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How to Fix Fret Buzz After Restringing

We all look forward to the snappy, bright tone of new strings, especially if old strings sound out of tune and dull. Amid the excitement, after a good half hour of restringing, you get the first chords to ring out nicely, yet notice a tedious buzzing sound when playing licks. It might be light in some areas and particularly loud on the lower string, but it is still there.

The usual questions that follow are: Did I buy the wrong set of strings, or did I do something wrong while restringing? A straightforward answer is getting your guitar set up, either yourself or through a luthier.

That answer is correct but very broad; therefore, I will give you the complete checklist for fixing fret buzz after restringing. All you need to do is follow simple steps before opting for a full setup.

Let The Strings Settle

Guitars are living things. If you ever leave one on the wall hanging for too long, it will most likely feel different when you play it, as the wood reacts to tension, temperature, humidity, and time. Like improving your playing, guitars require patience. 

Let the guitar adapt to the strings for a day or two before trying other adjustments. New strings tend to stretch, and the neck needs to adapt to the tension naturally before any truss rod action is required. Even if your guitar has a high-end tuning system, this is perfectly normal, as we’re still dealing with wood, strings, and basic physics. 

Keep in mind that not all fret buzz is harmful, as part of it is not picked up by the pickups at all. There is a full guide on Sweetwater on how to tell how much string buzz is normal.

The best tip I can give you is to play the guitar as much as possible during this time so that you “wear out” the new set and, in a way, help get rid of the buzz. Depending on the strings, the spanky bright high-end shimmer will still be there for a few weeks or more, but the buzz might be gone.

Make Sure All the Strings Are on the Guitar

Don’t panic about fret buzz if you haven’t yet put all the strings on and tuned the guitar. The string tension bends the neck more than the naked eye can see, and just one missing/loose string makes a lot of difference. 

To put it into perspective, have you noticed how the fretboard feels different when you break a string and keep playing? There’s less tension on the neck; the same can’t be said, though, about the player getting through the solo without the high E.

Use a chromatic tuner while restringing, and regularly check if you’re spot-on in tune. Remember that if you want to use the guitar with an alternate tuning, it’s best to set it up accordingly.

Make Sure the Strings Are Correctly Seated

One thing that can escape even the most experienced players is the slight movement of the strings in the nut or bridge. I have the same experience often when I tune my Strat, as the high strings might move slightly away from their natural position on the bridge. 

Due to years of wear, some guitars could even have two carvings done by the strings in different positions on the bridge. I suffer that with most vintage hear, yet It’s never a big issue; the strings won’t move when playing and is easily avoided by double-checking each saddle.

The same applies to the nut where the string should be on the spot. A good trick is to press down the string with your finger on both sides of the nut until it’s neatly in place. And if you play a Strat-shaped guitar, check if the B and E pass under the string trees.

If the issue persists long-term and you hear a creaking noise when the strings detune, you need to check your nut. It’s only a matter of filing or, in the worst case replacing it. 

Did You Change String Gauge?

The string gauge determines the amount of tension on the neck. Besides being harder to bend, heavier gauge strings apply more pressure on the neck. Lighter strings have the opposite effect, not pulling the neck enough and failing to straighten up the neck bow.

If you go from heavier to lighter string, you might need more relief on the neck to compensate for less string pull. You can’t make the strings pull more, but you can dictate how much they need to pull. In this case, some minimal truss rod action is needed, but nothing too severe as not to be done with caution at home.

Remember to do a similar procedure even when going from lighter to heavier string. Neck relief is not the only thing to look out for, so a thorough setup is due, especially if you’re doing big jumps and going from the standard 9th gauge to the Steve Ray notorious set of 12ths.

Setting Up Your Guitar

If nothing works, the final step is to take the issue from its root and do a full guitar setup. You might need to visit a luthier, especially if you don’t have experience or you just got a new guitar; however, I will explain the basics of a setup so you can, in time, perform most of it yourself.

  • The first thing to check is neck relief. I mentioned it before, but if you’re not familiar with neck relief, the best way to explain is visual, as the concave bow on the neck. You can adjust the amount of relief by tightening or loosening the truss rod. Basically, you’re turning the iron rod inside the neck. 

The rule of thumb is “‘righty tighty, lefty loosey.’ if you take on this endeavor, always turn the truss rod very slightly, a quarter turn, and then retune and recheck if the relief is correct. Sweetwater has an excellent guide that goes into the topic from the beginning. 

  • Next is the action, which refers to the strings’ height. High action generally means harder to bend and play; however, lower is not always better, as many, especially shredders, suggest. Any respectable luthier will ask you how you prefer your guitar’s action.

I’m not particularly picky, yet I like having some tension from the strings when I bend; therefore, a moderately higher action makes sense.

There are many ways to adjust string height. Depending on the bridge type, you can adjust the saddle height, the entire bridge height, or combine both with a different neck relief and nut filling. First, though, you need to learn how to measure the action.

  • Intonation refers to adjusting string length so that every fret is in tune. If the guitar is tuned, but chords don’t sound right, the guitar needs to be intonated. A flat-sounding fret could ruin a perfectly executed performance, so it’s worth learning how to do it.

You fix the issue by lengthening or shortening the strings in the bridge. Put simply, you match the pitch of the 12th fret with the open string/harmonic by bringing the saddles closer or further from the neck.

There is more to a setup than this short guide. Every guitar is different, and sometimes you need the keen eye of a luthier, trickier procedures, and special tools to fix fret buzz after restringing; however, you can be confident in applying the above steps and tips before needing further help.