What's the Deal With String Buzz? | Righteous Guitars

What's the Deal With String Buzz?

String or fret buzz is a common issue for guitarists.  How do you know if the amount of buzz you are getting is acceptable or if there is actually an issue with your instrument?  Well, as you will see, it can actually come down to personal preference in some cases.

Defining what fret/string buzz is and is not

Fret or string buzz is a specific type of issue resulting in the string rattling against the frets of a guitar.  There are several factors that can affect this and we will cover them all below.  What it is not is an electronic buzz.  So if the guitar is buzzing while you are not playing, this is a different issue and will be covered in another post.  If your buzzing is only on open strings, you either have too little relief in the neck or your nut is cut too low. If you have an acoustic, you may have a loose brace that is rattling or a pickup wire that is vibrating inside the guitar.  These issues will show if you tap the top and back of the guitar all over.  eventually you will likely find the source and can react accordingly.  Braces being loose is a lear sign of poor humidity control.  Another thing that can cause issue is if the truss rod is rattling inside the neck.  A simple gentle tap on the back of the neck can make this issue known.   

Types of fret/string buzz and their causes

Incorrect relief in the neck.  The guitar's neck has an adjustable rod called a truss rod.  This controls the amount of bow (forward or back) that the neck has by countering string tension.  Proper relief is a must for a great playing guitar.  There are several ways to measure this, but a capo on the first fret while depressing the 12th is a good start.  You should have around .005" of a gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the 6th fret while doing this.

Action too low?  We all want our guitars to play like butter but there is a compromise.  If you action is very low and you have a heavy picking hand, buzzing is in your future.   Low action requires more finesse when playing, particularly with a lighter string gauge.  Depending on your style, this may or may not be a problem for you.

Pickups too high?  On single coil guitars (most notable the Stratocaster) pickup height plays a huge role in buzz and intonation.  If the pickups are too close, the magnet may pull the string causing fret buzz.  Play a note on the 12th fret and see if it is true or if it modulates.  Lower pickups until the warbling sound goes away.

Frets not level.  A high fret can cause all sorts of issues from fretting out to buzzing.  Frets need to be level to allow clearance for the string to vibrate.  We use PLEK technology to ensure perfectly level frets.  The better the fret job, the lower the action and better intonation you will have.  A guitar can often be measured by its fret work.

How much buzz is too much?

This is where the rubber meets the road in regards to fret buzz.  Electric guitars that are setup properly to play easily and feel great will almost certainly have some amount of buzz when not going through an amp.  They are made to be played plugged in and that should be factored into the question of how much is too much.  We are always testing our guitar setups through an amp and listening for each note to sustain and not fret out.  If it does so unplugged....that is ok.  If you are heavy handed, you may need a heavier strings or higher action to make this happen.  Learning to play an instrument properly is part of the fun of playing guitar.  You may be surprised at how much a small change in your playing style can have in the overall performance of your capabilities as well as how your guitars sound and feel.  

Ultimately, it is up to you how much buzz is acceptable but I would recommend you judge while playing through an amp.  And by play, I mean actually play the guitar.  Don't chase the buzz (it can drive you mad).  If it doesn't surface while you are playing, I wouldn't worry about it and enjoy the guitar! 


Hi Rene! Thanks or commenting! We always try to hit the general ideas in a video but there is always more to talk about! In regards to the truss rod shiting, flexing the neck after any adjustment is advised to help it settle and keep it from shifting. On very rare occasions you may have one move a short while after, but usually this is either from not flexing the neck or from introduction into a different environment (temperature or humidity) and happens after a prolonged exposure. Letting it rest for a while would achieve the same result I believe.

In regards to string and action, the setup will change due to the tension and diameter differences but relief is always roughly the same measurement as well as action. This is regardless of the type of guitar or gauge of string used (with a possible exception to the extremes on either side of the spectrum like baritone guitars or octave guitars). The beauty of learning to do it yourself is that you can decide what works for you! As a shop, we strive for consistent and reliable results that will please 99% of players. That is why we use exact measurements to provide the same product every time. Luckily, it works for us and our customers love our specs. In fact, we do not charge a penny unless our customer is happy with the results they get and we have not had any issues so far over 1000’s of guitars.

Finally, in regards to the truss type, there are many different designs out there from single and dual action, rear loading or top loading, spoke adjustable, stress free truss designs, and more! Anyone attempting to adjust their truss should learn as much about the instrument before proceeding to prevent issues and possible damages.

There is always a compromise and as stated in the video: “How much is acceptable? That is up to you!” Those Kauers are great guitars too by the way!

Thanks again for your comments!

Ben Calhoun

Hi Ben, saw your video on Rhett Shull’s YT channel. Thanks for your advices.
I set up my guitars for many years. I should add, as one mentions in the comments, that the neck’s curvature still moves a tiny bit after TR adjustment. One should take that in consideration and let it rest for a few hours before tweaking the TR again. Also, the string gauge/action height comes into consideration in the setup, as it varies depending on the guitars. If you still have a buzz after the TR is perfectly set up, you can start raising the action by small increments until the buzz diminishes/disappears, but you still feel comfortable with the string height.
Last, some (rare) instruments have an inverted TR to the classic “righty tighty, lefty loosey”: my old Kauer Daylighter is the other way around… Cheers!


Hi Brian,

Thanks for reaching out! BAD STRING! Replace the string and see if the issue is gone. I would not be surprised if that is all it is. If that is not it, call me at the shop and let’s figure it out! 678-735-3115.

Ben Calhoun

I have a Schecter Hellraiser Extreme Solo-6 E with 10’s. It’s been a great guitar for years, but the finish on the bridge and tuning pegs has worn through so I recently replaced them with black Wilkinson products. Since then I get a buzz on the low (fat) E string at every fret and open. No issues on any of the other strings. I don’t think it’s fret buzz since I raised the action ridiculously high and I still get the buzz. The buzz is there whether I play with or without an amp. My local guitar tech couldn’t figure it out either. I tried putting the old bridge back on, but the buzz is still there. What do you think it could be?

Brian Brown

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