Sometimes when playing the guitar, you will notice a zap or buzz sound on certain frets of the guitar. This is known as guitar fret buzz. This can be a serious problem because certain notes on that guitar can't be played correctly meaning the instrument needs to be fixed. Fret buzz occurs when the strings are too close to the frets. This is commonly referred to as "low action." The first thing you should do before making any changes is tuning your guitar to the scheme you plan to keep it at most often. Sometimes an alternate tuning, or a generally out of tune guitar, can affect the tension on the neck and cause it to bend.
Common Causes Of Fret Buzzing
Neck Needs Adjusting
Guitar necks have constant pressure on them from the strings. Necks have become more advanced since they now have truss rods that are metal rods that can be adjusted to change the curve of the neck. Some fret buzz is caused because the neck needs to be adjusted. It's best to leave this to an expert.
Frets Are Too High Or Too Low
Some buzzing is caused because a fret up the fretboard is just too high. Let's say you try to play the 10th fret and just get a dead buzz. It means the 11th or 12th fret or even higher up might be a bit too high, so the string is hitting it. Keep going until you find out which fret is too high. That fret needs to be filed down.
Some frets are too low meaning that you will be getting the same buzz but not because another is too high. One strategy is to file down other frets. The best is getting the individual fret replaced. Try to not buy a guitar without testing every fret.
Solutions For Guitar Fret Buzz
Part of the problem is that there are so many possible causes, some of which are easily fixed, and others, less so. It makes sense then, to first of all try and identifies what's causing the problem and eliminate easily fixed causes first.
The first thing to check is that it's the guitar itself that is buzzing and not the electrics. Unplug your guitar from the amp and check if the buzz is still there. Now check that the strings are seated properly in the nut (at the top of the neck) and the bridge. On old guitars, the nut, especially if its plastic, can get worn down and cause fret buzz.
If none of that is causing the problem, hold the guitar up to eye level and look across the strings, level with the pick-ups. Are the pickups touching the strings? If so, that could also cause buzzing.
Check your strings. If they have a film of sweat on them, that could be causing buzzing. Clean them with a damp cloth. The fretboard itself can also get grubby. Sweat builds up over time on the fretboard and next to the frets. Clean that, preferably with a cleaner designed for that job.
If none works, you may have to get professional help from a guitar tech. The cause could be a fret that's not level with the others and needs sanding or a saddle that needs adjustment. It could also be a worn nut that needs to be heightened or replaced or a truss rod that needs to be adjusted.
Clean the fretboard, replace the strings and make all the checks outlined above. If none of those work, take your guitar to your local guitar store and ask their technician to take a look. It shouldn't cost too much to make the necessary adjustments. While you're there, you might want to ask him to do a complete set-up for you. That way you'll know that your guitar is in the best condition it can be.
Take your guitar into a guitar shop and get adjustments. They can fix the neck, change string height, and file down or replace frets. They might also suggest using a thinner gauge string if the adjustments don't quite take care of the problem.
Final Thoughts ...
If nothing is wrong, you might be doing improper fret technique. You need to push down harder and a bit closer to the fret you are playing on. When your fingers get stronger, especially that weak pinky, these problems should go away. Always consider that your problem might be improper technique first because spending money on fixing the guitar or buying a new one.
Your Turn to Sound Off!
Have you ever experienced fret buzz? If so, how did you fix it?