Fret buzz - how much do you live with?

I know there are many threads in this forum that discuss fret buzz. I am noticing a little bit of buzz on one my electric guitar and maybe even the acoustic but I have always figured its just that I don’t have good fretting technique nor very good finger strength, especially in the pinky. Like, its bad, my fretting ability. Almost as bad as everything else is. But anyway, I figured I am not pressing the strings down hard enough, so I just squeeze and squeeze.

I am trying to think of all the things it could be…and watching videos makes me glaze over in my mind, like sheesh there’s no way I have the knowledge or eye to diagnose this myself.

The things that could be affecting my guitar is that 1) I bought a humidifier finally and am trying to keep the humidity in that room around 40 to 45%. 2) My fretting and finger strength is not good. 3) Guitar needs adjusting (side note- the guitar in question was set up at the music shop when I purchased it back in Aug/Sept).

In one video I watched the guy claimed that virtually all guitars either have or will have fret buzz and as long as it isn’t heard through an amp, its fine and people just live with it. Is this true? Should I live with it as a normal thing? Can I just try to lift one saddle slightly to relieve the buzz without messing up the set up? Should I just wait it out and see if it corrects itself when warmer weather gets here? I can get quite neurotic with wanting things to be “perfect”.

Do you live with a bit of fret buzz?

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Bad move. The harder you press the more sore your fingers will get, the more quickly your hand will get tired and start aching, and you also risk “stretching” the strings slightly out of tune. Fretting technique isn’t about pushing harder and harder, it’s about where you position your fingers and the part of your finger you’re using.

You’re over-thinking it. Fret buzz is a string vibrating against the frets. The most common cause of that is the action is too low. If it’s just one string, try adjusting the saddle first which is very quick and easy. If that doesn’t work or sets that one string way too high, then look into other causes such as the nut notch being too deep or whatever.

Yes you can, but you should really ditch the fear of messing with your basic setup. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and with a little common sense you won’t do any damage. Knowing how to adjust basic things will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run.

No, it isn’t. None of mine buzz and never have. Sounds like another fine example of someone who knows sod all pretending to be a pro. There is no need whatsoever to “live with” fret buzz.

There are plenty of resources to show how to do a setup, so I won’t go into detail here. However, assuming the guitar was previously set-up reasonably well and now has some fret-buzz, here’s how I handle that:

  • If the buzz is on frets 1-5, I’ll loosen the truss-rod. On my PRS SE, I use 1/12th-turn increments (1/2 of a flat on the hex nut). On my Les Paul style guitar, I use 1/6th-turn increments (one flat on the Allen wrench).

  • If the buzz is on frets 12 or higher, then I’ll raise the bridge slightly. On both my guitars, I use 1/4 turn adjustments on either side of the bridge.

I’ve never had to make a bridge adjustment due to climate changes.

When I check for fret buzz, I hold the guitar in playing position and fret each string at each fret and pluck the string at the same intensity as I use when practicing a scale. If I detect buzz, I make an adjustment. If it only buzzes when I play HARD, I don’t make any adjustments.



Oh I’m aware it’s not the best thing to squeeze hard. It’s just that it seems hard to get strings to ring sometimes even though I’m playing right behind the fret, etc etc. And I do the trick where I press lightly and then harder until I find the sweet spot. It just seems like sometimes I end up really pressing to get the clear tone to ring.

Its interesting to me what might cause the buzz…like did something cause the neck to move slightly or am I just now getting enough of an ear to hear the buzz. The action has pretty much always been this low bec that is how the luthier set it, but I just wonder, why now?

I know I won’t mess the guitar up or damage it, but I just didn’t want to mess up the set up ie throw everything out of whack by adjusting one thing, mainly because I don’t have the physical tools to fix a set up that I messed up and it could cost $60+ to get it back into shape. But I do agree, I need to learn to make my own adjustments. I guess this is a lesson in doing just that.

OK gotcha. I figured that sounded a little odd, but thought I’d ask to see what people had to say.

Thank you! I am a little cautious about adjusting my own truss rod, but I realize I shouldn’t be afraid to do it and I should learn to make adjustments like this. I’ll check all the frets and see how much buzz I am dealing with.

One thing you need to understand is guitars are made of wood and wood breathes. It dries out and retakes on moisture. So keeping your guitar at a fairly consistent environment helps to keep from changing over the seasons.

Did you buy the humidifier because the guitar was starting to buzz? If so it may just need a little more time to get back to the way it was.

Can you stop the guitar from buzzing by adjusting your finger position? If so it’s not the guitar.

Did you have the guitar at home for a month or more before you had it set up or did they set it up before you brought it home? If it was set up before you had it at home for a while it may need a slight tweaking. The store should do it for free because its not a full set up and you bought it there. The music store I deal with gives free set ups for the first year. Yours may have a similar policy.

Some people set their action so low that fret buzz is inevitable so they live with it. You don’t have to. A properly set up guitar is both easy to play and has not fret buzz.

Like I said at the beginning Guitars are made of wood. They will never be perfect all we can do is try and keep them as close as possible. They are like people some are easy going and some are high maintenance.

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When do you have the fret buzz? If it occurs when you play chords, you may need to adjust your hand to get the strings ring out. If you pick single notes with too much force, the string will hit the fret and that will also sound like fret buzz.

If you decide to adjust the truss rod and/or the action, just take a note of what you adjust and by how much so that you can return to where you started out in case the playability suffers.

You can get away with most setup-related work with:

  • A string cutter (you should be able to change the strings)
  • A set of Allen keys for truss rod and action adjustment (depending on the guitar you have)
  • A set of spanners (or just one or more of the necessary sizes) to check and tighten nuts if needed
  • Screwdrivers (slot or cruciform) to set the intonation, pickup height, take the pickguard off, etc.

If the nut slots need to be filed down or anything more serious seems to be necessary, you probably should talk to a luthier first or take your guitar in for the job.

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I don’t live with any. If I have concerns I eyeball the neck to see if it’s an issue. As some have suggested, low action could be the cause. While I’ve been happy to adjust my truss rod at times, I’ve also taken my guitars to guitar-techs / luthiers to get a setup done.

If you are going to adjust the truss rod yourself, do more than just the suggested only a short / small adjustment, look along the neck to see which way it curves (slightly). Do more research on what the truss rod adjustment is doing, so you are aware of and comfortable with what you are doing. If a small adjustment doesn’t help, don’t go big and keep adjusting.

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This. You bought a humidifier. First thing would be to check and adjust the relief using the truss rod. Very likely the cause, and very easy to do.

The bass E string buzzes from the first to about the tenth fret when I pluck with my finger. When I use a thin pick and pick normally (not all that hard), it doesn’t buzz as much but there is some on a few frets. The A string buzzes to about the seventh with my finger, and not much at all when I pick. But if I pick with a little bit of force, all the same frets buzz as did when I plucked with my finger.

I have a feeling the humidifier is probably the cause, its the only thing that has changed in the last couple of weeks. It used to stay around 25% in that room but now, as I said, I can get it up to about 40% or even close to 45%. When the humidity dropped to 15% for about a week during a recent temperature drop, I got motivated to buy one.

The neck looks straight visually, but I’ll check it with a metal straight edge and see if its got a slight bow one way or the other. If it is straight, I suppose I’d still want to adjust it to relieve the buzz.

How are you checking the relitive humidity? If your using the setting on the humidifier it’s probably wrong.
I have 2 anolog hygrometers that I’ve salt tested and have used for over 10 years. They are within 5% of each other.
The hygrometer on the humidifier is out by over 20%. When the RH is 45% the humidifier reads 23%.
High humidity doesn’t cause fret buzz thou. Low humidity does.

This is exactly what I mean… a fear of making adjustments yourself.

All you have to do is make a note of what you are doing, and how much you are doing it. You can then revert to the way it was before, should you feel the need to. There are loads of quality guides from reliable (ie, non-YouTuber) sources available on everything from adjusting the truss rod to adjusting the action to intonating the strings to whatever else. There really is no reason not to have a go, and instead of fearing that $60 screw-up fee you’ll end up saving $60 every time you can diagnose and fix a problem on your own.

As for tools… a phillips screw driver, a couple of different allen keys and a regular 30cm ruler have been enough for all adjustments made to my four guitars. You probably have those things lying around at home right now.

Also bear in mind that just because a music shop set up your guitar, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was done correctly, or in a way that suits your style. Another good reason to learn to make your own adjustments.

I have a digital hygrometer in that room. It sits underneath two guitars that hang on the wall in one corner. The other two guitars are in the opposite corner and the humidifier is in the third corner. I keep the door closed or the humidity will drop again.

The correct way to measure relief is to hold the 6th string down at the 1st and 12th fret and measure the space between the bottom of the string and the top of the 6th fret. A rough measure is being able to slip a business card under there. If it rubs at all it is too little relief.

I would venture that you already know the relief is too little because you have buzz between frets 1 and 10 after improving your humidity. Just hold the string down as I mentioned and eyeball it. Then turn the truss rod counter clockwise one eighth to one quarter turn and look again. If needed do this a couple of times (it is a myth that the neck takes time to “settle” after such a change). When there is a small gap or you have turned it a few times, play it and see if it is better.


If it’s mainly electric buzzing, I would just try raising that string’s saddle slightly. It’s pretty easy.

Electrics tend to be less sensitive to humidity changes than acoustics, at least mine are.

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I have so much to learn! Thanks all for the great information.

I had a buzzing 12th fret and it turned out one of the frets further down the neck had popped a little, so the luthier glued it back in for me. Issue solved.

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