Who else wants to learn how to fix fret buzz on electric guitar?
It’s no secret that learning how to fix fret buzz on electric guitar can be frustrating.
It’s difficult to even know where to start, or to understand what you’re looking for.
Plus, it can be confusing for a beginner who doesn’t understand all the jargon or concepts that more experienced players take for granted.
Fortunately, we’ve broken down the most common causes and fixes for fret buzz on electric guitar.
We’re sure you’ll agree that once you understand the basic concepts, eliminating fret buzz could be easy.
Fact: On an electric guitar, fret buzz could be caused by:
Let’s look at each one. You won’t be disappointed.
You Could be Playing Too Hard
You Could be Playing Too Hard
Believe it or not, your fret buzz could simply be because you’re hitting your strings too hard.
This is common with people who started out playing acoustic guitar or with people who often play electric guitar without plugging into an amplifier.
It’s caused by an attempt, usually unconscious, to get more volume out of their guitar.
On an acoustic, the harder you play the more volume you get. It’s the same idea when you’re playing an electric guitar unplugged.
But when playing electric guitar tones, especially distorted tones, the amount of force needed is very small.
Beyond a certain point, you’re not getting more volume when you play harder, you’re causing the strings to vibrate too much.
When you pick too forcefully, you’ll often cause the strings to vibrate a lot more than they need to, cause the string to slap the fret, and voila: fret buzz.
The fix is simple: Just pick with a bit less force.
It’s difficult to explain, but playing plugged in will often be the fastest way for you to break the habit, and eliminate the fret buzzing.
You’ll do best if you experiment with how hard and how soft you pick or strum your electric guitar.
If you don’t want to change the way you pick or strum, you may be able to eliminate the fret buzz by raising the action of your guitar strings.
This will mean you’ll need more force to fret your guitar, so it’s a tradeoff and you’re probably better off just playing with a little less force.
Not Enough Relief in the Neck
On an electric guitar, the force of the strings pulling on the neck causes a natural bow.
Electric guitars are built with a truss rod to counter this natural bow.
Without a truss rod, the for of the strings pulling on the neck would eventually cause the neck to snap.
Too much bow in either direction will make your guitar difficult to play and could cause fret buzz among other problems.
When the neck has too little bow or not enough relief, the strings are closer to the fretboard than they need to be.
Since they’re so close to the fretboard, when you pluck or pick a string its natural vibration will cause it to hit the fretboard and cause it to buzz.
It’s sort of like a jump rope that’s being held too close to the ground.
The rope will slap the ground until you raise it a bit.
To fix this, you need to adjust the amount of bow in your neck by adjusting your truss rod.
Adjusting your Truss Rod
It’ll be easiest to check this with by using a capo.
First, put your capo ( or your finger if you don’t have a capo) on the first fret of the low E string.
Now put another finger on the 15th or 16th fret of the low E string.
Look at the height of the string at about the 5th fret.
There needs to be a small bit of space between the low E string and the fret.
If the E string is too close to the fret or is touching the fret you’ve got too much bow and need to tighten the truss rod.
If the E String is far from the fret, you need to increase the amount of bowing by loosening the truss rod.
When adjusting your truss rod, go very, very slowly and turn the Allen wrench only a small distance
It’s important to give your guitar neck a little time to settle after your adjustment.
Your guitar neck is wood, so it may need up to 24 hours to fully settle in.
Your Action is too Low
The distance between your fretboard and your guitar strings is often referred to as your action.
Your action is the thing to check once you’ve made sure your truss rod is set properly.
If your strings are too far from your fretboard, or your action is too high, it takes more pressure to press your strings down.
On electric guitars, the closer the strings are to the fretboard, or the lower the action, the less finger pressure you need to play.
But if the strings are too close to the fretboard, or your action is too low, the strings can cause fret buzz.
The solution is to adjust your string height at the bridge.
Adjusting A Tune-O-Matic Style Bridge:
With this style of bridge, the string height can’t be as fine-tuned as with a saddle bridge.
Using a screwdriver or adjustment wheel, turn it slightly to either raise or lower the bridge.
Re-Tune your string.
Play your guitar and check if it’s stull buzzing.
Adjusting A Saddle Style Bridge:
These types of bridges are most common on guitars with tremolos and allow for individual adjustment of each string.
Use the Allen wrenches to raise or lower the height in very small increments.
Re-Tune your string.
Play your guitar and check if it’s stull buzzing
When one fret is significantly higher or lower than the others it can cause fret buzz.
This is simply because when you press down on your string, the string ends up hitting the higher fret causing the string to buzz.
Frets need to be perfectly level in order to function properly.
Uneven frets can be diagnosed by taking a credit card and using it as a straightedge.
Diagnosing Uneven Frets
To find uneven frets, lay the thin edge of a credit card across three frets.
If the card “rocks” over a fret, the middle fret is too high and could be causing fret buzz.
Repeat this process all the way down the fretboard for each of your guitar strings.
Uneven frets can be caused by improper installation, poor fret dressing during construction, or wear and tear due to use and age.
Evening out your frets isn’t something to be taken on lightly.
If you’ve eliminated all the other options, and you’re still experiencing fret buzz, the only solution may be to fret dress some or all of your frets.
This procedure is best done by a professional as it requires special tools and experience.
If your guitar is very inexpensive, it might not be worth the time or money to fix the frets.
How to Fix Fret Buzz on Electric Guitar: FAQ
- How do I stop my electric guitar from fret buzzing?
- Start with checking and adjusting the truss rod. Oftentimes the neck on a guitar with “shift” due to temperature and humidity changes and just needs a small adjustment.
- What causes fret buzz on electric guitar?
- Is fret buzz normal on an electric guitar?
- Fret buzz is pretty common on electric guitars since each guitar, and each player is different. As a rule of thumb, fret buzz shouldn’t be an issue as long as you can’t hear it through your amplifier.
- Does fret buzz matter?
- If you’re just starting out and it doesn’t bother you, then no, it doesn’t matter. Plus, once you’ve been playing for a bit and are more comfortable with your guitar you can properly adjust it and eliminate the buzz.
- How do I fix my first fret buzz on my electric guitar?
JT currently resides in Southern California and has been playing the guitar since he was 13. He enjoys baking French pastries, drinking loose-leaf tea, and running Slackware Linux.