed to reduce or stop it altogether.