Fix that Buzzing Sound on your Acoustic Guitar
As you play your acoustic guitar, you may hear a disconcerting buzzing sound. You know it’s not supposed to be there, but what causes it and what do you do?
There are all sorts of pieces that make up your guitar, and these can rattle against each other, which causes a buzzing sound. These are easily fixed and/or prevented if you are able to identify them and keep a lookout for the issues that lead to the buzz.
There is a joke amongst IT professionals that 99% of the computer problems they fix are actually operator error. The same is true for guitar players. Inexperienced players may not realize that they are muffling their sound or causing a buzzing in the strings because they are simply not pressing down hard enough on the strings. This is a good place to start, but it may not be your fault altogether.
If you find that no amount of pressure can stop the buzzing sound, your guitar’s action may be too low. This means that the strings are too close to the frets, and you need them to sit higher. A quick fix is to slip a matchstick under the bridge bone. If it helps, then you may need to replace your bridge bone with one that’s a bit taller. If it works, but the guitar is now more difficult to play, then you’ve made the action too high. You may still need a new bridge bone, but one that is smaller than the combination your current one and the addition of the matchstick.
Look at the notches in the guitar nut, as well. If they are too deep, they will cause buzzing – but this is very rare and generally occurs only when someone has deliberately cut deeper notches.
If your guitar is old, your frets may be too worn. The buzzing occurs when the strings rub against the higher, less worn frets. Replace all of the frets so that they are the same height.
Also check the machine heads, those tuners at the top of the neck of your guitar. These may become lose with age. If they are the culprit, it’s easier to replace the whole set than to try and repair them.
Some guitar strings have balls on the end of them. Make sure that these are tight up against the bridge. If you find any that are not properly seated, unwind the string and reseat it so that the ball is snug.
Nylon strings with lose ends can also buzz when playing as they hit the bridge. Trim or wind your string ends away from the bridge.
Call a Pro When…
You’ve tried all of the above and you’re still getting a buzz – it’s time to take your guitar to a guitar maker, known as a luthier. You could also try your local guitar store to see if they have a repair section. Your guitar might have a lose part that you can’t see (or can’t quite get to) and may require guitar surgery.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to easily fix your buzzing strings and be back to playing soon!
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