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Steve Carmody Guitar


By Steve Carmody

This seems too simple, but it's true. In my experience, a fair number of guitar fret buzz problems result from worn strings, especially on guitars with otherwise good condition frets such as a relatively a new instrument or one that has been recently serviced.

This is particularly the case when the buzz is occurring on one of the wound strings, often in a lower position, say the first 3 frets or so. Even though the strings may appear to be in good shape, what has happened is that the underside of the string has become dented or pitted where it contacts the fret. Eventually the dent in the string is sufficient to drop the string below the fret ahead of where it is being depressed, causing it to buzz.

worn string

It isn't as obvious from the player side of the string so we don't immediately think of it. Similar to the moon, once strings are tensioned up, we really only see one side them. But if you lift the string and slide your finger along its underside, you will feel the pits, if they are there. You may have to loosen the strings to do this.

Repeated use of a capo at the same location also exacerbates this problem. Whereas our fingers feel the frets and generally don't apply any more pressure than is necessary, capos often get clamped on much tighter than is necessary. This can lead to pitting on the underside and fret buzz. Intonation can also be affected by this wear, since , eventually, the string can be bearing off a different point than dead-center.

Ultimately, relative to the money you have put into your instrument, strings don't cost that much. And they do wear out. So, change your strings regularly and if you are getting fret buzz and you haven't recently changed your strings, changing your strings might solve the problem.

Steve Carmody is an independant guitar repairman and luthier with a shop in Silver Spring, Md. He has been doing guitar repair and restoration full-time since 1990. He reserves all rights to the contents of this article. Republishing of this material without attribution is not nice. Questions about this article or anything else related to guitar repair? Send e-mail to -