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View Full Version : Buzzing - how much does technique affect this?



Ben_H
09-27-2012, 03:49 AM
The problem:

Strumming my baritone over the last few weeks I have developed some serious buzzes. I'm working my way through Budhuu's sticky on the technical section and waiting on some new strings in the post to try them. In the meantime I want to know if it is my technique.

I find it is across all strings but not continuous. It's certainly worse with barre chords but I also get it with simple chords like C major 2,0,1,0

It is particularly bad when releasing barre chords.

I have to press REALLY hard to stop buzzes and I know that's not good. It makes it very hard to play. Is it my technique? Is the action still too high or wrong in some other way.

Cheers

Ben

OldePhart
09-27-2012, 07:50 AM
Probably a little of both (technique and maybe not great setup). When you are strumming remember that you don't need to kill the strings. You want to strum very perpendicular to the soundboard - if you strum with pick or fingernail angled where the string vibrates a lot in the vertical plane you are more likely to get buzzing. THis is true of any instrument but the longer, heavier strings on a baritone make it more likely than on shorter scales.

Of course, you also want to make sure you are tuned up to pitch, too. Strings that are too slack will tend to slap the fretboard more easily, plus if there is not enough tension on the neck it may relaxe and go to flat - or even backbowed - instead of having a little relief.

John

didgeridoo2
09-27-2012, 08:14 AM
It could be your instrument. I've recently developed some bad buzzing on an Ohana BK-20 baritone. It turns out that the neck is bowing and I've sent it to Ohana to determine if its repairable or replaceable.

pulelehua
09-27-2012, 09:13 AM
Sometimes you can look at your strings from the side and see the problem. If the neck is bowing, you can see it. If the action is too low, you can see it. If the frets are uneven, you can sometimes see it.

Relating to what John said, if you try a higher tuning, that might help isolate the problem as well. So instead of DGBE, try EAC#F#.

Make sure you're fretting just behind the fret. Not in the middle of the fret, and certainly not at the top of the fret. I've had lots of students in the past who find fret position difficult on barre chords, so it sounds like technique might be involved. But as John says, power is probably not the problem. Position is much more likely to be the culprit. On barre chords it can also depend on which part of your finger you're barring. If you roll your finger slightly, so that the harder side of the finger is doing some of the work, you can often get a better sound and less buzzing.

Some strings have a smaller diameter than others, and so tend to buzz less. Fremonts are quite thin, so you might try those.

Hope any of that helps. :)

Ben_H
09-27-2012, 10:24 AM
OK,

I don't think it's the strings , or not solely. I dug out the original, thicker, low D set that came with the uke and put them on. The buzz is not as bad as it was with High D so string thickness may have something to do with it, however it is still there. Careful fretting seems to reduce it a bit and I don't seem to have to press down as hard with this low D set so maybe string tension is involved?.

I'm working on the assumption that either:

a) The setup I attempted a couple of weeks ago has caused this problem and the strings are now too close to the fretboard at the nut end. I didn't touch the nut but it seems quite low, whereas the action at the 12th fret was way too high when I got it, at 5mm and hard to play so I lowered it down and then back up when it buzzed a bit. It is now at approx 3mm. The strings at the 1st fret are a credit card thickness off the fret crown - is this too low? If so then it would appear that the uke came with the nut set too low and the saddle too high.

or

b) Something has come loose within the structure of the uke itself to cause the buzz. The buzz appears to be coming from the soundhole rather than the nut or bridge.

I have used the adjustable truss rod to raise the action along the length of the fretboard slightly and the it does seem to improve it again, though as the kids are now in bed I cannot play too loudly to test it. The frets all seem pretty level when I run a straight edge across them, bridge and nut are not loose as far as I can tell.

I'm going to be near the shop I got it from in a few weeks time, maybe I will have to take it in to them to see what they suggest?

OldePhart
09-27-2012, 10:44 AM
Okay...so...three mm at the 12th fret is still a bit high though not unplayable. (For comparison, the low string on my 5-string bass is at 2.5mm at the 12th). However, if this is the lowest you can get it without buzzing the problem is not that the action at the nut is too low (if you raise the action at the nut you will have intonation problems at the first couple of frets). The more likely problem is that there is inadequate relief in the neck (if you fret the low string at the first and 12th or 13th frets you should be able to see a little daylight between the string and the 6th fret) or that the frets have not been leveled.

Since your neck has a truss rod you want to loosen it a little at a time until you achieve the above. If you go too far, that can introduce buzzing though usually when you're barring chords around the middle of the neck. It takes wood a while to relax or compress so turn the rod about 1/4 turn and let it stabilize for several minutes before checking the relief.

If the relief looks right then you're looking at needing to level the frets. Depending on what you paid for the uke it might be time to take it back to the shop though they could legitimately refuse to do anything about it since you attempted to set it up yourself.

All of this, of course, assumes that you're not beating the daylights out of the strings or fretting poorly. :)

John

Ben_H
09-27-2012, 11:30 AM
Okay...so...three mm at the 12th fret is still a bit high though not unplayable. (For comparison, the low string on my 5-string bass is at 2.5mm at the 12th). However, if this is the lowest you can get it without buzzing the problem is not that the action at the nut is too low (if you raise the action at the nut you will have intonation problems at the first couple of frets). The more likely problem is that there is inadequate relief in the neck (if you fret the low string at the first and 12th or 13th frets you should be able to see a little daylight between the string and the 6th fret) or that the frets have not been leveled.

Since your neck has a truss rod you want to loosen it a little at a time until you achieve the above. If you go too far, that can introduce buzzing though usually when you're barring chords around the middle of the neck. It takes wood a while to relax or compress so turn the rod about 1/4 turn and let it stabilize for several minutes before checking the relief.

If the relief looks right then you're looking at needing to level the frets. Depending on what you paid for the uke it might be time to take it back to the shop though they could legitimately refuse to do anything about it since you attempted to set it up yourself.

All of this, of course, assumes that you're not beating the daylights out of the strings or fretting poorly. :)

John

Not sure I understand what you mean by relief?

If I fret the low string at the 1st there is a couple of mm of air between the 6th fret and string. Fretting at the 12th and 13th leaves a credit card sized gap.

Certainly not beating the strings too hard. Can't comment on the fretting, thought I had been improving in technique but then I've only had the baritone for 6 weeks or so and this bad buzzing has really only appeared in the last week.

As far as I know the vendor didn't do any set up when I bought it mail order. I've since found out that they will do a basic setup if you ask but I'd been under the impression that they didn't so I didn't ask.

I'll give them a call tomorrow to see what they suggest. I was going to pop in to see a local guitar tech but it turns out he only comes into the shop once a week on a Saturday to collect the next weeks work. I not free Saturday so I'll have to look a bit further afield.

Cheers

Ben

OldePhart
09-27-2012, 12:52 PM
Not sure I understand what you mean by relief?

If I fret the low string at the 1st there is a couple of mm of air between the 6th fret and string. Fretting at the 12th and 13th leaves a credit card sized gap.


Relief is the forward bow in the neck and a small amount is needed on an instrument with as long a scale as a baritone (soprano and concert, and maybe tenor can get away with a flat neck). You measure relief by fretting before the 1st fret and after the fret nearest the body (usually the 12th or 13th) at the same time, then measure the gap between the string and the fret halfway between those two frets. Most guitar manufacturers specify several thousands of an inch for this gap (I use a .009" e-string on guitars) - but basically you just want to make sure you can see a little space between the string and the fret.

pulelehua
09-27-2012, 05:40 PM
I love how I think "I have an idea! What about this?" and then John comes in with his vast boatloads of knowledge, and I think "Wow, didn't know that!"

So, as an innocent bystander, can I just say, "Thanks, John! I always learn so much from your posts."

Ben_H
09-27-2012, 09:29 PM
Relief is the forward bow in the neck and a small amount is needed on an instrument with as long a scale as a baritone (soprano and concert, and maybe tenor can get away with a flat neck). You measure relief by fretting before the 1st fret and after the fret nearest the body (usually the 12th or 13th) at the same time, then measure the gap between the string and the fret halfway between those two frets. Most guitar manufacturers specify several thousands of an inch for this gap (I use a .009" e-string on guitars) - but basically you just want to make sure you can see a little space between the string and the fret.

Currently I would say there is a good 1/2 mm of relief at fret 6 when I hold 1st fret and 14th fret down. This could be partly because I have tweaked the truss rod to bow the neck up a bit more. I will back it off later when I have time to fiddle to see what it is in neutral.

I second Pulelehua. I never know what I will learn from these threads. All good stuff :)

AndrewKuker
09-27-2012, 11:34 PM
I love how I think "I have an idea! What about this?" and then John comes in with his vast boatloads of knowledge, and I think "Wow, didn't know that!"

So, as an innocent bystander, can I just say, "Thanks, John! I always learn so much from your posts."

I agree, the Opinionator is a pretty helpful dude. Very knowledgable and and generous with it.

If there is true altruism it's here, and with people like John.

OldePhart
09-28-2012, 08:25 AM
Ahhh...gee guys...now you've got me blushin' and stuff...and I need to go buy new hats... :)

And, Ben, 1/2mm sounds like way too much relief, I'd tighten the truss rod up a tad especially if the buzzing is worse when you're doing barre chords around the middle of the neck. It sounds though like you probably do need to level the frets before you can get the action down. There is an illustrated article on this that is superb, I'll see if I can find the link. The article is on a guitar but the technique is the same. Oh, in the mean time I did a video on setups a while back and it illustrates the fret leveling, too, though nowhere near as well as the article I'm thinking of. Anyway, here is that video series http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0AEA7587C5D93985&feature=view_all

BTW - since you have a truss rod if you decide to level the frets yourself you want to get the neck as straight as possible before leveling the frets, then loosen the rod a tad for a bit of relief after the frets are leveled.

Edit to add...hmmmm...cannot seem to find that article. I'm pretty sure it was at frets.com but I don't see it there now. That's a shame because it was an excellent photo-illustrated guide.

John

Ben_H
10-06-2012, 05:25 AM
Update

I went to see a local guitar tech today after trying the other avenues open to me. He played the uke for a few minutes then peered at it, tapping various bits. His assessment is that the neck is bowing, some of the frets are too high where the body meets the neck and a couple of frets are lifting. He was also critical of some of the fret ends. He wasn't keen to do anything with it, just suggested I send it back to the dealer for sorting.

I have since spoken with the vendor and they were very concerned about my problems and are sending a courier for it next week and promised to sort it oneway or another. The only issue is that it will leave me with only one uke, bar my hospital patient and if my band colleague turns up on Wednesday night with the cash for the one he is buying I will be ukeless!!!! :uhoh:

Thanks for all the helpful advice. At the very least it has enabled me to converse with the guitar tech and the shop with confidence and an understanding of what I'm talking about.

Cheers

Ben