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Thread: Buzzing Martin

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
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    Default Buzzing Martin

    I have an OLD Martin 3M that was given to me a long time ago. It is in wonderful condition, but now that I have a few songs under my belt, I realize while it is the certainly the brightest (nice and plucky, loud) sounding Uke in my collection (and certainly the most valuable), it is not the one I want to play...I figure something is wrong when my Makala is my go to. Anyway, it is loud and plucky, wood is in good nick, I have deduced it is the fingerboard that is giving me grief.
    It buzzes like crazy- even if I am not trying to rock star it. Here is what I have tried:
    Aquila Nylgut...those lasted 2 weeks, sounded terrible
    Worth Browns- medium. These are better- not great.
    I have Martin Flourocarbons to try next. It sounded best with 15 year old GHS strings...I threw them away before they destroyed my hands.
    What I know:
    It is about 70 years old
    It has tuners that are less functional than desired, which is OK, I can tune it fast now
    It has wear marks on the top frets (literally it has been played enough that there are indentations in the frets).
    The bone saddle has indentations in it where the strings sit- I think this is the problem
    The action is lower at the top frets than it is at the bottom ones (indicating that the nut is just as worn as the saddle?)
    Anyway- I want it to sound as good as it looks, so my questions are ten fold I suppose:
    First- can I string something this old with high tension strings? I am thinking Worth high tensions here, clear or brown
    Second, the bridge has been in there for 70 years- is it easy to replace?
    Third, should I be replacing parts on it? As an un-restored original I realize it is worth a note or two...but as an un-played diamond sitting in the case, it is a paperweight to me.
    Fourth- I am really not going to mess with it (as I will mess it up and never forgive myself. I am going to take it to a reputable luthier and have it "tuned up"...who would that be in Sonoma County California?
    Thanks in advance- Dave

    Oh yeah, pics of her are on my profile- really cool old Uke so money is no object getting her to play.
    The old girl
    And some detail shots

  2. #2
    RyanMFT Guest

    Default

    OK, I take a crack at this. I have a handful of vintage ukes but I am no expert!

    First, take this to a luthier who understands ukulele's. Most often guitar guys just don't get it and make well intentioned repairs or changes that are harmful to a uke....

    It isn't uncommon for it to have indentations on the saddle. Also, the action must be higher as you move down the fretboard toward the soundhole....what you describe sounds normal.

    I don't think it would be a problem to use high tension strings. Your bridge looks solid and bridge problems are NOT typical of old Martins as far as I know.

    Why would you want to replace the bridge??? It looks fine. It would seriously devalue the uke and that is the bridge that belongs there. If it is lifting it should be properly fixed but not replaced. If you want to replace the saddle, that might be a possibility but I try to keep a vintage uke as original as possible. It may not be removable as some saddles are glued in. I wonder if taking it to a good luthier might easily put it right without changing anything. Maybe a fret is high or the buzz is caused by something else.

    This is a beautiful, high-end vintage uke and I realize that you aren't playing it much but if it were repaired I bet you would play it. In my humble opinion, if you don't want to play it, sell it to someone who would play and enjoy it and take the money (which is a lot) and buy a uke that you love! Hope that helps a little....
    Last edited by RyanMFT; 09-17-2010 at 05:19 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default

    The Martin 3 is a nice uke and collectible. The main thing is that the neck is good. If your neck is not straight and true, that would be the cause of your ills. Check it by holding the body with the lower bout at about eye level and sight down the neck with the headstock away from you. Is the neck twisted at all? Is it bowed in or out? Look at the distance between the strings and the fretboard, are they all about the same distance between the strings and frets?

    To answer your question about high-tension strings, you don't have to worry. Aquila Nylguts are about the highest tension you can put on your uke and they won't hurt it.

    If the neck is out, a "hot press" can fix it, but that is something best left to Martin.

    If the neck is good, Martin can also replace the nut and saddle if needed, which will not really de-value your uke.
    Ukulele Player is Still ONLINE.... you can find it here:

    https://archive.org/details/issue30_201712
    (Ukulele Player Magazine)
    Ukulele Player Magazine STORE...
    http://www.zazzle.com/ukeplayermagazine

  4. #4
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    Default

    Aloha Dave,
    If you believe it's not the strings or the bowing of the neck, I'd take it to a local luthier or music shop for their opinion.
    and see what they have to say....but I definetely send it to martin to repair for such an expensive uke so they can put
    it back to specs again and someone else won't devalue it and ruin your family heirloom....you won't be sorry...until the bill arrives maybe..
    In hope this helps..Good Luck!! MM Stan..

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Germany, Rottenburg
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    My guess: Take a dentist's mirror and have a look inside. Sounds like lose bracing anywhere inside. This would be a very easy fix for any luthier/guitar maker! Don't change bridge! Event if it's made by Martin, you'll loose value!
    Kind regards, SR

  6. #6
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TCK View Post
    It has wear marks on the top frets (literally it has been played enough that there are indentations in the frets).
    Dave, if there are indentations in the frets, which never happens with correct strings!-that means, sb in the past used metal strings as used for mandolin.. To much tension, to sharp for Uke.. Do you know, if this could be?
    SR

  7. #7
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    I believe the indentions are normal wear since it's an 70 year old ukulele...
    Last edited by mm stan; 09-17-2010 at 08:11 AM.

  8. #8
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    Sep 2010
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    Default

    oops. sorry, I understood you meant fret wires..
    Fret indentions are quite normal, when uke was played with to longe finger nails rhand
    SR

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Default

    The OP said that there are dents in the frets, dents in the saddle and wear at the nut. This combination would almost certainly cause buzz.

    Saddle and nut should be easy for a luthier (I'd try it myself if they came off easily), and you can keep the old saddle and nut if you're worried about resale value.

    Worn frets probably need replacing, but I'd do these one at a time: saddle first, then nut, then frets.

    If you take it to a luthier, it's probably most economical to get all done together.

  10. #10
    Join Date
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    Thanks all- great suggestions here, and yes, this is going to a Luthier regardless of the cost (now to find one)
    I would NEVER replace the bridge...I know I said that, but I meant saddle, sorry for the heart attacks (totally new at this). The saddle is indented really bad and I think that might be the problem.
    I will certainly look for loose bracing, I have felt none, but the dentist mirror...genius!
    As for the Aqillas @ Pippin...I find these to be really loose, am I missing something?
    @ Sir ROy- the fret wires are literally indented. I am certain it was never strung with any offending steels as I also have quite a collection of 70 year old gut strings (see picks)...this old gal was PLAYED, a lot.
    Stan- someday, beers and an old Martin for sure man, you just tell me when you are in Cali
    ProfChris- I am thinking you are dead on here...off to the Luthier we go, as the neck seems straight and all other problems mentioned seem to not exist. The saddle is in there pretty good as is the nut, and I fear messing up the unrestored original finish, so I figure someone with insurance can mess with it.
    As for sale- I would never sell this Uke- here's why (Ryan, I know I gave ya heart failure with my communication miss-steps...but this is the Uke I love, I promise- I just want her sorted)
    An Old Ukulele
    Don't care if it is a paperweight forever...it stays here.
    Again- now to find one that is in Sonoma County (or off to Martin she goes)- Stan, you know how to send it to it's birthplace? Need that info if possible.
    Thanks all- Dave

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