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Thread: A-String Buzz

  1. #1
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default A-String Buzz

    Hi, Everyone:

    I'm noticing some A string rattle/buzz when I'm fretting it as low as the third fret, but it is more pronounced once I get into the 4th and 5th frets, and the rattle remains as I work my way up the neck from there. I'll add, it doesn't seem to be happening on the other strings.

    I initially thought my nut was the source, but I don't think so because it doesn't rattle/buzz in open position or when fretting the 1st and 2nd fret. I raised the action a bit to see if that would help, but it didn't really, and I don't want to raise it much higher.

    Any thoughts? Truss rod?

  2. #2

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Something touching the top aft of the bridge?

  3. #3

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Check for any changes in the neck relief. You may need just a little adjusting of the truss rod. It's that time of year with cooler weather, warming systems running, lower humidity, etc. Try it with new pair of A strings.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  4. #4
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    If all else fails, look at the saddle. I had one instrument like you describe and finally noticed that the slots for the A strings were made with a downward angle towards the forward edge. Thus the take-off point for the string was not the forward edge, but maybe a half millimeter back. This allowed the string to vibrate against the forward part of the saddle slot. The amount of angulation was very small and hard to notice.

    Leveling the slots (or actually adding a very slight ramp from front edge to back) solved the problem.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Quote Originally Posted by Philphool View Post
    If all else fails, look at the saddle. I had one instrument like you describe and finally noticed that the slots for the A strings were made with a downward angle towards the forward edge. Thus the take-off point for the string was not the forward edge, but maybe a half millimeter back. This allowed the string to vibrate against the forward part of the saddle slot. The amount of angulation was very small and hard to notice.

    Leveling the slots (or actually adding a very slight ramp from front edge to back) solved the problem.
    Philphool, I just want to make sure I understand, when you say "towards the forward edge" you mean towards the nut?

  7. #6
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Foss View Post
    Philphool, I just want to make sure I understand, when you say "towards the forward edge" you mean towards the nut?
    yes.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    If it doesn't buzz open it's not the saddle. I would look for loose/high frets. A small straight edge that can be used to rock between 3 frets will let you know if any are high. Simply being loose will also cause buzz.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  10. #8

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    View the strings from a playing position at the bridge. Rephrased, look across all eight strings to see how level they are to each other. All eight should be relatively flat. Most mandolins have string slots in the bridge as well as the nut and sometimes the wood under a string collapses or there was a defect from who ever set up the bridge. You're primarily looking to see if the A-string(s) are any lower than the average. Multiple buzzing fretted positions is typically the trussrod or the bridge height but since its only the A-string(s) its either bridge or a fret level issue. No fretboards are perfectly level and it may be that the problem has always been there and its just seasonal changes that have effected the neck to a point that it just now becomes a problem. Like pops1 mentioned, one of the first things I would do if you were a client would be to check the seating of the frets and use a fret rocker and a straightedge to inspect the frets.

  11. #9

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    How far up the fretboard can you play and still hear a buzz? I'm suspecting a high fret somewhere near the neck joint. This might be addressed by adjusting the truss-rod, or raising the bridge, or some of both. It might better be addressed by a fret leveling. My suggestion - take it to a knowledgeable mandolin repair person so you don't make it worse trying to fix it.
    Best, Stevo

  12. #10
    Phil Goodson Philphool's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    [QUOTE=pops1;1741446]If it doesn't buzz open it's not the saddle. .../QUOTE]

    Although this is usually true, the situation I have described above,by bad luck alone, can cause a buzz on fretted strings without buzz on the open string.

    This would happen if the down-ramp on the nut side of the saddle is just enough that the open string approaches the saddle high enough to avoid vibration on the front part of this ramp in the saddle. As higher frets are used, the string will approach the saddle from a lower direction and at some point be enough to allow the vibration to occur.
    The undesired ramping of the front of the saddle must be 'just right' for the open string to be okay but fretted strings buzz, but it could happen.

    Relatively rare I admit, which is why I began by saying, "when all else fails".

    Little can be harmed by making sure that the saddle grooves are either flat or slightly ramped from front (nut side) edge to the tailpiece side of the saddle.
    Phil

    “Sharps/Flats” “Accidentals”

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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Hey K
    short while back did a very very slight fret spot level on a near brand new Collings due to some very similar issues. Found 2 very slightly high frets in the A course line, thinking 3 and 7. this mando has a very low action and very little relief(very little). I'm thinking the weather changing, along with inside heat usage starting, combined to illuminate the ever so slightly high frets.

  14. #12
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Thanks, Everyone:

    I'll try your suggestions, including taking it to someone who does this kind of stuff for a living. There are a few aces around central and southeastern PA. I'll say... I put on a new set of strings and it's barely perceptible. This mandolin is killer.

  15. #13
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Hey, Everyone...

    Thanks again for the tips. It got worse, so I ended up tightening the truss rid the whole way a d raised the action a little bit, which just about solved it. I’d say 99%.

    What’s the upside to giving the neck a little relief?

  16. #14

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Every instrument has its own sweet spot as far as relief is concerned. Some will play great with no relief while others demand it. With the short scale length of a mandolin, a little relief is almost imperceptible. Assuming that the fretwork in correct, relief and string height go hand in hand to yield the most comfortable playability.

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  18. #15
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Is one purpose of relief to help address buzzing?

  19. #16

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Briggs View Post
    Is one purpose of relief to help address buzzing?
    At one extreme yes, it helps address buzzing issues. At the opposite extreme, it helps address a stiff feel to the strings' play ability, once any contributing nut slot and bridge height parameters have been dialed in to perfection.

    You said in your post above "so I ended up tightening the truss rod the whole way". I'm not sure what you mean by the whole way, but it sounds like you're getting much closer to solving the problem. Very good!! I gotta say that I do minor tweaks to my bridge height "seasonally" but I haven't adjusted the truss rod in 20 years or so. This on my go to '56 Gibson F-12 with a 70s era F-5 neck replacement. It's been very reliable for sure.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  20. #17
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Thanks so much for the information. I mean, I tightened it until it would easily turn any more then stopped. The strings feel stiffer for sure, and the buzz is just about gone, although I hear it ever now and then. It’s definitely in the direction of the body/upper end of the fretboard, possibly the bridge, but I don’t think so.

  21. #18

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Typically you should make truss rod adjustments in smaller increments, like 1/4 to 1/2 turn then let it settle in for awhile. Sounds like you took up a lot of slack with that adjustment. If you should decide to tighten or loosen it a bit, do it slowly, small amounts at a time. Still it sounds like you're making progress.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  22. #19

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    If you have a slight fret issue, adjusting the truss rod might solve the buzzing at the expense of action in the middle of the fretboard. Ideally you'd want very little relief. I've gotten my best action with very level frets and almost no relief.
    Silverangel A
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  23. #20

    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    With the amount of traveling you’ve done lately, the different climates, all the weather changes and the fact that it’s still very new, that thing just might be looking for a steady environment to settle into too. That’s happened to mine before after a lot of traveling. Just some time to acclimate and adjust and everything was fine.
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  24. #21
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Humidity is a pain. I have gone form just over 50% in my house to just over 30% in a couple of weeks. Now I need to get everything into cases. I keep them in cases all the time outside of my house unless I am playing. If I have to stop playing it doesn't go onto a stand it goes straight back into the case with the humidifier in, even if for only a five minute break. I have had a loose screw do something similar.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  25. #22
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    John, should be easy enough to humidify your house to 50% and not have to fool with humidifiers in every case. Less hassle too.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  26. #23
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    John, should be easy enough to humidify your house to 50% and not have to fool with humidifiers in every case. Less hassle too.
    I thought the same thing but after several humidifiers one a big tank job and the need this spring to remove the trim in my room because of molds I will stick with my case humidifiers and or a humidified cabinet. I will build my own indoor fountain to function through natural evaporation to help but for some reason, this house ha been an incredible pain to humidify. A topic for an entirely new thread but the point is humidity can wreak havoc on instruments.
    My avatar is of my OldWave Oval A

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  27. #24
    Registered User Kevin Briggs's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Yeah, I’m getting the humidifiers going too. Thankfully, my basement is at about 50% seven or eight months a year, so I can work with that, but I rank the humidifier in a smallish room otherwise.

    Just an update... the buzzing is back in a pretty noticeable way. Definitely the A strings, and possibly a bit of the E strings. Played together, the four strings seem to buzz a bit more than separate, with the A strings the primary culprits. It’s coming from upper deets and maybe the bridge. I so wish I had a decent repair person around State College, PA. I don’t have a second mandolin and am not wanting to ship it somewhere.

  28. #25
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: A-String Buzz

    Kevin, It looks like you are at least 2 hrs. or so from a number of folks who might be able to help. I think Chris Warner is in York, PA, Lou Stiver in Polk, PA, and there's a shop in Wind Gap (Brothers Music Shop & Guitar Repair), & Bluett Brothers in York.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

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