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View Full Version : What *can* be done about minor fret buzz?



kissing
10-22-2014, 06:17 PM
On one of my concert ukes (a "Callamaria" solid spruce top - a Korean brand not well known), there was some fret buzz on the C string if I pick it moderate to hard. Not super noticeable but enough to bug me when I play instrumental pieces.

I have tried several different strings, including tenor strings for higher tension.. but the string still buzzes.

I suspected whether the action was a tad low.. so I obtained a new saddle that is higher than the previous one. The buzz is reduced but still there.. and I dont want the action to be higher.

Where do you go from here?
Get a sanding block and sand the frets? I have not done it before, though I have seen a video on HMS showing it being done..

PereBourik
10-22-2014, 06:21 PM
Maybe fill the nut slot and re-file it.

kissing
10-22-2014, 06:38 PM
I have tried filling the nut slot with superglue in the past on other ukes..
personally i never really liked this method because the superglue does wear out from friction..maybe I didnt use the right superglue

Phluffy the Destroyer
10-22-2014, 07:59 PM
Just out of curiosity, have you ever conditioned your fret board? If the fret board is wood, it can dry out and cause the wood to shrink away from the frets just enough to give you a nice little buzz. I found that out on my concert Lanikai. I bought a product called "Lizard Spit" that was recommended by the local guitar shop and started conditioning all my fret boards every time I change strings. It's done the trick for me.

Peterjens
10-22-2014, 09:54 PM
Might it be "sympathetic resonance?"
You can search the forum for discussion on this.

kypfer
10-22-2014, 09:58 PM
kissing wrote:
I have tried filling the nut slot with superglue in the past on other ukes..
personally i never really liked this method because the superglue does wear out from friction..maybe I didnt use the right superglue Try super-gluing the tiniest scrap of plastic into the oversize slot. I've used slivers cut from food packaging in the past, yoghurt pot, margerine tub etc. Whilst this softer plastic may not seem totally suitable at first glance, I've never had a problem, even with the thinnest of steel strings on a mandolin, (which are relatively high tension). The thicker lower-tension nylon strings on a ukulele simply do not cause an issue.

Don't fiddle with a minute length of plastic, cut a thin strip several millimetres long so's it's easy to handle with tweezers, glue it into the nut with super-glue, then trim/file to suit once the glue is dry. Remember, breathing on super-glue that doesn't want to "set" will usually cause it to cure immediately ;) If you get it totally wrong, just cut/file it out and start again, it only takes a few seconds ;)

As always, YMMV, but nothing mentioned above should cause irreversable problems with a ukulele :)

kypfer
10-22-2014, 10:30 PM
A few more thoughts on the matter ...

kissing wrote:
I obtained a new saddle that is higher than the previous one. The buzz is reduced but still there.. and I dont want the action to be higher. Where do you go from here? Get a sanding block and sand the frets?

Going "back to basics" briefly ... if the string buzzes when un-fretted, it's likely to be the nut slot which is too low. If the string buzzes when fretted, the nut is out of the equation, so we have to look elsewhere.

My first step would be to ensure the neck is straight and flat (not twisted). Fret the string both at the first fret and the twelfth (use two hands!). Is there any noticeable gap between the string and the frets? If so, why? Is the neck bent? If no excessive gap, are any individual frets noticeable high? If so, some sanding/filing may be in order, but do bear in mind that lowering one fret will make the next fret relatively higher, so you may have to refinish several frets to complete the job ... slowly is the way to work here !!

Alternatively, is it your picking style causing the issue? Are you possibly "getting under" (or over) the string too much thereby causing the string to vibrate vertically (with reference to the fingerboard) rather than horizontally (parallel to the fingerboard). I get a similar issue when clawhammering and my picking nail is too long. The points of impact and/or release are marginally different from when my nail is "perfect" and the C string appears to play louder than the rest ... trim the nail and the fault goes away !! ... and yes, I did go through the loop of filing the nut and replacing the string!!

Edit : even more afterthoughts ... how much higher is the replacement saddle with respect to the original? Do realise that a millimetre at the saddle is only half a millimetre at the twelfth fret and proportionally less at the fifth fret and below. For test purposes, to save the purchase of even more saddles, one (or more) strips of our previously mentioned food container can be fitted under the saddle to raise it ;)

Hope some of this may help :)

Ukuleleblues
10-23-2014, 01:19 AM
I have tried filling the nut slot with superglue in the past on other ukes..
personally i never really liked this method because the superglue does wear out from friction..maybe I didnt use the right superglue
Using baking soda in layers with superglue works better. It will hold up on steel string guitars.

kissing
10-23-2014, 01:25 AM
Thanks for the helpful replies;

The string does not buzz unfretted. It's only on the few frets that it buzzes on. It's the C string only.

I'm no pro player, but I don't think I'm picking excessively hard as I don't experience on the buzz on other ukes and guitars.

I've changed strings to D'addario Pro-Arte and the buzz is reduced substantially (Fremonts, Aquila and Worth buzzed)..
So in the meantime I've found an easy solution... but it also means I can *only* use these strings on this particular uke >_<
I really liked how the Fremonts sounded better

PhilUSAFRet
10-23-2014, 01:29 AM
Have you checked to determine if the frets are level? Might be a high one.

Teek
10-23-2014, 07:19 AM
Just a note on filling nut slots: I now use Titebond 2 mixed with marble dust. It dries super hard and usually requires zero filing if carefully applied so it levels in the slot as the glue shrinks up tight to the nut and kind of naturally leaves a nice finish. It might require a couple of applications. The marble dust makes the Titebond, which dries with an amber tinge, a very nicely blended white.

Yeah sometimes higher tension strings fix the problem, which seems to me means a high fret (as Phil noted) or an action adjustment is needed, as in maybe too low for that one string.

Inksplosive AL
10-23-2014, 07:38 AM
Have you checked to determine if the frets are level? Might be a high one.

This would be where I would look not the nut.

~AL

Rick Turner
10-23-2014, 08:01 AM
I think it's kind of funny that so many folks immediately assumed that the problem was at the nut. The original post cited the C string as being problematic, but not whether the buzz was happening with the open string or with a fretted note. That would have been useful information at the get-go, but here we are, trying to asses a problem without having the uke in question in hand.

My take is that the issue needs better diagnosis. A good 6" ruler might help find a high fret. The proper tools from Stew-Mac are even better.

As for just sanding down the frets...whoa, Nelly! A proper fret level, crown, and polish involves a lot more than just grinding down the frets. Yes, you can learn to do it at home, but be prepared to get the right tools for the job...which will cost you more than going to a decent luthier and having it done professionally.

As for filling at the nut...If an instrument needs this, then the superglue and baking soda fix works great and it lasts a long time. The major caveats are: 1) If you get superglue on the finish...particularly nitro lacquer...you screwed the pooch. 2) You should have the proper (yes, expensive) round bottomed files for recutting the nut slot(s).

Stewart MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply has everything you need for this stuff including tutorials. I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for not suggesting a super cheap way to do this, but I have yet to see a super cheap way that takes a reasonable amount of time and produces professional results...or even half-way decent amateur results.

You can hold the bumpers onto your car with wire ties and gaffer's tape, too...but....

theabsurdman
10-23-2014, 11:16 AM
short ruler to detect the high fret; file; buff; problem solved.

CeeJay
10-23-2014, 01:22 PM
Be thankful it's not Major Fret Buzz......he's a real doofuss......okay ,okay , so it's not helpful.......but it may have been nearly mildly amusing ....not close ...fair enough....

Rick Turner
10-23-2014, 01:39 PM
"file; buff; problem solved"

That's one of the least helpful post answers I have yet to see here or elsewhere.

What about "re-crown" on those frets? And what are your buffing steps? And what exactly do you mean by "buff"? In my shop, it has a specific meaning, and it's done with a buffer (of all things!). How redneck a job is this to be?

theabsurdman
10-23-2014, 03:05 PM
"file; buff; problem solved"

That's one of the least helpful post answers I have yet to see here or elsewhere.

What about "re-crown" on those frets? And what are your buffing steps? And what exactly do you mean by "buff"? In my shop, it has a specific meaning, and it's done with a buffer (of all things!). How redneck a job is this to be?

Fair comment and If it were a vintage Martin, I'd definitely take it to you.

I suppose the cheap ones I've botched in the past haven't required so much filing that the original crown was reduced significantly.

Rick Turner
10-23-2014, 05:30 PM
I have trouble treating ukes or any inexpensive fretted instruments as cheap instruments when it comes to fret work, action, etc. I have one standard of fretwork...it's right and the frets are well crowned and polished or they're not. I really hate to switch gears and do crappy work on a cheap instrument. Do it right or not at all. Encourage people to buy instruments that are worth fixing up correctly, at least as far as playability goes. This isn't polishing turds, it's making an inexpensive instrument worth playing.

Rick Turner
10-23-2014, 05:35 PM
BTW, although I'm known for building "high end" instruments, one of the things I love to do is to go to music festivals like Strawberry, set up my portable workbench, and take on anything and everything from the cheapest piece on up to multi-thousand dollar mandos and guitars. If anything, the folks with inexpensive instruments are more appreciative of a good setup and decent fretwork than those who are used to it. We reglued the neck on what had to be a $40.00 uke that had been sat upon at the last Strawberry, and the look on the couple's faces when it was playable again was worth as much as we got paid to fix it. A beautiful end result? No. But it was for damned sure playable!

gyosh
10-23-2014, 05:45 PM
I
I have trouble treating ukes or any inexpensive fretted instruments as cheap instruments when it comes to fret work, action, etc. I have one standard of fretwork...it's right and the frets are well crowned and polished or they're not. I really hate to switch gears and do crappy work on a cheap instrument. Do it right or not at all. Encourage people to buy instruments that are worth fixing up correctly, at least as far as playability goes. This isn't polishing turds, it's making an inexpensive instrument worth playing.

Since taking your build class I've purchased the proper tools and have been buying cheap uke's and setting them up to play better. So far I've managed to improve about a dozen ukes to give away. I feel like after about 100 more fret jobs I'll start to really get the hang of it. I learn something new, and/or get a little more knowledgable each time. And it is slow, tedious work when you're trying to do it right.

kohanmike
10-23-2014, 08:39 PM
Rick, when are you going to attend a festival in the Los Angeles area? I just got my custom made (in Vietnam) gypsy jazz Selmer Maccaferri style uke running after waiting weeks for a replacement tailpiece (don't ask), and installing Aquila strings. Have the exact same slight buzz on the C string on the first and second fret.

hawaii 50
10-23-2014, 08:40 PM
Rick, when are you going to attend a festival in the Los Angeles area? I just got my custom made (in Vietnam) gypsy jazz Selmer Maccaferri style uke running after waiting weeks for a replacement tailpiece (don't ask), and installing Aquila strings. Have the exact same slight buzz on the C string on the first and second fret.

is there neck relief built into the neck?....
is the neck pretty straight...no back bow....

kypfer
10-23-2014, 11:03 PM
... We reglued the neck on what had to be a $40.00 uke that had been sat upon at the last Strawberry, and the look on the couple's faces when it was playable again was worth as much as we got paid to fix it. A beautiful end result? No. But it was for damned sure playable! That, Sir, is one of the most refreshing anecdotes I've read in a while. It makes me feel good inside to know that there are people out there who genuinely care :cool:

Doc_J
10-24-2014, 01:14 AM
I've had little buzzes on C strings (when fretted), that have been cured by putting on a wound C string. GHS sells one.

HBolte
10-24-2014, 03:01 AM
I've had little buzzes on C strings (when fretted), that have been cured by putting on a wound C string. GHS sells one.

But isn't that just like a band-aid? I think a properly set up uke should be able to use the strings you want.

gyosh
10-24-2014, 06:37 AM
But isn't that just like a band-aid? I think a properly set up uke should be able to use the strings you want.

A properly set up uke will be set up to the strings you use when it's set up. You'd need to use the same diameter strings when switching if you expect it to perform the same.

kohanmike
10-24-2014, 07:50 AM
is there neck relief built into the neck?....
is the neck pretty straight...no back bow....

No truss rods or such. I'll have to give it a good look-see or send it off to my luthier.

hawaii 50
10-24-2014, 07:54 AM
No truss rods or such. I'll have to give it a good look-see or send it off to my luthier.

Pono is the only ones that I know that have a truss rod in their uke necks....
neck relief is built into the fretboard/neck..a slight dip/curve built onto the fretboard...

many builders do not build it in..they count on the strings to bow the neck correctly....

estreya
10-24-2014, 09:29 AM
You guys just amaze me - you're all so fearless about manipulating your instruments! I need to change the strings on my uke, but i'm quaking in my boots about it (i was thinking my technique must be getting worse, but i learned just this morning that the wear on the underside of the strings over the fret markers is bad enough to snag my fingernail on).

Doc_J
10-24-2014, 01:28 PM
But isn't that just like a band-aid? I think a properly set up uke should be able to use the strings you want.

True. But I like wound C strings and sometimes I'm too lazy to make a new saddle. :)

strumsilly
10-25-2014, 06:08 AM
As for filling at the nut...If an instrument needs this, then the superglue and baking soda fix works great and it lasts a long time. The major caveats are: 1) If you get superglue on the finish...particularly nitro lacquer...you screwed the pooch. 2) You should have the proper (yes, expensive) round bottomed files for recutting the nut slot(s).

Stewart MacDonald Guitar Shop Supply has everything you need for this stuff including tutorials. I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for not suggesting a super cheap way to do this, but I have yet to see a super cheap way that takes a reasonable amount of time and produces professional results...or even half-way decent amateur results.

You can hold the bumpers onto your car with wire ties and gaffer's tape, too...but....
No flack , BUT, not everyone lives near a professional and
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a proper set of nut files, and when purchasing "inexpensive" ukuleles, the thing that makes many unplayable is high action at the nut. I have taken many inexpensive ukuleles and made them much more playable for folks with some mini hacksaw blades with the sides ground and a set of welding tip cleaners [for rounding the bottom of the slots] If I were to do this more than occasionally , I would purchase the proper tools. Adjusting the action is not rocket science ,especially if no fretwork is needed. if you live in a rural area you learn a lot of" do it yourself". I like to think I get half way decent amateur results. I could be wrong. and these "tools" cost less than $10. Now I need to go find my duct tape so I can fix my bumper
And Rick, I appreciate your posts and your sharing your knowledge with us.

Dan Uke
10-25-2014, 09:43 AM
Rick, when are you going to attend a festival in the Los Angeles area? I just got my custom made (in Vietnam) gypsy jazz Selmer Maccaferri style uke running after waiting weeks for a replacement tailpiece (don't ask), and installing Aquila strings. Have the exact same slight buzz on the C string on the first and second fret.

hey Mike, with the number of ukes you continue to buy, it might be worth it buy a few tools

Rick Turner
10-25-2014, 02:46 PM
Well, you could remove an friend's appendix with a pocket knife, sharpened spoon, and vice grips after knocking them with a bottle of whiskey...in the mouth and on the head, and then sew them up with sewing thread, but there's nothing quite like having the right tools for the job, and if you do collect or buy and sell instruments with any frequency, then the tools will pay for themselves sooner than later. I've seen all sorts of suggestions like using welding torch tip cleaners as nut files, etc., etc., but you get better results faster with the right tools. To do most basic nut and fret work on ukes shouldn't cost more than about $100.00 for good tools from StewMac, and they'll last for tens of years.

IamNoMan
10-25-2014, 03:34 PM
I need to dress the ends of fret wires on a couple instruments. What is the appropriate type and size of file to purchase for this purpose?
While we're on the subject what is the appropriate type and size of file to purchase for fret crowning?

kohanmike
10-25-2014, 03:45 PM
hey Mike, with the number of ukes you continue to buy, it might be worth it buy a few tools

I'm on hold with now Dan, but I have been considering the thought.

Rick Turner
10-25-2014, 04:48 PM
It's hard to go wrong with the tools that StewMac sells, and the cost will fade from memory as the utility of them becomes apparent. You'll need the smallest of their fret crowning files for most ukes.

strumsilly
10-25-2014, 04:59 PM
Well, you could remove an friend's appendix with a pocket knife, sharpened spoon, and vice grips after knocking them with a bottle of whiskey...in the mouth and on the head, and then sew them up with sewing thread, but there's nothing quite like having the right tools for the job, and if you do collect or buy and sell instruments with any frequency, then the tools will pay for themselves sooner than later. I've seen all sorts of suggestions like using welding torch tip cleaners as nut files, etc., etc., but you get better results faster with the right tools. To do most basic nut and fret work on ukes shouldn't cost more than about $100.00 for good tools from StewMac, and they'll last for tens of years.you are absolutely right, nothing like having the right quality tools. I'ts time I invested in some, right after I finish this appendectomy.

Doc_J
10-25-2014, 07:04 PM
you are absolutely right, nothing like having the right quality tools. I'ts time I invested in some, right after I finish this appendectomy.

Yep, I've picked up tools and learned a few things as little problems on ukes pop up. A couple StewMac nut files, fret end files, and micromesh pads, are well worth their price. Maybe a good new thread would be recommended tools.

Dan Uke
10-25-2014, 07:34 PM
Yep, I've picked up tools and learned a few things as little problems on ukes pop up. A couple StewMac nut files, fret end files, and micromesh pads, are well worth their price. Maybe a good new thread would be recommended tools.

The fret rocker is such a simple too but works really well to find uneven heights for the fret