Ultimate Garage Band

Buzzz! strings too low? Too high? READ THIS!!

108 posts in this topic

There can be a variety of factors that affect low or high string action. The place I always start is checking the guitar for proper relief. You start here too. Still have a problem? Start a thread and ask.:)

Truss rod adjustment

There are a couple of areas of guitar maintenence and adjustment that players would be better off if they could do them on their own, when needed. Some aren't comfortable doing it, and that's ok. Lots of people work on their own cars and lots of people take them to a garage. The same is true for guitars.

The term we need to get comfortable with is relief. Relief refers to the position of the headstock in relation to the plane of the fingerboard. A good way to understand this is to envision what exactly we are relieving and that is string space above the frets. If the strings on a guitar are 1/2" off the frets then the guitar has way too much relief. If the strings are actually resting on the frets then they have no relief. We adjust relief by adjusting the truss rod:

TIGHTEN the truss rod to REMOVE relief

LOOSEN the truss rod to ADD relief.

How to do it? First, to do it alone you'll need a capo. Even if you never use a capo to play, it's worth getting one just to make these kinds of adjustments. It will pay for itself the first time you use it to set up your guitar. Don't get the cheapie capos that have an elastic strap with metal eye holes in the strap, or if you do, make sure you put a protective cloth between the metal eye holes and the finish on the back of your neck. They can and will scratch your finish. If you don't have a capo then you need a friend with at least one hand.

Tune your guitar to 440 concert pitch (A string is tuned to A. Standard tuning; no alternate tunings.) Capo the first fret. Fret the 6th string at the 15th or 16th fret. Take 2 business cards and slip them between the 6th string and the 7th fret. Do the cards actually lift the string up to squeeze in? You need to add relief. This means that your guitar probably had low action but buzzed pretty badly when you played. Do the 2 business cards slip inbetween the 7th fret and the 6th string without touching either? This means you need to take away relief. Your guitar probably has high action and no buzzing.

The more complicated adjustment is to remove relief/tighten the truss rod. The first thing we need to do in this adjustment is to detune the guitar to remove string tension. You do not want to adjust this truss rod fighting the pulling energy of the strings. This is a major and common mistake by inexperienced technicians and can quickly lead to stripped nuts or wrenches or worse.

Once you've loosened the strings, place the adjustment tool into the truss rod end and make sure the tool is fully engaged and properly inserted. If the guitar is older or it's been a while since the last adjustment, it's probably a good idea to first note where the truss rod nut is and then loosen it. If the nut won't loosen, chances are it won't tighten either and you could stand a chance of doing some serious damage here. If it loosens well, then, noting where the nut was when you first started, begin to tighten it.

Go with about 1/4 of a rotation, CLOCKWISE, so say you move the nut from 6 o'clock to 9 o'clock, then stop. Tune it back up, re-capo, re-check your measurement at the 7th fret while fretting higher up on the neck. Perfect? You're done. Need to go some more? Uncapo, detune, and adjust more, this time going only about 1/8 of a turn. Tune up, capo up, measure, etc. If you still need to adjust more, go about 1/8 to 1/4 more if the nut turns easily enough. You don't want to adjust too much in one day. Here's part two; the neck can/will continue to move after the adjustment is made. Sometimes you dial it in perfectly and then a couple of days later actually have to go back and adjust it the other way.

The key point I want to make in this adjustment is NEVER FORCE THE TRUSS ROD. If it's too hard/stiff to move then take it in to a shop. If after the first day of adjustment you still need to adjust further do it as long as you go about 1/2 a turn a day and give it a day to settle in. If the nut becomes too difficult to turn and you still have a ways to go, take it in.

To loosen the truss rod to add relief, the strings pulling tension actually help you make this adjustment, so don't detune them. Again, making sure the adjustment tool is properly inserted and fully engaged, turn the nut 1/4 turn COUNTER CLOCKWISE from about 6 o'clock to 3 o'clock. Tune it, capo it, check it out.

That's it! No mystery. If you try and can't do it, take it in, but try it first. It's not rocket science. In a future sticky I'll cover setting the intonation on your electric guitar or electric bass.

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nice.....:thumbup1: I'll try it tonight.. by the way my saddles on the G and B string are fully extended but still it goes flat...

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Truss rod adjustments on new guitars is usually an easy and smooth operation. I did one today on an OLD Takemine Jasmine that's had medium gauge strings on it forever. I'm positive it was sold with light gauge strings and I'm positve that no one ever adjusted the trussrod to compensate for the added pull of the medium gauge strings. The action on this thing was like 1/2 an inch at the 12th fret!:oops: I detuned the strings, which I just installed (nut was broken and needed replacing, that's why I have it) and stuck the allen wrench in. Oh boy, this puppy didn't want to go easy so I started by marking the nut and moving it backwards a bit. Then it went forwards with a huge CRACK!! This is why this type of adjustment isn't always for the faint of heart. They do that from time to time. It's usually glue that's gotten in the area of the trussrod. So I turn some more. CRACK, SPLINTER!! But, all is good. I made as much adjustment as I could today and I'll check her out tomorrow and probably have to go some more. When you have this far to go and you're moving older wood, go slow. It's had years to get where it is; don't try and change it in a minute.;) If you're trying to move the adjustment tool and it's flexing under the pressure and the nut is not turning, just stop. Take it into a shop at that point.

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I have an old electric beater that I want to change the relief on. The problem is that the trussrod head is completely round,not stripped,looks like it was made that way. Is there a different kind of allen key for this or do you think it's one of those cheapy fake unadjustable trussrods. It is an old Mann guitar.

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I have an old electric beater that I want to change the relief on. The problem is that the trussrod head is completely round,not stripped,looks like it was made that way. Is there a different kind of allen key for this or do you think it's one of those cheapy fake unadjustable trussrods. It is an old Mann guitar.

Man, I've never seen that before! On some Taylor guitars, for instance, they have the rod tip shaped in a hexagon so you have to slip a sort of tiny socket wrench over the end. Now if you had that and it was stripped badly, that would be round. Some Strat style guitars have a round end with holes in side and you take a small, steel bar and insert it into a hole a push/pull that way. Gotta pic? Could you mill it in place by either drilling a hole through it for a steel rod or cutting a slot in the end to try and use a screwdriver to turn it? Here's some nut options from Stew Mac. Do any of these look like yours? Perhaps the nut has fallen off? http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Truss_rods/Adjusting_nuts.html

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Question?--does relief need to be tested for all the strings or is testing the 6 (E) sufficient for the whole array?--my new LP knock off has a slight buzz on 6 (E) when fingering open style G and barre Fseems to be located at about 3 or 4 fret bar and isolated to the 6 string only I think-although I am not quite positive about the 5--does the adjustmen cause any twist on the neck-ie: change the angle of attack at all?

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many thnx for the advise on the truss rod, ive got a strat copy made by boston here which has very high action and have been a bit unsure how to check the neck relief, ill give it a go later on tonight to adjust it, thnx again

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Well only the 6th string needs to be checked if the bridge was properly set up. When you can adjust saddle height then it's possible for an individual string to get too low or too high if it's been adjusted incorrectly. They don't go straight across; they need to follow the radius of the fingerboard.

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I wish I was as sure about doing these adjustments as you seem to be--follow the radius of the neck huh?-Think I'll try first on the tanara--leave My LP till after I get some practice.

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Well, a LP has a Tune-O-Matic bridge and the radius is built into that. The only adjustment you can make to that bridge is saddles forward or backward for intonation and the whole bridge up or down via both posts. I mean sure, you could possible drop the 1st side post so low and raise the 6th string side post so high you might get the radius of the bridge at an angle to the fretboard, but that'd be kind of extreme.

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i have a vox valve amp and a lp shaped guitar.

When ever i play power chords higher than 3,5 the amp seems

to project a buzzy sound and i cant hear the chords nicely.

Is it got to do with the guitar action or the amp?

1 more thing is when i soften the vol. i can hear clearer

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it very well could be. I assumed it was a new guitar and that's not ever been an issue w/any of the new guitars I've dealt with; in fact they typcially go the opposite direction and they're sunk too low. But you're right, a high pickup will do that too.

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Mine was produced in the 90's bought it 2nd hand.

I tried many way of adjusting the pick ups , gain , bass ,etc.

can't get it to work..

so if i need to solve the problem i need to adjust the action higher?

i don't really know how to do that.. bing it to a shop?

When u say adjust the pup , u mean the knob or?

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pup is slang for pickup. If the pickups are too high they can buzz on the strings. To raise the bridge there are 2 adjustment screws that either can turn with a screwdriver or there will be a textured surface to turn it by hand.

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Thanks UGB, I tried to follow what you're saying but got a bit lost I'm afraid being totally unfamiliar with guitar terminology.

Have only just bought an old guitar and had to do some extensive restoration, and finally put on the new set of stings. I used a neat little mp3 to tune it, so haven't overtightened them.

Looking good this old SaeHan Acoustic/Electric but one position where I put my finger behind the fret, get this horrible tinny twang, presumably what you call a 'buzz'?

One rotten little spot and its the second fret down from the neck, and second string down. I have held the guitar up on its side and it appears to have around a matchstick space consistent along that point, second fret.

Doesn't do it anywhere else, just that one finger/spot. Like a dodgy note on a piano key....sick! LOL.

Would appreciate some advice, and pictures would help if at all possible?.....

Cheers.

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Thanks for taking the time and posting such useful info UGB... Really appreciate it...!!!

Cheers

Ben

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That would pulling the old fret, installing a new one, and then leveling and crowning. I've never done that. Being so close to the nut you'd want to pop the nut off to make all the leveling that much easier. I hope to get into some fret replacement later this year but it's about $200 worth of specialized tools I don't have yet.

no problem nocat; my pleasure.

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Thanks UGB, have removed the strings and looking along the 'neck?' notice it has a convex bow. Will read up on your other advice and consider adjusting the steel reinforcement. Looking at it, it appears to be what we here call and Allen key hex rod?.

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Thanks UGB, have removed the strings and looking along the 'neck?' notice it has a convex bow. Will read up on your other advice and consider adjusting the steel reinforcement. Looking at it, it appears to be what we here call and Allen key hex rod?.

Sounds like someone has been over zealous with that Allen Key Moonshine. If anything you should have a slight concave bow. Sometimes, you can get those frets out by heating them with a soldering iron, if the proper sort of glue was used in the first place. You need to be very careful not to splinter the surrounding timber because the part of the fretwire which goes into the timber has little 'barb like tangs' on it. Make sure you can get some replacement fretwire before you pull the old one. When you get a look at the new wire you will see what I mean about the barbs. I have heard of wetting the surrounding timber to reduce splintering, but I've never tried it. Once you've replaced the fret you can get away with using one of those diamond honers woodworkers use for sharpening chisels, a lot of care and some common sense. Don't forget to mask around the fret with something to protect the fingerboard. BTW, I wouldn't contemplate doing a home fret job on any guitar of value, but I've done a couple of old guitars, just for fun and it's worked out okay.

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