Electric guitars are prone to buzzing from time to time. Although it can be irritating, the fix typically is simple. Loose nuts, loose hardware, old strings, sharp frets and setting the action too low can cause a buzzing sound when playing your guitar. The problem can go from annoying to embarrassing if your guitar starts to buzz while giving a lesson or duing a performance. Regular maintenance should catch a potential buzz before it develops.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- String winder
- New strings
- Phillips screwdriver
- Plastic-safe contact cleaner
- Small metal file
- Electrical tape
Plug the guitar into an amplifier, turn up the volume and listen. If the buzz occurs only when the guitar is plugged in, the problem likely is located in the jack or potentiometers. Remove the back panel of the guitar to expose the inside of the jack and potentiometers. Spray some plastic-safe contact cleaner into the cavity to clean and lubricate the electronics.
Unplug the guitar, strike a note and let the note decay. If the buzzing happens as soon as you hit the note, it is likely to be a loose fitting. If the buzzing only occurs as the note fades away, the problem is likely to be connected to the strings.
Play each fret on each string, and listen for a buzzing sound. Place a piece of electrical tape on the side of the neck, next to every fret that causes a buzz.
Tighten all screws. Go around the guitar with a Phillips screwdriver, and tighten the screws in the machine heads, strap locks, pickups and output jack. Don't tighten the screws in the bridge because doing so adjusts the action of the guitar.
Change the strings. Strings, over time, collect dirt, which causes them to sound dull. A piece of lint or grime that is stuck to the underside of a string may cause a buzz. Attach a string winder to the machine head to loosen the string. Pull the ball-end of the string out of the hole in the bridge. Slot a new string through the hole and through the hole in the machine head barrel. Tighten the machine head with the string winder. Tune the guitar and test each buzzing fret again when new strings are placed.
Raise the strings' action, which is the distance between the strings and fretboard. Strings that are too close the fretboard buzz as they vibrate because there isn't sufficient space for the strings to vibrate freely. Two screws on either side of the bridge are used to adjust the action. Tighten the screw to raise the bridge and heighten the action. Tighten each screw equally to keep the bridge level.
File down sharp frets. Remove the strings. Use a magnifying lens to inspect each fret. If your buzzing guitar is new, it may have a defective fret. Sharp frets do not sit correctly in their grooves and touch the string when they shouldn't. Gently file down any sharp frets with a metal file.
Eliminating the Buzz
Tips and warnings
- If you quickly need to fix a buzzing machine head and don't have a screwdriver, tightly wrap an old T-shirt around the head of the guitar.
- File the fret very gently. Taking off too much can damage it.
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