View Full Version : I just realised something...

08-20-2012, 02:55 PM
Since I changed strings on it, one of my ukes has one fret that buzzes from time to time on the 2nd string when I lift my finger, unless I fret it a gazillion times more accurately than on any other uke I have, and even so.

I couldn't figure out why it did this as it wasn't the action, the nut width, the fret level, my fretting technique or the strings (I've spent lots of time narrowing things down). Then I realised that the main difference between that uke and my other ones is that the frets are chunkier. Quick search through the forum and apparently a fret that is too wide and flat can cause buzz, which is what "crowning" is meant to avoid (it also helps with intonation apparently). Total epiphany! Thank you UU forum archives! That specific fret is indeed a tiny bit flatter where I usually get that buzz and the other frets are much sharper. Tomorrow I'll bring that uke to a local luthier to have the fret re-crowned.

Just wanted to share this because when I check the set-up on a uke, I check the action, intonation, buzzes and how nice and even the fret level is across the fretboard but I had never thought about checking how wide or flat the frets are. Make sure to check that too before buying, the buzz might only appear once you change the stock strings! The sharper the fret the better apparently (please correct me if I'm wrong!)

08-20-2012, 04:05 PM
I didn't know that. I guess you learn something new every day. :)

08-20-2012, 04:12 PM
Also the new strings might be 1/10 of a hair thinner and sits further in the nut than the old one did.
Or tunes with less tension and therefore the extra flap of the strings causes buzz.

Or what you said! :)

mm stan
08-20-2012, 04:30 PM
Also the new strings might be 1/10 of a hair thinner and sits further in the nut than the old one did.
Or tunes with less tension and therefore the extra flap of the strings causes buzz.

Or what you said! :)

+1 that sums it up to me too...the strings are vibrating more...the key is when you said you lift off the fret it buzzes...did you use thicker guage strings or lower tension strings??

08-20-2012, 09:58 PM
What Stan said, I was going to say, you might have put on thicker strings and that one will that slap the fret when it vibrates. Loosen off the string enough to slip a tiny piece of paper in the nut slot under the string and retune, see if the buzz goes away.

I'm setting up an old tenor that has very low action and I have a couple of buzzes, and doing that let me diagnose it, and also see how thin the layer of glue I will need to put in the nut slot to lift the strings a half a hair. It will be very sweet when I finish fine tuning it. The uke also has Kamaka style wide frets which I love, it lets my fingers slide real easy.

08-20-2012, 11:03 PM
Aye, thicker/thinner gauge and/or lower tension can indeed cause buzzing as well because the strings tend to vibrate more on the fret/nut. Definitely something I've experienced before.

In this case I truly believe that it's the fret's flatness and thickness though. I tried a variety of strings of different gauges, and with each of them I tried applying different tensions by tuning up and down, tried raising the action at the bridge and did the paper trick to raise the action at the nut as well. It did change how much that particular string buzzed on that particular fret but it is still there no matter what.

Right now I have a set that sits tightly in the nut thickness-wise without being too heavy, with high action and firm tension. The thing that cued me as well is that the current strings are transparent, and when the 2nd one is pressed down on that fret, you can actually see that the point of contact is wider than on any other string and fret on the uke. The note is muddier as well, if that makes sense. I spent some time yesterday staring very closely at that fret while strumming it with different strength (glad no one was around, I must have looked like a mad person haha), and that point of contact tends to slide a tiny bit on the side when it buzzes and it breaks at a slightly flatter angle that the rest of the uke.

There are so many thing that can cause buzzes in a uke, it's almost overwhelming! It does make you really appreciate good lutherie and professional set-ups even more when you have ukes that don't buzz at all.

08-20-2012, 11:37 PM
This is a really good thread, thanks for posting! :D

Pete Beardsley
08-21-2012, 12:34 AM
It's all black magic I tells ye!
That is the sort of thing that would drive me insane as I wouldn't be able to find the cause. Well done for sorting it.

08-21-2012, 01:04 AM
It did drive me nuts! It's just a tiny silly buzz but after trying everything I could think of to get rid of it I got so frustrated at one point that I was just one click away from re-selling it on ebay for a fraction the price lol. Glad I didn't.
Now off to the luthier to re-crown that fretty fret!

08-21-2012, 03:29 AM
Great info, thanks heaps.

08-21-2012, 07:46 AM
Nee botha :)

So I went to the luthier I had talked with on the phone who said he could recrown my fret but when I got there... let's just say I was met with that condescending tone that certain older dudes can have for younger women (slash guitarists for ukers). Not very helpful.

Off to another luthier.

The next one was much more helpful and totally got was I was explaining to him. And importantly, he knew that ***a uke is not a guitar***.
Super good price too. Getting the uke back on Thursday.

To be continued!

08-21-2012, 10:29 AM
If it's just one or two frets and you're the patient type you can fix it pretty easily at home. Tape the fretboard on both sides of the fret with a couple of layers of painter's tape. Using some 400 or 600-grit wet'or'dry paper folded over a couple of times for stiffness, carefully and gently sand the leading and trailing edges of the fret with a lateral motion (across the fretboard), being careful not to sand the top of the fret and, of course, being careful not to sand through the painter's tape. Using your finger as backing for the folded sandpaper gives a nicely rounded profile where using a fret file (other than a rounded crowning file) would tend to leave sharp angles.

It will probably take longer to loosen and then restring the strings than to actually work on the fret!


08-22-2012, 12:27 AM
Great advice, thanks! My uke is already at the luthier though. Looking forward to get it back and hopefully have that buzz gone!

08-23-2012, 12:06 PM
Uke: back.

Frets: re-dressed

Buzz: GONE!

Hurray!!! :rock:

08-24-2012, 02:30 AM
Uke: back.

Frets: re-dressed

Buzz: GONE!

Hurray!!! :rock:Great! Great thread, thanks for sharing! :D