Fix Fret Buzz with the Strings On!

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Fret buzz from a single high fret is a very common problem. In this video Dan shows you how to find and fix fret buzz quickly and easily—it's so fast you don't even need to remove the strings! With just a couple of tools, your guitar will play and sound great again in an instant.

Video Transcription

Dan Erlewine: This guitar has a high fret and it's making a string buzz and I'm going to take care of it real easy with the strings on. That's the string buzz, hear it?

Finding the high fret

One of these frets is higher than the other. So, when you press the fret next to it, it buzzes on the tall fret. I can pinpoint it pretty easy. The way you find a high fret is to use a little straight edge of different lengths. You always want to be on three frets at once [on screen text reads: Fret Rocker -], because it'll rock on a high fret. You can work your way all the way down the neck. So that edge will be up here, and this edge takes over for quite a while. Then you start using this one and that takes you way down to the bottom, way down in here. I know this is the area I'm looking at. I go down there with this length and I can get a tiny little rock on this. Listen carefully, hear that rock.

Leveling the high fret down

Right in here. So, this is the fret and I'm going to level it down until it's flush with its neighbors. And I'm going to do it with the strings on. I'm going to mark this fret with some red marker. And when I kiss that off, I know I've knocked down this high spot. Now to level it. Both those pieces of metal look about the same, but this is not for locating the fret. This is for knocking it down. This has diamonds on it. A short patch of diamond on every length and the smooth side will ride on the two adjacent frets and the diamond will just kiss what's in between [on screen text reads: Fret Kisser -]. It's not a lot, the little teeny ridge all the way across.

Rerounding the fret so it has a crown

That's it. I'm still going to clean it up, because now I have a flat spot, several of them. I want to re-round them to look like the rest of the frets, have a slight crown to it. You can do this with the strings on by propping up the strings and doing some small, accurate filing with the right little file. Now years ago, to do this job, I made these little sticks. I call them frettin sticks. They're pieces of a six inch triangle file cut off, notched and super glued into these sticks. And I would go in under those strings and do this job. They look like prehistoric tools.

Today I have something that's a little more, shall we say, elegant? It's a diamond file [on screen text reads: Understring Fret Dressing Files -]. It's got 300 grit diamond on an angled surface for reaching under a string. Three different angles you can approach the work with. I'm going to red these off again with the pen [Dan marks the top of the fret with the red pen], gives me something to watch as I'm trying to round them up. It doesn't take a lot. I'm just going down that fret. I want to leave a tiny little bit of red on the top. That's my new flat spot. It's also called the land on top of a round fret. You leave the tiniest little bit of land of that actual metal fret and polish that. I'm going to switch up here, go to a 30 degree. I think it's just about right for going right in here.

That's a tiny bit of land left out in there and that'll just polish out. There you have it. That's good for some nice dressing. These little guys are perfect for that, but they can do a lot of things besides fret work too.

Other great uses for diamond files

The diamond grid is good to smooth the sharp edges of bridge saddles to make them more comfortable on your hand.

I was working on a tool this weekend and I messed up the threads on kind of a weird lead screw and I couldn't get the nut off that I had on it. And I had to file the flutes again, so the nut would come off and I could use the part.

For getting into tight right angle corners, like the edges of this nut slot, I can work on either side to kiss off a small bit that's keeping the nut from fitting perfectly.

For the heavy lifting, when you got a super glue fill or some lacquer fill, that's kind of tall and you got to get it down closer to scrape and flush it up.

There you have it, it's fixed. Maybe you have a high fret like that and now you know how to fix it. And if you like these sort of set up and repair videos, please subscribe to the StewMac YouTube channel.



Dan Erlewine

Guitar Repairman and Builder

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