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5 Causes (and Fixes) for Fret Buzz on One String

All guitarists deal with fret buzz at some point or another, but single-string fret buzz is a little… weirder. Usually, the mechanisms that cause fret buzz make it appear on every string, not just one. The main causes of fret buzz on one sting are:

  • Uneven frets
  • Low nut slot
  • String radius doesn’t match neck radius
  • Replacing a single string
  • Neck relief and action

In the rest of this guide, let’s walk you through 5 reasons why you’re getting fret buzz on one string, and 5 ways to fix it:

Uneven Frets

Do you see those metal strips *roughly* the same distance apart along the neck of your guitar? Those are your frets. They are what change the pitch of your string when you press down on the space behind them. 

On a well-built guitar,  all your frets are the same height, leaving enough space for the strings to ring out without vibrating against each other when played. If you’re experiencing fret buzz on one string it could be that one or some of your frets are a little taller than they should be.

There are really only two reasons why we might have uneven frets. 

The first is because of build quality. This is more common in cheaper guitars where there aren’t as many quality control checks, but it can happen on any guitar. Frets need to be checked using a fret rocker to make sure there aren’t any major differences in height.

The other is simply from general wear and tear. Over time, the frets can get worn down by your strings, especially in places where you play more often. Certain techniques like bends or vibrato will slowly wear away at the metal of the fret, lowering it in comparison to the other frets along the neck

Lucky for us though, there are ways to fix this. 

The first thing you want to do is get yourself a fret rocker, this handy little tool will show you which of your frets are uneven. Once you’ve found the culprits you can take a metal filer or some low grit sandpaper and gently file down the fret until it’s at an equal height to the other frets.

But, if a few of your frets have been worn down from use, you’ll probably need to replace the frets altogether. This can be done at home with new frets, a flush ground end nipper, and some glue. If you’re not confident that you get the job done though, don’t worry, any guitar store will happily replace those frets for you.

Low Nut Slot

Ok… so, you’ve checked the fret height and made adjustments, but are still hearing fret buzz on one string. It’s time to check the nut slot. That’s the white strip sitting right at the top of the neck, traditionally made from bone but more commonly made from plastic nowadays. 

Can you see those 6 little slits cut into your nut slot? Those slits are there to guide your strings into the tuning pegs and, like with your frets, those slits can get worn down from general use. 

When those slits get too low they bring your strings way too close to the fretboard causing string buzz. When you’re only getting fret buzz on one string, it’s usually because just one of the nut slots has become too low. 

If you’ve noticed your nut slot is low, the only real fix is to replace it. Like with your frets you can do it at home, but again we recommend taking it to your local guitar shop where they’ll happily change that out for you. 

String Radius Doesn’t Match Neck Radius

Something a lot of beginner and intermediate guitarists forget to consider when they’re dealing with fret buzz is making sure the string radius matches the neck radius. Your neck has a slight curve to it and you need to make sure all your strings are set up with this curvature in mind.

You’re gonna need to use a radius gauge to help you check this. Firstly, find the radius gauge that most closely matches your neck profile. From there take the gauge and place it on your strings at the bridge of your guitar. Now raise or lower the strings so that they all rest on the radius gauge and match the neck radius on your guitar. 

Replacing a Single String

Now it’s no secret that new guitar strings buzz a little when they’ve been freshly replaced. A lot of guitarists forget that new strings need time to stretch out and settle with all that tension running through them. 

If you’ve recently changed just one string, you may notice that only one string is buzzing. This is completely normal while your string adjusts to the tension. As a general rule of thumb, we usually say to wait 72 hours for the string to stretch out before panicking yourself with action adjustments and neck relief. 

Neck Relief and Action

Usually, when it comes to fret buzz the first thing we recommend is to check your action and neck relief. But, because you’re only experiencing it on one string, the chances of it being an issue with either of these two systems are unlikely.

Neck relief refers to the bow which runs parallel to the neck countering the tension from the strings. The reason we think it’s unlikely to be an issue with neck relief is that the neck affects all your strings at once and usually not just one string. With that being said though, it doesn’t hurt to make sure the neck has enough relief going through it.  

Action, however, is something worth checking. Depending on the type of bridge you have, the action can be independently adjusted to raise individual strings and hopefully fix that fret buzz. If a string is buzzing against the neck, raise its action to create more space between it and the fretboard. 

Conclusion

When it comes to dealing with fret buzz on one string it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Isolating the issue and dealing with the mechanisms that impact that string is the most important thing to consider or else you risk damaging the other, working, areas of your guitar.