Fret buzz is an annoying sound caused by the strings vibrating against the frets, rather than the wood of the fretboard. In bass guitars, fret buzz is more pronounced because of the thicker strings and heavier coils. Fret buzz can make a bass guitar unplayable, especially if it persists on multiple frets. The severity of fret buzz can range from a brief sound as the note decays to a loud and obvious sound that obscures the note. There are two typical causes of fret buzz, both of which can be rectified with basic tools.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- 2 capos
- Phillips screwdriver
- 2.5-mm hex key
Put a capo on Fret 1 and a second capo on Fret 12.
Position the bass so the neck points to your right. Observe the fretboard from the side and examine the gap between the G string and the fretboard. If the string lies level and is touching the frets, this is the cause of the buzzing. There should be clearance between string and fret. This clearance is referred to as "action." If the string lies at a downward slope, descending toward Fret 12, the buzzing is caused by a back-bowed neck. The bow is pulling the fretboard back, forcing the string against the frets where the bow is most pronounced.
Remove the capos so you can play the strings normally. Play each string on the bass from open string to Fret 5, starting with the G string. This identifies which string or strings are causing the buzz. This will influence which side of the bridge you raise. For example, if the G string is causing the buzz, you need to raise the far side of the bridge. Because it is lightest, the G string is typically the most likely to cause buzz.
Determine the Cause
Raise the treble side of the bridge. This is the side of the bridge that is farthest away from you when you hold the bass. Depending on the make and model of your bass, you raise the bridge either with a screwdriver or hex key. There will be a screw or nut on each side of the bridge. Tighten the screw to raise that side of the bridge.
Test the bass. If the buzz has disappeared from the treble side of the guitar, no further adjustment to that side of the bridge is necessary. If the buzz hasn't gone, continue to make small bridge-height adjustments to that side.
Raise the opposite side of the bridge by the same amount. Fret buzz is less common on the lower strings, so you typically needn't adjust this side of the bridge any higher than the treble side. But the bridge does need to be level. If there is buzzing on the lower strings, raise the bass side of the bridge until it recedes. If the bridge is uneven after this adjustment, raise the other side so it is level.
Increasing String Action
Use a Phillips screwdriver to remove the truss-rod cover from the headstock. This exposes the truss-rod nut. The tension of the truss rod determines the angle of the bridge.
Fit a 2.5-mm hex key into the truss-rod nut. Turn it 1/4 of a revolution in a clockwise direction. Tightening the rod applies tension to the neck, pulling it forward to correct the bow.
Replace the capos so you can review the angle of the string between the two points.
Examine the angle of the string between the capos again. If the G string is level and clear of the frets, make no further adjustment. If it is sloped in the other direction, partially reverse the adjustment you made to the truss rod. If it is still sloping downward and touching the frets, continue to turn it in a clockwise direction until the string lies flat, away from the frets.
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