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The A string on my Peavey T-40 bass buzzes quite loudly. I've found that duct tape on the string above the nut will quiet this, but only if it's pulled taut against a neighboring string. It doesn't hold for long, so of course I'd like to track down the true cause. How do I track this down?

The buzz is coming from the headstock area, and the action on the bass is high; no strings are touching the frets when open.

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Edit: Here's the "fixed" headstock.
enter image description here

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Can you localize the buzzing? As the string travels, does it hit any frets at all, or is the buzzing coming from the saddle or perhaps the nut? –  Jduv Jan 17 '11 at 20:20
    
The buzzing is coming from the length of string between the nut and the tuning machine. If I press on that length of string, the buzz goes away. The string doesn't touch any frets when open. –  neilfein Jan 17 '11 at 20:26
    
Does the string nicely fit into the slot in the nut, or is the slot quite a lot wider than the string? It might help if you could get a photo of where the string passes through the nut. –  Anonymous Jan 17 '11 at 20:37
    
Updated with a picture of the temporary fix. (I need to either replace the nut or level off the nut slot, I think.) And, for the bass-curious, here's another question about the same guitar: What does a setup entail on a bass guitar when increasing string gauge? –  neilfein Dec 17 '11 at 0:22
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4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You can localize it by playing the string lightly and placing your ear closely to the different contact points of the string to the hardware on the guitar. Start with the bridge, and move your way up the guitar to the nut and where the string meets the tuning machine peg.

Note: The terminology in the following paragraph can be ambiguous, as there are two kinds of nuts we are dealing with. There's the fretboard nut, and then a tuning peg nut which screws onto the shaft of the tuning machine to secure it in place on the headstock. I'll do my best to delineate between the two as clearly as I can.

Based on how you described it and fixed it (and I'd love to see a picture of that) the problem is likely an issue with your fretboard nut or a loose peg on the A string tuning machine. It seems that more tension on that length of string holds the culprit in place, thus fixing the buzzing. In order to find out the root problem, I would first test the tuning machine peg. Remove the string from the peg and first check for a loose nut--there should be one that holds the tuning peg securely to the top of your headstock for each tuning machine. If the machine nut is tight, then gently tap the headstock or the peg itself. If you hear a vibration or a knocking sound, then it is likely the peg. You can tighten most all tuning peg nuts with an adjustable wrench or an appropriate deep well socket. If after tightening the peg nut you still hear buzzing from the machine, then you might need to purchase some replacements (something could be broken inside the machine). In my experience, stock tuning pegs tend to be pretty cheaply built anyway--so I usually replace them on new guitars I purchase eventually.

Also, make sure the string trees are tight. These can cause a little buzzing sometimes--especially since a bass tends to be more violently resonant--lots of stronger vibrations travel through the body of the guitar.

If the peg checks out okay, then the issue could have something to do with the fretboard nut--in which case you should drop by a qualified guitar/bass tech or a luthier and get them to take a quick look.

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After a cursory look, I think the tuning machine is tight. The nut may be a little loose; I'll swap out for another nut and see if that fixes the problem. Incidentally, the nut is made of metal and is held to the fretboard by tension, making this a more-likely culprit. –  neilfein Jan 17 '11 at 20:51
    
Agreed, and specifically since you mention that the nut is metal. If the string fits in the slot snugly (therefore ruling the string slot out as a vibration source), then it might be that there isn't enough tension to keep the nut secured to the fretboard, or the fretboard surface where the nut makes contact may not be perfectly level. That would make sense given that more tension (i.e. the duct tape job) reduces the buzzing. –  Jduv Jan 17 '11 at 20:58
    
You're nuts about nuts! –  bobobobo Jan 17 '11 at 23:16
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Just dealt with the same problem. Had a very bad rattle on my squier jazz bass, but only when playing an open A. I could hear it when unplugged, but it didn't come through the amp. It sounded like it was coming from either the body of the bass or somewhere in the neck. By accident, I happened to put a little pressure on the A string between the nut and tuner, and the rattle went away. I found that even though I just replaced strings with one step larger set, there was minor slack in the A-string nut slot. If I wedged my fingernail between the edge of the string and the nut, it filled in the slack and the rattle was GONE!!! I loosened the A-string, moved it out of the way, and put a single layer of electrical tape in the slot. I left it larger than necessary and reinstalled the string and tuned back to A. After cutting away the excess tape not hidden under the string, rechecked for rattle, but there was none to be found. I have been listening to this rattle for over a year...finally it is gone!!!

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Saw this linked to your other question...

You know, you might just make more effort to keep the string lower on the tuning machine as it travels from there to the nut. Sometimes a slightly lower angle of attack from the string being too high off the headstock at the machine will cause this problem. If it is as low as you can make it and the buzzing continues and definitely isn't the machine head then it is time for a new nut.

The quick fix on the gig is to slacken the string a smidge and put a little spit ball sized piece of folded paper under the string where it crosses the nut. Clever solution to use the yellow zip tie, but the tighter that is the more quickly the nut will wear away.

(And for god's sake, snip your string ends a little tighter, you could put an eye out with that thing! Or they could be the cause of the buzzing even when not touching something, believe it or not.)

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The string height actually needs to be higher on the E string, oddly enough. Hence the zip tie under the string, it pushes the string up a hair. (It affects the tone a little as well, so this is only a temporary solution. I think replacing the nut will do the job int he end.) –  neilfein Dec 17 '11 at 17:38
    
You're correct about the strings, but I left them long in this case for two reasons: (1) I've been intending to remove these strings for some time, so decided not to cut them down, and (2) this bass has a very long neck, and the string ends come nowhere near my head when playing. If I start playing bass with my band, of course, the chance of a you-could-put-an-eye-out incident will increase, and I'll tame the headstock! –  neilfein Dec 17 '11 at 17:41
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It's the string getting caught on a fret.. Buy a new nut for like a dollar and keep it as unchiselled as possible only leaving a small slice for the string to rest in.

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-1, you didn't read the question. this isn't fret buzz. –  neilfein Dec 29 '11 at 2:38
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