Buzzy C string

Elin

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I'm playing an Aklot banjo uke, my first instrument. While playing, I've noticed my C string buzzes a fair bit, even when played in chords (as in, not just when plucked open). The others all sounds fine. I've read about the nut height (action? not entirely familiar with the terms yet), and according to a little paper test, it's way too high - there's a fair gap between the string and the wood of the fretboard at the first fret. (I've also just figured this out while lamenting over the Bm chord - having trouble barring the bottom three strings, which I thought was because of some ligament weakness in my left hand. Now I realise it might actually be an issue with the nut!)

For a cheapish banjolele, I probably wouldn't bother taking it to a shop, but I've heard you can file or alter the nut. I'm nervous to do anything like that - hell, I haven't even learned how the change strings yet - but I know its possible. Tips would be useful, if anyone has them. Or other causes of the buzzing, if anyone knows :)
 

Knows Picker

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Lots of possible causes for buzzing. Try to isolate where it is coming from. Make sure all the head hardware is at least finger tight.
 

clear

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Where is the buzzing coming from?
Does it buzz all the time when you fret up the neck?

Lowering the nut may worsen the buzz, depending on what's buzzing.
Based on what you've written, it might be that your frets aren't level where the C-string is hitting a fret wire.
 

Elin

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Lots of possible causes for buzzing. Try to isolate where it is coming from. Make sure all the head hardware is at least finger tight.

Where is the buzzing coming from?
Does it buzz all the time when you fret up the neck?

Lowering the nut may worsen the buzz, depending on what's buzzing.
Based on what you've written, it might be that your frets aren't level where the C-string is hitting a fret wire.

I gave it a listen up and down, and honestly it's a little hard to tell. When I first noticed it, I actually thought it was coming from the bridge, or that end of the instrument. I had a fiddle with it, made sure the bridge was in the right place and the right way round, but still couldn't really pinpoint it. Muting the skin of the body didn't help much either.

When i looked at the fret wires, they seemed level, but truthfully I can't really tell. It does buzz up and down the fretboard. The more I check the buzz though, the more I think it's coming from the bridge end of the uke. Will have to keep checking it over, see if I can pinpoint the noise.

Thanks for the responses!
 

John Colter

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Don't try to fix it yourself, Elin, until you are completely familiar with what is required. You talk about the gap from the string to the wood of the fret board - this is not what you should be measuring. It is the gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret that is important.

A high action (as it is called) will not cause buzzing. As has been suggested, uneven fret heights certainly can. To check if all is well, place a straight edge (a regular ruler will do) along the fret board, between the strings. As it rests there, ideally it should touch the top of each fret. If any frets are significantly higher than the others, that could cause problems.

John Colter
 

Kenn2018

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I have had the same problem with a tenor Uke. I finally realized that the bridge was causing it. The bridge can be moved on the head. It had to be perfectly straight (parallel) to the nut, or I get buzzing. And it has to be the correct distance from the nut. 17" and a smidge for a tenor. If it is was even a little bit crooked, or too far to one side, I get a buzz.

The bridge on a banjo uke is also the saddle. The strings go over it and transmit the vibrations to the head of the banjo uke. On a standard uke, the strings go over the saddle which usually sits in a bridge. The vibrations from the strings is transmitted to the saddle which transmits it to the bridge, which transmits it to the soundboard (top) of the uke.

Did your uke come with a template or instructions on how to place the bridge correctly? If not, check YouTube for vids. Check the mfg's website. Or check the Banjo Uke group on Facebook if you don't get what you need here. I mark the position in pencil on the head, so I can always get it straight and at the correct distance.

If you bought it from a store ask them to show you where it goes and then mark it before leaving.

Otherwise, check the tuner pegs. If they have a decorative washer at the base on the front faceplate of the headstock, sometimes they can be loose and rattle. Some ukes use the strings to hold them in place. A drop of glue can fix it. The string should be at least 1/2 way down into the nut slots. If they are too high, it may cause a rattle.
 

Elin

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Don't try to fix it yourself, Elin, until you are completely familiar with what is required. You talk about the gap from the string to the wood of the fret board - this is not what you should be measuring. It is the gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the fret that is important.

A high action (as it is called) will not cause buzzing. As has been suggested, uneven fret heights certainly can. To check if all is well, place a straight edge (a regular ruler will do) along the fret board, between the strings. As it rests there, ideally it should touch the top of each fret. If any frets are significantly higher than the others, that could cause problems.

John Colter

I have had the same problem with a tenor Uke. I finally realized that the bridge was causing it. The bridge can be moved on the head. It had to be perfectly straight (parallel) to the nut, or I get buzzing. And it has to be the correct distance from the nut. 17" and a smidge for a tenor. If it is was even a little bit crooked, or too far to one side, I get a buzz.

The bridge on a banjo uke is also the saddle. The strings go over it and transmit the vibrations to the head of the banjo uke. On a standard uke, the strings go over the saddle which usually sits in a bridge. The vibrations from the strings is transmitted to the saddle which transmits it to the bridge, which transmits it to the soundboard (top) of the uke.

Did your uke come with a template or instructions on how to place the bridge correctly? If not, check YouTube for vids. Check the mfg's website. Or check the Banjo Uke group on Facebook if you don't get what you need here. I mark the position in pencil on the head, so I can always get it straight and at the correct distance.

If you bought it from a store ask them to show you where it goes and then mark it before leaving.

Otherwise, check the tuner pegs. If they have a decorative washer at the base on the front faceplate of the headstock, sometimes they can be loose and rattle. Some ukes use the strings to hold them in place. A drop of glue can fix it. The string should be at least 1/2 way down into the nut slots. If they are too high, it may cause a rattle.

These are really good suggestions - I'll give them all a try and see what I find! Thank you :D
 

vkuke

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I can totally relate to your frustrations. Take it to a luthier they should be able to fix it. But in my case I think is just a bad craftsmanship from the factory.

My Ohana concert C string buzzed like crazy when I first got it, it was strung with aquila strings. After changed it to Worth Brown, it sounded better (brighter and bigger tone) but still buzzed like a freaking fly while I played. Took it to the local luthier and it got better but it still buzzed at times. I'm puzzled as well, I want to love this CK 35 but I have come to a point where I just wanna trash it and not tarnish others' ears.
 

Dohle

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Some decent comments on this thread already. Often a buzzing string occurs mostly because of either a poorly cut nut slot, too low action at the nut or saddle, or a fret that's not level with the others.

Unfortunately, sometimes a buzz is something that's just almost completely unavoidable. If the resonance frequency of the instrument is close to a specific note then playing that note will make the string move more and making it more probable for it to hit a fret. In that case the only real solution is an unreasonably high action which isn't really a solution. Usually you just have to deal with. I have two high-end ukes - a custom and a Hawaiian K brand - that have this issue. They're not unplayable by any means but they can cause a buzz on the E string when played particularly hard so typically not during regular playing. But determining that resonance frequency is a job for a luthier so you should explore those other reasons for the buzz first.
 

Elin

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A wee update:

I've tried out some of what's been suggested here, particularly to do with the fret heights. I checked them, and the first fret is definitely a tiny bit higher than the rest. It's all of 1mm, but I think that's what's causing the buzz. It hasn't affected my playing at all though the buzz is a mild annoyance. Not really sure what I can do about the first fret, and I'm not too worried about taking it to a luthier etc (I don't have the time either way), but I wonder if there's a way to file the frets? I don't want to do any damage though, so I'll probably leave it.