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Thread: A String Buzz

  1. #1

    Default A String Buzz

    Hello everyone,

    I just acquired a new mandolin that is spectacular in every respect; however, I am having an issue with the a strings, but one is worse than the other. All the other open strings are crystalline and pure, but when I play the open a strings there is a slight "sitar-esque" slightly muted sound. The action is very easy and the strings are a brand I have never purchased. They feel very light to me. I have tried muting the all of the strings behind the nut and the bridge. Muted every part of the instrument, such as the pick guard, tuners, tailpiece...but no change. When I play quietly the sound disappears...I have fixed this issue before on another instrument by raising the action and I know that the weather changes at this time of year greatly affects string instruments. I'm going to change the strings and adjust the action...Any other ideas or insights are greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    Open A buzzing against 1st fret because slots are just a tad low.

    Open A buzzing in the nut slot because insufficient back angle.
    Stephen Perry
    www.giannaviolins.com - Primarily violin family
    mandovoodoo.com - Acoustic blueprinting
    South Side Chicagoland

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  4. #3

    Default Re: A String Buzz

    The saddle slot angle should also leaned toward the tail piece too.
    The key point is to get the string to vibrate between to crispy points with nothing in between interfering with the strings.

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  6. #4

    Default Re: A String Buzz

    Also, I forgot to mention that the unwanted ringing is louder toward the bridge than the nut. I don't know if that is a factor as well. Is it easy to alter the back angle of the saddle? Do I just guide it toward the tailpiece with my thumbs?

    Thanks

  7. #5

    Default Re: A String Buzz

    to test Steve Perry's theory loosen the offending strings and cut a very thin rectangle of paper and insert it in the V of the nut slot. By raising the nut slot and the string resting in it the string will likely stop buzzing. if it does stop buzzing you now know its cause. Doing it to both A strings will tell you which string or both is the problem.

    Another approach is to raise the bridge very slightly on the offending side of the bridge. Maybe a half turn. but the problem with that approach is that it will also raise the E strings unnecessarily. But it will tell you exactly which string or strings are causing the problem and you can back it off to original position once you decide it is a nut problem.

    The problem is not likely the string brand, but it may very well be weather related as the wood top may settle a bit in the dry winter weather. For that reason maybe all you need to do is raise the bridge a little and then lower it again in the summer. That is really a major function of an adjustable bridge. Allowing you to make seasonal adjustments as the instrument changes.

    PS: There is really no point in messing with the angle of the bridge if it is OK now. That can create more problems if it is OK now. It is unlikely the sound is coming from the bridge.

    If all of the above tells you nothing then suspect the tailpiece, because some tailpieces have several moving or movable parts which can vibrate.

  8. #6
    Builder and musician Erin Patterson's Avatar
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    From what I have experienced making and fixing a bunch of nuts and saddles, it's usually the angle of the string slot. If the slot going through the nut is to horizontal the string can touch more than one surface but if you angle it down to the headstock and up and away from the frets, you get one nice and clean connection point at the right spot. Did that make sense? haha. It's not always easy to see this and it may look fine but careful a little filing goes a long way.

  9. #7
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    A set of heavier strings might solve the problem so if you are going to change strings, try a set that is at least mediums....

    When asking for info like you did maybe you should mention what your mandolin is, bowl back, old or new, things like that so people would be more accurate in their advice...If the mandolin is new and/or in good shape medium strings should be OK as far as tension goes, if it is old or a bowl back then lights would be the way to go...

    Willie

  10. #8

    Default Re: A String Buzz

    Is it easy to alter the back angle of the saddle?
    Yes, it is easy and I mean the saddle SLOT angle, the saddle has to be straight vertically for sure.
    When you file the saddle slot, make sure the slot is going down toward the tail piece. That's all.
    I had some weird ringing if the saddle slot is not filed this way.

  11. #9
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    You may also be having th after length vibrating. Try damping that and see what happens.

  12. #10
    Builder and musician Erin Patterson's Avatar
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    And you can always use a little graphite/pencil lead in the saddle or nut slot if you don't want to do any sawing or filing yet.

  13. #11
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: A String Buzz

    I had a problem with exactly the same "sitar-like" sound from a E string. It was from the angle of the bridge slot. Not the up and down angle, but the side to side angle. I fit a new bridge saddle and made certain the slots were cut straight and the problem was gone. The string had been vibrating against one side of the slot.
    Larry Hunsberger

    2013 J Bovier A5 Special w/ToneGard
    D'Addario FW-74 flatwound strings
    1909 Weymann&Sons bowlback
    1919 Weymann&Sons mandolute
    Ibanez PF5
    1993 Oriente HO-20 hybrid double bass
    3/4 guitar converted to octave mandolin

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