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What's causing that buzz? - Jan 2001

Buzzing is a common problem. But many things cause buzzing & finding the cause can be difficult. While some sources of buzzing are costly to repair, many are not. The following list identifies common causes of, "that buzz," in approximate order of repair cost: 

Playing Technique: While a player's technique may not be the easiest problem to correct, the solution cost is your time & effort, not a repair fee. 


Loose Hardware: Hardware can work loose & buzz. Common culprits include tuning-machines knobs, strap buttons, tailpiece covers, & tailpiece supports. Old strings can unravel & buzz. On violin-family instruments, bridges collapse onto themselves & buzz. 


Warped Neck: Stringed instruments' necks can warp & cause strings to buzz against the fingerboard. 


Damaged Nut or Bridge/Saddle: A chipped, cracked or grooved nut or bridge/saddle can cause strings to buzz on it or on the fingerboard. 


Raised Frets: Frets are T-shaped wires that fit snugly into precisely-spaced slots in the fingerboard. Exposed to extreme temperature or humidity, the fingerboard changes shape, frets raise out of the slots & strings buzz on them. 


Worn Frets: Repeated contact between strings & frets causes fret wear. Strings can buzz on a worn fret (especially a grooved fret) & on neighboring frets. 


Loose Bracing: Internal bracing gives otherwise fragile instrument bodies their strength. If glue- joints to the braces come loose, body-to-brace buzzing occurs. 


Body Cracks: Cracks in instruments' bodies create surfaces that contact & buzz. 


What Can I Do?


Playing Technique: Ask an experienced player to watch you play; consider lessons to correct flaws. 


Loose Hardware: Observe hardware for buzzing while plucking a string; tighten loose parts. 


Warped Neck: Examine the neck for bowing in any direction; have an experienced repair person adjust the neck or neck truss rod. 


Damaged Nut or Bridge/Saddle: Examine the nut & bridge/saddle for cracks, chips & grooves; have a qualified service person make repairs. 


Raised & Worn Frets: Determine if frets are raised or worn; have a qualified technician assess & repair any raised or worn frets. 


Loose Braces: Hold the instrument's neck; tap the body with a finger; rattles/buzzes indicate loose braces; have a qualified repairman re-glue them. 


Body Cracks: Inspect your instrument for cracks; have an experienced repair person assess & repair any body crack that you find as soon as possible to increase odds of full repair. 

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