Often, guitarists find themselves asking ‘why is my guitar bridge have a buzz at the saddle?’ A “rattle saddle” so to speak! It is quite disturbing when the sound seems out of whack with strings rattling against the frets causing fret buzzes. A well-functioning guitar should produce perfectly tuned guitar chords. Luckily, it is not hard to determine the annoying issues of a bridge buzz. First, it is important to examine your playing technique. Are you pressing the strings hard enough? How about placing the finger closer to the right fret?
There are many reasons your bridge is buzzing. Some can be identified and fixed easily while others need a professional hand for your guitars setup.
Top Reasons For A Buzzing Guitar Bridge
A bridge buzz can originate from dirty strings. With time, the strings pick up dust and debris from the surroundings and this could be the cause of a buzz. You might want to change them occasionally. Also, clean them on a regular basis by running a piece of cloth along the strings. Ensure that all of them are covered including their underside to prevent a buildup of grudge.
Loose String Ends
In some guitars, the strings consist of balls at their ends. They should be tightened up against your bridge. Wrong positioning of the balls can be a major problem. So, you need to unwind the strings and reposition them to keep the ball in place. Loose ends on quality classical guitar nylon strings often buzz after hitting the bridge. The solution in this case is winding or trimming the string ends so they don’t touch the bridge.
Your electric or acoustic guitar bridge can become loose or break due to environmental conditions. Sometimes it cracks and gets separated from the body due to daily abuse. Severe weather- dry, humid, hot, or cold- can lead to traumatic damage. Exposure to these conditions can cause expansion or contraction of the bridge thereby affecting the tension of the strings. The bridge is hygroscopic in nature, meaning that a change in the humidity if you aren’t using humidifiers and can cause it to expand as it absorbs moisture from the air. The expansion and shrinkage also affect the neck. The buzzing action is one of the signs that the bridge is in distress. You can protect your fiddle from these external factors by always storing it in a temperature-controlled environment.
Damaged braces can lift the bridge and consequently affect the sound. The problem with a lift bridge is that it puts pressure on the top of the guitar thereby damaging the wooden parts. The repair of broken braces requires expert help. The guitar top must be removed so that a high-level repair can be done. Inexperienced players can easily destroy the instrument so it is important to consult an experienced luthier.
Little Pressure on the Strings
If you do not press the strings hard enough the note can buzz even if your fingers are in the right position. New guitar players may encounter difficulties but they can work out their technique over time with the right practice. Sometimes, pressing the string hard enough can be painful but it eventually subsides as the fingertips build calluses.
Worn Out Nut
So you have cleaned the strings but the buzzing is not going away. You might want to examine the location of the nut to see whether the strings have settled too low. If the nuts are worn out or the grooves are too deep, the strings tend to sit in close contact with the fretboard, making the strings to buzz – this is cause fret buzz. Consider replacing the nuts immediately or insert a folded paper under the string to raise the them. Also, check the shape of the nut slot. A string bearing too heavily at the back of the slot may buzz. Correct this through some well-directed strokes using a nut file.
Lack of Neck Relief
The fretboard should never be perfectly straight to allow proper oscillation of the strings. It must not also bow backward. The perfect guitar neck shake depends on the playing technique, string gauge, and scale length. A professional luthier should help you optimize the alignment for your particular style. If the neck has no dip at the mid-point, then it is considered to have a forward bow. If, on the other hand, it has a hump, it is said to have a back bow. This is really bad since it deprives the neck of any relief thereby causing most of the strings to buzz. To fix the problem, simply loosen the truss rod to give the right amount of neck relief.
The Truss Rods
If the buzz persists on open strings, you need to raise the low string action, bridge or shim the nut – or just get a professional guitars setup done. The latter is not easy so start by raising the bridge. Sometimes, the buzz can emanate from notes that are higher than the 12th fret. I this case, adjusting the bridge should be the solution. When it is on the lower end of the neck, consider relieving the neck by loosening the truss rod.
Never play with faulty action. So, if you raise the bridge to uncomfortable action, this is not the right solution. Adding relief to the truss rod could be the answer. Keep in mind three things: the truss rod, bridge, and nut adjustment. Out of the three, the truss rod and the bridge are the most likely culprits of a buzz. They are also the easiest to adjust. If you are not sure how to adjust, you’d rather seek expert help. The adjustment of truss rods is not for changing your action.
What If the Buzzing Persists?
Have you followed the above steps but the buzz persists on your acoustic guitar rig or fancy electric guitars like Les Paul or Fender Stratocaster? It is important that you don’t overlook any effort when performing repairs. You also have the option of adjusting the fretboard. Poorly selected wood can be a source of continuous buzzing as it shifts over time. Be sure to tune your guitar with a guitar tuner to pitch before doing any fretwork and after the adjustment. I find that the low e can be one of the hardest.
One of the most annoying things of playing guitar is strumming a chord only for the strings to start buzzing. This is inevitable in the life of a guitarist and so you must understand the root causes and possible solutions. Luckily, there is always a remedy when the guitar is buzzing. Follow the aforementioned orders of operation and make sure you haven’t misdiagnosed the problem. Develop a sharp eye for irregularities and follow closely on your way to perfecting a buzz-free guitar action.