Dodgy sounding high E on acoustic, frets 2 & 3

Hello. My acoustic guitar is a Tanglewood TRSF CE VS. When playing the high E string in frets 2 & 3, the note sounds harsh/off. Fret 1 is not much better, but from fret 4 on, the tone is less jarring. I have a recording of the sounds but cannot share them on here. I am a newbie so don’t know what is causing the problem - Googling has suggested fret wear. I bought the guitar second-hand so do not know how old it is. The strings are relatively new.

Can anyone offer advice, suggestions please? I’m hoping this link to the clip will work but can share elsewhere if not.

Thank you,

Hi Sarah,

Given that the guitar is used, the frets may not be even. There are specialized tools to check if a particular fret is higher than the adjacent ones, like this one below:

If you have a ruler that can reach the first 3 frets at the same time, you can check it for yourself and see if the frets need any adjustment (fret levelling, or just a gentle but firm knock on the in case they got loose).

If you are still in doubt, take the guitar to a luthier and explain where the sound is not good.

1 Like

I had these symptoms when the nut of my electric guitar was too high.

You end up having to stretch/deform the strings more up in the first few frets to make contact with the fret wires so it pulls the pitch high.

Or uneven frets as suggested above.

I managed to pop the nut out and sand a little off the bottom, but it’s not that straight forward. I’m planning on getting mine into a luthier for a bone nut and fret dress at some stage.

1 Like

Hello Jozsef,

Many thanks for your reply. I will investigate and likely take the guitar to my local music shop for some TLC.

Best wishes

1 Like

Many thanks for your reply, I will take the guitar to my local music store for help.

Best wishes.

I had a similar problem when the heat came on with the onset of winter.

In my case, the solution was to loosen the truss rod.

I’m assuming the reduced humidity caused the wood to shrink, which changed the truss rod tension, which reduced the relief, causing the frets near the neck to buzz.

In any case, it worked for me.

1 Like

Same circumstances with me Thushell. After the truss bar was adjusted
my B & high E strings behaved.


Thank you, Tbushell. This is beyond my level of knowledge, definitely going to seek professional input :grinning:

Yeah, if you are not confident in doing it yourself, by all means take it into the shop.

But it’s not a difficult adjustment once you’ve seen it done…maybe they will show you how if you ask to watch.

Definitely ask them to show you how and why to adjust the truss rod. Too easy and sometimes you need to do it after a string gauge change.

1 Like

It may not be the guitar at all. The D chord can still be a nemesis for me, over two years into my journey. What I have discovered is that I really need to loosen my grip on the neck. Too much pressure on the strings will cause the chord to sound ‘sour’ or distorted. Actually, I have found this to be true for most of the open chords encompassing the high E.
Try consciously playing with the lightest touch possible to give a clear tone and see if that doesn’t solve your problem.